PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Every Monday as part of NewsChannel 7's newest health segment, we'll feature a topical medical issue, new breakthroughs in medicine, or a member of our community taking action to promote health and wellness.
September is National Recovery Month. One Bay County woman founded her own non-profit for women seeking help with alcohol and substance abuse, while on her own journey to recovery every day.
Just Kidding Consignment, off Back Beach Road in Panama City Beach, offers cute clothes, baby gear, and toys at a discounted price. Walk back through the store and you'll find it serves a dual purpose.
"They can sit here, they can look for jobs," Amy Cooper said, of her non-profit organizations, Faith at the Beach and the Kelly Gorman Watson Women's Center.
"We opened the women's center to help women in recovery," she said.
Recovery is a broad word.
"We don't just talk about drugs or alcohol," Cooper said. "But recovery may be the woman who's left an abusive relationship. Recovery may be she lost her job."
Recovery is also a term Cooper knows first-hand.
"Going on six years now," she said.
Six years of sobriety after Cooper served 19 months in federal prison for charges related to a high-profile cocaine trafficking case.
"I really wanted to change," she said. "I didn't want to continue to be the same person I was."
Faith at the Beach came to her in just that way: Praying, walking on the beach. Now she advocates for men and women on their own journeys to turn their path around.
"Seeing people who really wanted recovery, and me being able to be a part of that, that is just such a natural high," Cooper said.
The non-profit's nine-month program begins with detox. It helps clients through legal, court, and probation issues. Above all, it provides accountability.
"I have a lot of clients that I'm pretty tough on, because I know what's it like," Cooper said. "I know where I had to go to get sober."
The disease of addiction does not discriminate.
"It's nurses, it's doctors, it's lawyers, it's judges," Cooper said. "It's your brother, your sister, your mother, your dad, your grandparents, your aunt and uncle, your kids."
Alcohol and drug abuse is prevalent and expensive. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than $24 million Americans will use an illegal drug in one month. Substance abuse will cost the United States more than $600 billion each year.
"Addiction doesn't sleep," Cooper said. "It's here to steal, kill, and destroy."
Cooper says an addict must want take the first step to recovery.
"When we decide to get sober, our family and friends may not jump on the bandwagon with us," she said.
But she says Faith at the Beach will. Cooper hopes to soon launch a sober living facility for women coming out of jail, prison, or treatment.
"We want to be there for them in the very beginning and help them and build them up and put our love and attention into them," she said. "I'm also, I will tell you, there's going to be accountability. It's going to be strict guidelines."
Some people may falter.
"Addiction is a disease, and you have to address that disease for the rest of your life," Cooper said.
It's a struggle and mantra Cooper lives by every day; proof of the change she says anyone can make.
"God has really blessed me, you know, he's taken my life and he's made it for the better," she said. "So everything for the better happened, and my situation wasn't in vain."
Cooper hopes to one day expand the sober living facilities to men too.
To connect with Faith at the Beach and for more resources on recovery and sober living, follow the links attached to this web page.
Be sure to join us every Monday on NewsChannel 7 Today for stories featuring health and wellness in our community.