\u2018If we can help change one person\u2019s life, we succeeded\u2019 \u00a0 It was an emotional day for the 50 or so people from all over the Valley who crossed the finish line for the second annual Fighting Against Drugs Everywhere (FADE) 5K Walk\/Run along the Shelton Riverwalk on Sept. 24. Tears and sweat fell as participants shared memories of loved ones they lost to an addiction to drugs over the years after following the completion of the 5K around Shelton and a portion of Derby. Founder of FADE, Julia Markarian said the community aspect behind this event, which she tapped into following the loss of her son to an opioid overdose four years ago, has helped her to find comfort following this traumatic experience. \u201cIt\u2019s a pain like no other,\u201d said Markarian. \u201cI don\u2019t know what I would do without the support I\u2019ve gotten from Judy Connell, my family and everyone else who has shared their stories over the years.\u201d Connell has organized a support group called Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing (GRASP) which consists of support groups composed of people who are also living with the same struggle of losing a loved one to a drug overdose or addiction. She said it helps to relieve members of the support group from being or feeling alone. \u201cIt\u2019s easy to feel alone during that time, your way of thinking changes,\u201d said Connell. \u201cSome people come to our meetings and don\u2019t talk. Some find comfort in just listening to other\u2019s stories. But when the time comes and they\u2019re ready to share, we\u2019re all here. That\u2019s the case with Julie.\u201d It has been 4 years since the Markarian family of Shelton tragically lost their son and brother Stephen Medeiros to a drug overdose. Stephen\u2019s mother Julia Markarian came up with the idea of the 5K walk\/run last year in memory of her son and as an effort to raise awareness for the drug addiction crisis across the country. More than 720 opioid-related deaths were recorded in 2015 in Connecticut alone and Markarian said that increasingly high number is partially the reason for wanting to raise awareness. \u201cPeople have this stigma attached to the disease, yes being addicted to drugs is a disease, and that stigma makes people think it can\u2019t affect their family. Well, it can,\u201d said Markarian. Underneath the pavilion on Shelton\u2019s Riverwalk during the FADE 5K walk\/run this year were the stories of other people who had lost loved ones from the disease. \u00a0Medeiros was 29, but David Nocera was only 17 when he died back in 2007 from an overdose. State Rep. Theresa Conroy (D-105) attended the event and said she\u2019s been working to raise awareness over past year with Markarian. She added that medical examiners are predicting 888 deaths in 2016. \u201cMy goal is to have addiction recognized as a medical illness,\u201d said Conroy. \u201c\u201cNo matter what people are saying out there, addiction is a medical illness. If I have a heart attack today the ambulance would come and pick me up and take me to Griffin where I\u2019ll have some kind of intervention, open heart or a stent. Then I would go straight into cardiac rehab. When we have people that have substance abuse disorders, if they overdose they get a shot of Narcan, sent to the ER and then they\u2019re dished out into the street again.\u201d Conroy said she recommends anyone who feels as though they\u2019re receiving the \u201crunaround\u201d in their efforts to seek help, reach out to their district\u2019s state representative. Director of the Alliance for Prevention & Wellness,Pam Mautte took part in the run and said if there\u2019s any medication that isn\u2019t required by anyone in a household then it should be disposed of in a medication drop box located at one of the local police departments. \u201cIf you know someone battling the disease don\u2019t shame them, encourage them or point them in the direction of the help they need. There\u2019s resources out here and recovery is possible,\u201d said Mautte. She added that parents should be having conversations with their children even before they notice signs or changes in their behavior. \u201cWe need to promote prevention to avoid having people go through the recovery process,\u201d said Mautte. Markarian said she now has conversations with her 16 year old son to educate him on the dangers of opiates. She said through conversations she tries to let him know that she doesn\u2019t pass judgement and whatever someone is going through you just offer support \u201cI talk and talk and talk. If I\u2019m not his favorite person right now, I can live with that because I love him,\u201d said Markarian. President and CEO of Community Addiction Recovery and Education Support Donna DeLuca said aside from having conversations with your children, the importance of being a good role model for your kid is just as important. \u201cAre you drinking every night with dinner or do they constantly see you smoking?\u201d said DeLuca. \u201cExplaining to them that what you\u2019re drinking is an adult drink or not drinking in front of your child can make all of the difference.\u201d DeLuca and FADE supporter Giovanna Pisani agreed that even with all of the good examples that are set by parents, some people still experiment with drugs. They encourage parents and families to try and be more understanding, engage in conversations and refrain from coming across as judgemental. All of the proceeds collected will be donated to the Alliance for Prevention & Wellness to combat opioid abuse and addiction. For more information visit http:\/\/apw-ct.org\/ or call (203) 736-8566.