Vigil of Hope

Devin Gilmore, Veritas Staff

Can you imagine depending on a substance as if it saved your life when — in reality — it was the very thing keeping you from living?

Over the past several years, Rockland has become acquainted with those who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction. During the second annual Vigil of Hope on October 4, those who have had to suffer the effects of drug abuse, some who are former RHS students, spoke about their experiences with addiction.

Mrs. Patton, the vice principal of RHS and one of the founders of Rockland CARES, made it clear that the ceremony was about second chances. Those who have suffered from addiction were there to tell their stories and their new plans for life without substance abuse.

There were about one hundred town members in attendance at Holy Family Parish for the vigil. The church was silent while recovering addicts shared their remarks. As each speaker shared their experiences and actions while using, the overall statement being that they were a harder and crueler person during that time.

Shawn Schirmer, a recovering addict, described the way he treated his family and the times that he stole from them to get drugs. “I wasn’t a bad person,” he explained, “I was just very sick.”

Ian Alexander, another speaker recovering, said, “I always took my family for granted,” and “I used to make my family cry a lot but now they cry from joy.”

Each recovering speaker also described their new path toward recovery and a better life.

After three and a half years sober, Schirmer has received his GED and is currently going to UMass Boston to become a counselor for those addicted to drugs and alcohol.

Two of Rockland’s most recent students, Marc Richardson and Brian Huntress, are now attending Independence Academy, a school for rehabilitating teens.

“I love it there,” Marc said. “I’m learning how to deal with my problems instead of numbing them out.”

Brian’s speech was one of the most inspiring at the vigil. In response to teens that do not value the fragility of life, Brian said, “Everyone is old enough to die.” He described his experience with drugs saying, “I thought I found me, but now I give people the me they really deserve.”

The recently deceased Jake Hayden and Kai Lehti were represented  by their friends and family at the vigil as well. Kai’’s mother, Deb Lehti, shared a poem about her son’s addiction and recent overdose. Adam Straughn, a friend of Jake’s and Kai’s, said, “I wish there had been a Rockland CARES sooner,” and “I don’t want anything to happen to anyone like what happened to me.”

At the end of the vigil, those in attendance and participating gathered in front of the church for a candle lighting ceremony. There were some tears, a few smiles, and a lot of hugs at the vigil.

Everyone in attendance was moved by the ceremony and it is safe to say Rockland CARES’ Vigil of Hope succeeded in bringing both awareness and hope to the town.

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