As it nears its final weeks in Loudoun County, a powerful reminder of one of the area’s most vile scourges had perhaps its most important night.
On Aug. 16, the DEA’s Drugs: Cost and Consequences exhibit hosted A Vigil for Lost Promise, an emotional reflection on the millions afflicted by drugs and a solemn reminder of the fight against addiction. More than one hundred people gathered at the exhibit, listening to community officials, religious leaders and addiction victims share their perspectives, stories and hope.
The Cost and Consequences exhibit, which travels across the country, hosts a vigil at each stop. Its final day in Loudoun County will be Sep.3, after which, it will leave for Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
“This is the best exhibit I’ve seen. It helps to show what this problem is all about,” said DEA agent Karl Colder. A Loudoun County resident, Colder spoke as part of the vigil, saying drugs and addiction impacts everyone in all demographics.
“It doesn’t matter who you are,” Colder said. “We are all in this fight together. If we don’t recognize that, we’ll all suffer the consequences.”
Nick Yacoub was among the speakers to talk firsthand about their struggles with addiction. Yacoub, who is in long-term recovery from addiction and currently works as a peer specialist helping others, talked about issues facing addicts, and ways to overcome the problems.
“The shame and the stigma is one of the biggest murderers out there,” Yacoub said. “What we know in our minds and in our hearts are two separate things.”
Yacoub also said it’s important for addicts to not just stay away from drugs, but to change behaviors. He said a major factor in overcoming addiction is finding ways to have fun without drugs.
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman talked about the importance of the problem locally and nationwide while also stressing the actions the department and other government organizations have taken to combat the problems. Chapman said 19 lives have been lost to drugs in Loudoun County this year alone, mostly on opiate overdoses.
To help counter this, 150 deputies have been trained to use narcan, a drug that counters opiate’s effects, resulting in eight saved lives this year. Additionally, the county has worked on educational programs beginning as early as eighth grade and created a program to take back excess prescription drugs, with the county collecting over four tons already.
Rev. Mary Kay Brown of St. David’s Episcopal Church spoke about the pain victims felt and the hope that comes with healing. Cornerstone Chapel pastor and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office chaplain Gary Hamrick also spoke at the event, leading a prayer before those gathered for the vigil went on a candlelit processional walk.