The Rev. Terry Sanders was surrounded by both dark and light, but he urged those assembled before him to embrace only the latter.
Night had fallen on the nearly four-hour recovery rally that he and his wife and fellow Reverend Rhonda Sanders emceed at Storey Square Saturday, but making the space between him and the dozens that had stuck around a little less dim were the 80 or so luminary bags lining the stage labeled with names of loved ones who lost their battle with addiction or others that have been touched by the disease.
“That light represents life, love or some kind of laughter again,” Sanders said as Rhonda knelt down to light up the bags. “We pray that that light will break somebody’s loneliness or their longing.”
But the many speakers that addressed a receptive crowd throughout the third annual Light the Night for Recovery event hosted by Genesis House Ministries shed a different kind of light aimed toward the same breakthrough.
Recovering addicts and treatment providers offered insights into the havoc that addiction wreaks and what addicts and their loved ones can do to stop it.
Joshua and Shannon Cable talked about their paths toward recovery – and toward starting a family together. He used drugs and alcohol as a way to feel in control and told attendees he became the kind of person who “would go and rob your home while you were here just so I could go score.” She got kicked out of the Air Force after using drugs, fell deep into addiction after hanging out with high school friends who used opioids and ended up in a “very, very dark place” of suicidal thoughts, praying every night before bed that she would never wake up.
“I lost my friends, my family, my business, myself,” she said.
But after working through 12-step programs and meeting each other, they’ve started a family together.
“Recovery means abstinence plus change, and it’s not an outward change,” Joshua said. “It’s an inward change. It is something by working the steps that we allow God, a higher power, into our lives to begin to change us from the inside out.”
Joshua Cable was one of many speakers emphasizing the importance of God in their recovery, and offering testimonials were several men who have been through Genesis House, a Christian faith-based transitional home in Uniontown for men aimed at turning around the lives of parolees, court-ordered persons and those with completed sentences as well as men coming from their own homes or off the street.
Kyle Luko, 20, has spent three of his three and a half months sober at Genesis House. He’d like to get into welding and move to Florida.
“I just want to share my experience and help people,” Luko said, offering to talk to anyone there.
Joshua Miskanin, 25, a member of the Genesis House family, lost his father at 16, later mourned the murder of his nephew and found himself in the throes of addiction after taking painkillers following a car accident that almost took his life.
“There’s only two ways it was ever going to end if I kept going, and that was in state prison or in a box six feet in the ground,” Miskanin said.
The event featured tables with representatives from Fayette County Drug & Alcohol Commission, Chestnut Ridge Counseling Services, Highlands Hospital, Fayette County Children & Youth Services, and several women’s recovery houses there to offer information and support.
Pastors of several area churches were on hand as well.
“People from all over the state come to our little town to find recovery,” Fayette County Drug & Alcohol Commission treatment supervisor Brian Reese said.
September is National Recovery Month, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the event’s theme Saturday night was “Join the Voices for Recovery: Together We Are Stronger,” emphasizing the need to share resources and build networks to support recovery.
This month also features Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week, a statewide initiative to give the overdose-reversal medication naloxone to Pennsylvanians for free.
Naloxone kits will be distributed for free with no appointments necessary as supplies last on Wed., Sept. 18 between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. and on Wed., Sept. 25 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the following health center locations: 100 New Salem Road, Suite 102, Uniontown; 108 Greene Plaza, Suite 2, Waynesburg; 1 Wendell Ramey Lane, Suite 140, Monessen; 167 N. Main St., Suite 100, Washington; 233 W. Otterman St., Greensburg.
According to a September 2018 report from the Drug Enforcement Administration Philadelphia Division and the University of Pittsburgh, Fayette County had the seventh-highest number of drug-related overdose deaths per 100,000 people among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in 2017.
Jayden Miller, 13, told the Storey Square crowd that her mother fatally overdosed in May 2018. Jayden and her brother lost her on Jayden’s birthday.
“It ruined my life and changed me a lot,” Miller said. “ … But we must keep venturing into the light.”
Terry Sanders invited his and his wife Rhonda’s adult children Kevin and Tyler onto the stage to show the family that he temporarily lost during his own incarceration stemming from addiction in the mid-1990s. Sanders had seen the light – and worked toward it.
The work continues.
“If we help one person tonight, if there’s one less fatality this month, if there’s one family that doesn’t break up this week, all of this will have been worth it,” he said.