New project fights stigma of addiction through shared stories

Thu, 03/14/2024 - 8:15am

    Last year hundreds of Lincoln County residents came together to create 716 Candles. A grassroots project presented by Healthy Lincoln County with multiple local partners, it sought to break a deadly taboo by sharing people’s stories of struggle with addiction – triumphs and tragedies – to demonstrate how connection, education and support, free of shame and judgment, can ease pain and save lives.

    That group hopes to grow this effort to combat the substance use crisis in the region with a new project, 19 Towns, 19 Stories.

    This year, spearheaded by artist and anti-stigma activist Peter Bruun of Damariscotta and his nonprofit, Studio B, 19 Towns, 19 Stories aims to shatter the silence and stigma surrounding substance use, raise awareness, and honor those we’ve lost to overdose.

    Building on the success of 716 Candles, Bruun and a group of volunteers plan to organize events in each of Lincoln County's 19 towns on International Overdose Awareness Day (Aug. 31, 2024). To pull this off, they need help.

    “We're looking for people who are interested or believe they have something to offer," says Bruun. "Whether you've been affected by substance use, mental illness, or trauma, or you provide services to those in need, we welcome your involvement."

    Each town will have its own task force to tailor its event to reflect that town’s unique character and needs, with one shared element: Every event will highlight the story of one person from that town whose narrative of grit and resilience in the face of substance use will be featured in a book and online gallery, and recognized at the live event.

    "Everyone is affected in some way – we’re just conditioned not to talk about it," Bruun says. "But sharing what we’ve gone through makes us stronger. We’re gathering countless families' experiences to show clearly that everyone is touched by this issue, and that no one has to struggle alone."

    For those interested in learning more or getting involved, Bruun encourages reaching out via email ( or phone (207-800-1640). There is also an online survey on Studio B's website ( where people can express interest and contribute ideas.

    “Whatever we’ve been through or are going through, today we’re still here,” Bruun says. “Let's celebrate that by building a more compassionate, supportive community. One story at a time, we can make a difference.”