Michael Stevenson wipes away tears as he speaks about the people who’ve supported him through his recovery from opioid addiction.
It’s the fourth annual Patrick Lee Memorial 5K Fun Run/Walk in Severna Park and the 41-year-old struggles to compose himself, pacing as he takes deep breaths to continue his speech.
“There’s so many places and so many people who will drop what they’re doing to help someone,” he says.
Saturday’s event, named after a 20-year-old who died from a heroin overdose in July 2015, is in part a recognition of that fact.
For as much is made about the 5K itself — a brisk run on a chilly November day — it is more about the community surrounding addiction treatment.
Stevenson has been in recovery from an opioid addiction for about two years and he spoke about how he sees a need for “healthy hobbies” and long-term treatment regiments to keep people off of drugs.
Now he says he doesn’t worry when he hears police sirens behind him and lives without a “fog” clouding his thoughts.
“The stress and the worries are not there any more,” Stevenson said, adding of the addiction “you’re just chase something so that you’re not sick.”
For Patrick Lee’s parents — Aubrey and John Lee Sr. — it’s also about removing the stigma regarding the stigma.
His father, a retired Annapolis police officer, first acknowledged the sad truth behind Saturday’s run; that his son is one of a growing number of people to have died because of their addiction.
As of Nov. 19, the county had already tied its annual record for fatal overdoses in a year and is set to beat it with a month remaining.
“It sucks we’re all here,” John Lee said, before clarifying that it’s the reason they are gathered that sucks, not the feelings of togetherness it brings.
But while he says it brings up uncomfortable feelings, there’s a reason Patrick’s name is affixed to the run and why, when his obituary ran in The Capital in 2015, it read that he “lost his battle with depression and addiction.”
“I think we’re getting to the point where everyone knows a Patrick,” Lee said.
The program also doubles as a way to raise money to go toward gifts for needy families during the holiday season.
As more runners congregated on the Baltimore Annapolis trail, “Santa” showed up in full gear. For all of the gray T-shirts commemorating the run’s fourth year, there are also festive hats and sweaters and the like.
It’s that joy inextricably linked to the sadness of loss
In one vein, officials from Gaudenzia and the Robert A. Pascal Youth and Family Services laugh as they put the finishing touches on the day’s event.
Katherine Bonincontri, president of the latter, treated Patrick Lee before he died.
For as much time as she devotes to supporting the run, she’s also still coordinating with people in treatment. Before the race starts, she says that some who planned to be in attendance may be late as they coordinate transportation to methadone clinics for some of her current clients.
It’s why Stevenson — a.k.a. “Bike Mike” for his large stature — struggled to compose himself despite saying he’d spoken before crowds of hundreds and recently spoke at an event in Baltimore.
“For me, doing what I do and being able to give back the way that I give back, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Stevenson said.
“The people that I have in my corner and support me for what I do,” he added. “Mind-blowing.”