Community members brainstormed ways to address addiction and the factors that lead to it at a Whatever it Takes meeting on Jan. 25.
Members of the Hoover community are working to fight addiction by identifying the factors that lead up to it.
At a Whatever it Takes work meeting at Shades Crest Baptist Church on Monday, Jan. 25, parents, educators and faith leaders focused on how addiction resources and parental influence could benefit the community.
To kick off the meeting, Addiction Prevention Coalition Executive Director Sandor Cheka encouraged attendees to list the reasons people use drugs or alcohol. Attendees listed stress, anxiety, past trauma, self-esteem issues, a need for escape, easy access and peer pressure as a few of the reasons.
Many of the factors have a cause and effect relationship, Cheka said. Some students may feel stress to do well in school and will fall into a cycle of “study drugs” and sleeping pills in order to maintain good grades. Other times, students see their parents try to cope by drinking alcoholic beverages and mimic that behavior with other substances, Cheka said.
“These are so interconnected, but I think the ones that help tie everything together are really that escape syndrome, that people want to escape, and the stress side of things,” Cheka said.
Additional stressors or pressures can carry drug or alcohol usage toward addiction, Cheka said. The difference is between enjoying the feeling a substance provides versus needing that feeling to escape a problem, he said.
“Some people smoke pot, like the buzz, and then they put it down,” Cheka said. But when people have stressors in their life, “that’s when they really get hooked.”
Even if these factors are recognized, the group discussed the stigma surrounding addiction as another hurdle. Attendees listed potential resources — school counselors, intervention counselors, Bradford Health Services, Celebrate Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous and others — but recognized there is a gap in communication about those resources.
“If my son needed help with his swing, I could get on the phone and in a few minutes call a few dads or moms, and they would tell me 12 different places — however much money too, by the way —he could go to to fix his swing,” said Simmons Middle School Principal Brian Cain.
That wealth of information and recommendation is not available with addiction resources, Cain said. Some of the support groups have unstable locations or people might feel shame in asking for recovery center recommendations.
“I think right beside our community attitude there needs to be community education on how to get help, how to get past the stigma, get past that moment, how to work past that goal of getting ourselves and our family mentally healthy,” Cain said.
Parents may also look at their child’s struggle with addiction as a failure on their own part, and that stigma may prevent them from seeking help, said Liz Fry, an intervention counselor for Hoover City Schools.
Some kids' parents are addicted, and the kids don't want to tell anybody because they don't want to get their parent in trouble, Fry said.
Attendees said the influence of parents should not be underestimated, and that is one reason it is important to open the conversation on addiction. Parents are the biggest influence in a child’s life, and they can be the reason their child does not use or abuse drugs or alcohol, Fry said.
Resources could also help parents come forward if they hear about a party through their children, said Denis Tanner, a student and adult education leader at Shades Crest Baptist. Parents may not know to whom they can turn or what steps to take, especially if the party seems to happen at the same house repeatedly, he said.
A lack of communication between parents and the difficulty of those conversations prevent the relay of information, attendees said.
“What happens now is that you know about somebody’s kid who is using, but you’re not going to tell that parent because that’s their own business,” Cheka said. “And that child gets the opportunity to continue in that.”
The fear of being the parent who confronts another parent about their child also deters these conversations, said Bart Styes, director of student ministries at Bluff Park United Methodist Church.
“There’s parents that worry about peer pressure and social cliques as much as their kids,” Styes said.
Cheka said it is important for parents to speak up because five years later, they may regret not speaking up. Kelly Connelly, the Addiction Prevention Coalition's director of operations, said finding someone to whom those parents can relate is a good step. That way, she said, the parents do not feel reprimanded by someone who does not understand their situation.
Conversations about distributing information and potential campaigns or surveys will continue at the next Whatever it Takes meeting, Cheka said. That meeting is scheduled for March.
Upcoming community events include:
- Feb. 21 at Shades Crest Baptist Church, 5-6:30 p.m.: Prefix, a faith-based, family event for parents and their middle and high school students.
- Feb. 23 at Shades Crest Baptist Church, 11:30 a.m.: Wake Up luncheon; RSVP requested