As cliché as it sounds, sometimes bad things do happen for a reason. Five years ago, I found myself within the dark, lonely world of adolescent drug addiction, as my two teenage sons struggled through the cycle of substance abuse, dependence and ultimately addiction. At the time I felt helpless, hopeless and incredibly overwhelmed with shame and grief. I never imagined this experience would lead me to change my career — altering my life and others along the way.
As a society, we place a negative stigma on people suffering from drug addiction. As a parent, I was guilty of this as well — so, as I began the journey of recovery with my sons, I also began to pursue an understanding behind this ill-fated stigmatization. I was fortunate to meet an outstanding counselor who educated me on the way addiction impacts the
I now know this disease knows no boundaries. It is truly a disease of the brain. Addiction can strike even the most unsuspecting of individuals — regardless of their upbringing, their abilities or even their last name. When one has 1) a genetic predisposition, 2) significant stress, anxiety or a traumatic event and 3) access to drugs or alcohol, the table is set for addiction to be served.
Unfortunately, addiction isn’t going away — in fact it’s growing at an alarming rate, especially in our high school and college-aged kids. But rather than shaking our heads in disgust at those dealing with addiction, we must understand and realize that it could happen to any one of us. It happened to my family and it can happen just as unsuspectingly to others.
Meeting with a mental health counselor helped my family understand the brutal realities of addiction as a disease of the brain, while providing us with the resources and hope available in the path toward recovery. I was inspired by this counselor’s professionalism and wisdom; as we made the journey together, I was compelled to make a difference for others as this counselor had done for me and my family.
In May, I will graduate from Clemson University with my master’s in Mental Health Counseling. My time and degree program have exceeded my expectations with respect to both academics and the grad school experience, allowing me to fulfill my dream of finding a way to help others in need. Most of my classes are at the Clemson campus, which has been collegiate and fun — but many are at the University Center of Greenville, which is especially convenient and time saving for working parents like me.
The skills and technical expertise I have learned continue to consistently shape my personal and professional life. This knowledge is leading me to my next mission — helping addicts find support in recovery and providing hope for their families, as they travel down their own roads of recovery.
There are approximately 36,000 people in Greenville County controlled by a substance use disorder, and statistically, only 10 percent of those are getting help. Now, thanks to the mental health counseling degree program offered through Clemson’s College of HEHD right here in Greenville, my career is dedicated to giving hope and healing to the other 90 percent.
With my Clemson degree, I will be able to make a positive impact on other families battling this disease as I once did. In May, I will proudly sign on as a partner to The Hope for Families Recovery Center, Greer, as a certified Mental Health Counselor. As an organization that sees addiction as a disease touching the entire family, our approach aims to help every family member learn about this disease, alter behaviors to end the addictive cycle, and begin the healing process for everyone.
My experiences with addiction and my time at Clemson have taught me that everyone is capable of change and deserves the opportunity to do so. I am incredibly proud of my recovering sons and delighted with the meaning and purpose we’ve taken from our experiences. Now, my future will consist of making a difference in the lives of other families struggling with addiction.
My hope is that as a community, we can reverse the stigma surrounding this brutal disease and instead provide a source of hope and recovery to all those who seek it. Article Link…