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Clearwater mom to speak at drug abuse vigil

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Coni Pappas Coni Pappas
CLEARWATER, FL (WFLA) -

Coni Pappas says drugs devastated her family. Although she's never been an addict, she's felt the pain of drug abuse for decades.

"Three generations and my story's common. I mean, drug abuse and addiction runs often in families," explained Pappas.

Pappas' son Nicholas, 23, died from a cocaine overdose in 2005. He was set to graduate from USF the following month.

"He was an amazing, amazing kid," Pappas said.

Her ex-husband, who battled drugs for decades, died a few years later. Now their youngest son, Michael, is in his forth round of rehab for prescription drug abuse. Pappas recently adopted Michael's 3-year-old son, who was born addicted to opiates.

"He was whisked off to the neo-natal unit at Mease. He was there almost 9 weeks and was detoxed," she explained.

He's healthy now and Pappas prays he won't start using when he gets older. Pappas opened a yoga studio 5 years ago. She says yoga is a great form of therapy and now she's finding another way to help in her healing. She's sharing her story in hopes it will bring greater awareness.

"I'm putting myself out there. I'm just like okay, here this is what happened to me. It can happen to you," she said.

Pappas recently gave her first anti-drug presentation to students at Countryside High School. She'll speak out Thursday night at a vigil for the Pinellas County Chapter of Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education, or NOPE.

"I think we kind of have to all do it together. I think the schools, the doctors have to work together. We have to talk about it. We have to stop keeping it in the shadows like it's something to be ashamed."

The public vigil to remember drug and alcohol abuse victims starts at 7 p.m. at Largo Central Park.

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