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.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to email@example.com.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Comments are closed for this article. If you would like to contribute information on this article, e-mail us at info@iBerkshires.com
North Adams Releases Boil Water Notice
Crews spent long hours digging, filling and chasing down gates, leavened with a little levity.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city released a boil water notice for all residences and business that lost water service or experienced discolored water or lower pressure in connection to the River Street water main break.
The Department of Public Services released a statement at 2:30 p.m. on Friday urging residents and businesses whose water was affected to boil water before consumption.
The statement reads:
"Due to the water main break on River Street, and as a precaution, all residences and business which lost water service, or experienced discolored water or lower pressure (below 35 psi at the water main/hydrant), advised to boil water for one minute prior to use for human consumption."
The Department of Public Services released a statement at 2:30 pm on Friday urging residents and businesses whose water was affected by the water main break on River Street to boil water before consumption. click for more
The investigation launched in April, which included Medicaid fraud team investigators, spoke with more than 90 family members of veterans and others who called into the attorney general's office.
click for more
The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition will commence its annual event, Voices for Recovery, beginning this Friday, Sept. 25. This year's theme is "Days of Hope," and the weeklong event coincides with the conclusion of Recovery Month.
click for more
The 24-inch main sprung a leak sometime on Tuesday that was reported about 7 p.m. that night. Crews began working the problem on Wednesday morning. River Street between Marshall and Holden was closed to traffic.
click for more
The total amount to be raised is $40,939,756, up $134,218, or 0.33 percent, from last year. Some $11,369.776 has already been spent over the past three months through continuing appropriations caused by delays in the state budget because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
click for more
Local governments will be taking up the question of Halloween activities in the coming weeks but it looks like traditional trick-or-treating is out this year. And don't think that plastic costume mask is a substitute for the cloth one you're wearing now.
click for more