Mom Starts Addiction Recovery Photo Project After Son's Overdose Death

By Maggie Ethridge 08/30/18

The photo documentary project aims to promote recovery and reduce the stigma surrounding addiction. 

woman taking pictures with camera

Simone Ochrym lost her 26-year-old son the same day that she had begged for him to return to treatment for his opioid addiction.

After a decade of drug abuse, recovery “was not in the cards” for Ochrym’s child. The Democrat and Chronicle interviewed Ochrym about her new photo project that includes 15 portraits and narratives of people in recovery from addiction.

The project, entitled "ChasingNirvanaClean: The Addiction Recovery Project," was birthed from a question: “I wanted to know, ‘How and why did you go from being an active user to wanting to go into recovery?’” Ochrym said.

The photo documentary debuts September 7th, nearly two years after her son’s death. The photos are displayed at Flower City Arts Center in Rochester, New York.

The project’s website states: “The purpose is to explore the how and the why people enter and stay in addiction recovery. It is by exploration of those in addiction recovery that we will find the answers to fight emerging and chronic addiction in our communities.

The goals of the 'ChasingNirvanaClean' project are promoting that recovery is possible for all types of addiction, reducing the social stigma of addiction, and promoting peer-mentoring models of addiction treatment, 12-step programs, and old and new diverse methods of addiction recovery.”

One documentary subject is Jeff Williams, who lost both his older brother and an uncle to opioid overdose. Jeff began using at age 12 or 13, and his addiction progressed rapidly. After gaining sobriety through a rehabilitation outpatient program, Jeff began drinking again in his early 20s. It was when he lost his best drinking buddy that he realized how isolated and self-destructive he felt.

On "ChasingNirvanaClean," Jeff says, “I had one last drink the night before I got sober. I went to a psychiatrist and told him I needed help. He gave me some medications for depression and generalized anxiety. That was when I got sober.”

Jeff continued to struggle with mental health issues and it was not until he fully embraced therapy and medication that he was able to achieve sobriety and stability.

Jeff’s imparted advice to the loved ones of someone with active addiction, “The best thing you can do is show your love, your compassion, and if they made that decision to become sober, they can come to you for that help. Showing that you will accept all of them, even the bad parts, makes it less scary for them to ask for help and can encourage them to get the help they need.”

“I always see people either working in prevention or working in crisis, but I think the only way to figure out prevention is to hear the stories of people who have achieved long-term recovery,” Ochrym told the Democrat and Chronicle.

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Maggie May Ethridge is the author of Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From a Marriage (Shebooks, 2014) and the recently completed novel, Agitate My Heart. She is a freelance writer published in Rolling Stone, VOX, Washington Post, The Guardian and many others. Find her at her blog Flux Capacitor or on LinkedIn or Twitter.