MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In 2017 more people died of opioid overdoses than from both gun violence and car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Banyan Health Systems President and CEO Bruce Hayden says the solution to the troubling crisis starts with support.

“We as a society have a responsibility to recognize our role,” he said. “We did not have a role in that individual’s picking up the drug originally, but we do have a role in helping that individual to become who they can become.”

Former addict Gary, whose last name is not being revealed, has been looking to Hayden for guidance for four decades.  He knows well that treatment doesn’t stop when a patient checks out of a facility.

“I have used Bruce as my mentor since I left treatment,” he said. “I’ve called him with all kinds of problems, some personal, but mostly related to treatment.”

Gary has been on the road to recovery all these years, and it hasn’t always been easy. He says Hayden has been invaluable to him on his journey to wellness.

Hayden says his job is easy—to listen to, support, communicate with and show respect to Gary.

“You’re involvement may be simply recognizing somebody that wants to change, and supporting it,” said Hayden. “It may be nothing more than once a week, calling up and saying, ‘How we doing? How are ya? Do you want to go for coffee?’ That’s all.”

Hayden led Gary through the recovery process, helping him develop new skills and resolve past traumas, but most of all, he believed in him.

“I can live up to someone’s expectations, or I can live down to them,” said Gary.

But Gary says if it weren’t for Hayden, his recovery would have been impossible.  He also credits Hayden for helping him complete his education. He has since become a licensed social worker, so he can help others.

“I wanted to help people who have been through what I’ve been through,” said Gary.

Hayden says he takes pride in pleasure in seeing Gary’s success.

For others who feel hopeless, Gary has a message: there is hope, and people who want to help.

“It takes going forth and seeking the help,” he said. “You’ve got to ask. You’ve got to stick your hand out. You’ve got to pick up a phone and call, and you’ve got to be willing to do what is asked of you and keep an open mind.”

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, you can call the National Opiate Hotline at 1-888-784-6641, or visit https://www.nationalopiatehotline.com.

If you are a mentor and would like to share your story with us, please email us at mentoringmatters@cbs.com.

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Rudabeh Shahbazi

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