Carlton Smith reads a few words to those to those who attended NCADD's Candlelight Vigil Saturday night at Marine Park.

Carlton Smith reads a few words to those to those who attended NCADD's Candlelight Vigil Saturday night at Marine Park.

Shedding light on heroin in Juneau

Juneau resident Reagan Eidsness lost two brothers to heroin overdoses. It’s not an easy thing for her to talk about, but it’s a conversation she’s willing to have to save someone else from the pain she’s experienced.

“I’ve made it a point of making sure everyone knows that it’s real, it happens to families all over,” Eidsness said at a Saturday night vigil, holding a burning candle in honor of family members she can’t be with now.

“Two brothers, that’s a different story.”

Nearly 40 people gathered Saturday evening in Marine Park for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of those who lost their struggles with addiction and those who continue to struggle. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence worked with Juneau-Stop Heroin, Start Talking to host the event.

Eidsness spoke to the circle as a survivor, not of addiction, but as someone touched by what addiction can do to a family.

“I’m still grieving, I will forever after two brothers,” she said. “Anger and hurt are part of me and will be for a while.”

Kara Nelson, a recovering addict and the director of Juneau’s Haven House, held a candle in the circle for her own battle with addiction (she’s overdosed three times in her life). She also held the flame for the women she sees and works with every day as she advocates for stronger recovery in the community.

“I just am always here to support any efforts of people speaking up, because with our silence we allow other people to define us,” Nelson said. “I see this with the women in the home…it’s overwhelming. We always have to be in the solution, always. Always in the solution.”

According to Alaska’s Division of Public Health, heroin deaths in the state tripled from 2008 to 2013. Alaska Mental Health trustee Carlton Smith talked about how this difficult battle Juneau is facing is a war for the entire state to acknowledge.

“In this moment, we know that the dangers of addiction now touch every Alaska family,” Smith said. “In this moment we know that solutions must be collaborative and will require an entire community to act…one day soon, all Alaskans will know the serenity prayer that we share here and now.”

Before the flames were blown out, in unison the group recited the lines often spoken by addicts, but that also applies those fighting for change: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

For more information about Juneau-Stop Heroin, Start Talking, visit

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