CARBONDALE — Holidays can be stressful, but that stress often is multiplied for families who have a family member or close friend who is in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction or has an active addiction.
Anna Jurich, executive director of Gateway Foundation, says communication is the key for navigating through the holidays. It also is important for that communication to go both ways.
“One of the things we have been talking about a lot with people in early recovery in the pressure to be involved in family events,” Jurich said.
Family gatherings often mean those in recovery will be around alcohol. Likewise, it is stressful for family members who do not know what is and is not appropriate.
Jurich thinks it is OK to ask the person in recovery to share how they're feeling.
“It’s important for people to get as much info as they can,” Jurich said.
Guilt from past actions may make it difficult for the person in recovery to come back and talk through those things.
Good self-care is important for those in recovery. Besides eating well and a getting enough rest, make a plan for holiday gatherings that may offer temptations and continue to follow your individual recovery plan.
Jurich said one thing that can help is continuing to attend self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, even if that means missing a family event.
The host also can offer some nonalcoholic drink options, not only for those in recovery. Some people choose not to drink or may be worried about medication interactions. For example, alcohol can interact with a common diabetes medication.
“For families with active addiction, I always encourage everyone to reach out to self-help groups,” Jurich said. She added that groups like Al-Anon and Alateen are good places to pick up ideas.
Again, she stresses the importance of communications and suggests addressing the elephant in the room.
She thinks it is OK for the host to talk about past behavior and what is and is not acceptable. Or, to tell the addict if he or she comes to Christmas dinner drunk or high, he or she will be asked to leave.
“Hiding or covering up the problem causes more stress,” Jurich said. “Tell them ‘We want you to be part of the family and be included, but in a way that everybody feels safe.’ People don’t know what somebody needs from them if they don’t say it.”
Most families know there is a problem before anyone talks about it.
“I think it’s important for family and friends to realize that if someone is using during holiday events, it is not because they do not respect boundaries,” Jurich said.
She thinks there has been improvement as far as public awareness due to significant amounts of overdoses and death. Drug overdose recently became one of the leading causes of death for adults in the U.S., she said.
“Opiates and drug additions have been taking lives for a long time. That includes alcohol,” Jurich said.
To find an Al-Anon or Alateen meeting, visit al-anon.org
MARION — Women detained at the Williamson County Jail say they’ve gone weeks on end with insufficient heat and hot water.
“A few days ago, no one took a shower at all. Or we wash our hair in the sink instead of getting in the shower, because it’s so cold,” said Brittany Cottingham, a federal inmate held at the jail. “We all made mistakes. We’re in jail. But that is inhumane, to me."
In the last few months, the women have been housed on three different cell blocks, each with deficiencies, three inmates told The Southern. Meanwhile, prison officials assure they’re working to address the facilities challenges.
Through October and most of November, Williamson County’s female inmates were held in Cell Block D, where they say the heat was failing.
“You could see your breath at night,” said Brianna Martin, a federal inmate awaiting sentencing, who was placed in Williamson County Jail in October. “Everyone walked around with blankets on all the time.”
When the cold became an issue, Martin, Cottingham and other female inmates began filing grievances, which should pass gradually up the jail’s chain of command, from corrections officers to shift supervisors, to the jail administrator.
Williamson County Sheriff Bennie Vick acknowledged the cold temperatures, and said the jail responded as promptly as possible to the women’s complaints.
“I went down there and it was beyond chilly,” Vick said. “We tried to make them as comfortable as possible. We gave them extra blankets, and hot drinks, and we tried to fix the problem. When we couldn’t find an immediate fix, we moved them.”
The women were moved to a warmer block within a day of Vick becoming aware of the problem, he told The Southern.
But the inmates say mishandling of the grievances made the process much slower.
“I filed grievances a few days a week, for over a month,” Cottingham said.
“A Corrections Officer told us our grievances weren’t getting anywhere... that they were all sitting in a stack in the bubble (officer’s station),” Martin added. “All they did was give us more blankets, instead of fixing the problem.”
Several weeks ago, the inmates say they were moved to Block E. Block E is warmer, the women said, though it can still be uncomfortably chilly. But the bigger problem is the water.
Block E hasn’t had hot water since the inmates moved there, they say. At times, it is lukewarm. But usually, it’s cold.
Vick says this problem is also being addressed. The jail ordered a replacement mixing valve for its boiler about two weeks ago, and will install it as soon as it is delivered.
In the meantime, jail staff have attempted to adjust the boiler by hand to regulate its mix of hot and cold water, Vick said. That has been a tricky process.
“We’d rather have the boiler running too cold than too hot,” Vick said, until it is fixed. “Otherwise it could scald someone.”
Inmates also reported other facilities problems inside the jail.
“A lot of the cells aren’t usable because of maintenance issues,” Cottingham said. “The sewers are backed up and this place smells like sewage a lot.”
In November, a malfunctioning security camera system failed to capture the beating of inmate Devin O'Daniell by other inmates, leading the jail to request funds from the county board to overhaul it.
At the time of the incident, the surveillance system had been experiencing problems for “a couple of months,” said Chief Deputy Scott McCabe in an interview with WSIL Channel 3.
Overall, Sheriff Vick said he isn’t disappointed with the durability of the 240-bed facility, which opened on Feb. 19, 2012, and had a reported price tag of $21.8 million.
“All we can do is fix things,” Vick said. “This operation runs full speed, 24/7. It takes a lot of wear and tear. Even the doors wear out, because they’re constantly moving.”
Responding to the inmates’ criticism of slow response times, Vick said maintenance issues can be time-consuming, and moving prisoners is complicated.
To relocate the female inmates, corrections officers must move male inmates out of a cell block, clean and inspect the block, and find new accommodations for the men, many of whom must be separated from other inmates for security reasons.
“It takes a lot of strategic planning,” Vick said.
In July 2018, the jail was rated very highly in its yearly inspection by the Illinois Department of Corrections. That report found no problems with the showers, toilets or the jail’s temperature regulation.
Still, inmates like Cottingham, Martin and Leah Bean, 36, say going weeks without hot water is too long. As federal inmates, the three will spend five months or more in the county jail as they await sentencing for their crimes.
“A lot of people say, ‘well you shouldn’t have gotten in trouble,’” Cottingham said. “But we should at least be able to take a hot shower.”
MARION — A Hamilton County man was sentenced Wednesday to serve more than six decades in state prison for the 2015 murder of a man from Marion.
According to a news release from Williamson County State's Attorney Brandon Zanotti, Jack Thomas Jr., 38, was convicted of the murder charge this past May.
A Williamson County judge sentenced Thomas to serve 65 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
According to previous reporting in The Southern, Thomas was found guilty of shooting Michael Reed from the driver's side of a truck in the 300 block of College Street in Marion, late in the evening on April 20, 2015.
Reed was a father of two. He died at Heartland Regional Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds.
Thomas had fled the scene after shooting Reed, and was arrested the next day in Carmi. He argued during the trial that he shot Reed in self-defense, but the jury convicted him of a first-degree murder charge after deliberating for two hours after a 10-day trial.