I’ve had a long-time association with non-profits and have had the good fortune of establishing and directing a number of them over the past forty-some years. That experience, along with my attraction to the arts, has melded beautifully in forming The INTO LIGHT Project. I am not a professional artist. I had never done a portrait before attempting the first one of Devin. But something deep inside of me exploded. I can’t stop drawing faces!
The tragic loss of my son, Devin, in Feb 2018 has presented me with a wonderful gift… The INTO LIGHT Project. Through this project, I am able to look into the eyes of so many wonderful people, many of them at the prime of their lives, and see the intensity of their compassion, kindness, spirit, zest, humor, their troubles, their pain, and so much more. I get to sit and visit with them quietly. I treasure this time and I hope that through the portraits that are produced, others can see that we are all more alike than different. Thank you. Devin, for leaving this gift for me to find. Peace, my son.
Shortly after meeting Theresa, she told me her heartfelt and emotional story about the loss of her son Devin, from an accidental drug overdose. Her feelings associated with Devin’s loss paralleled some of my own experiences and deeply resonated with me. She talked about setting up a non-profit organization, The INTO LIGHT Project, that would use her love of portrait drawing to shed light on the insidious disease of addiction. I was immediately inspired to offer my help. One of her needs was for someone to gather information from loved ones and write narratives to tell their stories. My experience in writing coupled with my background as a psychologist was a perfect fit for this role.
I am committed to the Mission of The INTO LIGHT Project, “erasing the stigma of drug addiction.” Writing the narratives of the loved ones in this project provides me with an opportunity to help change the hearts and minds of those who have bought into the limiting and negative stereotypes of people with substance use disorder. Seeing their faces and hearing their stories is an important step in realizing they were not different from you, me, or those we love. I feel honored to write their stories.
Jeremy Hebbel is a Wilmington, Delaware-based artist and entrepreneur. Before founding his own fine art business, Hebbel Portraits, in 2020, Jeremy was co-founder of Gable Music Ventures, an events and music booking company. Gable developed and created several signature events, most notably The Ladybug Festival, which has been held for 11 years in downtown Wilmington and Milford, Delaware.
In his role at Gable, Jeremy managed the social media for over ten clients and was essential in the building and content creation of at least five social media accounts for Gable.
Becky Nickol’s consulting and coaching expertise has benefited numerous organizations for over thirty-five years.
Becky began her career as a Certified Financial Planning Professional the corporate giants Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney where she gained the breadth of experience and credibility it takes to develop success strategies that focus on the company’s bottom line.
In her role as a consultant, Becky helped organizations develop healthy, high-trust, high-performing cultures in order to attract and retain top talent and become leaders in their industries.
As a licensed mental health counselor, Becky effectively acted as a confidential sounding board and coach for executives dealing with critical issues, as well as individuals seeking counseling.
Becky’s only son, Alex, died of fentanyl poisoning January 2017. Becky and her husband then moved to Waynesville, NC where she learned of Theresa and Barbara and the wonderful work they were doing with INTO LIGHT PROJECT. Alex’s portrait was in the North Carolina exhibit and Becky was moved to join the INTO LIGHT team. She considers it a great honor to do INTO LIGHT’s work of reducing stigma and changing the conversation about Substance Abuse Disorder.
Joanne is a NH native who relocated to Delaware in 2017 after retirement. Her only child, Eric, served in the US Army during the Iraq War. While attending college in Boston after his discharge, Eric was diagnosed with PTSD, medication-resistant depression, anxiety, and numerous physical problems. He was prescribed opioid pain medicine by his doctors and became addicted. After struggling with his mental health and Substance Use Issues for several years, he lost his life to fentanyl poisoning in March of 2022. Through a local Delaware grief support group, Joanne learned about The INTO LIGHT Project and submitted her son for the Delaware exhibit. She was moved by the dignity and respect shown to all the exhibit participants and their families. Acutely aware of the role stigma had played in her son’s situation and ultimately her life as his mom, she felt moved to become more involved with the project. Joanne volunteers as an Ambassador for her home state of NH and also has taken on coordination work with the Continuing the Conversation stage of The INTO LIGHT Project, which is a powerful force for each state to use in a second year of educational programming and helping to reduce stigma. Like many of The INTO LIGHT Project’s volunteers, everything she does is done to honor the memory of her beloved son. He was her sun, her moon and her stars (TS Eliot).
I heard about The INTO LIGHT Project from a friend and was inspired to learn more. When the opportunity to take part in commemorating these stories arose, I immediately agreed. It is challenging to distill the essence of a person’s life into one cohesive narrative—life is messy, and sometimes the unexplainable happens. But there is power in how we remember people. The INTO LIGHT Project’s mission to destigmatize addiction is crucial in shaping how we as a society will seek solutions for this epidemic. It is a mission I support wholeheartedly.
As a writer, I am committed not only to my craft but also to honoring the person within the story. By capturing all the little ways that made them human, I hope these narratives will positively influence how we speak of addiction. Each life is precious; each story is unique and deserving of respect. I am honored to be trusted with the stories of your loved ones.
Biographical literature has always been one of my favorite things to read. Reading the unabridged truths of others’ lives is incredibly empowering and it reminds me that we are all people with our own unique stories and struggles. Having lived with depression most of my life, I took great comfort in reading and writing, because it allowed me to tell my own story as well as to understand others’. I decided early on that one of my goals would be to write an autobiography of my own. So, when I heard about a memoir writing class I eagerly signed up.
That is where I met Barbara, who later told me about a project she was working on called The INTO LIGHT Project. Having lost a few friends to addiction and having a mother who struggled with addiction in my younger years, I felt immediately compelled to join this project as a narrative writer so that I can help tell the stories of others. Destigmatizing addiction is imperative to the collective healing of a society that has attempted to erase the overarching impacts of addiction throughout history. I am truly grateful to be a part of such an impactful project.
I was introduced to The INTO LIGHT Project by a friend who knew one of the people whose life was honored in the Florida exhibit. I work for a media company, and we interviewed Teresa about her commitment to destigmatizing addiction by showing the full persona of those who lost their lives to it. I read the exhibit’s narratives with interest and later interviewed one mother who traveled the Camino de Santiago as she processed her grief.
I’ve wrestled with depression and carried grief for much of my life. These stories are much like all of our stories. It’s my privilege to hear from their family and friends who these individuals were and to help honor their lives. It’s my hope the narratives will influence others to view addiction differently and to open their hearts and minds to see the humanity within us all.
As one of the writers for The INTO LIGHT Project narratives, I feel privileged and humbled. The rollercoaster of emotions that individuals and families who struggle with addiction feel is often hidden away from others due to shame, stigma, embarrassment, pain, isolation, and lack of understanding, education, and awareness. This project helps to break those barriers and brings people together in ways that make lasting impressions and draw the wholeness of the individual lives into light.
I have been personally and professionally involved with people affected by addictions for over forty years. Beginning as an art therapist for children of addicted family members, I learned early on how important art is in helping to cut through the silence and connecting to the heart. I have counseled individuals, groups and family members in inpatient and outpatient settings. In administrative roles I have been able to create programming and services for people affected by addictions. I am grateful for this opportunity to continue to follow my passion for educating communities about the disease of addiction and help shine light on the multi-dimensionality of every individual affected by it.
Since an early age, I have been intrigued with writing and how words can convey a specific message and capture the reader’s attention. My interest has always been centered around historical and biographical stories. Reading the works of others has offered me a glimpse into humanity, understanding that we are unique individuals yet share many similarities. We all desire to achieve greatness and overcome any obstacles that may stand in our way.
Throughout my life, my strong communication abilities have enabled me to lean into others, lend a listening ear, and show compassion for people, both in my personal and professional life.
I have suffered a great deal in my life, but nothing could prepare me for my son, Nicholas’ addiction, and his ultimate passing. He and I were extremely close. My life as I knew it ended the day he left for heaven.
I found The INTO LIGHT Project and am excited to work with the leadership team as a narrative writer. This has brought life back to me with a new sense of meaning and purpose.
My hope is to help others remember their loved ones who have been lost to this horrible disease. Our loved ones should never be defined by their addiction. They were just like us. I want them to be remembered as honored as a blessing.
I have been fascinated with storytelling as an art form and as a means of communication since I was a child. Everything is stories– the songs our parents sang us, the lessons we were taught by teachers, advertisements for breakfast cereals, and the media that we consume daily. It is easy to forget that our own lives and the lives of those who surround us are also rich with unique and beautiful stories. It has become a passion of mine to hear these stories and to appreciate their value.
When my older brother Devin died from an accidental fentanyl overdose at the age of 32, my life came to a sudden halt. I found it hard to believe that anyone could understand the deep and earth-shattering sadness that consumed me. He was my brother, but he was also my best friend and confidante. Over time though, I realized that I was not alone, and a lesson began to unfold. It became somewhat of a mantra in my head, we are all similar in the sorrows we face. I started to look at people differently, with more empathy. I saw that they might be hurting and that I might be able to help them. With my participation in The INTO LIGHT Project, I hope to continue helping others and show the world that we all have stories worth sharing.
I am an artist and food systems activist with over a decade of experience in both areas. In 2018, I graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor’s Degree in Art. In 2022, I created forty portraits for The INTO LIGHT California Exhibition displayed at Cal State San Bernardino’s Anthropology Museum. Most recently I have been part of community efforts to build urban farms and community composting hubs in the Inland Empire.
The opportunity to work with The INTO LIGHT Project came at a time when I was beginning to figure out how to balance work time with time for cooking, music, and connecting with others. Through my participation in The INTO LIGHT Project, I have gained a lot of trust in my ability to deepen my recovery while doing work that benefits others. I believe that as we humanize people who have died as a result of a drug overdose, we can extend that compassion toward other people who are especially vulnerable, like those struggling with mental illness, those living on the streets, and those most directly impacted by the carceral system. The causes and effects of addiction and overdose intersect with so many aspects of our lives that everyone is impacted by these issues. My hope is that this project will move others toward coming out of isolation and reaching toward their loved ones in support.
Shawn Faust is not only an artist, but a custodian of nature’s beauty. With an unyielding respect and deep reverence for the natural world, he channels his lifelong fascination with perception into remarkable works of art. Drawing from his classical training in oils, Faust embraces the rich traditions of portraiture as a symbolic homage to his subjects. Through his art, he seeks to elevate the status and awareness of the beauty of our planet.
“Sketching is an active form of dialog I have with my subjects. It’s a way to learn and understand more about them. Working with The INTO LIGHT Project has given me the privilege of learning more and celebrating the lives of loved ones that were lost to substance disorder. In my 30 years of being a visual artist, I consider working with The INTO LIGHT Project the most rewarding use of purpose and meaning that transcends mere artistic expression. I have become a messenger of hope and a guardian of cherished memories, ensuring that the beauty of these souls will forever shine brightly in our hearts.”
As an individual in recovery, the mission of The INTO LIGHT project means a great deal to me. I’ve lost dear friends and loved ones to addiction. To be able to play a part in providing the families of those lost with a portrait to remember them by is an opportunity that I’m extremely grateful for. Working on these pieces feels heavy, and feels more important than any other art I’ve created.
I am a painter and draftsman based in Athens, GA, currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Georgia, and I’ve been teaching drawing and painting privately since 2015. I lived in Asheville, NC until recently as a practicing artist in the River Arts District, where Theresa studied portrait drawing with me for a few years.
I’m happy to be involved as an Artistic Advisor to The INTO LIGHT Project. I empathize with families’ and friends’ sense of loss, having lost a close friend, a gifted musician when we were both 23. I have other creative friends who have struggled with mental illness and anxiety and have had ups and downs myself, so I’m all the more thrilled to be able to assist with this project that humanizes and dignifies those who have passed from addiction — they are much more than just their illness.
I am a self-taught artist originally from Central Florida and currently living and working under the sunny skies of Sarasota.
My life as an artist started and continues to be grounded with solid draftsmanship. I have been an avid “sketch journalist” for decades, documenting day-to-day life in a series of sketchbooks. My painting style is inspired by the French Masters of the late 19th Century, utilizing bravura brushwork, and emphasizing tonal relationships with broad sweeps of a loaded brush.
In an artist’s work, painting and drawing from direct observation naturally create a certain intimacy between the artist and the subject. Portrait work often presents a different challenge where that same intimacy must be relayed through stories and photographs, which in many cases can offer an even deeper sense of inspiration. Portraits are created to capture fleeting moments or memories that slip from tangible existence. With each portrait created through The INTO LIGHT Project comes the opportunity not only to memorialize those that were lost too soon but to educate a new audience about the intolerance and bias associated with drug addiction. I am humbled and honored to participate in such a meaningful project.
I am an artist and a musician from a very rural part of Alabama. I was actually born in the Mississippi delta and moved to the rural part of Alabama as a teen. Living in these sparsely populated areas of the south, addiction and mental illness is oftentimes not talked about or addressed. I love the fact that INTO LIGHT is literally shedding a light in the darkness.
I have a degree in Fine Art but for the past 30 years I have been working mostly as a graphic designer and commercial artist. It wasn’t until my own addictions and self destructive behavior led to my divorce 3 years ago that I began looking for ways to be useful with my talents, rather than using. The process of making art and music have been an important part of my own personal recovery process. I feel very fortunate to be alive and healthy and am committed to being useful rather than successful in all my endeavors from this moment on.
I am truly honored to be a part of the INTO LIGHT project where I feel my talents are being used in such an honorable way. I feel portrait art is the highest form of fine art and that there is something spiritual about creating and capturing another human being’s essence.