Charles Callahan

    Prescription pill abuse is a growing problem across the Commonwealth, including Carter County.

    Users are a hot topic in the media where they are labeled as “pill heads” or “pill-billies” and described as lost causes.  

    Charles Callahan was an abuser who learned that there is hope – and life – after addiction.

    Callahan agreed to tell his story to the Journal-Times after a chance meeting and sat down not far from where it began.

    After work injuries and car accidents introduced him to pain pills like oxycodone, Callahan went into a downward spiral of addiction.

    “I got picked up in Grayson for a public intoxication charge,” Callahan said. “I had pills on me and had been on them for six or seven years.”

    The P.I. charge was Callahan’s first and he asked to be bonded out to rehabilitation.

    “I really wanted help,” he said. “I just hadn’t asked for it. Getting arrested was a Godsend, really.”

    Callahan spent six months going through the program at Shepherd Shelter in Mt. Sterling. It is a faith-based program which offers a 6-18-month process to get people clean. The first step is detox.

    “It’s a pretty bad thing to go through,” Callhan said. “You sweat and throw up, get chills and shake all over. It’s horrible.”

    Once the drugs are out of the person’s system, they attend classes twice a day along with morning meditation. The center holds church services on Tuesdays and Saturdays and offers classes in criminal thinking, socialization, the 12-step process, relapse prevention and anger management.

    “It is all about setting new boundaries with old places people and things,” Callahan said. “You can’t go around any of that anymore or you might just start again.”

    Rehab patients have sponsors that help them through the process.

    “Mine is a good guy who has been clean for more than two years,” Callahan said of his sponsor. “He is tough, too, and will call you out on your bull if he has to.”

    Callahan said without the program, he believes he would be dead. He completed his rehabilitation in six months and now volunteers at the facility.

He attributes his success to the faith-based program.

    “There is no way I could do this without God in my life,” Callahan said. “The steps and classes help, but there is no way I could make it without God.”

    Like any addiction, beating pain killers is a lifelong process. Callahan said even now he has the urge to use.

    “It is really difficult,” he said. “You get it on your mind and all you can do is pray about it, and He helps.”

    Sadly, Callahan said some patients don’t want help, but choose to come to rehab instead of going to jail.

    “Some people eventually see they can submit to it and turn their lives around,” Callahan said. “Most people you can tell if they will be successful within 30 days.”

    Callahan doesn’t know what he will do with his life now that he is clean but, for now, he wants to help others who are fighting addiction.

    “A lot of younger people get involved with pills and I hope I can keep them from making the same mistakes I made,” Callahan said. “If I can help one person, it will all be worth it.”

    Shepherd's Shelter/Ross Rehab is located at 236 Bridgett Drive in Mt. Sterling.

    Leeann Akers can be reached at or by phone at 474-5150.

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