Jason Fountain met his friend Jared while in recovery for substance abuse. It was with him he had some of his most treasured memories — getting a house together, helping others on their way to being clean — until Jared relapsed and overdosed.

“I’ve been angry, I’ve been depressed,” Fountain said. “I haven’t known how to get out of it. But the truth is, Jared does not want this for us. Jared doesn’t want us to be sad, he doesn’t want us to be depressed. He doesn’t want us to be not living.”

Fountain was one of several who shared their stories about loved ones gone at a candlelight vigil Saturday honoring those who have died due to overdose.

Aug. 31 marked International Overdose Awareness Day, with 33 countries participating, 45 states in the U.S. and eight cities in Texas, one of which included Kerrville, said Sabine Kuenzel, a member of the Kerrville Recovery Community Coalition.

“It was really a great program, and I’m so happy that this has been brought to Kerrville,” said Joanie Reece, Jared’s mother. “I think it’s really good for people who have lost loved ones due to addiction and to help with the stigma associated with alcohol and overdosing.”

Problems with addiction have less to do with the pleasurable effects of substances and more to do with difficulty connecting with others, said Brian Brannen of the Starlight Recovery Center. It’s important that those struggling with addiction find counseling and a support system.

“It does indeed appear that the opposite of addiction is connection,” Brannen said. “Developing healthy, interpersonal connections as a part of recovery healing is not easy. It takes time, effort and a willing support network. The good news is that we know for certain that with this type of recovery, social connection is possible even for the most problematic of addicts.”

Finding support extends not just to people who are addicted to a substance, but also people who have loved ones struggling with addiction, he said.

FINDING THEIR WAY

Everyone grieves differently. It can take the form of someone reaching out to support groups, as Reece has, or adopting several cats, like Sharlaina Lowry, who lost her friend Josh to overdose and is going on her own journey of recovery.

“It’s totally OK that I’m still working through this (grief),” Lowry said. “I’m still trying. That’s what Josh did. ... He wasn’t going to give up. He was going to keep trying. ... But it still totally sucks, and that’s OK.”

Others, such as Natalie Dowling, try journaling, meditation and yoga to help cope with depression, addiction and grief in a positive way. Her friend Jarey Lawson focuses on spirituality.

“Understanding that people love you is a huge part of spirituality, at least for me,” Lawson said. “Developing a better understanding of how to give and receive love from people — that includes during times of grief.”

Dowling added that anyone going through problems with addiction should keep persevering.

“To all the people who are suffering or are in treatment right now, keep going for it,” she said. “It’s hard, but it gets easier the more time goes on. Do whatever you’ve got to do to stay sober.”

The National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s helpline is 1-800-662-4357.

To contact the Kerrville Recovery Community Coalition, email drkendallyoung@gmail.com.

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