Have you ever wished that you could freeze time in order to capture and seize every moment? As an educator, coach, drug-free team coach, mother, daughter, wife, and community member things happen at alarmingly fast rates. Often we cannot enjoy or cherish every moment or person we encounter, but if we could freeze time, learn from the bad, and take in the good more effectively what a better place this would be.
The biggest light bulb went off for me when I realized this, and it has been the driving force behind my passion and purpose — to help teens with substance use disorder. When we move fast and are always on the go, we tend to miss both good and bad things that are right under our nose.
I have always known about the “bad crowd” or the “troubled kids,” as we label them, since I was in grammar school. However, as I began to have more years of teaching and coaching under my belt, I saw that these groups of kids that we labeled as “good” or “bad” were not so black and white. Addiction has always been a concern for adolescents and young adults, and resources and programs have been around for years. Even so, something was happening right in front of me that started as a whisper and grew to a deafening sound that I could not ignore. The parties and get-togethers on the weekend were not to watch movies, laugh, and play truth or dare; instead these gatherings were to get high, bring prescription pills, and mix them in a bowl. Spring break and winter break used to be about family travels and gifts you really wanted, but now they were about drinking to the point of blacking out, or testing out pain medications like morphine with friends. Pregame pasta dinners where we laughed, watched TV, and gossiped became postgame celebrations with marijuana and pills. School used to be a safe place, but now it was a whirlwind of cyberbullying, suicide, depression, anxiety, labels, lack of faith, and loss of creativity. The reason I became a teacher, and many of us do, is to make a difference and to support the WHOLE child. In the world we live in today, that is a very hard thing to do in a traditional school setting. The sad thing is that many are unaware, uneducated on the early signs of addiction, and unsure of how they can help. They still think that we are in the good old days, but times have changed and will continue to do so if we do not stop, freeze, and assess what is really in front of us.
As I strengthened my faith and took over a group that pledges to be drug, alcohol, tobacco, and violence free, my life changed. The individuals in this group are the role models and change I hope to see in our world. They stand strong for what they believe in, and they stay true to their morals and values while remaining humble and serving others. They made that whisper turn into a sound that could not be unheard. Students left struggling in addiction, facing trauma, and misbehaving with minimal support or resources was just not acceptable to me anymore. In 2016, I lost a family friend to heroin and fentanyl; I met mothers and family members who lost their loved ones to an overdose; and I stayed in close contact with former students who were struggling. I couldn’t sit still and continue to let this happen to people I loved. I knew that if some unknown teacher like myself was being impacted this strongly from this epidemic then too many others were out there struggling and hurting, as well. Through prayer and the support of some amazing folks in the Charlotte community, God placed it on my heart to provide a solution and hopefully spark a movement in our state.
After viewing Generation Found, an amazing documentary going into Archway Academy, the most successful recovery high school in the country, it was clear what we had to do. We needed our very own recovery high school in North Carolina. If done well, we could spark others to open all around the state. This resource is too precious of a gift to keep to ourselves; it must grow and continue to spread into our neighboring states. A team of four amazing people has grown into thirty to thirty-five incredible, strong, and talented individuals with hearts of gold and a passion to help our future generations. The year 2016 is going down as the worst year in history for overdose deaths, and 2017 is on the path to be even worse. Our team believes in our recovery community, and if we keep our focus on HOPE, we will create a positive shift in the upcoming years. The walking miracles I have met today are the amazing people in recovery. They are our heroes, and they will keep us fighting until the end of time. We are strong alone, but unstoppable together. This Charlotte community continues to impress me, and I thank God everyday for the people I have met along this journey. Where there is a will, there is a way!