Recovery: Reflect, rebuild, rejoice

Messenger photos by Dedra Cordle
As part of National Recovery Month, the London Recovery Project held its 3rd annual candlelight vigil and recovery walk on Sept. 24 to honor those in sobriety and those lost to addiction. Before participating in the walk, London resident Clif Clark made a poster in memory of his niece, Roni Hess, and included messages of the dangers of drinking and driving. In 2016, Hess, a resident of Grove City, was killed in a one-car accident where speed and alcohol were believed to be a factor. Hess was a passenger in that car.

(Posted Oct. 10, 2018)

By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer

When you have an addiction, says Kristina Smith, it binds itself to your entire being. “It is handcuffs around your body and soul.”

For nearly a decade, Smith felt there was little hope for her recovery but admits she wasn’t truly looking for it at that time.

“I felt like my life was still manageable,” she said. “I was president of the PTA, I helped my kids with their homework, I did household chores, I went to work, and I never once believed I was powerless over my alcohol consumption.”

Then one day, she had what she called a “mid-day blackout” with her 7-year-old son in the car and knew she had to try to make a change.

“I didn’t know how sick and tired of being sick and tired I was,” she explained. “Then when I realized that I was, I was just tired of hiding, tired of my lies, tired of who I was.”

It was a tough road to recovery, she said, but with the support of friends, family, Alcoholics Anonymous and her own determination, she made it through.

“I’ve been living in sobriety for nine years now,” she said proudly.

Since becoming sober, Smith has relocated to London, found the London Recovery Project (LRP) and received her peer support certification in order to help others struggling with addiction.

“I want people to know that they can do it,” she said. “I need people to know that recovery is possible.”

To show the larger public the possibility of recovery, she signed up to join her first Candlelight Vigil and Recovery Walk and even made posters for the event, which took place Sept. 24 in downtown London.

Tracy Pooler participates in the London Recovery Project Recovery Awareness Month walk and candlelight vigil.

“I’m a little nervous,” she said prior to the walk in the Jean Perry Room of Hope at the London Recovery Project, “but I need to do this. I just hope my writing looks OK.”

Surrounded by a table full of LRP members and volunteers, Smith and the others adorned poster boards with messages of support and remembrance.

London resident and LRP member Clif Clark worked on a poster in memory of his niece, Roni Hess, who at 26 was killed in a suspected drunk driving accident.

“She was the passenger in this senselessness,” he said. “She was a crazy young soul, a great girl who just got in the car with the wrong person at the wrong time.”

Like Smith, this was also his first time participating in LRP’s Candlelight Vigil and Recovery Walk. He said he joined for a variety of reasons.

“I walk for Roni, I walk for myself, and I walk for my friends who didn’t make it,” he said.

The vigil and walk began three years ago as part of National Recovery Month. LRP President Dale McNeal said it was an important event for them to establish locally because of the messages it sends.

“Not only is it about honoring those who have been lost to this disease of addiction, but it also serves to teach about awareness,” he said. “It is awareness for recovery, awareness of support, and awareness that there is help and hope right here in this community.”

For Tracy Pooler, becoming an LRP member and volunteer was a life-changing event.

After the death of her daughter eight years ago, Pooler turned to alcohol to numb the pain. Like Smith, like Clark, and like so many others, addiction bound itself to her and she struggled to break free. Eventually, she managed to do so and has been sober for over a year.

In that year, she joined the meetings at LRP, began volunteering at the center, and is going for her peer support certification. She said she wants to spread the message that “recovery is an awesome life.”

“Recovery is awesome because you don’t feel the need to drink to numb the pain. It is awesome because you can keep a job, or get a job, and have money to spend on other things,” she said. “Recovery is awesome because it frees you, and it doesn’t hurt that you make the best friends you will ever have in your life along the way.”

The London Recovery Project is located at 40 S. Walnut St. and provides a variety of services to those struggling with addiction or recovering from addiction. They also provide transportation to work and other appointments. The drop-in hours at the center are Monday through Friday, 1-4 p.m. Call (740) 956-1099 or visit

Participants in the London Recovery Project’s annual candlelight vigil walked from London Recovery Project on South Walnut Street to the Madison County Courthouse.


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