A Desire to Help
Addiction has impacted me heavily from a very young age. From my parents and my siblings to some of my closest friends in high school, substance use has always been a part of my life. I have watched friends and family be arrested due to their substance use. At these moments, I remember feeling as though there must be more that I can do to help the people that I love.
As a first-generation college student, I did not have any idea of what to study at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). The only thing I knew is that I wanted to help people, which is how I came to pursue a degree in social work. With that, I decided to minor in Addiction Treatment and Prevention Services through the CASAT program at UNR thanks to a professor, Daniel Fred, who showed me the beauty in addiction recovery.
This May, I graduated from the minor program with a certificate in Addiction Treatment and Prevention Services. Through my education, substance misuse prevention came to my attention as a future career path. I am currently interning with Transforming Youth Recovery where I am learning the community outreach aspect of prevention. Asset mapping is a huge part of community awareness of resources and plays a role in in helping families get the services that they need.
I also volunteered with the Washoe County School District in Reno and taught an after-school program to third and fourth graders that they are “Too Good for Drugs.” I not only taught them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but also the importance of effective communication and stress management, two protective factors known to help prevent substance misuse. By the end of the five-week program, I could see the impact that I made on the students. The feeling of making a difference in someone’s future is more than enough reward.
Prior to coming to college, my perception of substance misuse was heavily influenced by stigma. In learning about addiction and recovery, I now want nothing more than to help alleviate that stigma. Addiction is not a life sentence. Recovery is possible and it is beautiful.
The recovery field is growing. More people are misusing substances and being in recovery is becoming more widely accepted. But one of the biggest reasons is the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which allows for more treatment options to be covered by insurance. This means that more youth have access to services as well. However, just because there is more financial access to treatment, does not mean that there will be programs and services that adequately meet the needs of individuals seeking treatment.
We need to be providing the right resources within communities to be able to take care of these individuals. There are already many programs in place, but some communities may not have the needed assets to build up programs or create capacity for recovery.
Finally, we need to recognize the difference that the recovery field is making. People working in the recovery field have the potential to change the course of a person’s life for the better. Even if you do not want to have a career in the field, there are many ways to get involved. Volunteering with local agencies, joining a community coalition, or having those conversations with your children, siblings, or friends about drugs and alcohol may be enough to make an impact. When you act, it can save lives.
Allison Hurry is an intern for Transforming Youth Recovery in Reno, NV.