CHILLICOTHE - The love was almost palpable in the Mt. Logan Elementary gym on Saturday. There was laughter, hugs, and eyes shone sometimes with tears and others with hope.
More than a hundred people attended the first local Steps of Change event to celebrate and uplift those in recovery and shine a spotlight on possibility.
"It's good to be standing in this community today and say, we do recover, and I had the power to change my story and so does everybody else," said Traci Brown who became a recovery counselor after getting addiction treatment.
Brown was among three women who briefly shared their recovery stories during the event in an effort to encourage others.
"I probably was the worst of the worst. I stole. I lied. I left my children alone. I didn't want anything to do with them at one time in my addiction. But there is hope. We do recover. One of my favorite things is this is what recovery looks like. We're what recovery looks like," Brown said calling out to other counselors in the audience like her who entered the field after beginning addiction treatment.
The event was one of nine across Ohio on Saturday spearheaded by OhioCAN groups which provide support to families. Christina Arrendondo, a recovery counselor, began a chapter in Chillicothe after her daughter died of an unintentional drug overdose in 2015. It's seeing recovery happen that has helped her cope better with the loss, she said.
"The only thing the community sees is the ugliness, but what we (in recovery services) see is beauty. In there, in those rooms, every person is worthy. Every person is loved," Arrendondo said.
Although recovery leads to beauty, Brown noted it's not easy to obtain, recalling she had relapses because it was easy, what she knew.
"This is hard. It's not easy to put that drug down and it's OK. We have all kind of aspects we have to worry about," Brown said.
While recovery was the spotlight, those who lost their battle with addiction were remembered during a special memorial. Arrendondo read the first name and age of 195 Ross County residents who lost their battle with addiction since 2010 due to an unintentional drug overdose along with more than 25 others whose names were submitted by a loved one. Their names and ages were written on tags and attached to shoes which were placed side by side along bleachers and a pair of risers.
"Let's remember them. They were loved ... We have to remember to be able to move forward," Arrendondo said.
Arrendondo was pleased with the turnout Saturday and anticipates it will grow in subsequent years. Several local agencies were set up to connect those in attendance with recovery resources and information on where to obtain the overdose reversal drug naloxone.
For information on local resources, go online to the Heroin Partnership Project at www.heroinpartnershipproject.com or call 2-1-1.
There are two local support groups geared toward family and loved ones: OhioCAN meets at 5:30 p.m. Thursdays and GRASP meets at 6:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month. Both meetings are at the Ross County Community Action office, 250 Woodbridge Ave.