International Overdose Awareness Day event conducted in Seymour


While addiction recovery is a person’s individual choice, they often are more successful when they have a strong support system.

As stories were shared during Thursday night’s International Overdose Awareness Day event at Crossroads Community Park in downtown Seymour, people impacted by addiction in different ways spoke about support.

That fit in with the international observance’s 2023 theme of “Recognizing those people who go unseen.” They are the family and friends grieving the loss of a loved one, workers in health care and support services extending strength and compassion or spontaneous first responders who selflessly assume the role of lifesaver, according to

International Overdose Awareness Day is the world’s largest annual campaign to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died from overdose and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.

During the program in Seymour, Judy West honored her son, Glen West Jr., who died June 4, 2020, at the age of 40 due to a drug overdose.

“Today, I want to use my voice not only to honor his memory but also to shed light on the importance of empathy, understanding and healing in the face of addiction,” she said. “Losing a child is an unimaginable pain that no parent should ever have to endure. Addiction is the thief that robs us of our loved ones, taking them away from us bit by bit until there’s nothing left but memories and heartache.”

She said her son wasn’t just a statistic or a stereotype. He was a kind, loving and talented young man.

“Addiction doesn’t discriminate,” she said. “It can touch anyone, regardless of your background or upbringing. Today, I stand before you with an open heart, sharing my grief and vulnerability to let you know that you are not alone in your struggles.”

As her son was battling addiction, West said she witnessed the stigmatization and misunderstanding surrounding substance use disorders.

“Society often casts judgment instead of extending a helping hand,” she said. “We must remember that addiction is a disease, not a choice. It’s essential to replace stigma with compassion and judgment with empathy. We must create an environment where those who are struggling can reach out for help without fear of rejection or shame.”

While her pain is immense, West said she chooses to be a beacon of hope for those on the path to recovery.

“Recovery is not a linear journey,” she said. “It’s built of ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks, but it’s a journey that deserves our unwavering support and understanding. To those who are struggling, please know that there is no shame in seeking help. It takes courage to confront addiction, and your journey toward healing deserves celebration and encouragement. None of us can do this alone.”

It takes a community of support, compassion and love to aid those on the road to recovery, West said.

“Let us be a community that listens without judgment, embraces without conditions and supports without reservations. Let us come together to change the narrative surrounding substance use disorders. Let us turn our grief into action, our pain into purpose,” she said. “Together, we can raise awareness, foster understanding and break down the barriers that prevent people from seeking help.”

Love Lockman also lost her son, Stevie Lockman, due to drug use. She said while there’s a stigma to break for people who are using drugs, there’s also a stigma for their family.

“I have never met an addict that is proud that they are an addict when they are sober, and they feel the guilt, but the guilt the family feels is real, too,” she said. “There are all of the what ifs, why didn’t I, I should’ve, I could’ve.”

When her husband, Bill, was a pastor in Seymour and she was the children’s pastor, Love said people would tell them, “You guys just need to do more tough love.” Then when they left their son in jail, people would say, “How can you leave your kid in jail?”

“The stigma is not only for the user, but the stigma is for the people that love the user,” she said.

As she went through cancer last year, Love said the disease was as hard on her family as it was on her because she had some control and could do what she needed to get through it, but her family was just the spectators.

“It reminded me of what it felt like to watch someone I love and just be a spectator as their life fell apart,” she said. “There’s a lot of stigma that most mothers of addicts want people to know. It doesn’t make them bad people. Most addicts I know, when they are sober … they have the biggest hearts and they love deeply and they care deeply. Don’t judge them by their disease. Judge them by who they are, and what’s what we do.”

When someone gets cancer, Love said everyone hugs them, tries to nurture them back into health and prays for them. When somebody is an addict, she said everybody backs off.

“When Bill and I first could no longer deny the fact that Stevie was addicted to drugs, I didn’t know anybody I could go talk to about it, and that’s why things like this (the overdose awareness event) are so important, that we know we have a community of people that won’t judge us, that will help hold us up and pray for us and love those that we love,” she said.

Officer Tim Toborg, a nearly 35-year veteran of the Seymour Police Department, spoke from the first responder’s perspective and was open and honest about how God is there for people.

“In my experience, when I’ve gone into addicts’ homes and other places, you’ve got that figured out how to help others. We’re here right now helping others,” he said. “But the hangup, the disconnect is the second part of that — to love your neighbor as yourself. Have you found the reason why you love yourself? Do you not know whose kid you are, that this thing is real? God is coming back with his son, and things are going to change.”

What matters is people know they are special to God, he said.

“Really think about where you’re at, take a self-evaluation, write things down,” he said. “We’re going to witness things in the next years, and don’t be afraid. Your story is important. I’m proud of you, God is, too, and you touched somebody’s heart today.”

Andrew Barker, a program case manager for New Beginnings Recovery Center in Seymour, spoke about battling recovery over the years and now helping others.

He said his wife, Erin Barker, carried him along the way while working through one recovery program. But when he lost another huge part of his support system, his mother, to cancer earlier this year, he found himself lost and confused, pushed everybody away and started drinking more than usual.

“I just didn’t know how to cope with things well, found myself in a blackout stage, got arrested. Darkest time of my life, period,” he said.

He wound up at a recovery center, resumed college classes and reached out to the owner of New Beginnings about doing his practicum there.

As he shared his story, Barker was told he needed treatment, so he did that there before he was offered a job. He finished his degree, too.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Between his sponsor, the people at New Beginnings and family and friends, Barker has all of the support he needs.

“In recovery, we can’t do this alone,” he said. “Some of the situations I walked through this past year, there is no way I would have made it through alone. … I have good people in my life. God has always put good people in my life, and I’ve been blessed with that.”

Event emcee Dustin Vice shared information about the new 180 RCO advisory council, an independently certified recovery community organization for Jackson and Jennings counties.

“This organization will be governed and operated by members of our own recovery community with the goal of making our community a place where recovery is possible for everyone,” he said. “It will be a place where people within 30 minutes will connect with people with over 30 years of recovery and everyone in between.”

The first meeting is at noon Sept. 7 via Zoom, and it will be an open forum and discussion for anyone who has been affected by substance use disorders or co-occurring disorders and their allies. For information, email [email protected] or [email protected].

Attendees can expect to learn about organizations and services for the recovery community and upcoming events by those groups and the new advisory council.

Other meetings will be planned in the future.

“Before the end of the year, 180 RCO hopes to have a physical location in Seymour that will be a place of making connections,” Vice said. “We want this organization to be a voice of the community.”

During Thursday’s event, Vice also shared information from Steve Sharer about the recently released Recovery in Jackson County Assessment Report, Robert McClellan spoke about Freedom Alliance that meets at The Tabernacle at Sandy Creek in Seymour and Rachael Fenton shared prayers and later along with Mike Pike presented tokens to people with clean time ranging from one day to eight years.

Vice also performed an original song, Dwight Hendrix and Jennifer Hopkins sang three songs, vendors provided free food, information and activities, Kyle McIntosh did live graffiti art and the night ended with AmyMarie Travis speaking about International Overdose Awareness Day and the reason for doing a butterfly release.

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