Rally provides support, love and resources for those affected by addiction

Former Seymour resident Love Lockman didn’t know if she would be able to speak about her son, Stevie.

Since his death March 22, her love and pride have not wavered or diminished, but the emotions of losing him at the age of 27 are still raw and can overwhelm her with tears.

Stevie, former pastor of The Alley in Seymour, was a drug addict and died of a heroin overdose in a hotel room. Love does not deny or try to hide this from others. She wants people to know because she wants to save their lives from the same fate and keep families from hurting the way hers is.

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Speaking out Saturday afternoon at the second Seeking Hope Recovery Rally at Shields Park in Seymour was a promise she made to her son and to herself.

“If you’ve never used drugs, don’t. Please don’t go down that road,” she told the crowd gathered under the shelter house. “If you’re a recovering addict, I want you to know I’m really, really proud of you.”

She also had a message for those still using.

“I beg you, stop,” she said. “There’s hope. God loves you. There’s always something that is better tomorrow than what you’re going through today.”

This year’s rally was organized by the Recovery Action Team from the Jackson County Drug-Free Council. More than 200 people attended.

The event featured live music, guest speakers, free food and information from several local agencies and ministries on services available in the community to help individuals and families affected by addiction. They included The Alley, Leaving the 99, Centerstone, Double Down Outreach, Anthem, Teens for Change and Jackson County United Way.

Lockman, who now lives in Sellersburg, said she feels Stevie’s story and her message are important to share.

“Stevie used to speak at these rallies all the time,” Lockman said. “But it’s funny I’ve never gone to one.”

It was 10 years ago when Love and her husband, Pastor Bill Lockman, had to face the fact their son was an addict.

At that time, she didn’t know who to turn to for help or what to do for Stevie. The journey through addiction has taught them a lot along the way, she said.

She asked the crowd for forgiveness for not understanding what it’s like to have a drug addiction.

“We need education,” she said. “We need to teach people about what it is to be an addict.”

Lockman said she used to think that being an addict was a choice.

“I thought if you were stronger and if you had a moral and spiritual code, you would never go into addiction,” she said. “I really, sincerely didn’t know.”

When Stevie used drugs the first time in high school, Lockman said he made a choice, but after that, the heroin took over his life.

“He battled this demon, this addiction, this disease,” she said. “I thought you had to be spiritually weak to be an addict. I thought that if you went to church and you loved God that you wouldn’t struggle with this.”

But nobody loved God more than Stevie, Love said.

“Even when Stevie was high, he would talk about the love of Jesus,” she said.

Lockman thought drug addiction had something to do with how the person is brought up.

“I thought it was the parents’ fault that somebody battled addiction. I looked down on parents who had an addict for a child,” she said.

Until it was her own child.

“I realized that you can do it all right and everything can go all wrong,” she said.

She also learned addiction doesn’t exclude anyone.

“I realized that addiction is not just for a certain economic or social group. It’s everyone. From the homeless person to the person in politics, we all can be affected by drugs and addiction,” she said.

In hindsight, she knows she was naive.

“I thought if he tried harder, he could stop, not realizing that addiction was a disease, and that the only cure is Jesus,” she said.

She didn’t know why Stevie and other addicts just couldn’t quit using drugs.

“I had never seen someone dope sick before,” she said. “And how horrible it is to see somebody’s body transform from a healthy person into a shell of a person you don’t know anymore.”

But that’s exactly what she saw with Stevie.

Her son also changed how she saw felons and people incarcerated in jail.

When she drove by the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown, she used to think it was where the bad people were and that they deserved to be there. Until Stevie was arrested.

“I realized that the jails are full of good people that made bad choices at a bad time in their life,” she said. “Really good people end up behind bars.”

She also didn’t know how addicts were judged by others, including churches, and the judgment that fell upon their families, she said.

“I should have because I used to judge people, too,” she said. “I didn’t realize how cruel people could be.”

Lockman said she used to think addicts were weak.

“But the truth is, a recovering, sober addict is the strongest person on this planet,” she said. “Most people have never done the work that they’ve done for their sobriety. They’ve never fought Satan so hard just to be normal, just to survive, just to have a life of sobriety.”

Christopher Anderson of Seymour attended Saturday’s rally to celebrate his own recovery and to support those who continue to struggle.

“God pulled me out of a very dark place in my life,” he said. “I’m so grateful to be here today.”

Anderson was so “bad off on drugs,” he said, he thought it was going to kill him, and it almost did.

“I was putting it in my veins and any way possible I was doing it,” he said.

Once he was able to get away from a “very dark person” and surround himself with love and friendship from others and God, he was brought back to life, he said.

“The darkness lifted, and God took it all away,” he said. “If it wasn’t for God’s love, I wouldn’t be here today.”

He now has been clean for one year and two months.

Events such as the rally are a great way to stand in support of people battling addiction, he said.

“All of these people came together out of love for God, to show love for each other,” Anderson said. “We are here for a purpose, to give hope.”

Being Stevie’s mom gave Love the ability to look at someone, even when they’re high, and not see the addiction. Instead, she sees the child of God they are, she said.

“He allowed me to love those that I would have walked across the street to walk around because I was afraid,” she said.

In January, Stevie signed himself up for a sober living house.

“He was doing so good,” she said. “He looked great. I’ve never seen him look better. He was healthy. He was working out and taking pride in himself.”

Stevie would attend addict support meetings four or five times a week and had just gotten a job at a factory.

“God was really doing amazing things in his life,” she said.

But Stevie worried he would never be allowed to preach again or get his own church because of his past.

“I would say, ‘Stevie, don’t you ever be ashamed of your story of grace because people who are ashamed are people who are more worried about what others will think of them than what they will think of God,’” she said.

Stevie didn’t blame anyone for his situation, Lockman said.

“He said, ‘It’s all on me,’” she said.

Angela Goen of Seymour lost her husband, Michael, to addiction to painkillers in 2017, and her daughter currently is going through recovery. Addiction also has impacted her brother and other family members, she said.

“I’m a sister, mother, wife and aunt being affected by addiction,” she said. “I feel like their stories need to be told.”

Goen said she attended Saturday’s rally both to support others and to receive support herself.

“There’s so much love here and no judgment,” she said.

So many people try to hide addiction because of shame and fear, but that shouldn’t be the case, she said. Recovery can’t and shouldn’t be done alone, she said.