Black Balloon Day raises awareness about addiction

Shawn Hardy
This is a picture of Teri Rhodes, a 1991 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School, before the addiction that claimed her life in 2015. Her mother, Vicki Rhodes, will place black balloons around the squares in Greencastle and Mercersburg on Tuesday, March 6, in memory of lives lost to addiction and to raise awareness about overdoses.

Vicki Rhodes remembers her daughter, Teri, as "very intelligent, very witty and one of my best friends."

Teri Rhodes died of a drug overdose on Dec. 11, 2015, one day after her 41st birthday.

On Tuesday, March 6, as part of a national observance, Vicki Rhodes will place black balloons around the squares in Greencastle and Mercersburg.

Some balloons will say "Teri L. Rhodes, 1974-2015" and others will say "Overdose Awareness."

"This is to say my child matters, to remember her, to increase drug overdose awareness and to decrease the stigma of addiction," Vicki said.

*** About Teri ***

Teri Rhodes, a 1991 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School who attended York College, also liked to read, cook, watch the Redskins and go to dirt track races and Atlantic City.

"She appeared very self-confident, but she suffered from anxiety and depression," Vicki said. "What most people don't realize is addicts don't take drugs to get high, they take drugs to feel normal.

"A couple of months before she died, she said, 'I can't live as an addict and I can't live clean.' Sadly she didn't," her mother said.

Teri, who was diagnosed as bipolar, struggled with addiction for about four and a half years before her death.

"I don't know which came first, bipolar or drugs," Vicki said, explaining her daughter was in rehab and halfway houses a number of times.

"The addict becomes someone you never knew, a completely different person. I would say, 'I want my daughter back' and Teri said, 'Mom, you don't understand. She's not here.'"

"I got the call, you know she's either going to go to jail or die," said Vicki.

Teri's addiction started with Oxycodone and, when she couldn't get that she switched to heroin. She died of a fentanyl overdose in Washington County Hospital. In addition to her mother, she left behind her father, Carrol, younger sister, Erin, and niece, River. The family lived on South Carlisle Street in Greencastle for many years and Teri's parents now live in Montgomery Township.

"As a mother, you always have hope. I would think, "Maybe this time ...." Vicki said. "I lost hope when she died."

*** In her memory ***

Many family and friends did not know about Teri's addiction until the information was included in her obituary.

"I want people not to be ashamed about it. People are too embarrassed to say it. If we don't talk about it, people don't realize the devastation in our community," Vicki said.

"I want to be an advocate for my daughter," she said, adding 174 people die every day from drug overdoses.

"I feel a strong need to feel like I'm doing something to honor her and remember her," said Vicki, who is offering others a chance to do the same on Black Balloon Day.

She has balloons available for anyone who would like to display them at their homes in memory of others lost or in honor of those in recovery. She has made arrangements to have them filled for free.

She noted the support of Blue Springs Motorworks, Mercersburg Printing, UV Stems and a number of friends.

For more information, contact her at RememberTeri@gmx.com