Look Beyond: Reflections on addiction and our community during the second annual From Statistics To Solutions conference.

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

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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.

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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.  

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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.  

 

FSTS Logo 2017About 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.  

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-17 at 2.50.38 PMAbout the Author: Mandy Meisner 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 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.

 

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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The Solutions Team #fsts16

Meet the “solutions team” who worked together to host the From Statistics to Solutions conference on May 12. From left to right: Tracee Anderson, Adam Pederson, Rose McKinney and Laura Zabinski.

Our Young Addicts partnered with Know The Truth, the prevention program for Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge. Together, we convened more 425 professionals including licensed alcohol and drug counselors (LADCs), social workers, educators, medical professionals and law enforcement officers. Each professional earned five CEU credits for attending the conference.

Our panel discussions covered early intervention, warning signs, collaboration and moving forward.We are grateful for participation by the following individuals and organizations:

Abe Abrahamson – Wright County Juvenile Probation Officer

John Choi – Ramsey County Attorney

Saul Selby – VP of Clinical & Transitional Services, MnTC

Linda Skillingstad – LICSW, LADC, PrairieCare

Brent Thompson – Pharmacy Director First Light Health Systems

PJ Agarwala, MD – Director of Child Psychiatry at the U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital

Bill Hutton – Washington County Sheriff

Judge Michael Mayer – Dakota County

Jason Reed – PsydD, LP, Psychologist and Clinical Lead for Melrose Center

Sherry Gaugler-Stewart – Director of Family & Spiritual Recovery at the Retreat

Lexi Reed Holtum – Steve Rummler Hope Foundation

Patrice Salmeri – MA, LADC, Director of StepUp Program at Augsburg College

Lindsey Smith – Regional Prevention Coordinator

Misty Tu, MD – Mental Health Medical Director at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota

Judy Hanson – Chemical Health Specialist at Wayzata High School

Chris Johnson, MD – Allina Health

Paul Meunier – Executive Director YIPA

Jill Petsel – Former Executive Director of MN Recovery Connection

Tim Walsh – VP of Long Term Recovery and Mental Health Services MNTC

Laura Zabinski – Program Manager of Know the Truth

In addition, we featured three personal stories:  Kaityln Arneson, a  young woman who works for Know the Truth, talked about her experience with addiction and recovery (coming from a non-stereotypical environment); Lori Lewis, a mom who lost her son to a heroin overdose (read the transcript of her presentation posted on this blog yesterday) – she called out how the healthcare system failed her son; and I shared our family’s story of addiction sharing hope for possibility of recovery – even when it seemed hopeless.

Our keynote speaker was Chris Bailey, with an incredible tale of his own journey through addiction. He led us through mindfulness and meditation, which were key components of his recovery and included a walking journey across America in 2015 with his twin brother, Bobby.

In addition to volunteer support from Know The Truth and from my team at work, this conference was made possible by generous sponsors including:

Melrose Center

Mn Adult & Teen Challenge

Recovery Brands

The Retreat

We also had more than 25 exhibitors who contributed to the success of From Statistics to Solutions.

It was an incredible day that will move away from statistics and toward solutions to the underlying issues of youth substance use, including strategies for prevention and treatment. Everything about the conference exceeded our expectations. Without a doubt, we will be back bigger and better for #fsts17.

Midwestern Mama aka Rose McKinney

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.