Turning Tragedy Into Hope


The newest addition to the continuum of care at OneEighty is a Medical Suite which bears a plaque reading “The Fenzl Family…In Memory of Brian, Steven and Marianne.” But more important than the plaque is the story, and the remembrance of those whose lives were lost to the tragic disease of addiction.

“The opportunity to turn grief into something positive came to us because of our long-standing relationship with OneEighty,” Joan Fenzl said. “It was there for us, we were able to do it, and it helped us to know that if this gift helped even one person, our tragedy could mean a new life for someone else.”

Joan and her husband Tom Fenzl have long shared their talents and energies with OneEighty as both volunteers and board members. Having lived with a history of family addiction, their personal knowledge of the devastation caused by this disease made the impact of their volunteer roles that much more powerful in furthering the mission and community outreach of OneEighty.

“As parents of a child facing addiction, we were plagued by all the thoughts of ‘it’s our fault, we are bad parents, and we felt so isolated. We felt we had to keep up the facade that we were a certain kind of family, but we felt very alone. You don’t make good decisions by trying to hide it. It might temporarily fix it for you, but not for them.”

That is why the couple continues to tell their story.

No Bootstraps in Addiction

“There shouldn’t be a stigma attached to addiction. It is a disease like any other disease”, Tom Fenzl said. “Early on in Brian’s disease-ridden life, my attitude was ‘why can’t you just pull yourself up by the bootstraps?’ As a physician, I thought I knew everything, but I wouldn’t have said that to someone dealing with rheumatic fever. Addiction has to be treated as an illness and it can’t be fixed on ones’ own.”

Memories of the caring nature of their son Brian led them to believe he would have been so happy about their decision to help make a medical facility available at One Eighty.

“While far from perfect, Brian was such a gentle soul. He was so sensitive to the injustices of the world, and when he was doing well, he consistently reached out to help others,” reflected his parents. “After his death, we heard from so many people whose lives he touched. One such letter came from a family who had asked if Brian would come to see them when he was in Florida to talk to them about how, as parents of an addicted child, they could be helpful. At the end of the conversation, the parents offered him some money for sharing his insight. He refused, remarking that helping them was payment enough.”

Crown Jewel

The couple is in sync with their beliefs that having this medical center is yet another crown jewel in the continuum of care provided by OneEighty.

“We have had so many opportunities to share our story with others,” Tom said. “When we tell people about all the treatment options offered through OneEighty, they are amazed, especially knowing the size of our community. Successful rehab can only happen if treatment focuses on the whole person and their family. OneEighty’s continuum begins with a variety of treatment programs and goes on to help with step-down programs and sober houses. People have a much better chance of success if they are held accountable for some time following getting clean. As Dr. Nicole Labor, Medical Director at OneEighty, says, “The brain doesn’t heal itself for a long time.”

The new medical facility will enable OneEighty to offer medication-assisted treatment to people with addictions, medical management for clients in residential treatment, urinalysis, COVID-19 rapid testing, Hepatitis C and HIV testing, with more treatment options to come in the future.

OneEighty’s medical department also offers ambulatory withdrawal management in select cases, as well as medical support and consultative services to WCH RAMP (Wooster Community Hospital – Recovery and Addiction Medicine Program).

Adding to our Continuum of Care

The Fenzls also agree that under the leadership of Bobbi Douglas, Executive Director,  and the treatment provided by an incredibly dedicated staff, OneEighty has grown into a model of success. Its newest addition offered the Fenzls a fabulous portal for them to participate in enhancing that model.

“Medical treatment offers a bridge to those facing addiction on their journey to lead a normal life,” Tom said. “Opiate addiction in particular is one of the toughest to overcome and really requires medical intervention. But as Dr. Labor reminds clients, the medical component must be accompanied by other support programs like Al-Anon and other twelve-step programs.

Hope is There

The couple’s advice to others facing the addiction demon is multifaceted. If you are the caregiver, take care of yourself. You can’t help them if you don’t take care of yourself. Then, if there is a family support group available, make it a priority to participate.

“Programs like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are so very helpful. The best support families can find comes from people going through the same thing. You’re free to talk, to learn from others, and the comradery of knowing that you are not alone is so valuable. But most of all, know that with the right help, there is hope.”


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