In Appalachia, Crafting a Road to Recovery With Dulcimer Strings

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The company joins a movement across Kentucky to provide “recovery-friendly” employment.

“Our work force is dying,” said Beth Davisson, the executive director of the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center, referring to government data showing drug companies saturated the state with 1.9 million pain pills — roughly 63 pills per person per year — between 2006 and 2012, which were then prescribed with wanton abandon. By 2018, statewide prescription drug monitoring programs were starting to have an effect, with overdose deaths beginning to decline slightly. But the abuse of prescription drugs, along with heroin and fentanyl, remains a critical public health issue.

The idea for Culture of Recovery was inspired by Earl Moore, now 43, whose addiction began with buying OxyContin on the street, ultimately leading to several relapses, two suicide attempts and jail time for the illegal use of a credit card. His father left the family when Mr. Moore was young. “I took that personally,” he said. “I found I could do substances and erase all that.”

But Mr. Moore had an affinity for woodworking inherited from his forebears. He found out the Appalachian School of Luthiery had opened in town and approached Mr. Naselroad. “Earl said, ‘I know you have a felony background check, and I’m not going to pass it,’” Mr. Naselroad recalled. “But he told me he thought it would save his life.” One goal of Culture of Recovery is to reduce the stigma around addiction.

Mr. Moore apprenticed with Mr. Naselroad for six years, building some 70 instruments and forming a lasting bond. He went on to earn a master’s degree in cybersecurity, his full time career. “Addicts are the best hustlers,” he said. “I’ve spun it to the good.”

Kim Patton, 36, now the pottery instructor, went through the drug court after being indicted three times for trafficking. She was molested by a family member at age 14. “I never felt good about myself,” she said. “Anything you asked the doctors for, they would give.”

Now she turns recovering addicts toward pottery-making and sells her own work on Facebook and Instagram. Culture of Recovery led her to discover “a talent you never knew you had till you got clean and sober,” she said. Her T-shirt reads: “From Drug Addiction to Pottery Addiction.” “Without art, God knows where I’d be at,” she said.

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