‘RECOVERY IS REAL’: Annual walk promotes a message of hope for those suffering from addiction

A family gets ready to release some balloons in honor of their loved one. The release of balloons is a tradition annual Recovery Walk. (Kat Badger | For the Daily Reporter)

HANCOCK COUNTY — Rick Truscott wrapped his hand around the cord and slowly raised the microphone to speak about his brother, Greg Truscott

Greg, 50, of Greenfield, died unexpectedly on Oct. 21, 2019, the victim of an addiction he could not overcome.

“Nobody chooses to be an addict or alcoholic,” Rick Truscott said. “My brother was a good man and did a lot of good things, but he had his demons down inside.”

Greg Truscott was one of five county residents to whom tribute was paid Saturday, Sept. 25, at the seventh annual Recovery Walk. More than 100 people came to the Courthouse Square on the crisp fall morning to show their support for recovery programs and to remember the lives lost to addiction.

In addition to recognizing Greg Truscott, attendees also celebrated the life of Trevor Cupp, who died Feb. 27 of this year; Michael Pavich, who died Nov. 3, 2020; Matthew Thomas, who died Oct. 19, 2019; and Jasmine Wethington, who died Feb. 18, 2017.

“I’ve had my own issues too, but I’m 16 years sober,” Rick Truscott told the crowd, prompting them to applaud his sobriety.

He reminded everyone three things are associated with addiction: jail, institutions and death. Those struggling with addiction must avoid the last one.

“We can all use the passing of people to promote recovery,” Rick Truscott said.

Linda Ostewig, director of The Landing Place, which offers programs and support to those battling addiction and other problems, organized the event.

She had a rough week, losing her mother on Tuesday, but she worked through to continue to set up the Recovery Walk. Ostewig was thrilled to see such a large crowd despite an early morning rain she feared might keep some away.

“I love the fact that people are excited to be here because I think it shows they’re getting the message that recovery is real,” she said.

Officials want those struggling with addiction to understand they can live in recovery and have a full, happy life. Ostewig noted while she was dealing with the loss of her mother earlier in the week, she was mindful to know she wasn’t the only one dealing with loss.

“These people who are letting off balloons, they’ve lost people too,” Ostewig said.

Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell, who is a former police officer who dealt firsthand with the effects of substance abuse, kicked off the opening ceremony. He said the event is important each year not only to mourn those lost, but to celebrate those who are making strides toward living a drug-free life.

“We’ve lost too many people to this dreaded disease that has no boundaries,” Fewell said. “This is a disease we need to keep fighting, and we are going to fight this fight.”

Fewell thanked those who have championed programs, such as Prosecutor Brent Eaton and the county’s Drug Court supervisor, Judge Scott Sirk of Hancock County Circuit Court, for their continued support.

“We all know we can’t afford to stop fighting this battle,” he said.

Despite all the efforts, the toll of deaths associated with addiction is growing. Indiana reported a 33% increase in fatal overdoses from 2019 to 2020, according to data released in late July by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Hancock County coroner reported data showing 11 people died from accidental overdoses in 2019. The number rose to 14 in 2020.

The county is on pace to eclipse that total in 2021.

Ostewig reminded everyone she and others will keep fighting for those who need help.

“We’re going to keep speaking,” she said pounding her fist into the air.

Ostewig felt it was important to remind those in attendance to spread the word that people with addiction issues are “not moral failures.” She said fighting the stigma of addiction is half the battle.

She closed her comments on a light note and reminded everyone after the walk there would be plenty of food on hand and a chance to punish a few people in the dunk tank.

“The prosecutor’s going to be in dunk tank,” she said with a laugh, then jokingly reminded folks on hand that Eaton had probably charged a few of them and throwing balls at the target was a great way to settle the score.

Austin Douglas of internet station Mix 105 broadcast from the event early Saturday morning then took a seat in the dunk tank prior to the walk.

Sitting on the seat, dripping wet, he said it was pretty chilly with a crisp fall breeze blowing, but he said he didn’t mind too much because it was well worth the cause to acknowledge people who have passed or are battling drug addiction.

“We’re all about community involvement,” he said.

So were the many representatives of recovery programs and other entities who set up booths on the Courthouse Square to share information about the resources they provide.

Paul Galbraith, director of Celebrate Recovery from Brandywine Community Church, passed out information on how people can help those looking to live a better life with drugs and alcohol.

“What brings joy to my heart is to see all the recovery help we have in our community,” he said. “From childhood through adult life, we’ve got people in this county who want to help others.”

Following the opening ceremonies, and the release of balloons into the morning sky in support of the lives of those who have passed, the vast majority of the crowd took off on the walk, gathering back at the Courthouse Square to continue supporting the event.