Published: Fri, September 1, 2017 @ 12:02 a.m.
An emotional, tearful and solemn candlelight vigil Thursday for 68 people who died of substance use disorder/overdose concluded the third annual Fed Up: International Overdose Awareness Day here.
The event, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown on the city’s North Side, also was meant to support those still struggling with substance use disorder and those in recovery.
“I have lost several friends to drug overdose over the years,” said Phillip Krauss of Boardman, a recovering addict and one of several speakers at the event.
“Addiction is a hard life. I pray for the people stuck in that misery. I thought I was going to die like that. But I found out coming out at the other end is beautiful. I’ve been clean since Nov. 21, 2014, and since that date, I have a say-so about my life,” he said.
“Addiction is such a daunting problem. I do what I can to be part of the solution and not fuel the madness. It feels good that I am living proof that there is a way out,” he added.
Nikki Russell, 34, of Austintown, is in recovery after 17 years of addiction to drugs and alcohol.
“I’m very happy. I have three sons, 11, 13 and 15, who are very against drugs and alcohol. Life is a lot easier clean,” said Russell, speaking before the program began.
Hopeanne Lovrinoff-Moran, coordinator of Thursday’s Ohio Can Change Addiction Now event, wore a white and purple shirt with a message: “I wear purple for every life lost.”
“People say, ‘Why don’t addicts get help?’ There just isn’t enough available for detoxification and treatment, and there is the stigma,” Lovrinoff-Moran said.
“We are here to fight the stigma. Addiction is a disease and it is an epidemic. We are here to support those in recovery, and those struggling with their addiction and their families,” she said.
Sarah Cercone, an addiction and mental health counselor who recently moved into the community, said she was shocked because there seems to be a “sense of numbing and defeat when it comes to our epidemic. This is not OK. This is not normal. We will not go down without a fight.”
Cercone thanked the recovering addicts at the vigil “waking up daily to fight your own disease and for walking hand-in-hand with the next addict. I think, above all, you are a community that has the ability to love deeper, to empathize more, and to effect more immediate change.”
In a message to addicts, Cercone said: “I want you to know how important you are, how worthy you are, and how much life can change in sobriety. Since I am asking others to help you, I ask that you remain open to stories of hope for others in your life.”