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A light of hope for those addicted

Support group hosts event for parents of drug abusers

PORTLAND TRIBUNE NEWS - Last year was the first Lights of Hope event, organized by former Portland resident Kim Palmer. This year the second annual event will take place at East Portland Eagles Lodge.Kim Palmer wasn’t sure what to do when she found out her son sank into the dark depths of heroin addiction in 2009.

Devastated, she took to the computer keyboard to research support for moms who’ve gone through such a traumatic experience.

She found solace in the group The Addict’s Mom, which connects mostly through Facebook.

“The support personally that I’ve received and growth that I’ve experienced is amazing,” she says. The group boasts more than 70,000 members nationwide.

Palmer, who is originally from Portland but now lives in Tigard, became much more involved over time, first as a member. Eventually she started to organize events and meetups, such as the upcoming second-annual Lights of Hope event, which takes place this Sunday evening at the East Portland Eagles Lodge.

At the event, candles are lit to remember those who have been lost to addiction, to celebrate those in recovery, and to remember those still struggling in addiction or who are incarcerated.

When meeting up on a recent weekday, Palmer was wearing a white ribbon inside of a purple one, to celebrate that her son is in recovery.

September is National Recovery Month, sponsored by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The Lights of Hope event will host several speakers, including a registered nurse in the drug addiction field, a young woman in recovery, firefighters and the group Hidden in Plain Sight, which helps make families aware of what to look for in drug addiction.

Though her son fell into drug addiction in 2009, Palmer says he’s been “18 months clean and serene.”

The road has been difficult.

“In the beginning, we tried the typical having him in our home, but then he’d leave, and we’d let him come back. We found that just doesn’t work,” Palmer says. “Sometimes living in the home is a trigger.”

She says her experience with her son has allowed her to help other moms in The Addict’s Mom.

“It’s a fine line between enabling and supporting. Sometimes the line is very blurry, and we don’t see it very well ourselves, so that’s how we can support each other as moms,” Palmer says.

The Addict’s Mom was established in 2008 by Barbara Theodosiu, a South Florida mother of four who found out that two of her sons were addicted to drugs.

TRIBUNE PHOTO: LYNDSEY HEWITT - Kim Palmer, formerly of Portland, is involved with national organization The Addicts Mom. She became involved in the organization after her son became addicted. She now helps organize local events like Lights of Hope.Since then, the group has gained national attention and coverage by major news outlets. One of its members is Michael Botticelli, the director of National Drug Control Policy at the White House.

According to a report released in 2015 by the Oregon High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, meth use is the No. 1 abused drug in the state, followed by heroin, marijuana, controlled prescription drugs, cocaine and designer drugs.

Though Palmer observes that heroin seems to be the main addiction reported by moms in the group, she says a lot of the mothers have children affected by meth and other drugs as well.

“Many kids are poly substance users. They’ll do anything, basically,” she says.

She hopes those affected by addiction will come out to the event and consider becoming involved with The Addict’s Mom, or other branches for siblings and family members.

“Through The Addict’s Mom ... if I can help one mom not feel so scared, if I can help one mom know she doesn’t have to fight this by herself, then sharing my story and experiences are all worth it,” Palmer says.

Lights of Hope event

When: 6-9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11

Where: East Portland Eagles Lodge, 4094 S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard.

Find out more: facebook.com/groups/TAMOregon, addictsmom.com