Marty and Stacy Henehan wore T-shirts bearing the picture of their daughter Saturday evening during a backyard vigil aimed at acknowledging and combating the problem of addiction.
Their daughter, Samantha “Sammi” Henehan, 23, lost her life to a heroin overdose in April. Now they want to end the stigma.
About a dozen people gathered in a North Garfield Avenue backyard to help do just that. The event, Lights of Hope, was part of a national initiative created by the Addict’s Mom — a Facebook community offering family support and addiction awareness.
The Henehans shared their daughter’s story at the event, which culminated in the lighting of candles and the release of balloons.
They explained that their daughter was at one point three years sober. During that time she helped many other women, several of whom credit her for their sobriety. She was a personal banker and didn’t fit the stereotypes many often associate with addicts, but that didn’t mean she didn’t need help.
“Addiction doesn’t discriminate,” said Mr. Henehan. “It doesn’t matter what your title is. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It doesn’t matter your background. … It’s a disease.”
Mrs. Henehan said the stigma surrounding addiction often prevents those in need of help, including the families of addicts, from seeking it. Samantha Henehan’s obituary noted that she died of a heroin overdose; that was to raise awareness, her mother said.
“We felt it was the start of showing the community that there’s no reason to be ashamed, or embarrassed, of a struggling addict,” Mr. Henehan said. “We knew she would want the truth to be told.”
Maggie Kunda, who hosted the Lights of Hope vigil, knows addiction. Three of her sons are in recovery, and she understands how events like Saturday’s represent a much needed network of support.
“We are all about recovery and helping … stop the stigma,” said Ms. Kunda. “When you cover it up it’s not helping anyone.”
After the presentations, attendees lit candles. White candles symbolized those in recovery. Red candles symbolized those facing an active addiction. Black and purple candles symbolized those that have lost their battle.
Ultimately, the light of the candles represented a casting away of the shadows of stigma. Help is available, Mr. Henehan argued, if one is willing to look for it.
The Henehans lauded Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon’s Heroin Hits Home initiative and his efforts to destigmatize and combat the epidemic. They’ve also started the Forever Sammi Foundation in an effort to do the same.
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