Tim Weber is a passionate advocate for addiction recovery — both the process and the idea that recovery from addiction is even possible. It's something he knows about firsthand, having spent more than a decade battling his own life-suspending addictions to alcohol, cocaine and heroin.

Sober since 2003, Weber now is the founder of the Weber Sober Homes, where he works as a mentor for people working 12-step-based programs to overcome their addictions. He is also a willing speaker on the topic of drug addiction and his own past experiences, and will be one of the many speakers at the Drug and Violence Awareness Expo at the Carroll County Agricultural Center's Shipley Arena on Friday, May 1.

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An ambitious collaboration between law enforcement, prevention professionals, people in recovery and concerned parents, the Drug and Violence Awareness Expo is aimed at bringing the community together in a moment of clarity to grasp the reality and the scale of the problems of drug abuse and domestic violence in Carroll, as well as to formulate solutions.

The expo will take place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and will also feature speakers from the State's Attorney's Office, the Carroll County Health Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Women's Law Center. Weber will present from 4 to 4:30 p.m.

Weber spoke with the Times about his upcoming talk and the importance of speaking frankly about drug and alcohol addiction in public.

Q: What are you planning to speak about at the expo?

I will share my story. My story is a message of hope. I really touch on how easily and innocently addiction can begin. I was a suburban kid from Columbia, Maryland, active in sports and ended up making some poor choices that landed me in a room to try heroin for the first time around 24 and ultimately losing 13 years of my life as a result of that choice. The hope comes in 2003 when I made a decision to enter treatment and pick myself up to go from being homeless in Baltimore to owning a flower business, sober homes and a home now in Carroll County. I am now highly involved in helping others find their way out of their own addiction issues.

Q: How is this relevant to what's happening in Carroll right now?

This is really a message more people need to hear in Carroll County for the simple fact that it can happen to anyone and it is. I work, unfortunately, with a lot young guys who started the same way I did. Drinking alcohol on the weekends and being under the influence of that 'drug' and then trying something harder. Alcohol is the real gateway drug. My story can hopefully stop someone from going down that road, but if they have already gotten lost I can show them the way out.

Q: Why do you think that sharing your personal story of addiction and recovery is so important? Do you think getting more people to open up and publicly share their stories of addiction and recovery is an important part of tackling this problem?

The reason I share my story is two-fold: It gives people hope that no matter how far down they have gone, they can take the steps to recover and be successful. Also, I want to break the stigma that addiction and recovery is shameful. If people are ashamed, whether it is a parent of an addict child who doesn't want the PTA to know, or the addict who is afraid they will lose a job over it, I believe the shameful stigma must be stopped. We are not ashamed of diabetes or high blood pressure. Why then this? It can be treated and must be in order to get through addiction.

Q: What are you hoping listeners will learn from or get out of your presentation?

They will learn addiction is nothing to be ashamed of and it can happen to anyone. And no matter how far down you go you can come back and live a productive, normal life. I really hope my openness will eventually get others who have recovered from this just like me to come out and share their message of hope as well. I hope they get this very simple message: 'We can and do recover.' It is a process and if I don't continue to stay involved in 'the process' I can get sick again and pick up drugs, but I stay vigilant in helping others, which is a must for any addict to stay clean.

Q: What's something you think people believe they understand about the issue of drug abuse and addiction, but they often do not?

1) Some people think it is a choice, a moral issue or [that] we are weak. They don't understand it is an illness. That is so wrong!

2.) That their kids can leave treatment after 28 days and they are fixed. [That] they can drink beer with crabs and a family function and that's OK as long as they don't do heroin. Well, they will almost always go back to heroin in that case, if they truly have the illness of addiction.

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3) Most importantly: I hear people on Oprah and Dr. Phil say, 'It is a daily struggle.' That is just simply not true. Yes, early on until 'the obsession to use' is removed, it is. But once we take some steps to relieve that obsession, it is not a struggle. Why would we want to tell a 20-year-old they are going to struggle every minute of every day to not pick up again? Rubbish. Simply not true and I know thousands in recovery who agree, young and old.

Q: There have been a lot of smaller community meetings about drug addiction in Carroll during the past two years, but nothing quite on the scale of the Drug and Violence Awareness Expo. Do you think this marks a turning point in how people in Carroll think about and respond to this problem?

This expo and the recent overdose prevention vigil our state's attorney held shows me we are finally getting it: We have a problem in our county a serious heroin and prescription drug problem. I have been to schools after hours to speak with the [Carroll County] Health Department's prevention team, and we have had as little as 15 people show up. That is a shame. It is in our schools, and we need to battle it there and hit it early. I have seen the hard work of the Health Department, our new sheriff and state's attorney making a difference. As a result, people are listening and coming out. We had around 400 show up at the vigil last month during March Madness! I hope what is a loud voice today does not become a whisper tomorrow because this problem will not go way.

The big picture on drugs

For a collection of stories related to drugs, follow http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/drugs.

If You Go

What: Drug and Violence Awareness Expo

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, May 1

Where: Carroll County Agricultural Center Shipley Arena, 706 Agricultural Center Drive, Westminster

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Cost: Free

Join the conversation on social media using #BeAwareCarroll.

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