Drug rehab, recovery advocates not losing hope

Cassie Nygren, in a photo from Anthony Alvarado of Rise Together.

GREEN BAY - Advocates for drug rehabilitation are remaining positive, even though a fellow advocate and daughter of an area lawmaker is behind bars again.

Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Nygren faces three drug-related charges in Brown County. She's been convicted twice before of drug possession in Marinette County.

Douglas Darby and Anthony Alvarado lead Rise Together, a recovery advocacy group in Northeast Wisconsin.

"This is more than being a representative's daughter and making the headlines," said Darby.

The group did some community outreach work with Nygren before her latest arrest.

"This isn't the end of her story," said Darby. "That this will continue and we will continue to go out and fight with her."

"No matter how much support you have, no matter how good your life is going, or even the community work that you do, you can fall back," said Alvarado. "I know that personally."

Cassie's father is State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette. He is behind four laws signed this year known as the Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education or HOPE bills.

"There's a lot more to be done, but I think the most important thing is people are talking more than they had prior," said Nygren.

Cassie Nygren was released from prison in June. After her arrest last week, she told police she'd been using OxyContin for the last month.

"Obviously disappointed, sad, angry, but not surprised, because you could see the signs," said her father.

Studies show nearly 75 percent of drug addicts relapse.

The Libertas Treatment Center, based in Green Bay, works with 500 to 700 adults a year on substance and drug abuse issues.

"Relapse is simply the symptom that the recovering person still needs more help, more treatment, more time, more compassion and more support," said Barbara Coniff, the center's director.

A new cafe opened in Green Bay this month to provide a home for the recovery community.

"I just want to help other people get better and not feel that need to hate themselves that they need to pick up drugs and alcohol," said Mandy Suthers, the owner of DarJune Cafe.

Suthers said she's been sober for more than three years. Now she's hoping to help others.

"Be in a safe environment, and have non-clinical services to help them stay sober," said Suthers.

DarJune Cafe is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. It's celebrating its grand opening this Sunday. The cafe is located at 1301 S. Broadway.

Alvarado said no one should give up hope for recovery.

"Ultimately, some people have a difficulty finding their recovery at first," he said. "But that all comes in time. We can't give up on people. We have to be supportive of them."

Coniff said family members of addicts can learn a lot through group meetings.

"Excellent resources for learning about the disease of addiction," she said. "For reacting and responding with compassion. For being able to be supportive in a healthy way and not in an enabling way or blaming way."

Alvarado and Darby founded Rise Together a year ago. They said the charges against Nygren will not deter their efforts.

"This is adversity, and when Anthony and I started this out, we knew we would face things like this," said Darby. "I'm just thankful we haven't put anyone in the ground yet."