It’s Not an Issue Until It’s Your Child

It’s Not an Issue Until It’s Your Child

My Secret Life

A True Story to Engage and Supervise Your Child or Student
Written By: Adam Simon – EB Intervention Team

Addiction was not a very important conversation in my family until it was about me. No one would have ever believed that I would end up looking at a seven year prison sentence at 22 years old from where I came from.  I had a wonderful life.

I often hear that addicts have something really wrong in their lives or something missing that causes a life of ruin to take place.  We hear many uninformed well meaning people share that the breakdown of the family unit, godlessness, or childhood trauma is to blame for the plight of the addict.  They could not have helped it, we often hear.  I share my story to poke holes in those narratives of addiction.  I have not seen an entity in our society that is more egalitarian than addiction.  It is no respecter of race, color, language, gender or socio economic background.  It will consume and destroy the lives of those it afflicts.  It is a rapacious creditor to all those who are involved with the one afflicted. 

My parents are some of the most incredible Christians I have ever met. They have been engaged in a loving marriage for over 42 years.   Many of our family friends have a sort of jesting jealousy towards the love affair and relationship they have.  They raised  us in a faithful home where love and forgiveness were the keystones of my childhood.  Our parents read us the bible and prayed with us daily.  We were a family that ate meals together at a round wooden table with our assigned seats every dinner throughout my childhood.  My sister and I were loved fully and often overfed, as I like to say.  We won the ovarian lottery.  My family was often referred to as The Cleavers.  We were raised in a small one red light town in Tennessee, where my family was well known and of the top 2% of wealth in our area.  We seemingly had a life that would create a safeguard from the darkness of the world. Not you, right? 

I was 12 years old the first time I grabbed my first bottle of alcohol and started my journey towards drug addiction and alcoholism.  Within six months of my first drink I had gotten drunk alone and begun to smoke weed, inhale synthetic and designer drugs, and found pharmaceutical means of self medicating.  At 16 it was cocaine and by 18 I had found methamphetamine.  I was arrested the first time in a 3rd world country when I was 17  and had participated in a myriad of local, state, federal and international felonious acts as a result of my drug addiction.  During this period, I still excelled in academics, athletics and frequented church and church events.  I was able to recover quickly and utilize very small amounts of time and money to engage and to grow my addiction.  I learned quickly how to navigate my life with my addiction.  I always had a preparation pack in my car that included a change of clothes scented hand lotion and eye drops to cover my tracks.  I always showed up to church events and birthday parties and family events late and left early to create my alibi with my timeline for each day. I always asked for more money each week for lunch and gas and used 20% of it so I could have the majority to buy what I needed. I began to steal food and cheat people in deals at a very young age so that I could stretch allowance each week further. I was constantly in a state of preparation and calculation to contribute to my habit.  It quickly turned to education and manipulation of street life and building deliberate and organized networks to create opportunities to increase my activity and engagement with my addiction.  A typical Tuesday would include me leaving a white upper middle class home and neighborhood and going to a private college preparatory school and going to soccer practice and getting something to eat with friends and coming back home, is what was seen.  The reality of that Tuesday was quite different.  It really went like this.  On the way to school I would take a low milligram of benzodiazepine (xanax), I would get to school and then have an open period and open campus lunch. I would ask mom for 40 dollars for lunch and gas.  I would go get something to go from the lunch cafeteria and charge it to my account. I would go out for lunch, split a 6 pack of beer or go and smoke a joint. 

I would come back from lunch. I would then not have soccer practice start until 3:30, and school would end at 2:45.  I would leave school and drive to one of my friends’ house before parents got home from work and smoke another joint.  I would then return to school and go to soccer practice.  I would then end practice at 5:00, and tell my parents it ended at 5:30.  

I would then take that time to go and do some work for the streets.  I would call a couple guys and see what they wanted from the upper class society. I would then take an order, call my contacts and make transfers.  I would get the drugs at one price and sell at a high price and would earn bonuses for the product as I did more work.  I was a mule at first but grew in the enterprise and that was when I was 16 to 18 years old.   

Addiction is often not a relevant issue in many communities until it’s your child or someone you love.  It often only takes a certain family to highlight the nature of addiction. It’s important to understand that in many communities kids like me will start their journey this year.  However, there is hope in this process.  We can and we do recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. Our engagement and supervision in our kids lives are of the utmost value.  

3 Simple Steps to Engage and Supervise Your Child or Student

  1. There are many different applications and services available.  A few top rated apps are called Bark, Qustudio, and WebWatcher.  Your kids will revolt at the mention of this application, however it is vital for you to understand about their life online.  It will give you a more accurate picture of where they are. 
  2. Take a look at all of their friends and the places they frequent.  A real strict assessment of the places and people in your kids life is paramount.  You need to know the influences in their lives.  It’s very important to not dismiss family.  Family often lends itself to the most access available for your kids. 
  3. Schedule regular time to be with each of your kids.  This time should not be family time.  Spend time individually with each one of your kids on a regular basis.  Time with each child creates a different level of closeness as they grow up.  So often I counsel kids to reach out and sit down with their parents and share openly and honestly, and they don’t know how to do that.  It must become a necessity in your lives.  I would strongly encourage you to do this without any technology.  It will force that time to be more meaningful.  Sit down, ask your child how they are doing and then just listen.  We so often as parents assume the authoritarian and teaching role, we forget to hear them. 

To read and learn more from the EB Intervention Team, click here.

Do you or someone else you love suffer from drug or alcohol addiction?  Do you need support?  

Please Contact Us: 
Info@EBInterventrion.org
https://ebintervention.org/
(615) 482-1831

 

If My Dad Had Known

If My Dad Had Known

By: TJ Pass – EB Intervention Team

Simple Steps for Parents and Educators that Can Save Lives 

If my dad had known, what might have been different?  To begin, let me share that my father loved me and was there for me until the day he died.  After my mother passed away when I was just 7 years old, my dad made me his top priority.  He went without so I could have.  He never tried drugs and I saw him drunk twice, although there was usually beer in the fridge.  My first arrest came at the age of 15 and my dad cried, he pointed out how I didn’t belong in that group, I wasn’t like the other kids in juvenile court.  Dad was the opposite of a helicopter parent and I believe he always thought I would just make good choices.  My dad passed away in the year 2000 when I was only 23. My brother and my uncle stepped in and assumed the role of caregiver and protector, in an effort to save me. After many months, they finally realized they could not save me from my addictions; they didn’t have the tools or know where to begin.  

A system must be in place to support addiction.  My system stopped working, when no one would cosign my behavior or my lack of responsibility, and that is when I accepted professional help.  I have been free of narcotics and alcohol since January 2006.  I have obtained a college degree, become a certified family interventionist and master recovery coach. I have assisted over 1,000 families to date.  My intent in writing this blog is to contribute to the pre-intervention of teens and young adults.  Teens who abuse drugs have a greater risk of developing an addiction when they are adults.  It is important to know the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction. Many teens experiment with drugs but are not addicted.  Not all teens that use drugs become addicts but most all addicts began using drugs in their teenage years.

Recognition and prevention of teenage experimentation can stop an emerging misuse before it begins. Setting good examples and being open to conversations about drug use are strong tools.  It is vital to create a safe environment for open communication and set clear expectations along with clear consequences.   With my dad, it was always “next time” I won’t help you get out of trouble or “next time” I won’t pay bills you are responsible for.  “Next time” never came.  With my dad’s lack of knowledge and my mastery in manipulation, I never had any real consequences.  Dad always helped me with a plan to start over so I could stop.  The truth is,I didn’t have a real problem, there was always someone there who would cosign my victim mentality and entitlement.

When I was in the experimentation phase, trying everything that was available, I believed  I just liked to party. It was during that phase, I stopped growing emotionally.  This is a fact for all teenagers that begin using drugs and alcohol.  Somewhere I crossed the line of choice. Drugs and alcohol are not a problem, but a solution to my problems.  I began trying to stop on my own and my dad always believed in me as well as  the same lie I believed, I could quit on my own.  Dad never knew the struggle or understood the progression of addition.  He had the “yeah but” syndrome just like me.  If someone reported I was using drugs, or he caught me, he would say, “yeah but” he is a good kid; it’s just a phase; his grades are passing; everyone likes him; he was always quick to make excuses for my behavior.  After continuing to deny using drugs, a home drug test was easy to pass and it gave my dad one more “yeah but” he can pass a drug test.  Even though he offered me professional help, he cosigned my plan, believed in me, and never educated himself about addiction.  Many signs were there, he didn’t want to believe it could happen to his son and I always had an excuse.  Bloodshot eyes, I was swimming, or I was tired   because I didn’t sleep well.  Sleeping under a fan made my nose runny.  I quit or lost interest in activities and sports because I didn’t like them, or I was going to do something different.  Smell of cigarette smoke on my clothes, my friends were smoking. Smell of cigarette smoke on my hands, I held a cigarette for my friend.  Missed curfew, it was never my fault.  Deny, deny, deny until he bought it.  Could my dad have prevented my first inhale of a cigarette, marijuana, my first drink of alcohol, first line of cocaine or LSD trip (all done before age 17)?  Could he have stopped it?  I will never know. What I do know, my dad could have been more proactive in my affairs.  

Proactive Steps Parents, Teachers, and/or Mentors Can Take:

  1. Initiate Conversations. Talk BEFORE you suspect drug use and keep the conversation nonjudgmental, honest and understanding. Straightforward questions with the right tone can lead to open communication. Simply asking, “Have you been using drugs or alcohol?” or “Has anyone offered you drugs recently?” can be enough to get the conversation started. (Conversation Starters)
  2. Responding to Admittance or Denial. Don’t overreact if they are honest about using drugs. Overreacting or lashing out can prevent them from being open about their experience.  Do not shame them.
  3. Educate Yourself. There is a strong possibility teens will lie about their drug use, I did for over a decade. Even though my dad assured me he was concerned and wanted to help, he never held me accountable or educated himself about addiction.  Know today’s lingo.  (Learn More)
  4. Understanding the Why. Understanding why some teens are tempted to experiment is also important to know.  Curiosity, peer pressure, stress, emotional struggles, and a desire to escape are some common reasons teens may take the first cigarette or drug.  For me, it was to fit in and be accepted by those I thought were cool. (Learn More)

….To continue to read the full post, If My Dad Had Known, please click here.

Are you or someone you love impacted by addiction?  Do you need support?

Please Contact Us:

Info@EBIntervention.org 

https://ebintervention.org/

(615) 482-1831

 

 

I’d Love to Tell You I’m a Great Educator

I’d Love to Tell You I’m a Great Educator

By: Janna Sells

You know how they say timing is everything?  True story alert.  I’m not one who believes in coincidences. 

I was having a casual conversation during a professional partnership call.   A friend on the call said something so profound that it caused me to stop and really reflect on his words.  He said, “I’d love to tell you I’m a great husband, but that’s not my call.” .. Wait, what? .. He continued, “My greatness is decided upon by my wife.” 

[Mic Drop]  

What would those I serve say about my greatness? It’s not my call.

Flash back- two weeks.  Our team solicited feedback from our stakeholders to work on our own continuous improvement.  We all have room to grow.  Quoting my wise and late, Grandpa Wes, “Janny, when you’re done learning, it’s time to die.”

As we began reading some of the anecdotal feedback from our service community we were smitten by the positive affirmations.  What a bucket filler.  We were feeling pretty amazing!  Living our mission to REACH, EDUCATE, EQUIP, and MATTER.  Our hearts were full .. but the feedback was not all positive.

There it was, the criticism that specifically stopped me in my tracks.  Referencing a personal experience that I shared with a team of teachers, I knew immediately exactly who the feedback was referencing.

My immediate feeling was defeat.  I was the one.  I was one who in the midst of 100s of affirmations had the one negative (err .. 3 actually) comments. There were 3.  All referring to me.  I had let my team down.  The team that I help to lead. Gut punch.

The next feeling I felt was failure.  I failed this particular team.  I failed the school they serve.  Worse, I failed their students.  The very first action of our mission is REACH.  Failure.

The feelings following were a mix between, regrets (should haves) and hopes (next time).

I began reflecting and praying over the feedback because the reality is, while their words are not true to me, I allowed their words to be true to them.  It is so true that our perception is our prison.  Thank you to one of my inspirational coaches, Trent Shelton, for that piece of wisdom.  

I began to question the approach I used to lead the crucial conversation, my choice of words, the way I made someone else feel, and sadly my passion and purpose for serving children.  I asked colleagues to coach me up.  I referenced some tactical approaches from my own crucial conversation training.  I pulled some articles and texts from my educational leadership resources.  I was so hurt that I made someone else hurt.  So vain.  I know.

The more I mulled over my shoulda, coulda, wouldas, the more my God showed up for me.  I had prayed for the opportunity to redeem myself.  I had prayed that in the future, I more genuinely articulate the WHY behind my work.  I had prayed that the people who were hurt by my support would somehow know that at the end of the day, I will passionately and unapologetically try to give more than my best to serve and grow children.  I prayed for grace. 

Another core belief I hold is that teachers do the best they can, with what they know at the time they know it.  Once we know better, we do better.

Flash to the Present.  I recently bumped into one of my former 3rd grade students.  Shortly following our reunion I received a social media friend request.  ACCEPTED.

Within 24 hours I received the most uplifting message from this now beautiful rising senior.

Yall.  There are so many times in our life we question our purpose.  What is our roll in this big world?  I am so blessed to have found and live in my purpose, but it doesn’t mean that I do not occasionally feel the pressure to question it.  

I will always VALUE and APPRECIATE my stakeholder’s feedback to continually grow in my practice.  Even when it hurts, there is room for improvement.

This simple message from a former student reminded me that just because I need to work on some outward communication doesn’t mean that I should question my worth when I’m working in my purpose and driven by my compelling why.  She is part of my why.  To allow someone else permission to judge or evaluate MY why is not growth mindset nor is it part of any continuous improvement model.  My why is mine and no one no matter the feedback will take it from me.

Here is your simple two step challenge friends-

  1. STAY TRUE TO YOUR WHY.  No one has permission to rob your passion or purpose.  Remember the desire for personal or professional reflective, continuous improvement does not represent a weakness in your purpose.  It’s quite the opposite.  It represents humility and that you are so solidly grounded in your why, that you’re comfortable being uncomfortable growing in your practice.

     

  2. No matter your life or professional role, identify who it is that you serve and allow your consumer the opportunity to make your call of greatness.  The reality is, I’d love nothing more than to tell you that I am a great educator, but truth be told, it’s not my call.  Make your impact matter to those your serve.  Humbly and reflectively, GROW IN YOUR PRACTICE while maintaining your WHY.

I hope you leave these thoughts determined to be the best version of yourself and that those you serve no matter your practice know how great you are!

#neverquestionyourwhy but rather #improveyourpractice

Matter is the Minimum

Matter is the Minimum

Jay Urich, Gamecocks QB, said it best: Matter IS the MINIMUM.

“Black lives are worthy. Black lives are loved. Black lives are needed.”

At i-LEADR, we are committed to standing beside other like-minded and like-hearted leaders who are learning and continuing to improve upon providing equitable educational, social, and professional opportunities for students of all races. We humbly acknowledge the truths from diverse subgroups and as a company that serves educators we will continuously improve and grow our compassion and knowledge around ways to improve equitability.

Our commitments to those we serve and the community we impact:
We will grow in our own knowledge and understanding. We must first educate ourselves.

 

We will make intentional efforts to ensure our professional development and other services offered are diverse and genuinely crafted to better educate the staff we serve on stronger ways to provide equitable and educational schools, homes, and communities for ALL students.

We will continue to hold the non-negotiable value for ALL educators to hold high expectations for all their students regardless of students’ background, socio-economic status, race, or gender.

We will grow our team, our company, and our services with minds, hearts, and hands that share our company’s same values and morals regardless of their outward category identification.

We will know better each day and therefore, we will do better by those we serve. We will show grace. We will show love. We will show improvement.
We will reach. We will educate. We will equip. We will matter.

It is our prayer that every student regardless of category, who enters any school building feels loved, valued, and knowledgeable. We will continue to strive daily to support the endless potential in ALL students.

We are all in this together. We are the empower agents. We are educators.

The Seven D’s of Leadership

The Seven D’s of Leadership

Written by Principal Angel Oliphant

As a child I developed a love of reading and was like a sponge when it came to learning new things. By the time I got to high school, it was clear to me that both race and socio-economic status have a major impact on student learning and achievement. I saw this as a huge problem and made a vow to be a part of the solution. Now as a principal in a Title 1 school, my top priority is meeting students’ academic and social-emotional needs.    

These are seven leadership tips that I’ve used over the years that have contributed to my effectiveness as a principal:

1. Determine the needs of your students and put them first. Before any decision is made I always ask myself if it is good for students. I analyze multiple data sources and make sure students’ basic needs are met before trying to close their academic gaps. This can be accomplished through formal and informal assessments and observations. Counselors and Social Workers also play a key role in this.

  1. Develop strong relationships. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Show compassion for students and teachers and what they are going through. Be a good listener as they share their concerns with you. Just as I encourage teachers to develop strong relationships with their students, it is important for me to develop relationships with my teachers. Teacher support, nurturing and coaching are extremely critical for students’ success.

3.Depend on parents and other stakeholders within the school community for support. Parents love their children and want them to be successful. Partner with them by keeping them informed of students’ progress and engaging them in what is happening in the classroom and throughout the school. Remember the saying, “It takes a village.” All stakeholders are important. I’m a firm believer that the collective knowledge and experience of the whole far outweighs my knowledge and experience as a single individual. 

  1. Deposit into students’ and teachers’ emotional bank accounts. Even the smallest accomplishments should be recognized. This helps to motivate and encourage students and teachers to persevere. Let them know how proud you are of their efforts. They want to feel valued and appreciated.
  1. Delegate to others. You can’t do everything on your own.  Empower and promote the growth of teacher leaders by assigning them responsibilities and various leadership roles in the school. I trust teachers to accomplish these tasks independently because I’ve armed them with tools for success. This also includes soliciting input from teachers on important decisions.

7. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Choose your battles wisely. It’s ok to give in sometimes as long as it doesn’t hurt the students. Some things are just not that important. Spend your time on things that matter the most.

Letter From a Compassionate Educator

Letter From a Compassionate Educator

I’ve been trying to come up with something to say in regards to the school year being finished early.  Over the past two weeks, I have been struggling with what to say to teachers and administrators as they worried about their students.  Not only about their learning, but more importantly about their well-being. 

We are in our second week of providing meals to over 1,000 students each day and will continue until tangible support allows for us to do otherwise.  Our schools have also been asked by the governor to prepare to possibly provide childcare to specific essential staff if needed in the near future. Early stages of that plan are beginning…

Right now, my message to our teachers is that parents are not teachers and we shouldn’t expect them to be. Their main job is to take care of their kids. My only expectation is that we are communicating with our families, offering them suggested material, and to do what they can without frustration.

There are many activities out there being shared online and it’s great to see. Right now it’s all fairly new.  However there will be an increasing number of families who will have to work from home, or have no work at all…and “teaching” their children their grade level curriculum shouldn’t be top of the priority list.

Educators are seeing this and know what will need to happen; we will have to teach more when they come back. And it’s what we will do.  Yes, most likely the gaps will be bigger…but my hope is our students take this time to read, have fun learning when they can, read some more, and spend time with their families.

For families who want to continue learning, reach out to your child’s teacher. Some of our online programs are personalized to be on each child’s level. But expectations should be minimal…because new material has to be taught before learned/mastered. Some students will have the means to get it while others will struggle. Knowing where your child is and what they can handle will help and your teacher can help with that as well.

Like many other communities, many of our families do not even have internet access to allow for online learning. And because of our demographics, the reality is many of our students are not on grade level. This at least gives us time to reteach and have fun doing it.

Most people outside of education, or those with no children in school, do not know the amount of support schools offer to our students and families. Besides educating them, we are their shelter, their meals, and their emotional support. I already have a long list of students/families we need to reach out to…we were doing it before and we will continue to do it now. But it will definitely be more challenging. Our school counselors will be on the frontlines in developing ways to help our students.

I feel awful for our seniors…no words can really take away from the anger and frustration they are currently feeling. This will make them stronger and more resilient.  We learn from the most difficult moments of our lives…and this will surely make our seniors even more extraordinary than they already are. Most schools will be thinking about how to make sure they are celebrated and it will be a special one. Give them time to plan it out…we will get there!

Most of all, we have to use patience. I know, I wish I had all the answers. Everyone is anxious…but we have time.  Don’t try to do it all at once. Less, will certainly be more. 

Take care and be healthy.

Jake Boula | Winchester Public Schools
Director of Elementary and Intermediate Instruction