Addiction can be conquered by taking one step at a time
BY LINDA BLASER email@example.com August 18, 2013 5:07PM
Updated: September 20, 2013 6:27AM
A small crowd gathered around Caroline Kacena minutes after she left the stage at the Lali-Palooza Battle of the Bands on Saturday afternoon.
She had just announced that she had overdose prevention emergency kits to distribute to anyone over 18 who took the training to use them.
“Everyone who has someone struggling with opiate addiction in their family needs to have a plan of action for overdose. That plan should include Naloxone,” Kacena, of Chicago Recovery Alliance, told the crowd at the Lake County Fairgrounds.
Kacena, who lost her son 13 months ago to a heroin overdose, wishes she had Naloxone on hand to save him and that she had made a contract with him to keep him safe.
“Had I done that, he could be alive today and closer to recovery,” she said.
Because she cannot turn back the clock and save her own son, Kacena instead stood at the back of one of the large open-air buildings at the fairgrounds, bagging emergency kits and training anyone over 18 to use them.
Her efforts were part of an educational outreach event, held from 2-10 p.m., that marked the first time Live4Lali and the office of Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim joined forces to address drug use, misuse, addiction and overdose.
Chelsea Laliberte started Live4Lali after her brother Alex “Lali” Laliberte died of a heroine overdose at the age of 20 in 2008.
“People are very quiet about this issue,” Chelsea Laliberte said. “People need to realize they have to de-stigmatize the issue of addiction. It’s a mental health disorder.”
Chelsea hoped to chip away at the misunderstanding through Saturday’s event, which featured presentations by 25 speakers who shared their personal stories of how they were impacted by drug addiction and overdose in between performances by eight bands.
The family-friendly event included games and face-painting for children, food for purchase and information booths from several non-profit groups focused on the problem of drug abuse. The goal was to shed light on the growing epidemic of heroin and opiate addiction in Lake County.
“This problem affects every single community in Lake County. It’s all over, but a lot of people don’t recognize it’s a problem,” Nerheim said. “We had between 70 and 80 heroin deaths last year, and it’s been rising every year.”
Felicia Miceli lost her son, Louie, 24, a year ago to a heroin overdose. His framed picture served as the centerpiece of her booth, where she and other family members distributed information about LTM Heroin Awareness & Support Foundation that she started in his memory.
“This pain is unbearable. I don’t want anyone else to have to live with this,” Miceli said. “I just want heroin to be on peoples’ radar, to watch for it. It’s around. It’s infiltrating our youth.”
Educating others is her goal — and the goal of the other grass-roots organizations at the festival.
“This is a war. With education, maybe we can win,” Miceli said.
Cara Baldwin of Lake Bluff attended the event, perusing the information tables during the afternoon.
“I came out today because we need to educate people about how serious this epidemic is,” Baldwin said. “If we don’t educate people, it’s going to keep happening. More and more children and people are going to die.”