Colin Woods relates his journey from addiction to sober living, saying people who are in recovery can provide aspirational hope to drug abusers.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Nearly 200 people gathered at Colegrove Park on Saturday with the "audacious hope" that their loved ones, friends and neighbors can overcome the scourge of addiction.
Voices of Recovery — a vigil, rally and walk — is focused on raising awareness not only of the dangers of substance abuse but on the victories of those who broken the cycle of addiction.
Colin Woods of Clarksburg went from the depths of despair — losing friends, his home, his dreams — to finding a reason and a will to live.
"My entire life was built around trying to get drugs to feel OK, trying to drink something to feel OK," he said. "And to be here without any of that in front of the old Conte Middle School to talk to you guys about where my life is today is an absolute gift."
He found his purpose by surrounding himself with other young people who also had battled addiction to find freedom on the other side. Seeing them made the possibility of recovery real, he said, and he now helps others as a recovery coach at Berkshire Transition Network in Great Barrington.
"There are so many young people in recovery that I know all over the country that are doing amazing things," Woods said. "I really want to put a face to those people ... they had stories so much similar to mine."
But while Woods found his way, Derek Windover and Brandy-Lee Hebert lost their battle.
Dawn Windover spoke of how she'd warned and lectured her son about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
"My mind told me my son wasn't like other people on drugs," she said. "I was wrong."
Derek drank and smoked pot, then took a friend's Percocet for a pain and became hooked. He tried and failed several times to break his addiction, a tearful Windover said, but refused to get the support he needed, thinking he could do it alone. He died of a heroin overdose on Oct. 2, 2015, at age 23.
"Do not say he deserved to die because he didn't, stop telling me that I raised him wrong because I did the best that I could, I did the best like all of us do," she said. "Stop telling me it was his choice ... yes, he choose to take that pain pill but he did not know what it was going to do to him. ...
"Many do not know they have a substance abuse problem until too late. ... Please do not bury your child like I did."
Hebert, who died on Sept. 13 at age 37, was a sunny and smiling individual, said her friends, with a beautiful little boy. But that wasn't enough to sustain her.
"She was battling against a terrible demon and lost," her father, Todd Hebert, wrote on Facebook. "To those of you that think this drug doesn't hurt anyone else you are wrong. It hurts everyone around you."
A vigil was held for Brandy at the end of Saturday's event. As friends gathered to light candles, her classmate Rebbecca Cohen read the raw and emotional poem Brandy'd written describing her addiction, "Love Letter From a Junkie."
"My dark lover, emaciating angel, cruel king / Can't I have a small piece of myself back / Just the basic part that makes one feel human," Cohen read, breaking up.
The opioid epidemic has been affecting communities across the nation. In North Adams, the signs are obvious: discarded needles, overdoses, petty theft, and the administration of Narcan by first responders. Some 200 people are week are being served by the local methadone clinic and Tapestry Health has serviced more than 250 people since opening in February for harm reduction, testing and recovery referrals.
"I spend a lot of time in the trenches with families who are walking through this valley and last week, I officiated my 12th funeral of a younger person who lost this battle," the Rev. David Anderson said. "I'm getting mad and I'm getting tired of this ... today is not just about remembering loved ones lost, my heartfelt prayer is that this afternoon is going to be a call for action."
Those have died or are suffering didn't dream of growing up to be addicts, he said,
"We're gathered here to day with the audacious hope that maybe, just maybe, we are going to safe a bunch of kids from being drawn into these horrors," Anderson said. "We are today with the audacious hope that our love and capacity for them and with them is going to make a difference."
The gathering including information tables from a number of resource groups, including event organizer Northern Berkshire Community Coaltion. A Wall of Remembrance and Recovery was created by the volunteer recovery organization, Josh Bressette Commit to Save a Life. A walk lead by Mayor Richard Alcombright, a strong supporter of the event and member of the coalition's drug task force, circled Main Street and rallied at City Hall.
"We have resources here that other areas don't have, not that we don't need more, but we happen to live in an area that is making the best at what we have and working together to solve problems we still have regarding treatment and recovery," said David Risch, a member of Al-Anon. "This is a family disease ... there is help available."
Alcombright called for funding to create a recovery community that provided sober housing, employment, love and support for people trying to shake addiction.
"We have the houses, the environment, we have the brains, we have the will to make addiction in our community as normal, as relevant and as effective for addicts," he said. "I have three months left in office and I will continue to use that time to yell more loudly to whoever will listen to provide the resources. ...
"We need to be loud and be bold and right now challenge each other to come together as the recovery community that we are to find and build the recovery community that we deserve."
Participants included Spectrum Health, the Brien Center, Tapestry, Clean Slate, Narcotics Anonymous, the Berkshire Opioid Abuse Prevention Collaborative, Al Anon, and Josh Bressette Commit to Save a Life. Children's activities were provided by The Family Place and the North Berkshire Systems of Care Committee, live music by Common Folk Artists Collective, which also had a display of art inspired by the topic of addiction and recovery.
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Edge, MCLA Men Earn MASCAC Shutout
WORCESTER, Mass. -- Mount Greylock Regional School graduate Sam Edge made four saves Saturday to earn a shutout as the MCLA men's soccer team earned its first MASCAC win of the season, 1-0, at Worcester State.
Junior Andrew Nygard scored the contest's only goal in the 31st minute, as he headed home a Ryan Wanek throw-in to put his team ahead 1-0.
In the second half, Worcester State (4-8, 1-3) poured on constant pressure, but just couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. In the 52nd minute, Worcester State had three consecutive brilliant scoring opportunities, but MCLA keeper Edge was up to the task with phenomenal diving saves on attempts from Laszlo Dorogi, Alfred Koroma and Prince Gyau.
Worcester State appeared to tie the game in 87th minute, but a Lincoln Henry goal was taken off the board after he was ruled offside on the play. Worcester State was unable to mount any more high-quality chances, and the Trailblazers (3-8, 1-3) escaped with the 1-0 victory.
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Gaylord is the Western Massachusetts Special Olympics representative along with John Bassi, an investigator with the Pittsfield Police Department. He was quick to spread the credit around to others and point out it takes the whole county to organize these events.
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