Every Wednesday on KSFY News at 5 we highlight different attractions at the Sioux Falls Washington Pavilion. In this Avera Medical Minute we want to spotlight an exhibit that is shining a light on recovery from addiction featuring a lot of people you may know.
These faces are Portraits of Recovery; a new exhibit that's part of a groundbreaking public awareness program launched by Face It TOGETHER Sioux Falls, supported by Avera McKennan, to remove barriers to recovery from addiction.
"Jeff Venekamp: In recovery 9 years. I have not met many cancer patients who are embarrassed by their disease they are fighting and brave. We need to fight as well. "
Jeff Venekamp is the Director of Student Activities at Augustana College in Sioux Falls and is bravely opening up about a secret he kept for years.
"I like to drink alcohol and for years I was a normal drinker. Then it became an everyday drinker and then it became everyday a lot of drinker," Jeff said.
10 years ago Jeff got help and because of that he wants others to know about Face It TOGETHER Sioux Falls, a non-profit recovery community organization, and he wants people to know they're here to help you find the right help.
"I want them to know my story I don't want us all to be embarrassed by it," Jeff said referring to his children featured in his portrait.
Not only will his kids know his story, so will everyone who eats at Leonardo's Cafe at the Washington Pavilion and Jeff is just fine with that.
"I am an alcoholic but I like to say I'm in remission. It's been over 10 years of I'm not going to have a drink today. I'm great with that," Jeff said.
Mary Hitzemann is the Executive Director of Face It TOGETHER Sioux Falls.
"We're free, confidential and the important thing to note is we are a peer based program. There are no therapists or CD councilors so we don't do treatment assessments but people can come and talk and get and understanding of what they may be facing, what's going on in their lives and there are people around them that want to help them find a pathway to recovery, "Mary said.
"My life is so much better because of it. I'm married; I have 3 kids, clarity of mind, and happiness at work. All those things came after sobriety, "Jeff said.
"People will see people they know or people they can truly relate to and the person who has this chronic illness is like themselves," Mary said.
"There is a happier more beautiful life out there if we just find sobriety," Jeff said.
This exhibit is designed to show recovery can be about discover and living a life of meaning. Jeff Venekamp is living proof of that.
A second traveling exhibit will be showcased in and around Sioux Falls including at churches, businesses and community organizations.