Aren’t we all? – 

Sep. 19, 2020 – As boys, Justin Reason had a knack for talking his younger brother, Aaron, into a variety of daredevil stunts.

Aaron recalled his brother daring him to jump out of a second-story window and land safely by grabbing a tree branch, promising he would take a turn right after him.

“I missed the whole tree branch and almost broke my back,” Aaron recalled with a smile. “He said he would go right after me, but he never did.”

Aaron enjoys retelling that story because it epitomizes Justin’s personality and, he said, it’s one of his favorite memories of him. Those memories have helped Aaron through some dark times in the four years since Justin died from a drug overdose.

Aaron and dozens of others who have been directly affected by their own battles with addiction – or those of close friends or family members – gathered at Jackson Park Saturday to hear speakers, share stories and walk to raise awareness of the issue of addiction … Many experts say the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated a number of addiction-related issues. The American Medical Association, in an issue brief earlier this month, noted that more than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related deaths as well as substance use disorders. With vital connections like group meetings, one-on-one counseling sessions rendered virtual or even completely shut down during the pandemic, those battling addictions have lost important resources in their battles to stay sober.

“Isolation is a very big trigger for a lot of people,” said Toby Johnson, who lost his friend, Daniel Franks, to an overdose in May. “I think (Franks) just kind of pulled away from the recovery part of it. Uniting everybody like this is a huge impact for the recovery community right now. We need to stay strong. We need to surround ourselves with like-minded people.”