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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Healing Utah Success Summit in Sandy spreads hope of addiction recovery

May 05, 2023 01:22PM ● By Peri Kinder

From left, Al Richards and Malory Ruesch created the Healing Utah Success Summit to spread hope of addiction recovery. Partnering with Brad Neufeld (not shown), Richards and Ruesch plan on holding the summit in cities across the state. (City Journals)

Coming home from a networking event in 2019, Al Richards reached one of the lowest points in his life. He’d been hiding his wife’s alcohol addiction from family and friends, without realizing the toll it was taking on his mental health. 

“I decided I was going to get my pistol, go up in the mountains and take my life because I just couldn’t come home to what I was coming home to every day,” Richards said. “But then I got a phone call. When I hung up, there was a screenshot on my phone of my daughters and grandkids. I broke down and started crying, knowing I shouldn’t be thinking this way.”

He called a friend in the West Jordan Police Department who directed him to resources to get the help and support he needed. He started talking about the situation with people around him. Friends he’d known for years started opening up to him about their own addiction or a family member’s addiction.

Two years ago, the Sandy resident created The Other Side of Addiction Podcast, helping people share their journey through their own addiction or the substance misuse of a loved one. 

In April, Richards partnered with Malory Ruesch and Brad Neufeld to host the Healing Utah Success Summit at the Miller Free Enterprise Building in Sandy, an event geared toward spreading hope of recovery from addiction.

Ruesch is a recovering addict, public speaker and author of the book “Inspired to Recover: An addict’s journey through addiction and healing.” She had a dream to create an event that would bring hope to addicts and family members, and to educate people along the way. 

“Nobody’s condition is their conclusion. We can create a mindset of reconnecting individuals, because the opposite of addiction is connection,” Ruesch said. “If a world can be created where everyone feels like they belong and they’re important, it takes away a lot of the mentality that can drive you down the path of addiction.”

This was the second healing summit in what organizers hope will be a regular event that brings speakers, vendors and recovery resources to the community. By creating connections, and a safe space for sharing, the Healing Utah Success Summit continues to grow. Those interested in participating in future events can reach out to Ruesch at [email protected] or Richards at [email protected].

“We’ve dragged ourselves out of the darkness and now we’re out helping other individuals,” Richards said. “We want to educate people about addiction and people who are battling addiction and what they go through. Because the stigma is it’s the drugs or the alcohol or the porn or the eating or the gambling that’s the problem, but it’s not. That’s just the band-aid.”

Richards has battled his own cocaine and alcohol misuse. In 2009, he failed a drug test and lost his job of 24 years. He said he’d never considered himself to be an addict because he only used substances on the weekend and never missed work. He hid it so well, even his wife didn’t know he was an addict. 

“I pretty much kept a dirty little secret,” he said. “I asked people to come on my show and be vulnerable, and I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable myself.

“My wife is 27 months sober now. She’s now a certified peer support specialist and she’s out there helping people in their recovery.” λ