GENOA – About 100 people gathered in a parking lot adjacent to the Genoa Medical Clinic on Saturday evening for a candlelight vigil to remember those who have died from overdose, console one another and distribute information so that families struggling with addiction can find help.
Debbie Bockstahler, who lost her son, Cody McCaulley, to a heroin overdose in July 2012 at age 28, organized the event which featured music, prayer, various speakers and a short video showing photos she received of lost loved ones.
Bockstahler is working to raise awareness of the prevalence and devastating effects of drug overdose. Her Facebook page, “A Mother’s Cry,” is dedicated to highlighting awareness about drug use.
“Try, really try to imagine planning your son’s or daughter’s funeral and then standing there next to a gaping hole dug into the earth while your child’s casket sits there waiting to be lowered into it and then buried,” a tearful Bockstahler said. “Imagine being handed an urn, and knowing that the ashes within it are all that remains of your child’s earthly vessel.”
Other mothers who lost children also spoke. They agreed on one point: drugs can take your child, too.
“Don’t blow it off,” Christine Potts said. “Don’t think your baby won’t die, because they might.”
There were messages of hope, too. Anne, a recovering heroin addict who has been sober three years, said addiction “is nobody’s fault. My parents tried to do everything they could get me clean and sober,” and cautioned parents not to blame themselves if a child becomes addicted, but to get help.
The featured speaker was Andrea Barthwell, MD, former deputy director for demand reduction in President George W. Bush’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Barthwell, a substance abuse specialist, now is CEO of Two Dreams, drug addiction treatment facilities in Oak Park and North Carolina.
Barthwell said families must focus on raising drug-free children, not managing drug use. She advocates families using random drug testing to prevent use.
“It comes to your taking a look at exactly how you set up your household to support a non-drug using norm,” she said, “because you have the most efficacy with your young people, more than any other institution of society, in helping them reach the age of 18 without ever having used tobacco, alcohol or any other drug, based upon the behaviors that you support and allow in your own household.
“If you have a liquor cabinet at home, and you are worrying about whether your child will die of a heroin overdose, pour the liquor down the drain tonight, and don’t bring another bottle home.”
Barthwell lashed out at Gov. Pat Quinn about recent medical marijuana legislation and linked marijuana use with other drugs.
“While I think that heroin is the problem that’s killing your young people, marijuana is the problem that the state … that’s creating an expansion of this epidemic, and I’m so, so terribly ashamed of and angry with our governor for not having had the courage to turn aside the medical marijuana bill.”
Some attendees applauded her comment.
“All of the good work that you do to prevent drug use initiation is undermined by the highly funded drug lobby that wants to put marijuana into the hands of 18-year-olds without supervision.”
Barthwell also said more, better and longer rehabilitation is needed to achieve long-lasting sobriety.