BENNINGTON — A person's drug addiction is not just their own personal struggle, says Allison Cavanagh.
"It affects the entire family," she said on the steps of the town office during a ceremony on Saturday.
Addiction is a disease, she said. And there are often fundraising events, online campaigns and other visible support efforts after a person is diagnosed with a disease.
"Yet as soon as a loved one is diagnosed with this disease, we feel isolated. We don't talk about it," Cavanagh said. "That needs to change."
More than 60 people took part in a Recovery Walk on Saturday afternoon, the third annual event for the Turning Point Center of Bennington County. The event was held in recognition of the National Recovery Month that takes place each September. Saturday's walk was preceded by a film screening on Friday evening.
Participants in the walk wore bright green shirts and carried colorful, handmade signs that bore words related to the theme of recovery. Among them: Trust, love, happiness, self esteem, healing, and sobriety.
They departed the old Bennington High School just after 1 p.m. From there, they travelled west along the north sidewalk of Main Street. They waved and cheered to passing drivers, many of whom gave approving thumbs up and honks. They crossed diagonally at Four Corners and headed along South Street. They were greeted at the town offices by Ray Gifford on guitar. Among the attendees were state representatives from Bennington's 2-2 District: Mary Morrissey and Kiah Morris.
Cavanagh began by leading the group in the first verse of the serenity prayer, which she said has gotten her through the hardest times: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."
Cavanagh spoke about the pain of watching a loved one face substance abuse issues.
"I'm a mother of three children. I've watched suffering. I know about jails. I know about overdoses. I know about shackles in the courtroom. I know about sleepless nights. I know about walking into the ER. I know a lot about pain," she said.
Judgement comes from people who don't understand, she said. She said she swipes past negative social media posts.
"It takes courage to go downtown and be seen when your loved one may have been in the paper, may be in jail, may be in rehab," she said.
She described days where she felt alone, and how good it felt to have someone who understood her pain. Family members of people with an addiction need to known when to ask for help, she said. And in turn, they need to support their struggling relative.
"The key is to have people around you that love you," she said.
Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.