The SOS Berks Opioid Coalition, joining together with Berks Community Murals and Albright College, has embarked on a unique and creative mural project, designed to portray the hope and spirit of recovery. The first mural, installed in August at 9th and Oley Streets in Reading, is based on the recovery story of Jose Lugo, who struggled for many years with a substance use disorder. Today he serves as President/CEO of Recovery Coaching Services in Reading.
Jose credits his recovery to the support of his family and the memories he formed during his youth in Puerto Rico. He hopes the mural reminds all who view it of the role relationships play in helping people recover. “This mural reflects the importance of the family in recovery,” he said. “That early unconditional love and caring my family gave me helped me through those tough times.”
Artist Leslie Ramos met with Jose Lugo last year, and as he told his story she listened, took notes, and sketched out scenes in her notebook. “In designing the mural, I mostly considered the community as a whole,” she explained. “How it could represent anyone—Mexicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, anyone. And that it was something that could resonate with people.”
Jose talked about growing up on a farm in Puerto Rico, his love of horses, the beauty of the land, and the deep connection he had to his family. He confided how, as a young teenager, he came to America and soon after began taking drugs. For many years he struggled with addiction, incarceration, and attempts to recover. His family never gave up hope. They supported him and that support, that love, sustained him and ultimately led him to recovery.
He talked about a recent trip to Puerto Rico, during which he visited a beach, accompanied by a young relative flying a kite. That simple act is one of many things he can enjoy and appreciate because he is in recovery.
“You see me sitting here,” he told Leslie during that interview. “But what you are not seeing is my family, surrounding me, rejoicing in my recovery.”
My recovery brought me back to my family, culture, and community!
SOS Berks Opioid Coalition