Maureen Kreider tattooed the name of her son, who died from a heroin overdose, on her left arm in a mixture of ink and his ashes, a symbol of her love for him despite his addiction.
She stood at Soberstock, an afternoon-long concert in Reading’s City Park for people in recovery, and rolled up her sleeve to show her tribute to Benjamin “Benji” Seward, a 24-year-old Gilbertsville man who died in 2013.
She had found him dead in his bedroom one morning after she and a friend had kicked in Benjamin’s locked bedroom door. She thanks God for ending her son’s pain and now attends events – concerts, marches – that promote recovery.
On Saturday, she stood among a large crowd at Soberstock, where spectators listened to local bands and people in recovery told their stories at the park’s bandshell. Childhood photos of Benjamin were printed on Kreider’s T-shirt.
“I do it to let him know how much I loved him and I believed in him, and I believe in this,” she said, gesturing to the crowd.
The event gave people in recovery the chance to see they’re not alone, to build bonds with others going through the same experience, organizers said.
Though no estimate of crowd size was made, volunteers gave away 450 rubber wrist bands that commemorated the event, said Scott Althouse, executive director of Easy Does It, a Berks County nonprofit that runs recovery centers in Reading and Bern Township.
Representatives of recovery programs offered information at tents nearby as local musicians performed on the bandshell stage.
“It’s a celebration of life, because we once were dead; dead to addiction,” said the Rev. Tom Scornavacchi, founder of Common Ground, a program that offers dinner and religious services to people in recovery in Reading and Wyomissing. “In recovery, we became alive.”
The concert is modeled after Woodstock, “but without the drugs, sex and nudity,” said Willie Copeland of Wyomissing, a former board member at Easy Does It. Alcohol-free for 36 years, Copeland knows what addicts experience and how Soberstock helps them. They need to have fun without drugs or liquor.
“They use and they’re miserable, and their thought is, ‘Next time it’s going to be different. Next time I’m going to have fun,’ ” Copeland said. “The insanity is that they’re right back doing it, and they’re miserable.”
At Soberstock, “They’re here having a blast and tomorrow they’ll know what they did, and they’ll be proud,” said Copeland.
Jake West, 22, of Birdsboro, stopped using heroin in 2016 and stood at Soberstock with his family and friends. Benjamin Seward was his uncle, who before his death inspired West to go into recovery in an emotional post on social media.
“I always wanted to recover when I was using, and when I stopped I wanted to go back to using,” West said. “I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Contact Jim Lewis: 610-371-5059 or firstname.lastname@example.org.