LARGO, Fla. - Hundreds of people came together to stand against addiction Wednesday night at a vigil hosted by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
The vigil honored the memories of those lost to the disease.
Former University of South Florida football player Alton Voss said he got caught up with but was able to turn his life around. He knows many others are not so fortunate.
“You don’t have control of your life once you become addicted and that’s what happened to me. I lost complete control of my life. Once that addiction starts, there’s only a few outcomes and they aren’t very good," Voss said.
He was a freshman at USF on a football scholarship when drugs took over and put him on a three-year downward spiral. Voss eventually got the help he needed and went back to school and graduated.
"If you are the person that’s going through the struggle right now, ask for help. That’s one thing I didn’t do. I was too prideful. I wasn’t OK with being vulnerable and sharing my struggles but we all go through struggles. That’s part of life," Voss said.
Now he speaks about his experience to inspire others. Wednesday night, Voss was keynote speaker for the 11th annual NOPE vigil, which offers people who've lost loved ones a place to find comfort in each other
Tashman Tashman lost her 22-year-old daughter, Danielle to a heroin overdose last year.
“Danielle was a firecracker," Tashman said. “Some people can master this and survive. I would tell them to fight like hell and try to be one of those success stories."
Voss says he wants to remind others who are struggling, or have tried and failed to get clean in the past, to never give up trying.
“I had many failed attempts. I tried to get clean so many times on my own and it didn’t work but I wasn’t gonna quit on life. I wasn’t gonna quit on myself, so don’t quit. Keep trying," Voss said.
Voss now serves as an outreach coordinator for a treatment center in the Bay Area.