Editor's note: This article was updated on April 25, 2017, at 10:01 a.m. to clarify that Turning Point Youth Coordinator, Thomas Bruso, was reading from a letter written by someone else.
BENNINGTON — People gathered on the lawn of the Bennington Town Offices with white candles in hand o commemorate loved ones who lost the battle of addiction.
The candle light memorial "Light the Night for Recovery" was hosted by the Turning Point Center of Bennington County on Saturday. This was the second annual vigil.
Three speakers stood at the podium and gave speeches entailing either their own struggles with addiction or told a story about an individual close to them who died as a result of addiction.
Attendees had a chance to go up to the podium and say a loved one's name to recognize and to remember them. As each person said a name, the town bell rang. The bell rang roughly 14 times throughout the vigil.
Beneath the podium, there laid a sign with the word "hope" filled with flowers. Beneath the sign, the steps of the town offices were filled with candles and small memorials for those who had passed away, placed by the deceased loved ones.
According to Turning Point Director, Ken Sigsbury, in 2015 there were 44 people in the state of Vermont who died from opium related overdoses.
"Last year, 104 people died from prescription drug overdose," Sigsbury said. " according to the previous annual overdose report, the overdose deaths in 2016 were highest in the past decade, in the state of Vermont.
Sigsbury said the number of heroin overdose deaths has doubled from 29 in 2015 to 51 in 2016.
Local poet Bonnie Lynch, recited her poem "Addiction Ship." Each line of the poem described the narrator watching as a loved one was carried away by the ship into the currents of addiction. Before reciting her poem, Lynch told a tale about family members who struggled with addiction and about her own father and step father's struggles.
As an addict, her step father would become abusive and the words he spoke during those dark times have stayed with Lynch throughout her entire life. Lynch's biological father, whose location she found out 21 years later, died two days after she rediscovered him.
"In the Bennington community and beyond, so many people are suffering," Lynch said. "The fact that so many people are here this evening together, gathered, with a hopeful spirit and a heavy heart we're so fortunate to have Turning Point."
Turning Point Youth Coordinator, Thomas Bruso, read a letter written by a person struggling with addiction dedicated to their family and friends.
"Though I may have started using drugs by choice, the disease has progressed. I now have no choice but to use them. Please try to understand that I suffer from a disease and that my drug use is not the result of a moral failing or weakness of will. Simply put, I want to stop but cannot."
In the letter, the author described how they wants their loved ones to know their addiction is not their fault - and their efforts to try and get him to stop drugs, while appreciated, hasn't been helping with their recovery. They also wants people to know it is not easy to just quit drugs.
"You wouldn't be angry at me for having cancer or diabetes. The scolding and lecturing are actually counterproductive," reads the letter, "because they make me feel even more ashamed and guilty than I already do. Please realize addiction thrives in shame and guilt though it is hard to understand, I have a disease of addiction. As with any chronic illness, willpower [alone] will not heal me."
Instead of having their loved ones so focused on the author and their road to recovery, they want their loved ones to focus on their own lives. The author believes there is a solution and that they will recover and that there are also organizations where the families of addicted can reach out to get support.
"Thank you for loving me and trying to help me," the author wrote."I look forward to the day when I have regained your trust and support, based on my commitment to recovery. I know it will take time for this to happen, but I finally feel as though I have the courage and strength to beat this disease and start living a life that makes me happy and fulfilled, and we can have many happy family memories to come in the future."
The Turning Point Center is located at 465 Main Street. It offers support for those who are struggling with addictions and to the family of those individuals. For more information call 802-442- 9700 or you can visit their website tpcbennington.org