A Sunday gathering in Anchorage aimed to raise awareness of the addictions that killed 72,000 Americans last year.

For Mark Weaver, one of the participants in the Rally for Recovery, his challenges are depicted in a mural painted by University of Alaska Anchorage art students.

"Early in my life I smoked a lot of pot," Weaver said. "There are all these different details in this picture that just tells part of my story."

Against that, however, Weaver says spirituality has kept him on a path of sobriety.

"There's no secret who my higher power is," Weaver said. "I have not used mind-altering substance or chemicals since November 5, 2014."

It hasn't been easy for him to stay that way, however.

"The reality for me is no matter how far I get down this road, I know the ditch is right there," said Weaver, as he now devotes his life to staying clean.

Weaver operates a ministry that helps others in a similar situation to his.

"Somebody helped me along the way, and it's nice to have answers for people who are looking for help," Weaver said.

"After the disease takes hold, it's a disease of choice," said David Moletti, who is another recovering addict.

Moletti is also a vice-president of REAL About Addiction, an organization which helps those who suffer from substance abuse. Weaver is a board member.

"The judge didn't cure me, my family lecturing me didn't cure me, it was just somebody investing in my life, teaching me how to do life different," Weaver said.

Weaver's story and others highlight the group's annual rally. Its president, Kim Whitaker, say, she and others want recovering addicts to know they are not alone.

"Relapse is real; it happens so quickly to some people," Whitaker said. "That's why we try to set them up with continual care after we assist them into a recovery program -- they've got to have lifelong support."

Her mission is personal, as Whitaker's daughter is someone she tries to help.

"My daughter is not in recovery; she's an active addict and she's homeless," Whitaker said.

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