Portland vigil honors lives lost from overdoses

Advocacy group hosts Maine rally in tribute to opioid deaths.

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- An advocacy group called I AM HERE is trying to expand resources for users and their families.
 
The group held its annual vigil Wednesday night to mark International Overdose Awareness Day.
 
They say that in Maine - with the rising numbers of overdose deaths, the opioid crisis, and the limited available treatment, this day is particularly tough.
 
That is why they decided to distribute naloxone to visitors ahead of tonight's vigil, and offer  training to help bystanders handle overdose situations.
 
Following that overdose prevention training was a march and a powerful vigil, commemorating the lives lost to overdoses in Maine in the past year.
 
Organizers read a long list of names - people who have died over the past year from an overdose.
 
"I've lost a lot of friends along the way,” said Andrew Kiezulas, who is recovering from heroin use disorder.
 
He said he was at the vigil to “collectively celebrate who they are and who they still are and what they mean to all of us.”
 
272 people in Maine died from an overdose in 2015, and Andre was not one of them.
 
“You know there is definitely some survivor guilt. I try to stay as aware of the things I've been afforded that have allowed me to get into recovery,” said Kiezulas.
 
He has been in recovery for 4 years.
 
“There are 272 people who are not here, 272 parents that will never see their kids, 272 friends that will not be able to sit down and share a moment,” he said. “And only 176 beds in the state of Maine for 1.3 million people.”
 
He hopes that support like he's seen at the overdose awareness vigil, can not only encourage people to seek help, but also create more available treatment for those suffering.
 
People like Jane Harmin, who struggles with alcohol. “Seven years sober,” she says she was after treatment. “I just recently had a relapse on the 9th...I got an OUI.”
 
She says that a large reason for her relapse was that she had stopped counseling.  “I have a five-year-old son and an eight-year-old son and they would be lost without me. It's so scary.”
 
Both Jane and Andrew agree that treatment is key.
 
“You know, they are asking for help, and we as human beings should be providing them with help. They're asking for help. Why are we not giving it to them?” said Kiezulas.
 
He hopes for more journeys like his, and fewer lanterns on the ground. “I have reflected very deeply on what it means for me to be in recovery. I have discovered the power of possibility that rests within myself and I see that and others. And to help others see that in themselves, I mean you really can't put words to it. That is what recovery is about.”
 
His wish is for a shorter list of names at next year's vigil.

Copyright 2016 WCSH


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