A former convict and recovering heroin addict who regained his world-class BMX bicycle racer status and became an Olympic coach will speak in Columbus next week.
Tony Hoffman, who placed second in the BMX Masters Pro class at the 2016 World Championships, will be the featured speaker at the ninth annual Desperate Households Conference at Westside Community Church, 124 Tipton Lakes Blvd.
Sponsored by the Bartholomew County Substance Abuse Council, the free half-day conference will be presented Wednesday in two sessions: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 4:15 to 6:30 p.m.
The timing of the annual event couldn’t be better for the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress in Bartholomew County, which will deliver its six-month update to the community about a week after the conference, said Jeff Jones, the organization’s executive lead.
“The most important outcome of the Desperate Households conference is to let everyone know there is hope, and recovery is possible,” Jones said. “There are many great examples in our community of individuals who are successfully recovering from addiction. Their stories build confidence and support for the initiatives that we will be recommending.”
Those initiatives will be presented by Jones and others at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in The Commons.
While many may find Hoffman’s story of fame, decline and recovery inspirational, Bartholomew County Substance Abuse Council vice president Andrea Vogel said she agrees with Jones that local examples of recovery are most beneficial to local residents still struggling with addictions.
“Not everyone wants to shoot for the stars and come out the other side as a Tony Hoffman,” Vogel said. “That’s why it’s so important to also bring out the local community speakers.”
One of the two local Desperate Households speakers is Lisa Pein of Columbus, who lived more than 10 years with an active drug addiction until November 2011, Vogel said. After putting her recreational drug use behind her, Pein completed her associate’s degree in addiction studies and is now a certified drug and addictions counselor.
“People in the Columbus area need to hear there are others here who made the journey (from addiction and despair to sobriety and recovery),” Vogel said. “And while there may be a struggle, there can be a positive side.”
The other local speaker for Desperate Households is Dr. Theodora Saddoris, who has practiced internal medicine in Columbus since 1989. The physician has been involved with medical-assisted addiction treatment since early 2014, Vogel said.
Although Hoffman is still considered an athlete of exceptional abilities, Vogel said she believes people who attendance will discover he’s actually an ordinary man who once fell from the highest high to the lowest low.
While growing up in the Fresno, California area, Hoffman was introduced to BMX racing at age 12. Just as the teen was being offered multiple sponsorship contracts with major companies after reaching the top of the sport’s national rankings, Hoffman began to experiment with drugs and alcohol, according to biographical material on his website.
Within just a few years, Hoffman went from the covers of BMX magazines to the depths of heroin abuse, which led to a suspended two-year sentence for armed robbery in 2007.
Filled with despair, Hoffman continued using narcotics while on probation, and wound up in prison.
But while behind bars, Hoffman became determined to use both the positive and negatives of his life to rebuild his life’s purpose, according to his biography.
“Some of us have been beaten down by life’s circumstances, family’s given up on us and we have lost all hope for ourselves,” Hoffman wrote. “We’ve surrounded ourselves around worthless friends that were robbing more from us and getting us nowhere in life. The silver lining is that we can come back and be conquerors.”
After being paroled in late 2008, Hoffman put his addiction behind him and began his climb back up to the top of the BMX circuit. Besides last year’s World Championships in Medellin, Colombia, Hoffman was also one of two Women’s BMX PRO coaches at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Hoffman is also the founder and director of The Freewheel Project, a nonprofit organization that mentors thousands of youth through action sports and focuses on teaching leadership skills and making healthy life choices.
What: Desperate Households Conference, sponsored by the Bartholomew County Substance Abuse Council.
When: Two sessions Wednesday: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 4:15 to 6:30 p.m.
Where: Westside Community Church, 124 Tipton Lakes Blvd.
Cost: Free, open to the public. Register at eventbrite.com/e/desperate-households-2017-tickets-37076032411