One Day at A Time

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By: Samantha Kupiainen

“Hey Rhea . . . I’m from Springfield, Mass and I am a recovering meth addict,” read the FB message. “Today was a really tough day as I’m 4 months into my recovery and I have had so much going on in my life that using has been quite an appealing thought! Today, I stayed in and just watched documentaries and reminded myself that no matter what the battle is gonna be hard but fighting it clear headed is the best way! I came across u and ur husband and just wanted to reach out and thank you guys for ur story it was definitely what I needed today.”

For Brian and Rhea Graham, random messages via Facebook aren’t unusual. The couple has inspired untold numbers to take back their lives. Three years ago, the couple were subjects of a Ball State University immersive learning class documentary film, magazine and web report on drug addiction called “Unmasked: The Stigma of Meth.” The story propelled them into the spotlight locally, but also nationally and even internationally.

In 2017, Rhea served as an access consultant for an episode of a British Netflix documentary, “Dope,” after its producers came across the Ball State “Unmasked” project online. The Netflix episode explored the opioid epidemic across Indiana. In her role, Rhea was behind the scenes on location, such as abandoned houses, and helped connect the filming crew with people in the recovery community.

Brian and Rhea have both been clean for five years now. It’s still one day at a time, they’ll tell you, but both are confident enough in their recovery to bring others along.

It’s been two years since Rhea stood before Delaware County Judge Linda Wolf at her sentencing hearing, where she faced up to six years in prison for dealing in methamphetamine. According to Rhea, “if you’re not doing the right thing, you don’t want to have her as a judge.” Brian faced up to 26 years in prison for his drug-related crimes, a much longer sentence because of his history of prior offenses.

Both were arrested in early 2014 for possession of meth and faced Class B felony charges. Judge Wolf had the final say about whether Brian and Rhea were going to prison.

At Rhea’s sentencing, the judge commented on Rhea’s high visibility in the community and her work with addicts. She said she didn’t see how the community would benefit by her being removed from it. Wolf told Rhea she believed it was her “God-given calling” to help people who suffered from addiction, to give them courage and strength. Rhea says that’s how she intends to spend her life.

Instead of six years in prison, Rhea was sentenced to six years probation. Brian was given a similar sentence, despite a list of prior offenses. Her commitment to others in recovery helped get her a job as an office manager at First Choice for Women, a Christian, non-profit pregnancy resource center in Muncie. Today, she is a peer support specialist for Meridian Health Services, headquartered in Muncie and one of Indiana’s largest health care providers. Previously, she was a volunteer for Meridian’s Maternal Treatment Program, which helps women manage their addiction during pregnancy.

Both Brian and Rhea are popular sponsors in the recovery community. Brian has been approached roughly 20 times to be a sponsor; Rhea has been approached around 50 times. It’s still one day at a time for the couple but both hope to become even more involved and lead others toward recovery.

“Being in true recovery is not simply removing drugs from the picture,” Rhea said. “We begin to achieve real recovery when we recover our body, mind, and spirit as a whole.”

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