By Vivian Shipe
KNOXVILLE, TN — With those words, Jacqueline Holloway, college educated, from a close knit family, began to tell her story of substance misuse and her journey from losing everything; her home, her possessions, her family, and her journey back from living in her car, back to a successful life of restoration of all she had lost. That’s the goal of the meetings: to hear the stories from those willing to share.
Ms. Holloway was the first speaker at the first of 19 town hall zip code meetings being held in Knoxville/Knox County. The town halls are part of a joint initiative of ALL4Knox to face the crisis of substance misuse head on.
The goal of having a speaker at each town hall meeting is help create a listening atmosphere and show that addiction happens in all walks of life in every part of the city. Each town hall meeting lasts one hour exactly. During the meeting, after the statistics on overdoses, deaths, and suicides are presented for that particular zip code; those in the community participate in group discussions and share what they need in their zip code and share what is working and not working and share their stories.
As the group in South Knoxville sat and listened; Ms. Holloway took down them down the path of her life, how she became addicted, the consequences, and most importantly how she was restored and what her life looks like now.
She spoke of the shame and stigma she experienced, of the verbal and non verbal language of others towards her in her addiction phase. Holloway spoke passionately about the need for the community to love those who don’t look good or smell good. She brought to life the health issues she faced and still faces from her substance misuse and the fight with the medical field as they prescribed more and more opioids.
“We are a nation of talented and educated people who have made a bad decision”. Holloway, who is a multimedia artist and a former Art director now uses those skills to help others heal thru art. “When you are addicted, you spend a lot of time looking for your drug. “When you are in recovery, you must fill that time with something or you will slide backwards.” She created “The Canvas Can Do Miracles” non profit organization in 2000 and she teaches art as a way of healing and self control. She teaches free classes to children and those struggling to free themselves from substance misuse. She has two locations in Knoxville.
Just as she had shared her fall; she shared her victories with the group. In addition to her non profit; Jacqueline Holloway has now produced and published three healing coloring books, She is also an award winning artist and judge with the Louie Bluie Festival three years running.
Concerning the opioid crisis, she reminded the group of the need for the community to step up, to really care.
“If we don’t get ahead of this crisis, she said, “I don’t know what our country is going to look like.”
All town hall meetings will be held on Tuesdays from 6 pm till 7pm. There will be no meetings in December and the meetings will run through the end of April. For more information about the initiative, go to all4knox.org or contact Amy Dolinky with the Knox County Health Department.