Saturday morning brought a somber commemoration as a memorial tree for loved ones lost to drug overdose was dedicated at the county government complex.
As part of the ceremony for International Overdose Awareness Day, a Crepe Myrtle tree was adorned with ribbons bearing the names of loved ones lost to addiction.
“It’s time that we do something. It’s time that we speak up and break the stigma,” said Doreen Barr, who lost a son to addiction and started the non-profit In Ryan’s Name in his memory. “I know our loved ones are looking down on us today. I know they should be here with us, but we’re honoring them today.”
Fayetteville Councilperson and member of the Drug Free Fayette Coalition Kathaleen Brewer shared her experience having a child who battled drug addiction for many years and is now sober. She believes that a focus on mental health is the key.
“I think death to overdose is the most misunderstood death we have. A lot of people think of it (incorrectly) as being self-inflicted,” she said. “There’s no addict that wants to be an addict.”
Jeff Breedlove with the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse shared his own story of long-term recovery, along with a message of hope.
“We come to mourn and remember, but we also celebrate their lives and we look ahead to the future,” he said. “There’s 364 more days in a year, so this day should be solemn, and this should be a day for tears and memories. The question is how do we take all these feelings that we have today and do the next best thing, the next right thing.
“Let’s work together as a community to remember those we’ve lost and save the next one in active addiction so we don’t lose them.”
The dedication was a product of community gathering, with the tree donated by Mill Pond Gardens and the plaque donated by Laser Precision Designs.
The Drug Free Fayette Coalition brings together community leaders working to reduce teen substance abuse in Fayette County. For more information on how to get involved, visit www.drugfreefayette.org.