By Liz Kovarsky

For the past 7 years I’ve been feeling incredibly confused and helpless when I think about the epidemic that has plagued my community and my friends. I have had to watch as my loved ones suffer from addiction. And all I’ve wanted for them was to snap out of it, but obviously, that doesn’t work. It finally got to a point that I couldn’t bear to witness their destruction anymore. So I did my best to ignore and suppress it by moving 3,000 miles away.[spacer height=”20px”]
This was really effective…for a short time. But, every time I came home to visit South Kingstown, I was torn apart by another friend who was slowly destroying their life because of their opiate addiction. And then my worst fears came true. My friends actually started dying. As horrible as it felt, I still stayed far away.

I remember the day Bess said, “I can’t stand it anymore, I’m putting my pain into action.” Watching her walk towards the pain, instead of running away from it was incredibly inspiring. Over time and through her journey in drama therapy she developed ideas about how to cope with the epidemic. Since then I had been hoping to help her in some way. Finally in June, our timing harmonized and I offered to host a fundraiser for her upcoming Story Project.

From the minute I decided to host the Yoga Fundraiser I was on fire. It felt as though I finally had a way to channel all the years of ignored emotions into a finite, manageable project. I could actually do something! Even though I only had about thirteen days to organize, everything seemed to fall into place seamlessly. I contacted artists, crafters, local businesses, people I knew well, people I had never met, people who have never even stepped foot in Rhode Island, and local community members to see who was interested in donating time or goods for the silent auction. I felt a little nervous about people being apprehensive about the subject matter.

I received responses from almost everyone I contacted. There were no negative reactions, all of their replies were incredibly generous, and positive. My feelings of empowerment began to grow as I explained more about the project. People were so eager for the opportunity to contribute. And many of these people began to gush to me about their own heartbreaking stories of addiction and loss. Though I felt honored people wanted to entrust me with their personal stories, they were difficult to hear, they stung a deep place inside of me.[spacer height=”20px”]
During this time I was feeling scared for some of my loved ones who were still struggling with addiction, sad about those lost, and a little uncomfortable holding all of these stories. But it was too late to turn back. I decided to let go and let all the feelings in. I thought to myself “after all, that is a big part of what the work for the Story Project is all about.” Becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sitting in the mess of it all so we can begin to understand and move through what has happened. And as I learned prior, running away from the discomfort didn’t help.

As soon as I accepted this idea, hearing these stories began to help me realize that I was connected to the storytellers through our shared experiences. In that way, all of the people I had reached out to were also connected to each other. And we all had the common feeling of not knowing what to do. I found we were all hungry for a way to heal our pain and make it better.

The day of the fundraiser, I got up extra early to squeeze in my yoga practice. That small act of self-love made it easier to give more of myself later on in the day. The Well in Wakefield was our generously donated event venue for the evening. Setup was easy, our silent auction looked great, and the food was plentiful! It was humbling to see how difficult it was for some people to be there, and I felt a deep sense of gratitude for their presence.[spacer height=”20px”]
I am incredibly grateful to Bess for facilitating this. I am humbled by all of the people who came out and showed support. I would feel deceptive if I didn’t say that my motivation to get involved was for personal catharsis as much as it was to help Bess to heal our community. Now, I am prepared and looking forward to being able to share some of my stories.