MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — People gathered at Mobile’s Drug Education Council on Thursday to discuss matters of drug addiction and substance abuse.

Led by Virginia Guy, who said this is the worst case of overdose deaths she’s ever seen, people there were sharing their stories after most of them lost a loved one to a drug overdose.

Volunteer David Grayson with the Drug Education Council lost his daughter in 2015 due to a heroin overdose. Before she passed away, he promised her he would help those struggling with addiction.

“She had a premonition that she might not make it because once you become an addict, it’s a risky preposition,” said Grayson. “She said ‘dad if I ever die, will you do what you can to help the other addicts, they need all the help they can get.'”

Julie Waters lost her son in 2015 to a heroin overdose as well. She started the Jace Waters Foundation in her son’s name to help spread awareness on substance abuse.

She refers to addiction as a disease that’s harming our community, so she encourages people to have those difficult conversations.

“I want the families and communities to know that they can be a part of the solution and they are a part of the solution.” said Waters. “And they are part of the solution by helping, speaking out, and learning what this is about and let’s save our children from this disease.”

Grayson and Waters said the first step to help combat this issue is to destigmatize the conversation of losing a family member to a drug overdose. They say many people are too ashamed to come forward because of the preconceived notion society places on people who die due to drugs.

Grayson said this is a community issue, so there is no need to stray away from talking about it.

“There’s no stigma involved with this,” said Grayson. “This is a community health emergency now. It would be like keeping a secret that there’s a plague going on. We don’t need any secrets right now. Everybody needs to be honest and talking about what’s going on in the community.”

Waters said she used to believe this issue would never happen to her. She admits she used to have those negative connotations attached to drug abuse, but her perspective has changed, so she has no shame in sharing her story.

“It strikes every family of all areas in all areas in the walk of their life,” said Waters. “And I’m have had a lot of people that tend to hold back the shame that it shouldn’t happen to people like me, but it’s okay that it happens to people like them.”

Waters said people are afraid of society judging them, but warns people to not think it won’t happen to your loved ones. She said after starting those tough conversations, more people will be comfortable coming forward to share their personal experiences.

The Drug Education Council tries to meet every month to discuss matters of drug overdose and substance abuse, and ways to help fight it.

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