RADFORD, Va. (WFXR) — In order to encourage those who are in recovery, being treated, or still suffering from addiction, Gov. Glenn Youngkin ordered all U.S. and Virginia flags to be flown at half-staff on Wednesday for International Overdose Awareness Day.

Meanwhile, in Radford, New River Valley Community Services held a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, Aug. 31 as a way to reflect on the lives lost to overdoses and addiction.

The main message of the event focused on fighting back against substance abuse.

“These days, overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45,” said Mike Wade, coordinator for community wellness and outreach at New River Valley Community Services.

According to Wade, the battle against addiction starts with taking a stand.

“Tonight has meaning, you have meaning, the lives that we’re here to honor and remember have meaning and still do, so when you light that candle a little later, it means something,” Wade said. “We’ve got to end overdose.”

Mike Wade, the community wellness and outreach coordinator for New River Valley Community Services, speaks at an event commemorating International Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31, 2022. (Photo: Kelsey Jean-Baptiste/WFXR News)

The vigil began with a speaker who told her story of addiction and substance abuse.

“I eventually dropped out of school because drugs were more important,” the speaker recalled. “I never got to experience a normal high school life and I kept spiraling out of control.”

She continued to recount the many times she experienced an overdose.

“The next thing I remember, I woke up with a tube in my throat and a doctor told me to calm down as he pulled it out. I remember tears rolling down my face. I seen a big machine beside my bed, I was connected to dialysis,” the speaker said. “The doctor told me I had been airlifted to LewisGale and I was at Richmond and I was septic with acute kidney and liver failure.”

She even told stories about losing the people she loved to overdose.

“On Jan. 8, 2020, I was with my mom when we got the phone call that my brother had just overdosed and died,” she told

Other speakers took to microphone, speaking about the importance of community. The first person to relay that message was a prevention specialist.

That specialist discussed how everyone attending the event is a tribe, adding that if you are a person struggling with anything, it is always okay to reach out for help. He says asking for help is a sign of power, not weakness.

The last speaker of the night was a pastor from Giles County, who preached about the beauty of healing, being a part of a community, and how pain can help us to move forward in life.

“We are born to be healers,” the pastor said. “We have the power to hear one another, to communicate, to empathize.”

The night ended with attendees holding their candles and eventually blowing them out.

For more information about New River Valley Community Services’ programs for both children and adults living with mental illness, developmental disabilities, and/or substance use disorders, visit the organization’s website. You can also call 540-961-8400 if you’re in crisis, or call 540-961-8300 for other matters.