The depth and struggle of addiction is something that is always present in Kerr County, with a significant recovery community. On Wednesday, the final day of August, that community came together at Arcadia Live to share their remembrance of those who lost their lives to addiction.
It was heart-wrenching.
Battery-powered candles were lit to signify remembering a victim of addiction.
And that was probably the intention because, as the main speaker Doug Bopst noted, recovery isn't an easy journey. The stories shared were of those who have worked in the recovery community, mainly in the Hill Country, and the long road back for many.
It was part of the Night of Remembrance, an event organized by the city of Kerrville Recovery Community Commission, which keeps communication open between the city and sober-living and rehab centers in Kerrville. There were representatives from MHDD, Peterson Health and the rehab centers.
Lauren Waters, herself a recovering addict, delivered a powerful story about the death of her husband, John, a victim of addiction.
When it came to powerful and heartfelt, Lauren Waters shared the story of her husband, John, who died of an overdose. Her story was a powerful reminder that addiction is a disease — one not easily vanquished. John Waters ran a recovery center, and yet he still struggled to overcome his battle — one he shared with his wife. Lauren Waters still feels the collateral damage.
"I have two boys who still ask everyday about their dad," Waters said tearfully in front of nearly 100 people.
Water delivered an impassioned plea for people, even those in the recovery community, to not judge others and urged empathy for those who still battle the disease.
"Where is the help for those who work in this industry?" Waters said of the recovery community. "Where is it? I'm just challenging everyone here to think about the words that you say. Think about the pressure you put on people."
Becky Babb, who recently became executive director of the Last Resort in Smithville, spoke about the loss of one of her best friends to addiction.
Kendall Young, who helped organize the event, provided opening remarks to the audience.
"It's something we hear all too often, that ever-revolving news of another person lost to addiction," said Babb, who previously worked in Kerr County's recovery community. "What is more unfortunate is this type of news is becoming more and more frequent."
The United States is currently wrestling with an alarming rise in Fentanyl deaths. Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate, frequently used to help cancer patients manage pain, but it's a potent drug now hijacked by drug cartels. The drug is mixed with heroin, increasing the power and duration of the high, but it's also 50-100 times more powerful than morphine, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
More than 120,000 people have died from fentanyl-related overdoses in the U.S. in 2020-2021 — that's what is currently known to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It could be worse.
"Loss has something we've become accustomed to," Babb said. "A week of overdose awareness doesn't do justice to the overdoses that are ravishing our country."
Waters hit on the Fentanyl epidemic.
"It's not like back in the day when they cut baby laxatives," said Waters, who has been in recovery since 2013. "Your stuff is getting cut with Fentanyl. So, everyone time you go out, you are risking it. It's not just heroin or your Xanax pills or whatever it is. It doesn't matter."
Doug Bopst shared his story of spending time in prison before getting clean.
The two men who spoke, Will Ford and Bopst, spent time in prison at the lowest points in their addiction fights. Ford was addicted to opiates while Bopst consumed and sold drugs — finally getting caught with a half-pound of marijuana.
Bopst, who is from Maryland, offered his journey through addiction and into prison. He wrote a book called "From Felony to Fitness to Free," which detailed his prison term.
"When I went into prison, I cried because I didn't want to be there," Bopst said. "When I left prison, I cried because I didn't know what I was going to do."
However, Bopst found his way toward fitness — thanks to his cellmate — but he still struggled to find value in his life. Ultimately, he took a spiritual journey that helped him gain fulfillment.