MANCHESTER, NH – With the right support, every moment can be a step toward recovery from those suffering from addiction and depression, and Derryfield Park hosted one of those moments on Thursday night for those seeking to recover as well as looking to offer their support.
The park’s gathering was one of six occurring simultaneously across New Hampshire as part of the 10,000 Candles Across New Hampshire, an event looking to offer hope and help those who have lost loved ones to suicide and addiction.
Derryfield’s gathering offered a mix of inspirational choral music and shared experiences from those who have come face-to-face with addiction and suicide.
One of those speakers was Robbie Spencer Millward of Milford.
Millward, an Air Force veteran, has attempted suicide in the past and has struggled with anxiety and PTSD not related to his military experience.
Last year, he was hospitalized after he learned his daughter also tried to commit suicide. Although he eventually recovered, that moment crystallized the need for him to share his experiences in the hope he can help others.
Millward says he has spoken at 16 similar events, but Thursday held something special.
“Tonight is really impactful,” he said. “A lot of those other (events) were things that people had to go to like things at college campuses. This is something that people came out to because they wanted to. To see so many people come out, especially during a Patriots’ game, it’s amazing. Usually I don’t get choked up when I speak about this stuff, but seeing all these people tonight, it’s really something powerful.”
Not everyone there seeking camaraderie and sharing in the process of recovery spoke to the crowd.
Kevin Johnston, originally from Merrimack, is a recovering heroin addict who came to the event.
Now 27 years old, Johnston has been in and out of recovery treatment for heroin approximately half a dozen times. He’s been clean for a month now and he saw Thursday’s event as another step in his recovery process.
“It helps me to come just to remind myself what’s going on, especially tonight about overdose awareness and suicide prevention,” he said. “I’ve definitely lost a lot of friends. I just wish I could do more. The best I can do is stay sober and spread the word.”
Along with the speakers and music, the event also held several tables for groups across New England seeking to help in various aspects related to suicide prevention and recovery from addiction.
One of those groups was the Manchester-based Granite Pathways, which serves as a multi-faceted organization helping those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse across New Hampshire.
Representatives of Granite Pathways were on hand to provide those in attendance with naloxone kits.
Also known as Narcan, naloxone is a short-acting drug that helps immediate recovery during an opioid overdose.
For Kim Haney, director of Doorways at Granite Pathways, making the drug available is a crucial part of recovery from substance abuse.
“It’s important to get it out there because dead people don’t get into recovery,” she said. “Unfortunately, overdoses are seen everywhere, it’s not just in houses or in private. It’s on the street and in grocery stores, so we want people to have it on them, so if they see somebody having an overdose, they can prevent them from passing away.”
Organization for the event and the simultaneous events in Keene, Nashua, Dover, Concord, Keene and Derry were spearheaded by T.J. Murphy and Matt Conway of RecoverYdia, an organization seeking to help people share their recovery stories.
For Murphy, Thursday’s event was not just about awareness of suicide or addiction, but also as a way to help find one of the main causes of those things: isolation.
“If you don’t connect with other human beings, you’re going to connect with something. A lot of times it’s habit-forming and the consequences are going to be bad,” he said. “We’re just out there as a beacon, a messenger with a message: the opposite of addiction is connection, so get connected with someone you love.”