Living through the heartbreak of drug addiction

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The last painting Alex Pomering worked on before his death

Bev Pomering has lived through the pain of mental illness throughout her life. She has also suffered through the heartbreaking loss of her first-born son Alex to fentanyl-laced heroin. Today would have been his 23rd birthday.

Since the death of her son, Pomering has made it her life mission to provide education, awareness and support to others who are struggling.

She created a charity organization that strives to provide information to fight against the stigmas of mental illness and substance use disorders: the Live R.E.A.L. Foundation. The initials stand for Relational, Empathetic, Authentic and Loving.

On Tuesday evening, Sept. 21, Pomering and addiction prevention specialist Abbie Lee took their message to students and parents at Hononegah Community High School. The two-part program “Get Real About Drugs” tackled issues surrounding opioid addiction among adolescent athletes, as well as Pomering’s journey through addiction and its consequences.

Kinnikinnick School District Superintendent Keli Freedlund introduced Pomering and Lee to an audience of students and parents.

Lee works for Prescription Playbook in Cook County. The grant-funded program centers around education and awareness of addiction often associated with adolescent sports injuries.

Lee said adolescents sometimes become addicted to the effects of the drugs and later turn to illegal drugs such as heroin, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, and pain relievers such as oxycodone, codeine and morphine.

Lee talked about how to safely dispose of medications. Samples, materials and resource information were available in the auditorium lobby. Next year, an Illinois law takes effect allowing unused drugs to be donated to benefit low-income and uninsured patients.

Bev Pomering followed by telling of her own difficult years of struggling with mental health issues, before the death of her son. “My son Alex died of an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl on August 28, 2019. He would have been 23 years old, September 25.”

Pomering described Alex as a child who was always in action. He experimented with drugs socially and became more and more unreliable and troubled. “It is unbelievably easy to get drugs,” she said.

“Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic (chemical) drug. It is pouring into the United States.”

Pomering struggled as she described the night her son died. She and her husband watched Alex take his last breath.

Since that night, she has vowed to support and speak out to those who are living with mental illness and drug addiction, and to bring awareness and knowledge through the Live R.E.A.L. Foundation.

The Foundation and the Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) and the Drug Overdose Prevention Program (DOPP) is able to provide free naloxone training and distribution kits to any resident in need of this tool in local communities. If naloxone is available and ready to use during an opioid overdose, family members, friends or bystanders can save the life of the user and give them another chance to begin their treatment and recovery journey.

Funding for the naloxone training and distribution of the kits is provided by WCHD through the Illinois Department of Human Services's Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery.

Pomering will host two additional programs in the series, both in the Hononegah Performing Arts Center, scheduled for Oct. 19 and Nov. 17, both at 6:30-7:30 p.m., Details on Sessions 2 & 3 will be available soon, but at Session 2 on Oct. 19, Retired Detective Rich Wistocki will  present "How do I know? A parents guide to detect vaping, alcohol & drug use."

There is no charge for the programs and they are open to students as well as adults.

The cover illustration is the last painting that Alex Pomering ever worked on. He had taken a long break from painting in his mid-teens. One day he threw this down and said he didn't like it because he couldn't figure out how he wanted to finish the bottom. He never had the chance to complete it. His mother added the poignant quote posthumously: "Maybe you've been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved." 

You can purchase this and other "Alex Originals" prints & blank note cards at the Live R.E.A.L. Foundation Etsy shop. All proceeds go straight to Live R.E.A.L. Foundation to bring addiction & overdose prevention education to our communities.

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Thank you so very much Jean and Rockton-Roscoe News for supporting Live R.E.A.L. and other local groups, agencies and businesses! Our communities are Stateline Strong!

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