ROAD TO RECOVERY: Colorado family shares story of addiction and recovery

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DENVER (KDVR) — According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021 was the deadliest year on record for drug overdose deaths.

Nearly 108,000 people have died, and around two-thirds of the deaths were linked to fentanyl or a similar substance.

These numbers are difficult for the Smith family to hear. Noah Smith struggled with substance use for years, but is turning his life around.

The 22-year-old from Colorado has been recovering for almost two years and works as a wilderness therapy guide. “I found purpose and passion in helping others,” he said.

Ten years ago, the family lost their home in the Waldo Canyon fire and Smith was struggling.

“I started using mind-altering substances at a very young age and it made me lose my mind,” he said.

He has used different drugs over the years and sometimes knows these included fentanyl.

“My dealer was looking at me and saying, be very careful with this one,” he said.

Smith went to rehab several times and eventually got fed up with the way he was living. He said a change in the way his family spoke to him helped him cope.

“Instead of feeling accused and feeling extra shame, I noticed that I felt like they cared about me, loved me, even though they weren’t supportive of my decisions,” he said.

Now his mother, Lisa Smith, works as a Certified Family Recovery Coach at Reclaim and Recover LLC. She helps families of people struggling with a substance use disorder.

“It’s a matter of connection. It’s about love. It’s a question of compassion. It’s about meeting someone where they are,” Lisa said.

She said with so much fentanyl in the community, families can no longer wait for their loved one to “hit rock bottom.”

“People who use substances are dying at an alarming and very rapid rate. There is no more room for experimentation,” she said.

Now she and her son want other families to know there is hope.

“No matter how deep they are, there is a way out,” Smith said.

“Families can heal and people can get better,” Lisa said.

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