This Saturday, people across the world will be gathering to observe International Overdose Awareness Day and in the heart of the Williamsburg community, locals will be remembering the ones they’ve lost.
“We wait until people hit rock bottom, but the bottom is death,” said Rev. Jan Brown, executive director of the SpiritWorks Foundation. “People need to know that it is preventable.”
Brown is part of the movement in Williamsburg to bring awareness to addiction and overdose in the community.
Her dedication to the cause doesn’t just stem from the current national crisis, it’s from her own experience as a recovering addict for the past 36 years.
When Brown was just 22 years old, she checked herself into a rehabilitation facility for an addiction that started with alcohol and eventually moved to prescription opioids. She said the most important part of her recovery was learning it was something she could survive.
“Even though I didn’t know how to live, I didn’t want to die,” she said. “People gave me hope, once I saw that other people could recover and live amazing lives and that I could do that too.”
On Saturday from 5 to 6 p.m., Brown and members of the SpiritWorks Foundation will invite locals to come out to remember those they’ve lost from overdoses by saying their loved one’s name and ringing the Liberty Bell at Bruton Parish Church. Brown said something like this allows the community to hear the voices of the parents, siblings, spouses and friends of those left behind.
Following the ceremony, the foundation will also screen the 2018 film “Ben is Back” at 6:30 p.m. at the Kimball Theatre. Brown said the goal of the film is to show people how addiction is a chronic disease.
“When I was treated back in 1986, it was treated as a health issue,” she said. “I had providers that understood addiction. But for the most part we knew and know [now] that this is a chronic illness and yet we don’t treat it that way.”
Brown said making people more aware of substance abuse disorders can help them to know it is something that can be cured.
Recently, Brown said she has done a lot of work with children to teach them how to handle addiction themselves and how to recognize it in their family members.
During a camp, Brown had children as young as 9 years old write letters “to addiction” to help them express their emotions toward their situation.
And the result was eye-opening.
“We know that the next generation of addiction will be in these children,” she said. “But right now, they’re losing their childhood.”
International Overdose Awareness Day gives way to the National Recovery Month in September.
“It’s impacting all communities, not just inner cities or far rural Virginia,” she said. “It’s children of parents who are well-educated or live in upper middle class communities. Now that it’s not those ‘other’ people anymore, we need to recognize it’s here, in our community.”
To learn more about International Overdose Awareness Day and events with the SpiritWorks Foundation, visit SpiritWorks online.