A Tucson mom lost her son to a drug overdose three years ago, but she is using her experience to help others who may be dealing with something similar.

I loved him with all my heart, but addiction was not pretty, Naomi Vega said.

Vega lost her son, Jesus Gutierrez, to a drug overdose at the age of 29 after a long battle with addiction and mental health issues.

She explained how difficult it can be for families and said people with drug problems are not given the dignity they deserve.

Vega said there were a lot of comments online and on social media made about her sons death.

There were a lot of comments. Good riddance. He was worthless. One less person off the street. And I was appalled, because he was my son, Vega said.

However, that is not that way she wants him to be remembered. She said he always had a big smile on his face.

He gave the greatest bear hugs and he would always tell people dont worry, things will get better. Thats what I want people to remember him by, Vega said.

To help keep his memory alive, she created the Enlightening Hope Project.

The purpose was to help families understand that youre welcome to grieve openly and talk about your loved one, the good and the bad, Vega said. Were here to listen to you, were here to talk to you.

On Sunday, Aug 27, Enlightening Hope Projectin partnership with Hope Incorporatedis hosting the third annual overdose awareness event at 1200 N. Country Club Rd.

Hope is a peer and family run organization which just means everyone at our organization identifies either as a peer or a family member of somebody who has struggled, so thats really important when we provide our services, Hope Inc. Regional Manager of Community Programs, Chris Chavez said.

The event is free and open to the public and will include guest speakers, law enforcement agencies, and support. Agencies in attendance include the Drug Enforcement Administration, Tucson Police Department, Pima County Sheriff’s Office, Pima County Attorneys Office and Whetstone Fire Department.

We cant do it one-by-one, the agencies cant do it alone, law enforcement cant do it alone, families cant do it alone; but we can do it together, Vega said.

Chavez included a piece of advice, If you are considering treatment or youre thinking treatment is an option for you, educate yourself on it, do it, make it an option, make yourself willing to at least try.

2023 International Overdose Awareness Day

Sunday, Aug. 27 | 3 – 7 p.m. 1200 N. Country Club Rd. Event website

Additional details for the event can be found at the Enlightening Hope Project website.