Today’s guest blogger has attended the annual From Statistics To Solutions conference twice, with the goal of becoming more educated about addiction. Attending FSTS has enabled her to become a more compassionate and knowledgeable ally. MWM
The day of the second annual From Statistics To Solutions was unseasonably warm. The sun beat down undisturbed, glinting off a dormant sea of parked cars. Walking through the lot, I could not help but think of Adam, the young son of a dear friend, who had died just over a year ago because of addiction to opioids.
His death, even more so his life, was the reason I came to this workshop last year. I longed to make sense of it. He had struggled and suffered terribly, but I mostly understood this through the struggles and suffering of his mother. For Adam—a good looking, charismatic guy whose infectious smile hid his addiction with the beauty and fragility of gold leaf overlay—I held a lot of judgement towards rather than understanding because I could not look beyond the misery of my friend, whom I love very much. I felt ashamed of my short sightedness after his death. A kind of death that is too common in my community.
It [From Statistics To Solutions] was the only seminar of its kind I knew about where multiple organizations of addiction were presented in a public format”
I came to From Statistics To Solutions last year in hopes to learn about an unfair and difficult and impossibly complicated problem. It was the only seminar of its kind I knew about where multiple organizations of addiction were presented in a public format. I was impressed and thankful for the resource, but frankly, I put most of my energy keeping my composure in public instead of actually listening to the information.
This year, my mind was a little clearer and I still longed to make sense of Adam’s life, so I gathered with the hundreds of others at the second annual FSTS. As I checked in and made my way to the auditorium to sit among a throng of smartly dressed men and women, I realized I was an outlier. I was not there to attain professional credits, nor do I have a background in education, health care, or social work. I wondered if the content would be purely academic and not relatable to a Regular Jane like me.
From Statistics To Solutions is brilliantly laid out as multiple panel discussions. These panels are studded with a mix of leaders who (somehow) manage to uplift, engage and inspire around a subject that has bogged down our region with dark shadow for years. The topics are ambitious, ranging from neuroscience discoveries and understanding how the developing brain responds to substance abuse, to the correlation of mental health and its complications, to reentry into society after treatment—often times—after multiple treatments.
I did not feel like an outlier, or that the information was beyond my comprehension. I sat on the edge of my seat scribbling notes, enthusiastically nodding my head, and occasionally swallowing hard lumps of compassion and bits of memory.
I was exposed to people and stories and challenges that are very, very different from mine. This allowed me to look beyond my own experience.”
The presenters, strategically curated and highly experienced, were powerful to me not so much because of their credentials, but because of their willingness to be open and honest. They held their own beliefs about what might work, but any successes they discovered cost them many hard mistakes. Every panel included a recovering addict and because of their moxie—sharing their most intimate and painful details—I was exposed to people and stories and challenges that are very, very different from mine. This allowed me to look beyond my own experience.
Panel after panel of diverse professionals combined with the deeply personal stories of addicts themselves, uncovered a relentless and jagged truth, made bearable by a shiny grain at its murky center: there is no clear-cut reason or answer for addiction. And that no matter how difficult the struggle, no matter how many failed attempts there might have been—and might be still—there is always hope.
This grain of hope lies within our ability to look beyond our own all-consuming perceptions, judgments and struggles. Substance abuse, particularly in our youth, is not a singular problem—it is a collective one. If I am ever to understand Adam’s life with addiction, I will need to try and understand anyone’s life with addiction.
From Statistics To Solutions has taught me the best ways I can truly honor Adam and my friend’s unimaginable loss, is not through more tears, but through the continued pursuit to educate myself, be humane to all, and try to be part of the solution beyond my inner circle.
About FSTS: From Statistics to Solutions is an annual conference that addresses the underlying issues of youth substance use. The conference is co-hosted by Our Young Addicts and Know The Truth, the prevention program for Mn Adult & Teen Challenge. Together, we create community and collaboration among treatment professionals, social workers, law enforcement, educators, coaches, medical professionals, parents and more. We embrace a variety of perspectives and approaches to prevention, addiction, treatment and recovery.
About the Author: Mandy believes in the power of stories and that we all have important ones to tell. She is a regular blogger on Fridley Patch and is a nationally published on several different syndicates. Mandy is honored to be a guest blogger for Our Young Addicts, sharing a story that she hopes will help the many others who are living with or supporting those with addiction. You can read how she learned how to support a mother of a young addict, in Before and After published last year on Our Young Addicts.