BY SHERI TRUSTY
There was a time when Ryan Clifton wasn’t sure he could win his battle with addiction. On Thursday, Aug. 31, Clifton will serve as the Master of Ceremonies of Port Clinton’s Overdose Awareness Day, where he will stand as a visible testament that recovery is possible.
Within recovery, Clifton is enjoying life, connected to his family, successfully employed and serving as a mentor to other men in recovery. On Overdose Awareness Day, he will share his story to encourage others who are still fighting their way out of addiction.
“I’ve lost a lot of friends to overdose. I’ve stopped counting them,” Clifton said. “I’ve been to more friends’ funerals than weddings.”
Overdose Awareness Day, which is hosted by the Ottawa County Prevention Coalition, will bring together many local organizations which will provide information on recovery resources. The event will feature guest speakers, a panel discussion and free food. Port Clinton’s Overdose Awareness Day event is on Aug. 31 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Downtown Entertainment District. The event is free, family-friendly, and open to the public. More information can be found at the Ottawa County Prevention Coalition Facebook page.
Life-size silhouettes representing the five Ottawa County residents who died of overdose in the past 12 months will be on display to honor their lives.
“It helps break the stigma and shows the more human side of things. This was a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister. They weren’t just a number,” Clifton said. “We want to raise awareness and give remembrance to the ones we lost, and we want to reach the ones who are still suffering and think there’s no way out.”
Many people in Ottawa County – including members of the courts, law enforcement and the recovery community – meet addiction head-on by embracing local residents struggling with addiction and providing compassionate support.
“You don’t have to do this alone,” Clifton said. “There are so many people in recovery in this community and so many resources. You don’t have to die.”
Michelle Veliz, who heads the Ottawa County Prevention Coalition, said this is the first year the group asked someone in recovery to emcee the event. The purpose was to showcase the reality of successful recovery.
“People sometimes struggle with the idea that people can recover. They can recover, and we want people to see that,” Veliz said.
The main focus of this year’s event will be a panel discussion with Ottawa County Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters, Ottawa County commissioners and Bay Shore counselor Valerie Carmen.
“They’ll focus on hard-hitting questions that address stigma,” Veliz said.
New to the event this year will be a candlelight vigil and a free meal provided by Bistro 163.
“Bistro 163 generously provided a community meal. They are fantastic,” Veliz said. “We’re hoping people will stay to eat and enjoy some fellowship. We’re trying to hit home that there’s no difference between Judge Bruce Winters and Ryan Clifton. We’re trying to get away from titles and put a stress on fellowship.”
Ottawa County hosts one of the biggest Overdose Awareness Day events in Ohio. Thanks to the tremendous attendance at last year’s event, the coalition was able to secure funding to help in its fight for people struggling with addiction.
“We’re trying to highlight that our county takes this seriously. I hope people come out and support the event,” Veliz said. “Because of last year’s support, we were able to bring it back at a larger scale this year.”