Fear is no stranger to addiction, especially when it comes to someone that you love.

The biggest fear for most is waking up to “the call” at 2 a.m. Every day you worry if your loved one is safe. Every day you wonder where they are.

You ask yourself whom they are with and if they have eaten. When you get the call, your entire world stops and a new kind of worry begins. All you know is that someone you loved so desperately has left your life due to a drug overdose and you want to be able to honor that person’s life without the fear of stigma linked to substance use disorder.

You long for someone to understand your pain and to tell you that you are not alone.

I understand your pain. We understand your pain. You are not alone.

Living in long-term recovery has been a blessing sprinkled with heartbreak.

Since entering recovery, I have lost countless family members, friends and acquaintances. Each time someone passes, I know that it could have been me.

It renews my passion for helping those seeking recovery and for supporting those already living in recovery. This spring marks my fifth year of recovery, and I am greatly blessed to have been given another chance to live life and to make a difference.

You could describe me many ways: wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, co-worker, student of life and volunteer.

The one that has come to mean a great deal to me is that of volunteer and certified recovery specialist (CRS).

I have the honor of working as a peer recovery specialist at the new Maternal Addiction Resource Center (MARC) at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, where I work with women in recovery and seeking recovery daily.

These women are trying to make better lives for the children they are bringing into this world, and we assist them with doing that by providing support and resources for anything they may need to better their lives and have an increased chance at long-term recovery.

Through my volunteer work with the Cambria County Drug Coalition Recovery Workgroup, I have had the honor of being a part of many events – big and small. I have gotten to meet family members with loved ones battling substance use issues; visited a former teacher’s classroom to support a peer while she talked to the class; and helped to organize events such as the International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) memorial event and Recovery in the Valley.

Another event I have helped organize is the “Our Lives Matter” quilt workshops.

Last summer, Stephanie Hastings, organizer of the Pennsylvania Recovery Organization Alliance’s (PRO-A) Our Lives Matter Quilt Program, visited Johnstown to share with the community completed quilts made from residents across the commonwealth.

She told us about the program, how the quilt panels are put together, the procedures to send them for display and the care that goes into the quilts before, during and after display.

The time and effort put into ensuring care and the time spent on repairs when needed was moving.

To Stephanie and the staff at PRO-A, the panels are more than just a memorial, they are pieces of the ones lost to a drug epidemic like none other.

The quilt program helps honor those lost to their addictions, whether due to the addiction itself or the corresponding problems that can arise.

Through the PRO-A Our Lives Matter Quilt, family and friends of those lost are given an opportunity to memorialize their loved one in a creative way that will travel all over Pennsylvania.

Their loved one will touch lives in schools, at recovery events and community gatherings through the memories shared on their panel.

Through this program, those lost to addiction are honored and remembered in a stigma-free and loving way.

We would like to invite you to our upcoming quilt panel workshops scheduled for:

• 5:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at the Behavioral Health of Cambria County office conference room, located on the first level at 110 Franklin St. in downtown Johnstown.

• 5:30p.m. Feb. 27 at the UPMC Home Health offices, located at 118 Ebony Road in Ebensburg.

At the workshops, you will learn more about the program, our goal of having a quilt dedicated to people in the Cambria County area, and how to begin your own panel to memorialize a loved one.

If you would like to attend, please bring any supplies you would like to incorporate into your quilt panel, such as a favorite shirt, favorite photos (printed onto iron transfer sheets), or special items to be fixed onto the fabric. Any materials added to the panel are not able to be returned, so please be sure the items are things you are willing to have become a permanent addition to the actual quilt.

For more information, contact Natalie Kauffman, prevention support specialist for the Cambria County Drug Coalition, at 814-619-4505, or visits http://pro-a.org/our-lives-matter-quilt/.

We hope you’ll consider joining us.

Jestine Mayes is a wife and mother living in long-term recovery in Cambria County. She volunteers as the secretary of the Cambria County Drug Coalition’s Recovery Workgroup and is the Recovery Support Specialist at Conemaugh’s MARC Program for pregnant women.

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