Addiction Can Affect Us All
The night featured several community speakers, some of whom are several years in recovery and others who have lost a loved one to substance abuse. Each one had an intimate story to share, often times bringing the audience to tears. Although their stories varied, there was an underlying theme that resonated with each one: it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, addiction can affect us all.
“It was said on the podium [tonight] that the face of addiction is different for everybody,” said David Rutherford, who attended the event with his wife Susan. “There are people with very successful careers, family people, everybody battles with it.”
“I was very blessed to be here,” Susan Rutherford said. “It is comforting in a situation where you are feeling isolated and alone to be surrounded by other family members who have either lost someone, or who are still in the battle for someone else’s life due to addiction.”
Coming Together to Break the Stigma and Empty Loneliness
“It was amazing to see so many people come together to fight for people addicted, whether it’s to alcohol or drugs’” said Cindy Gollahon, whose son is currently battling addiction. “To have a community of people come together for something like this and to hear everybody’s stories was heart-breaking and heartwarming at the same time. It gave me hope that maybe before it’s too late for my son, that there may be some hope for him.”
A member of AL-ANON who attended the event but wished not to be named, believes events like these are an important stepping stone toward breaking the stigma about substance use and addiction.
“The stigma is that addicts should stop what they are doing or shouldn’t get started, and all they have to do is stop. Truth is, they can’t,” she said. “It’s a snake that lives inside everybody that’s affected and never goes away. The only thing an addict or alcoholic can do is to get it into remission and keep it there. It is a struggle beyond anything anybody can even imagine. It is so terrible to even try to get out of it and so many never can.”
“Addicts should be treated much different than they are; they should be treated with compassion and with love,” she said. “If the only thing you can do is send out that kind of feeling to someone you know that is an addict: we need that, they need that.”
Candles and Hugs
As the sun set and night fell, the event proceeded with a candlelight ceremony in which members of the audience had the opportunity to share their story or the name of their loved one affected by addiction.
Afterwards, attendees sang Amazing Grace in memory of lives already lost. Narcan kits and training on how to use them were provided. A reception concluded with new and old acquaintances embracing each other in support before going their separate ways.
Patterson hopes to see Lights of Hope continue to grow. “I hope [people] know that addiction is a disease and it’s okay to talk about it,” she said. “We need to be strong for our community because we’re losing kids every day and I want them to be aware and remember the kids that we have lost, those that are in jail, and the kids that are out there suffering and in recovery.”