A Braintree mother is bringing a message of hope to others as she deals with the loss of her son to an overdose.
Robyn Houston-Bean’s son, Nick Bean, died in May 2015 at the age of 20. He had been in recovery for seven months before relapsing, she said.
Houston-Bean started going to a grief support group for people who had lost loved ones to substance use in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood, the closest one she could find to her Braintree. Soon, she decided to start a group closer to home.
In December of 2015, she held the first meeting, at Braintree’s town hall. Demand for the support group, she said, quickly proved to be far too high for just one group. She and other members of the group organized a second group to meet in Quincy, then a third group in Weymouth. One member hopes to start another group on Cape Cod, which Houston-Bean said should start meeting in around six months.
The support group is called The Sun Will Rise, a phrase she found on the front page of Nick’s recovery journal.
“Please be happy,” Nick had written in big letters, above a drawing of a sun. “The sun will rise…”
Houston-Bean has taken that message to heart, she said.
“I knew that was his message to himself, that he could be OK and he could get better. But, we took it as well,” she said.
She and her daughter, Nick’s sister, both now have a tattoo of the phrase.
“I thought that it was a good message for families in grief, that you can get out of bed and keep going.”
Houston-Bean estimates 150 people regularly come to at least one of the three support groups. But, she said, she felt compelled to do even more to help those struggling with substance abuse and their loved ones. The support groups are now part of The Sun Will Rise Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit.
As part of the foundation, Houston-Bean works to raise awareness of the risk factors associated with substance use. She speaks at vigils, community meetings and other support groups. And, the foundation gives out several scholarships, to people entering treatment or in recovery, and for people looking to become EMTs, like Nick.
Houston-Bean said the foundation has helped her to have a sense of purpose in the wake of Nick’s passing.
“Our whole family has changed, our whole life has changed,” she said. “If I know I’m helping someone else, it really helps me to go on.”
Nick was a talented musician, she said. He loved to guitar and harmonica, and could pick up almost any instrument and teach himself how to play. So, she decided to organize a music festival to raise money for the foundation and increase awareness around issues related to substance use.
This summer, the fourth annual BeanStock music festival will be held outside of Braintree’s town hall. Along with musical acts, there will tables with information about recovery resources, Narcan training, activities run by the Braintree Community Art Center, food trucks and a Frisbee tournament. It is a drug- and alcohol-free event.
The night of the festival always ends with a candlelit vigil for those lost to overdoses. Family members can email Houston-Bean with names and photos of people who have died. People are free to include only a first name, or a name without a photo, she said.
During the vigil, family members can speak about their loved ones, and people in recovery can discuss their experiences. Houston-Bean said she’s always surprised by how many people are willing to come forward and share their stories. Their willingness to speak openly goes a long way to help other people in recovery or trying to enter recovery by fighting against the stigma of addiction, which can prevent people from getting the treatment they need, she said.
“That’s a really quiet population, so people don’t really see that there are millions of people in the country living in recovery,” she said.
The BeanStock Music Festival 2019 and vigil will be from 3 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, outside of Braintree town hall, 1 JFK Memorial Drive. The Sun Will Rise support groups meet on the first Wednesday of the month in Braintree, the second Thursday of the month in Weymouth and the third Tuesday of the month in Quincy.
For information about the foundation, tickets to the festival, to add your loved one's name or photo to the vigil video, to register for the Frisbee tournament, or to become a sponsor for the festival, go to thesunwillrise.org or email Robyn Houston-Bean at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Audrey Cooney at @Audrey_Cooney