This week on Bigger Than Me, Rocky has on a special guest. Justin Kunzelman is a person in recovery who is best known for his non-profit organization Rebel Recovery Florida. Justin’s story is like many of those in recovery in the beginning. He met Rocky and began his path to the harm reduction leader that he is today, 9 years ago. After Justin was done testing the Doctor’s Opinion from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, he went finally went through the steps and remained sober long enough to make a change in his community. According to Rocky, “A guy that got sober through the Big Book and 12-steps but have incorporated the spiritual principles into your life in a way that’s not conventional.”
What is Rebel Recovery?
Rebel Recovery is now a 501(c)(3) whose main goal is “To educate and empower drug users with compassion and empathy. To remove barriers in the way of access to services.” Justin wants to be able to provide whatever it may be that an individual is asking for access to. Whether it be peer support, the overdose drug naloxone (brand name: Narcan), or sanitary supplies, Rebel Recovery wants to destroy any barriers that may stand in the way.
Rebel Recovery also believes thoroughly in harm reduction outside of just distributing naloxone in the community. The number of cases of HIV and Hepatitis C has increased tremendously with the recent opioid epidemic from the sharing of drug paraphernalia. Justin and Rebel Recovery offer clean supplies to drug users still actively using. Offering clean drug use supplies is one effort that isn’t exactly conventional because some people see it as perpetuating drug use. The way Justin looks at it is people first. Drug user or not, everyone is a person first and foremost and deserves to have their quality of life improved.
Naloxone and Rebel Recovery
Rebel Recovery distributes Narcan to the community, in July 2018, there were 34 user-to-user saves. A user to user save is when one drug user, with naloxone, administers it to another user who has overdosed. Since Rebel Recovery began tracking reported saves with 2,000 doses of naloxone they’ve distributed, there have been over 140 saves. 140 people have gotten another chance at life in South Florida from the work Rebel Recovery does.
Many misconceptions are now “common knowledge” because the stories have been perpetuated through the media. Many drugs users believe themselves to not be at risk for an opioid overdose because only heroin contains synthetic opiates like fentanyl. That is untrue, Justin points out that there have been many cases of cross-contamination with other drugs that have caused opioid overdoses.
The rumors about fentanyl are costing people their lives. When a first responder or a family member comes to the scene of an overdose, they’re sometimes hesitant to enter the room for the fear that fentanyl may be present. The difference between an overdose death and an overdose is minutes, sometimes seconds. Educating the public on how to use naloxone, the myths of fentanyl and other synthetic opiates can be the difference between life and death of many people. Education is a vital part of prevention.
How Rebel Recovery is Changing the way Addiction is Handled in Palm Beach County
The whole goal of rebel Recovery is to help people, to put it simply. Justin started this as one guy going around with naloxone, some information on harm reduction and supplies and has now grown into what it is today.
“I don’t believe that someone should have a standard of what their recovery should look like before help is offered to them.” Said Justin. “I want to help improve their lives, no matter their status as a current, former or future drug user. I’m a person first…should still be worth somebody trying to improve the quality of life.” There are no politics or treatment centers involved with Rebel Recovery. It is a peer to peer group that supports people where they are at in life. Rebel Recovery was also named Palm Beach County Substance Abuse Awareness Coalitions Community Business Champion Award.
The hope and perseverance of one man are changing the lives of many and will continue to do so. If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about Rebel Recovery you can visit their site here. If you or a loved one is seeking substance use treatment, contact GateHouse Treatment at 855-844-3588 today.