In the Pink – richmondmagazine.com

Honesty Liller lives up to her name.

She has a book that came out in February, “Scattered Pink: A Diary of a Woman in Recovery,” that succinctly lays out her life, from compulsive lying and shoplifting in childhood, into drug use beginning at age 12 and on into heroin addiction. She says that her daughter was born with drug withdrawal symptoms because of the mother’s heroin use.

She went into rehab and turned her life around. Now, she juggles multiples duties, including wife (she and her husband met in recovery), mom (“Recovery is one thing, addiction is another, but being someone’s parent is hard.”) and CEO of the McShin Foundation.

It’s a nonprofit, peer-led recovery program for people with substance use disorders that was founded in 2004. McShin seeks to serve individuals and their families and provides programs including a 28-day recovery program, super-living housing and partnerships with doctors in providing substance detox.

Like Liller, all staff members at McShin are in recovery from addiction themselves. “That peer-to-peer connection, there’s nothing like it,” according to Liller. “Giving hugs, there’s nothing like it; just having that human across from you talking about their own lived experience instead of telling you what to do.

“We have a structured environment here; They definitely have guidelines they have to live by while they live in our housing, but it’s more like showing them what to do. And that’s the big thing about peer-to-peer, it’s like being that reason voice and that example and that leader to show the humans that come in behind you how it’s done.”

The foundation provides same-day service whenever and however someone reaches out to them, via phone, internet or simply showing up. The particular needs, such as recovery, detoxification or other services are determined at that point, and a plan is developed.

“It’s really getting that person in the day that they ask for the help, and McShin has been great at that for all of these years,” Liller says.

She says she has been alcohol- and drug free since May 2007. That year, there were 721 drug overdose deaths in Virginia. In a ranking of accidental deaths, traffic fatalities came in first that year, followed by gun-related deaths, then drug deaths.

By 2021, drug overdose deaths led the list by far, with 2,660 drug deaths projected for the year, more than the combined total of deaths to accidents and vehicle wrecks (2,326). The powerful synthetic opioid Fentanyl (up to 100 times more powerful than morphine) has fueled the epidemic for several years; It’s cheap to make and has been mixed in with heroin and cocaine. The drug crisis was also exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The opioid epidemic is humongous, and it’s beyond horrifying,” Liller says. “I can’t tell you how many funerals and memorials I’ve been to in the past [few] years.”

Alcohol use disorders have also been on the rise in the era of COVID-19, as people who may have regularly had glasses of wine with dinner increased their intake during the isolation of the pandemic.

“For the past couple of years a lot of people have been diving into alcohol more than ever,” Liller says, “so we’re getting a ton of opiates, but a ton of alcohol, too.”

McShin has expanded its resources. Pre-pandemic, the nonprofit operated 12 recovery houses; They’ve added two more over two years, going from serving an average of 420 to 425 people to 490 per year now.They also offer programs and resources through videos and podcasts. The podcast is broadcast in 48 jails across the United States. McShin receives 280,000 views quarterly through the online outlets, Liller says.

Life is hectic but fulfilling for Liller, but she began to feel that she wanted to do something more. She had started to follow several overachieving women on social media, some who were in recovery, some who were not, and that led her to the possibilities of writing a book.

“I feel like the world needs more stories out there,” she says. “I’m doing what I can, obviously, here at McShin, but I think there is so much more to being a person in recovery, but also being a woman and a wife and all these other things that women and men go through. ”

The idea grew over time. She wrote “Scattered Pink” over about 10 months. Throughout, Liller offers observations and lessons, the primary one being to think pink.

“It just gives you some tips,” she says. “Life is so just really too short to be unhappy and to be stuck in a place. This is your one human life on this planet; why not try to learn from all of your situations that you go through, but also to blossom … into this beautiful thing? That’s what the title refers to.

“I wanted the world to kind of see that you can go through some difficult things, but you can get through it and come out on the other side beautiful and pink.”

Liller is a featured speaker at an event at 5:30 pm Friday at the McShin Foundation, 2300 Dumbarton Road, that also will be livestreamed. She will be on hand to sign copies of her book.

She says her husband and 20-year-old daughter have read the book, and that she wanted them both to be comfortable with it. Her son, who is 12, is not yet at an appropriate age to read it, she says.

As parents, she and her husband have sought to be real in talking about addiction and drug use with their children; They don’t tell them not to do drugs but explain to them what drugs can do to your life.

“They’ve just been raised in an environment of recovery,” she says. “They’ve been raised with love, they’ve been raised with forgiveness, and we teach our children the realness of what drove the addiction.”

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