Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 – The Storm of Addiction


The Storm of Addiction

Heavy snow storms with gusts of wind are not unfamiliar to the rural plains of South Dakota. When I was eight, I woke up the morning after one of these storms. I was eager to get outside and build a snowman. However, this particular snow storm was different. My parents soon explained to me that my aunt was in a car accident the night before with critical injuries. It was not until a couple years later I found out that this accident was the result of a much bigger storm affecting my aunt’s life, addiction.

Before I knew about my aunt’s addiction, I was taught in school at a young age that drugs were bad. My class was shown pictures of what people who did drugs “looked like” and were told the dangers of doing drugs. One thing we were not taught was how to help those who were struggling with addiction. As I grew older, I found out about my aunt’s addiction. I learned about our long family history of alcohol abuse, including my grandfather who was in remission when I was born. I saw the helplessness that encompassed my entire family, trying so desperately to help my aunt and to stop this cycle creating generations of addiction.

This helpless feeling motivated me to be a leader in helping those struggling with addiction. After graduating with a bachelor degree, I took a position working at a psychiatric and detox hospital. As a case manager I have provided support to those in my community struggling with addiction. I advocate for patients as well as educate them and their families. Connecting patients with services available such as sober housing, residential treatment facilities, and intensive outpatient services to help them maintain sobriety. My mission is to help people, who are at some of their lowest points in life, not feel so alone and empower them to seek help.

My desire to help is why I fell in love with addiction medicine and psychiatry. I am currently pursuing a degree to become a physician assistant so I can provide care for this population at a more advanced role. I chose my graduate school because of their commitment to provide a high-quality education that focuses on leadership, social responsibility, and serving others. All qualities I will continue to use every day as a physician assistant fighting against our nation’s addiction crisis.

This crisis is happening in our nation for a multitude of reasons. First addiction has many faces. They are not just the faces I was shown as a young child in school. Addiction can impact one’s life regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. The impact addiction has on individuals can cause them to feel alone and isolated. Often this leads people to not seek help with their addictions. This is due to simply not feeling supported or even not being aware of the resources available to help them. Addiction can lead to an increase in risky behavior resulting in legal issues. Once an individual is in the legal system it can be difficult to get out. This stress can lead to a cycle of addiction not only affecting the individual but their family, friends, and the community as a whole.

Treating the crisis issue for both the induvial and society is a process we can all work towards right now. Educating our future generations on predisposition to addiction based on genetic and environmental factors, and how to help those struggling with addiction will help create less of a stigma. Providing solid support systems in the community will help individuals get the help they need. This step can be taken by providers staying updated on best evidence based medical practices as well as utilizing interdisciplinary team members. Creating a strong support for the patient with caseworkers willing to connect with not only medical providers but the legal system as well. Working together we can help fight the storms impacting others’ lives and build a stronger community for all.