So often lately the media gets blasted for covering one topic too much, for not covering another topic enough, for leaving out a certain fact here, or fact-checking something improperly there. I am REALLY glad I am not in present-day journalism for a career!

With that being said, there is a journalist named Jessica Gold that provides great insight into the MTV docuseries called 16 and Recovering. I am not going to steal Jessica’s thunder with my own input (because after all she is the true journalist)! Her spot-on take on this docuseries can be found here at this link.

What I do want to chime in with is this:  I only wish this type of real portrayal of teen substance abuse and addiction had been on TV back in 2006 when our son began the journey of suffering with the disease of addiction. As a parent I was embarassed. I did not know who I could talk to (other than my spouse) about our son’s experimentation which led to full blown addiction to oxycodone and hydrocodone. There was no help line like there is today. If you or someone you know needs help RIGHT NOW with a teen or young adult in their life struggling with substance use check out this website and call today for free help over the phone.

My family kept asking me why our son didn’t just quit. They asked me why was he so weak. I did not know at the time that this is a brain disease. I did not know at the time that this can be hereditary, that addiction does run in families. I did not know at the time very much at all about drugs, drug use, and addiction. Thankfully I found NOPE of Hillsborough and the team of people that were putting this local Chapter together. I donated money. I donated time. I donated my talents of public speaking, and 8+ years later we have served more than 130,000 teenagers in our Hillsborough County School District with our powerful presentations. And our son is 5+ years in recovery!

All of us at NOPE of Hillsborough have some personal tie to this disease. We all share our time, energy, money, and passion to serve other families and keep them from ever walking down the road of drama and heartache that is associated with this disease of addiction (substance use disorder seems to be the latest catch phrase to name it).

Our 50-minute presentations are done in an assembly style and are changing and saving lives each time we walk on a campus to present. We educate and empower teens on how they can help break this cycle of selling, buying, and using drugs. We talk about the 911 Good Samaritan Law and how you should NEVER leave a friend behind thinking they will just sleep it off. We remind them that they can make the call to 911 if they think a friend might be overdosing and even if they had both been taking part in illegal drug use or underage drinking, neither of them will get into legal trouble if the call to 911 was being made to save a life.

A family member shares their story of their son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, or cousin that just could not beat the demons of addiction and lost their life to a substance-related death. Sometimes it was by suicide because the addiction became “too much” and they just could not deal with it any longer. Sometimes it was by accidental overdose where a friend dropped a friend off under the influence, passed out, and they thought they would just “sleep it off.” Whatever turn the story takes it is riveting and makes many teens in the audience think, “I do not want my mom (or dad or sister or brother) standing up on a stage one day sharing my story of addiction and losing my life to overdose.”

One last important point we emphasize with these students is that just one time can kill you. Pick up the vape pen that the dealer has laced with fentanyl and you could die instantly. Take that pill that has been laced with substances you have no idea what they have cut it with and your life could end tragically. Smoke that joint that was rolled with something other than marijuana and the consequences could be fatal.

Students in the audience audibly gasp or cry when a 911 call is played during the course of a NOPE presentation and their school resource officer shows a body bag similar to the one the teen from that 911 call is placed in right in front of his mom. Talk about changing the trajectory path of someone’s life. We here at NOPE pray each time before a presentation that we save just one student, just one family from going through the drama and heartache of addiction. If you wish to experience a NOPE presentation from our chapter we invite you to click here and prepare to be moved to tears at some points.

Addiction is still wreaking havoc on families across our nation as the COVID health crisis continues. Remember to reach out to those in your life that struggle with mental health challenges. We all realize that mental health challenges and substance abuse oftentimes go hand-in-hand. Let’s make sure these friends and loved ones know that they are NOT alone. Know that the Suicide Hotline is just a call away. Know that naloxone can be administered through NARCAN to temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. Know that a call to 211 at any time of day or night can be made to help deal with many crises.                               Be well. Be safe. Be kind.