Praises For Faces Of Recovery

Diane Pietro is the CEO of the Twin Cities Photography group and a leader among photographers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and she recently had some incredibly high, humbling, insightful, and amazing words to say about my Faces Of Recovery portrait project that I thought I'd share here on the blog. I will be sharing some of these words again on a video in the near future as we I'm getting ready to launch a crowd-funding campaign aimed at getting this project resourced to take the next steps of development. In the meantime, I thought I would share these words here. Thank you for your kind words, Diane! 

The most wonderful thing about images is that they take us to places we may never go physically. They invoke emotions and dreams. They inspire and spark the imagination about worlds that can be.

The most powerful thing about images is that they bring about self validation by documenting a life. I never knew the power of a self portrait until I photographed recovering fathers being reunited with their families. For some of those children, the images we gave them were the first they ever had with their dads.

When Seth Hinrichs came to the studio and explained his project, Faces of Recovery, I immediately knew he was in for the journey of a lifetime – and what better person to do this project than Seth? He has the social and technical skills to deliver stunning images to people who almost disappeared from life. His welcoming personality and warm heart make you feel at ease and accepted immediately, allowing his clients to open up and expose their authentic selves.

What Seth is giving his subjects is more than an image. It is a voice—a celebration that declares “I have not only survived, but I am important enough that a stranger has taken his time to learn my story and document it.” With one look at his work you will find that Seth has a way of finding the beauty and strength in people. His studio lighting skills are exceptional.

The stunning images produced by Faces of Recovery have a rippling effect, starting from each subject and circling out to their families. Imagine being a parent of one of Seth’s clients. What better gift could you receive than seeing your child beautiful and whole again after so many nights imagining the worst. And more importantly, having your child wanting to be seen again and being proud of who he/she is.

This important project needs to be funded so it can grow and raise awareness and hope for those who are still battling addiction. To every addict and family effected by addiction, these images will take them to a place they may not be able to go physically right now, they plant a seed of hope mentally that may one day bring them home again.

Regards,

Diane Pietro

CEO, Twin Cities Photography Group

 

"When you're told nobody else will ever love you enough, you start to believe it…" Faces Of Recovery: Aimee Hicks


My name is Aimee. I’m an addict and alcoholic.

My older sister and I were raised by a single mother, who did the best she could, I didn’t see my Dad often, and he was an active alcoholic most of my younger years.

My story of addiction began after my grandpa died. My mom, sister and I moved in with my grandma. I tried alcohol for the 1st time at 11 years old when I snuck some from under the kitchen sink at my grandma’s house. I became a “regular” when I was in junior high, maybe 12 or 13. I would sneak strong liquor and my friends and I would drink it before school many days of my 7th and 8th grade years of school. I also tried speed for the 1st time and was also regularly doing liquid rush. I also lost my virginity when I was 12, and continued to be promiscuous, often going to parties and getting wasted, and sleeping with whoever was willing. I was trying to numb the pain of losing my grandpa.

In high school things just got worse I would go to frat parties with my cousins who were 7 and 8 years older than me, I remember blacking out and waking up in a strange bedroom, with a strange guy many times. I also had an older sister who drank as well. I became her shadow, if I was with her my mom would never ask any questions about where I was going or who I was with. She also made up excuses for me and took care of me many nights I was too wasted to stand or walk. My mom also occasionally allowed my sister to have parties in the garage as long as everyone stayed the night. I recall my sisters friends getting me drunk because I was really funny when I was drinking. I became who I couldn’t be in real life. I was looking for love and attention in all the wrong places.

When I was 16 I found what I thought was love. He told me he loved me, that I was beautiful and fun and we drank together. After a few moths he became verbally, mentally, physically and sexually abusive. I recall on one specific occasion, we had gotten into a verbal confrontation, he told me I was a slut and nobody would ever love me, and that I was worthless and I should be thankful he was even with me. It started to get physical and I ran into the bathroom, he followed me and cornered me and slapped me so hard I had a bruise in the shape of a handprint on my face.

I kept going back for more. When you're told nobody else will ever love you enough, you start to believe it.

In August I found out I was pregnant with his baby. He was upset at me for trapping him. He didn’t want to be a dad and he was insistent that I terminate my pregnancy. I told him I wouldn’t and he reminded me that I was not only unlovable, but I also was going to have a baby and who would ever love me with that kind of baggage?

I continued to drink and party knowing full well I was pregnant.  Luckily I found my courage and my strength. His name was Chris and through Chris I gained the courage to leave Kyle. I went into labor at 19 weeks and on October 18th 1989, I gave birth to a stillborn, perfect, tiny baby boy whom I named Tanner.

Chris and I continued to hang out. We partied and drank and had a great time together.  We got engaged my senior year of high school. We moved in together 3 days before my high school graduation and had set a wedding date for the following July. I got pregnant with my oldest daughter and we married in May instead.

My drinking days were over. I was now a mom and I loved every second of it.  My husband continued to drink, most of our marriage I recall him always with a beer in hand.  Several years and another daughter later I was dealing with some medical issues, I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease and I gained over a hundred pounds.

In 2004 I had gastric bypass surgery and lost those 100 pounds. Fast forward a few years, I had a couple more surgeries and then I started having widespread pain, my back, my neck and my legs. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, depression, and anxiety and I was having my pain treated at a pain management clinic.

I took my pain medication as prescribed for a year or so, and then I needed to take more to treat the pain. So I went to my regular doctor and told her the pain clinic wasn’t treating me anymore and she started prescribing me Vicodin. At one of my appointments at the pain clinic they had gotten information that I was getting medication elsewhere as well and they ended our plan.

Of course my pain was still there. So I talked my doctor into just taking over my pain management. Eventually I was being prescribed 210 oxycontin and 75 Percocet every month, along with Xanax, Ambien and Adderall for lack of energy. What started as legitimate reason for pain medication had spiraled out of control.

There were many days I didn’t get out of bed. My daughters raised themselves and my husband was working 2 jobs because I couldn’t hold even down one.

There were days I was a “functioning” addict, I made some really poor choices like driving with my girls in my car, putting their precious lives in danger as well as others because I was driving high. There were times I didn’t sleep for days. I’d be scrubbing my floors at 4 in the morning, and in those moments, days really, I started to become scared.

There were many days my daughters made themselves dinner and got themselves to bed all alone because I wasn’t able to function, I was so high. There were day’s I would take between 15 and 20 oxy’s, my marriage was in shambles, and my husband’s drinking was out of control – it was how he dealt with the dysfunction.

We separated for a few months; I moved out of our home, I couldn’t bear lying in bed every night smelling beer as my husband slept next to me. I also got really sick, I was completely iron deficient, and had a chronic low white blood cell issue; I had virtually no immune system. The doctors discovered I had Sjogrens syndrome, whose symptoms mirrored fibromyalgia.  I couldn’t commit to anything and when I would I would always cancel last minute.

A friend had been inviting me to her church for weeks. I figured what do I have to lose; my life was already a mess. I sat through that 1st service and sobbed. That pastor was speaking to me. He was preaching exactly what I needed. I felt like it was home, that it was a church where I fit despite my messed up life. I bought a copy of that weekend’s sermon and brought it to my husband who was a self-proclaimed atheist. The next week he asked if he could come to church with me, I was amazed. He gave his life to the Lord and we were baptized together, December 2009. We both became very involved in our church, I was volunteering wherever I could. Little did I know, they noticed that I that I had a problem.

October 18th, 2010 Tanner’s 21st birthday, I had just had my monthly med check and my husband and I had spoken several times during the day because he knew it was a tough day for me. We had planned a walk when he got home. He called on his way and I didn’t answer. He came home to find me on the kitchen floor not breathing and turning purple. He thought he had lost me.

He called 911 and the first-responders were there within 2 minutes. Luckily my heart hadn’t stopped, yet. My husband was told if he had gotten home minutes later I would have not survived. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital with 3 doses of narcan on the way, 2 more at the hospital. I have no recollection of even taking any of my medication. I was treated, admitted and stayed overnight. The hospital physicians just told me to lower the amount of the meds I was taking and sent me on my way. My overdose was not intentional. 

We were still very involved members of our church, The Crossing. My husband called one of the pastors because he needed support. Two Pastors who head up our faith based recovery program got involved and STRONGLY encouraged my husband to get me into treatment.

The following Monday, I walked into Hazelden taking several Percocet. I didn’t want to do this sober. I was terrified. I was safely detoxed over 3 days and then went to a unit where I would spend the next 24 days.

Those 24 days (and all the days following) I had absolutely no pain. The entire time I was there I was in a fog, following the rules but not really investing myself into the program, I went to get sober and I didn’t really need to know how to stay sober or how my life became unmanageable. I knew all that already!

My husband attended the family program. I was discharged with the condition I did outpatient treatment for 8 weeks. That’s where it got real for me. I learned from my family how my addiction had affected their lives, mostly my daughters, how I had hurt them. My husband was my biggest cheerleader through everything! I had several amends to make. I had decided to go to Crossing Recovery and it didn’t feel like a right fit for me at the time, so I stopped going. I attended another recovery meeting for 6 or 8 months.

On the one year anniversary of my overdose, I got a tattoo of a green lifesaver with a cross on it as a daily reminder of my journey. The green signified new life and growth.

I had left the Crossing for a while but never lost my faith. My husband asked me for a divorce after 19 years of marriage. I was crushed, but I made it through with newfound strength, determination, and courage because I was sober and with the support of a lot of people who love me.

God led my path, when I wanted to give up, it was he who whispered you’ve got this, don’t give up, and you’ve come so far. Mother’s day 2012 I walked back into the Crossing for the 1st time in well over a year and Pastor Kelly Dykstra saw me and she came over and gave me a hug and said welcome home, and I was.

I have recently started really working my steps again. One Sunday I was at the Crossing’s Zimmerman campus and when one of the pastors prayed over communion that day and he was very emotional. His words that day were for me. I sobbed and came to the realization that God really was my lifesaver and he let me live that day because he wasn’t done with me yet.

I have a purpose. I need to be his hands and feet and reach other addicts with my testimony.  If I have helped one person with my story every second of what I have gone through was worth it. Today I am a beautiful mess. I have also been sober 3 and a lahf amazing  years!

My names Aimee. I’m an addict and an alcoholic.  

Faces Of Recovery Blog Launch!

Between 2012 and 2013 I had the incredible opportunity to help lead a recovery group in Pine City, MN. Nearly every Tuesday night for over a year, I was blown away by the stories I’d hear of what people have been through and how they’re finding hope and healing in their lives today.

The people I met as a part of this program come from a wide variety of backgrounds – everything from soccer moms to members of the Mexican Mafia – and they were struggling with a wide variety of hurts, habits and hang-ups. In the course of the time I spent with them, I came to deeply admire and respect their courage, bravery and perseverance.

I love hearing stories of how people have turned their lives around. By listening and being present with these people in the middle of their stories, in some small way I got to be a part of them, and that was a deeply humbling honor.

But the more stories I heard and the more people I talked to, the photographer in me began to notice that these people have faces that tell their stories all by themselves. The way they hold their eyes and body. The lines on their often weathered faces. The looks that hold both joy and hurt, intensity and surrender, pain and healing all at the same time.

I found myself drawn toward trying to document these expressions with my camera in a portrait series that's raw, honest and real. It was a simple set up for a simple idea: 1-2 lights. Monotone images. No retouching and minimal post-processing. Let the faces tell the stories.

These are stories worth telling, listening to and learning from, and as a result, I decided to become an advocate for them by producing a short film and portrait series about people that have been sober, abstinent or in recovery for 6 consecutive months.

My goal with these portraits is not only to promote recovery from addiction, but also raise awareness as to just how prevalent and pervasive of an issue this really is in our society. I asked each subject to write their story in their own words and then posted the portraits and their stories in a blog, which you can find here: http://sethhinrichsphotography.com/faces-of-recovery-blog/

These are the faces of those who have overcome and are overcoming. Their faces tell the story of where they've been and what's possible from where they were. Their words and their stories are their own, and I hope they are as inspirational to you as they are to me. 

 If you have been sober, abstinent or in recovery from your hurt, habit or hang-up for 6 consecutive months and want to be a part of this series, message me about how you can get involved! The series is growing and evolving every day and I’m excited by the possibilities.