About 30 people gathered in the drizzle Tuesday night to remember loved ones at an annual Overdose Awareness Day memorial event in Elgin.
They met near the Serenity Pond at the Renz Office of the Ecker Center for Behavioral Health in Elgin, as speakers talked about lost friends and family members and the stigma of living with the overdose label.
“We need to get rid of the stigma of an overdose death,” said event emcee Jennifer Fleury, who lost her son to a drug overdose in 2016. “Nobody picks up a drug and wants to throw their life away. Nobody picks up a drug and wants to hurt their family. Nobody picks up a drug and wants to die.”
Melissa, a recovering heroin addict, spoke about failing at recovery 17 times. She finally was able to get clean because of her family’s support.
“If there’s one thing for you to take home from my talk tonight, it’s that there is always hope,” she said. “Everyone deserves to find the happiness I found.”
Another speaker named Jennifer cried as she spoke of losing her son to a drug overdose in 2014. The loss sent her into alcohol addiction.
“Back then, there was a huge stigma. You didn’t tell the neighbors. You didn’t talk about it,” she said. “I’d drink some wine to try to sleep, try to cover up all the pain. I ended up in jail, institutions, hospitals … all of it.”
It was in the DuPage County jail that she started a 12-step program and is now sober. She urged the crowd to accept the fact that they’ve lost loved ones, move forward and not make the mistakes she made.
After four speakers, the group held battery-operated candles for a moment of silence. They then walked slowly and quietly around a trail lined with pictures of overdose victims.