WELLSBORO — Harbor Counseling lit its counseling center purple to raise awareness about overdoses and National Recovery Month.
On Aug. 29, about 25 people attended Harbor’s overdose awareness event at the center on State Route 287, just south of Wellsboro. In addition to social time and games, those attending were invited to write the name of a friend or family member who died from an overdose on a board or a purple-painted rock.
“It’s important we remember each one of those people. They were our people,” said Harbor counselor Lisa Appleby.
The rocks were placed in the garden beds around Harbor. The names were read aloud later that night.
Free Narcan kits, a nasal spray used to reverse an opioid overdose, were available for those attending.
While waiting for the speaker to arrive, the group released sky lanterns in memory of those who have died in the past year. The lanterns glowed against the deepening blue of the sky as they floated over the waters of Nessmuk Lake.
Lynette Heckler, mother of Mike Yawger, who died from an opiate overdose in 2016, presented $1,300 to Harbor’s recently-opened recovery house. The funds were raised at the Rise Up for Recovery Rally, held in July in Elkland.
Heckler presented four framed photographs of her son, along with the poem, “Man in the Glass,” to hang in the four bedrooms in the recovery house.
“It doesn’t get easier,” she said about her son’s death. “You just learn a different way of life.”
She believes the recovery house will help people with addictions by giving them the tools and safe place to begin their recovery, she told those attending.
She urged those at the event, many with an addiction, to realize they are more than “an addict.” Each person is someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, aunts, uncles, brother, sister, friend.
“Your addiction does not define who you are,” said Heckler. “You can make the choice to change that. It will be the biggest struggle of your entire life. Don’t forget, you have to work those steps every day.”
Heckler said she was grateful for the seven and a half months of sobriety her son had before his fatal overdose. In that time, the family made memories and shared time together.
Before playing “House on the Hill,” which contains the phrase “I will leave the light on,” Heckler told the audience that “you are never, ever alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Others also spoke. One woman talked about how her brother, who died from an overdose, came to see her in a dream. Another thanked Yawger’s family on behalf of the people currently living in the recovery house.
After the service, purple lights bathed Harbor House. The group walked across the highway and up to the recovery house to choose which room will be dedicated in Yawger’s memory.