On Dec. 2, 2023, Lisa Myers’ son James died of an opioid overdose at age 29. Now, Myers is working to keep others from experiencing the same thing.

Myers says James left his mark on the world through spreading kindness to others. “James, God, I miss him so much.”

“This woman had a three-year-old that she couldn’t afford to buy a birthday party. So, James got her a birthday cake, piñata and gifts,” Myers said of her son. “That little girl is eight now, and I have so many more stories.” Myers attended the annual Opioid Summit at the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education Research Institute Health and Wellness Center in Fort Smith, with the hopes of finding meaning through all the pain.

“I didn’t even know if I was gonna come,” Myers says. “But I thought, I’m gonna wear his shirt. He should not die in vain.”

Myers wants to join the Sebastian County Opioid Task Force to raise awareness on the growing number of opioid overdose deaths. Myers, along with law enforcement, mental health organizations, medical providers, and community members all joined together to learn what can be done to save more people. Officials say one of the biggest hurdles is de-stigmatizing addiction.

Sebastian County Sheriff Hobe Runion says, “People are worth it. Nobody woke up one morning and looked in the mirror and said, ‘I want to throw my whole life away along with everything I’ve worked for my family.’ That’s not it. When they are on these substances, that’s not them.”

Before James died, he told Myers he felt like his story would heal others. Now she continues that legacy for him. “I really would like for not just the mothers, but everyone, to not enable. Don’t enable an addict, but love them fiercely. Don’t ever give up on them,” Myers said.

If you or someone you love needs help with opioid addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

For more information about the Arkansas Opioid Recovery Partnership, click here.