Today (assuming you are reading it on the first day it is posted) is Black Balloon Day, a day conceived of to remember all the loved ones we have lost to drug overdoses in general and the Opioid Epidemic in particular. It’s not a day printed on calendars, at least not yet, and I don’t believe cards are made and sold, but it is a heartfelt commemoration for many around the world.
Black Balloon Day was started by Erin Tremblay after losing her husband Greg to drug addiction. It has since spread around the world in at least a small way.
To observe Black Balloon Day all you have to do is “hang” a black balloon outside your home. That’s it. You can do more if you like, but that’s all window dressing. The point is to share your grief, to show others who have lost loved ones to drugs that they are not alone and to see that you are not alone.
Some suggest using helium balloons and releasing them, though there’s a vociferous group called Balloons Blow that warn that this is a waste of our precious helium. It is used for more important and necessary things than to make party balloons float. (While we’re not in danger of worldwide shortages yet—spot shortages have occurred in places—apparently it is a finite resource, like petroleum.)
Balloons released into the air also pose other dangers, such as killing wildlife and polluting the environment (no latex balloons are really biodegradable). If hanging a balloon that you inflate yourself with a breath of air or a bicycle pump isn’t good enough, there are many environmentally friendly alternatives: colored lights, colorful signage or banners, flowers—cut or planted— garden pinwheels, painted rocks, and many more.
Black balloon Day also can be educational. In 2016, Jackie Sullivan told The Inquistr that she was participating in memory of her son, Stephen, who “lost his 20-year battle to drug addiction on September 1, 2015 after a very long and hard struggle.”
Sullivan added that “He also suffered from mental illness which often goes hand in hand”. That’s known as a dual diagnosis, and is very common among drug users and those with mental health issues, but is not well-known among the general public, sometimes not even by old school addiction specialists.
Black Balloon Day is an opportunity to spread awareness of addiction, its breadth and reach, and draw attention to the need to deal with it, not demonize it.
If you have loved ones dependent on drugs, talk with them about getting into drug rehab treatment before their lives spin out of control. Even if they don’t listen today, maybe you will have planted a seed.