Vigil held to remember those lost to substance abuse and addiction

Updated: Mar. 22, 2019 at 12:01 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) Many people from all walks of life struggle with addiction.

Sadly, more than 3,500 people die from addiction every year in Virginia.

CARITAS made sure those lives are never forgotten. The organization hosted a vigil at the Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Elizabeth Janiero was one of the hundreds in attendance at the vigil. She spoke to a crowd about her twin sister who shared many things with her, including a substance abuse addiction.

“She was so kind and loving, she was my best friend," said Janiero. “We got involved with drug use at a young age.”

And though they started life together, Janiero will have to finish hers without her sister.

“She died from an overdose when we were 21,” said an emotional Janiero.

She said it’s been almost three years since her sister died. Since then, she’s been on her own road to recovery.

Janiero has been clean over six months, but she still struggles with the trauma brought on from her sister’s passing.

However, her story is not unique. For others in the room, it was their children.

Tracy Grow’s son died from a drug overdose.

“I was shocked when he passed, when he overdosed the last time. He was seven months clean,” said Grow.

Other spoke about friends they’ve lost.

“I lost my best friend in September of 2016 to an opioid overdose,” said Carter Bain, who was also in attendance. “I lived with him. I raised a dog with him. He was the closest friend I’ve ever had.”

The hundreds that gathered Thursday don’t just share the pain of loss from addiction, but they also share desperate desire to remind us the lives lost to addiction can be the spark for those still trying to recover.

“There’s still a chance to ask for help. There’s still a chance to make a difference before it’s too late,” said Alden Gregory of the McShin Foundation.

The chance is why VCU’s Rams in Recovery (VRR) organized the remembrance vigil.

Other community partners who collaborated with VRR include CARITAS and The Healing Place, Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office, Daily Planet Health Services, Friends for Recovery, Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Graple, Health Brigade, Interfaith Campus Ministers Association at VCU, McShin Foundation, Northstar Community, OAR Richmond, Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, Real Life, Recovery Unplugged, Richmond City Health District, RVA Light, SAARA Center, True Recovery, Virginia Center for Addiction Medicine, RVA Street Singers, and the Recovery Ally Choir.

The program featured performances by the Recovery Ally Choir and RVA Street Singers. Participants were also able to draw names of loved ones in sand trays, drink coffee from the Free Hot Coffee Bike, mark remembrance cards with essential oils and light a candle for their loved ones.

At the end of the vigil, the audience was invited to give a short speech of the memories of those they’ve lost.

“One in three families are now affected by addiction so it’s hard to come across someone who hasn’t been affected by it," said Gregory.

Everyone who attended the vigil also had the opportunity to receive instruction on how to administer naloxone, which can temporarily reverse the affects of an opioid overdose.

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