November 20, 2012

Photo project aids in recovery

PLATTSBURGH — To represent her past, Yvonne Quilliam chose a photo of the local hospital she would frequent in hopes of being prescribed pain medication.

While the various ailments the Plattsburgh woman often described to the hospital’s health-care professionals were never real, her addiction to opiates was. 

”I did it for 14 years,” she told peers about her prescription-drug abuse.

”I don’t even remember being, like, sober.”

Quilliam, 28, spoke during a recent photography-themed class at Behavioral Health Services North in Morrisonville. 

The class is part of the agency’s Dual Recovery Module for individuals who struggle simultaneously with mental illness and substance addiction.

It is one of many services offered through the Personalized Recovery-Oriented Services program, known as PROS, at the Morrisonville location. 


Quilliam and her photography classmates meet once every two weeks with retired Plattsburgh City Court Judge Penny Clute, who gives them photo assignments intended to aid in their recovery. 

Participants are expected to either snap new photos or gather old ones that correlate with the assignments. They then share the images and their reasons for choosing them with the group, which also includes counselors, titled rehab practitioners.

“It’s a way to express yourself,” Quilliam told the Press-Republican. “You can’t always express it through words.”

One photo assignment, “Old Life, New Life,” inspired her hospital picture, which is one of many images she selected to tell the story of her old life as an addict, as well as a victim of physical and sexual abuse. 

Another of her “old life” photos depicts two one-way street signs, each pointing in different directions. 

”I didn’t know which direction to go,” she told the group. “Did I want to live, or did I want to die?”


In a separate interview, Quilliam shared how the decisions she made in her old life led to jail time for burglary and losing custody of her 8-year-old daughter. 

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