MOUNT VERNON — About 30 people gathered in Ariel-Foundation Park on Aug. 31 in honor of Overdose Awareness Day.
The mood was quiet, but it was clear there was a bond between those assembled at Rastin Tower.
As Ann Hughes of Hospice of North Central Ohio put it, “There’s a wonderful vibe here.”
The group gathered to encourage each other in their daily walk following the death of a loved one, recall those lost to overdose, and share their testimony of addiction and recovery.
“I think one of the hardest things for us to do as humans is to sit with someone in pain,” Hughes said.
Referencing John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” she said, “Jesus saw the brokenness that death brings, the sorrow that death brings.”
Noting that those left behind after the death of a loved one suffer serious trauma, Hughes told the group that their psyche won’t heal immediately.
“Allow others to give you help. … Let chores slide in the immediate aftermath,” she said. “Put yourself in spiritual intensive care.”
Hughes suffered physical illness and ailments because she didn’t let herself break own when she lost her loved one.
“At the bottom of all of that, I knew Jesus was with me and weeping,” she said.
Hughes concluded her meditation by quoting Psalm 34:18 (The Lord is near to them of a broken heart) and God’s promise in Hebrews 13:5 (I will never leave you nor forsake you.).
Danielle provided encouragement through song with the lyrics of “You’re Gonna be Okay.”
“Hope is never lost,” she sang. “When the night is closing in don’t give up and don’t give in. This won’t last, it’s not the end. You’re gonna be okay.”
Courtney began her comments by giving thanks for her grief counselor. Since 2020, she has lost nine close friends to overdose.
In November 2022, Courtney watched her mother overdose on a Zoom call. It took six Narcan doses to revive her.
She said she remembers praying that if God saved her, she’d get clean.
“Life tested me,” she said. “Completely surrender yourself to God or whoever your higher power is. He’ll walk beside you. Accept him into your heart.”
Many times while in active addiction, Chris felt hopeless. It was a daily struggle to get up and think “who am I going to rob today?” to get drug money.
“But recovery is possible,” he said.
Chris said he grew up with a normal childhood.
“I was the one who peed in the cup for my friends.” However, he took a narcotic following a dental appointment, and “that was it.”
“I went from having a wife and family to nothing. No job, nowhere to live,” he said. “All options were gone. I was contemplating suicide; my thinking was so jacked up. I wasn’t thinking straight.”
In his dad’s workshop and considering suicide, Chris cut off his finger.
“I was elated. Nine to 12 hours later I was right back where I was,” he told the group.
Following a prison term and rehab, Chris said he was “still clean but miserably sober.” Feeling worthless and not getting anywhere, he overdosed again and was back in the hospital.
One day he walked into the Fredericktown police station and asked for help. The officer on duty took him to the New Vision detox unit at Knox Community Hospital where he underwent treatment. He was ultimately placed in a psych ward. Then he saw Billy Graham on TV.
“I didn’t find God; He found me,” Chris said.
He got a job after his release from a 30-month prison sentence. His family stuck with him through it all, and he now has a second child. He also has a relationship with his daughter, who saved him during one overdose episode.
“Recovery is beautiful, guys,” he told the group. “Right relationships are a big thing.”
Two years ago as she prepared for the Aug. 31 Overdose Awareness Ceremony, Ashley got a call that her sister Candy died that morning of an overdose.
When she asked if Candy died alone, the response was, “No. Her fiancee died as well.”
Candy lived in Pennsylvania. Two of Ashley’s brothers are still in active addiction and live nearby. Another brother is in prison for drugs.
A counselor for seven years and urban minister for five, Ashley said she tried to get her sister to move closer to home and get help. Her sister’s response was, “I got it. I can do it. I don’t need help.”
“That’s a big part of me that’s gone, and I can’t get back,” she told the group. “People do care about you. They care about what happens.
“I can’t save everybody, but I can give them help, give them a number to call. … Call me. We will figure out what to do and how to do it.”
Tracy’s cousin overdosed on heroin in front of her kids. Tracy felt like she should have been able to help. Now, she’s passing on her cousin’s story.
“Even though our loved ones are gone, we have the power to carry on their story … We have the power to make ourselves stronger by carrying on their story.”
The Ariel-Foundation Park ceremony included a resource fair with The Freedom Center, Riverside Recovery Services, Anew, New Vision, and Hospice of North Central Ohio providing information about services and drug awareness.
International Overdose Awareness Day, started in 2001, aims to raise awareness of overdose.
Overdose deaths leave untold numbers of grieving children, parents, neighbors, and communities. Health care and support personnel as well as first responders are left to cope with grief and trauma while still serving their communities.
This year’s theme, “recognizing those people who go unseen,” acknowledges the many unseen individuals whose lives are affected by drug overdose.
The Life & Culture section is brought to you by Knox Community Hospital.