By GENNA FREED
For April and Kyle Schalow of Holland, Ohio, creating a traveling “Rx Epidemic Memorial” is not only a way to recognize those who have lost their battle with prescription drug addiction, but also those who have overcome addiction.
The Schalows brought the traveling memorial to Findlay on Saturday, displaying it outside A Renewed Mind at 1624 Tiffin Ave., which is an outpatient treatment center for people with drug addictions.
The memorial consists of about 13,000 empty prescription bottles. The Schalows and volunteers set up many of the bottles in a parking lot Saturday, forming the shape of Ohio. Pill bottles also were used to form the words “faith,” “hope” and “love” and the slogan “Rx2DC.”
Their goal is to increase their collection of empty pill bottles until they have 36,500 bottles, to represent the number of adults who die in the U.S. annually from drug abuse, including about five people a day in Ohio.
April Schalow said she has firsthand knowledge of painkiller addiction.
In 2009, April said, she became addicted to painkillers after dealing with serious back pain after the birth of her fourth child.
“I hid it from everyone, even my husband,” April said.
The drugs, she said, made her feel like “supermom.”
April’s doctor eventually cut her off from the painkillers. April felt she had no one to turn to for help, and attempted suicide. Then she turned again to painkillers for relief.
Kyle said he confronted his wife and gave her an ultimatium: either she come clean about what was going on, or he and their children were leaving.
“Nobody cares about something like this until it lands in their lap,” Kyle said.
April has now been clean for two years and is in recovery.
“Being in recovery is not the hippest thing in the world,” Kyle said. “There’s definitely a stigma.”
The Schalows decided to use their experience to increase awareness of the prescription drug abuse problem.
They began collecting empty prescription bottles, which Kyle calls a national archive. Their collection contain bottles with notes, photos and memorials for those who have lost their battle with drug addiction. The artifacts come from almost every continent and all but two of the United States, the Schalows said.
Kyle decided to use his art experience, along with his college degree in photojournalism, to create a sculpture of sorts out of the empty bottles.
The Schalows plan to set up their memorial in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and ultimately end up in Washington, D.C., where they want to set up the memorial for a “Fed Up” rally on Sept. 28. That rally is a product of the Fed Up Coalition, a group working to end “the epidemic of addiction and overdose deaths.”
The Schalows also want to encourage the federal government to recognize the first Friday in October as a national day of observance of the prescription drug abuse epidemic.
“It’s an epidemic that’s kept quiet,” April said. “So I’m using my voice to speak out about it. It’s killing people. I was one of the lucky ones.”
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