Dispel the Darkness of Addiction

Image, candles for Lights of ChangeCultures around the world have been lighting candles for millennia in order to bless, celebrate or remember a person, place or event. We light candles in cathedrals and temples, in neighborhood churches and synagogues, during Christmas Advent and the eight days of Hanukkah. Candles are used to celebrate new life… as well as the passing of a life. We have birthday cake candles, candlelight dinners, candle lit vigils and processionals, candles passed to announce engagements, and unity candles at the wedding that ensues.

Candles light our way and illuminates the space above us. It is our way to dispel darkness and proclaim life; to proclaim hope.

And so it is with those of us in the Change Addiction Now (C.A.N.) community. On August 31, 2015, families all over the world will dispel the darkness of addiction and proclaim our hope in a candle lighting ceremony during an event called Lights of Change.

C.A.N. is a nonprofit organization providing education and evidenced-based programs for families impacted by addiction and co-occurring illness. It’s about creating healthy families that can, and do, bring about change.

Addiction, often now called “substance use disorder,” is a disease that impacts more than 23 million Americans. When you add the number of family members affected, these 100 million lives constitute a staggering one-third of the American population.

On August 31, the gateway to September’s National Recovery Month, we will light four candles. There will be publicized events to mark this occasion, but many of us will light candles in the privacy of our own homes:


A red candle is for our loved ones in the bondage of active addiction. In lighting this candle, we offer a beacon into the darkness and proclaim our hope for recovery. Lighting the red candle is also an act of solidarity for every parent who keeps vigil for a child in the throes of this merciless disease.


The white candle signifies our gratitude for those who have found their way out of the darkness of addiction, and acknowledges that recovery is indeed possible. We celebrate the 23 million* Americans with restored lives and pray for their sustained recovery.


We light a black candle to remember, and honor, the lives lost to addiction… and for peace for all who love them. Many hundreds of thousands of Americans die each year from the affects of alcohol, opiates, methamphetamines, and other drugs… including the highly addictive drug, tobacco.


We will light a fourth candle as well… a purple one. The purple candle is to raise awareness about opiate overdose. An opiate crisis of epidemic proportions is in effect throughout the United States and results in the deaths of approximately 110 individuals every day. These are unintentional overdoses caused by the use of prescription pain medications or heroin.

Together we can raise awareness about this highly misunderstood disease. Please light candles with us on August 31 and collectively we will dispel the darkness of addiction and ignite the Lights of Change.


* coincidentally, there are approximately 23 million people in active addiction, as well as 23 million in sustained recovery.

Author: Barbara Stoefen

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  1. Thank you for sharing the Lights of Change ceremony, Barbara. That is a beautiful tradition that has been set up by C.A.N. and another great way to lighten the darkness of addiction.

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    • Thanks for your post, Cathy. It’s certainly a beautiful, and intentional, way of focusing our hearts and our minds.

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