Overdose vigil shares 'there is hope'

Recovery Advocate Halie Anderson of Tobinsport, left, sits with Shannon Clark of Dale after Anderson spoke at the third annual Overdose Awareness Candlelight Vigil hosted by the Dubois County Substance Abuse Council at 18th Street Park in Ferdinand on Thursday. Marlena Sloss/The Herald


It was as if God moved her feet.

One Sunday night, while holding her fourth 20-ounce glass of wine, Halie Anderson knew that she was dying.

“You could call it suicide, even,” said Anderson, who lives in Tobinsport. “Because every single time I drank, I knew I was going to die. I was not getting lit; I was not having fun; I was not partying with my friends. I was killing myself. And I couldn’t stop. There was no option.”

But that Sunday night, Anderson had a spiritual experience.

She stood up. She poured out the glass of wine. And she changed her life.

Anderson hasn’t had a drink or substance in her body since Jan. 29, 2019. In the time between then and Thursday, she has changed her life for the better. With support, she found God, began to accept and love every piece of herself and committed to a new path.

Anderson shared her story on Thursday evening, when about 50 people gathered at the 18th Street Park in Ferdinand for the Dubois County Substance Abuse Council’s third annual Overdose Awareness Candlelight Vigil. The roughly hourlong event included guest speakers and gave Anderson and other attendees the chance to share their own experiences with addiction in a safe space — complete with poetry and free materials on substance abuse, addiction, and grief as well as other resources.

“I would say that what I want people to understand is that addiction is real,” Jenna Bieker, the DCSAC coordinator, said ahead of the socially distanced gathering. “And it’s here. But from tonight’s event, I would like people to know that they are supported.”

She continued: “There are people out there that want to help them — that are more than happy to help them. And that there is hope for a sober life.”

Events like Thursday’s vigil are important, Bieker said, because they allow people to be heard and validate their experiences. They also make them realize that they’re not alone.

“I think that it’s important for other people who haven’t experienced addiction personally to understand what that looks like through other people’s personal stories,” Bieker later added. “But more than anything, I think that it’s important for people to understand that there is hope for a better life.”

Thursday’s event marked the first time the gathering was hosted in Ferdinand. It was held at the Jasper Riverwalk gazebo in 2018 and at Market Street Park in Huntingburg in 2019.

Bieker works as support staff at Dubois County Community Corrections, and while some in the community might minimize the presence of addiction, she knows it is a problem locally.

“I know that people kind of try to not think about that aspect of what’s happening,” she said. “But it’s here. And it’s real. So, I think this is a really great event for kind of bringing light to that.”

She continued: “Because if people in our community are going to struggle with addiction, we need to address it and help them. Not pretend it’s not happening.”

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