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Gabi Deaton, recovery addict, is living her beautiful life helping others; started local Black Balloon project

By Andy Furman
NKyTribune reporter

Drug overdose deaths strike at the hearts of families and communities across the country.

Eleven years ago, it struck Gabi Deaton.

Gabi Deaton and her family — a happy life

“I have been in recovery for over 11 years,” she told the Northern Kentucky Tribune, “I struggled with a heroin addiction from ages 16-20. I got sober on January 11, 2011. after being court-ordered to the Brighton Recovery Center.”

The 31-year-old Deaton has overdosed twice – both times being brought back to life by Narcan.

And from heroin addict, Gabi Deaton has moved to a beautiful life.

“I have my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and am currently working on my Masters at UK.”

She works as a Prevention Specialist for the University of Kentucky’s HEALing Communities Study distributing Narcan in Kenton County.

“I now get to distribute the medication that saved my life,” she said.

She also has time for the Black Balloon Project.

The Black Balloon Project is an annual event dedicated to recognizing and celebrating those who have lost their lives to substance overdoses.

A Black Balloon photograph

“I do the Project,” she said, “because I was given the opportunity to live, an opportunity that others deserved – but didn’t get.”

She started the Black Balloon Project in 2016. It’s a photography project.

“Every year I photograph family and friends holding a black balloon in front of a gravesite or holding a photograph of a loved one they lost to an overdose – while holding a black balloon,” Deaton said.

The purpose — simply to raise awareness about the devastation that overdoses continue to have on our community, she says.

“It is also meant to destigmatize addiction – it is in every neighborhood and can affect any family,” she said.

Each photo has a description of the individual that passed – it tells their hobbies, interests, and little about who they were – as well as things that the family/friend loved about them.

Gabi Deaton staged her Black Balloon Project on March 5, the day that is celebrated across the nation.

“I held an art exhibit at Life Learning Center in Covington. All the photos were printed and framed, and put on display,” she said.

Part of the program was assisted by:

• HEALing Communities Study — they distributed 80 units of Narcan, an opioid overdose-reversing drug.

• Hopeshots Dry Bar sold Black Balloon Day T-shirts and recovery merchandise and held raffles. They raised money to purchase a headstone for a young woman featured in the project who lost her life to overdose. They also raised money to open Dry Bar in NKY. This will be a bar for individuals in recovery – without alcohol.

• Voices of Hope, Casey’s Law, NKY Hates Heroin were all present distributing recovery materials.

• Life Learning Center sponsored the event and paid for all the printing and framing.

• Brighton Center’s Center Table Catering sponsored appetizers.

• Jeff Ziehm and Ashley Johnson sang, “Dancing in the Sky.”

Gabi Deaton also runs a blog called Hopeshot Moms on Facebook.

“And we’re trying to open Hopeshots Dry Bar in NKY shortly,” she said. “This will take place for people to hang out without the temptation of alcohol.”

There’s a reason Gabi Deaton was saved from heroin – she devoted her life to saving others.

This year there were a total of 88 photos.

Thankfully, Gabi Deaton’s wasn’t one of them.

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