Nearly 50 people gathered on April 7 for the Lighthouse club’s “Behind the Stigma: Substance Abuse and Addiction” event. Three students told their stories of dealing with addiction, and Director of Health Services Brock Lutz gave the closing talk.
Junior Ryan Potrykus shared about how, when he was younger, his mother was addicted to opiates, drugs that commonly come in the form of painkillers. Potrykus coasted through much of his childhood unaware of his mom’s battle with drugs. He witnessed tension between his parents and remembers his dad as angry and frustrated during those years.
When he was 11, his mom went to rehab.
“I didn’t talk to my mom for two years,” Potrykus said. “I felt extremely lost during that time. In high school, I started getting into drugs.”
It wasn’t until his mom came home that Potrykus started thinking seriously about quitting his addiction.
“My mom completely changed when she came back. I saw that drugs don’t have to overpower you for the rest of your life,” Potrykus said.
Sophomore Cecily Parell’s story was one of familial addiction. Though she herself never struggled with substance abuse, alcoholism runs in her family.
Parell’s uncle was the catalyst for her family’s discovery of the disease. He was in rehab when Parell’s father went to visit him. He sat in on an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and realized that his brother wasn’t the only one with an addiction.
It wasn’t much later that Parell’s father gave up alcohol for good. She was 7 years old. She never considered his addiction much of a part of her life, until she got older and saw how it had affected her. Parell began to notice that she picked up broken people wherever she went, something children and family members of alcoholics often do.
“We want to fix things,” Parell said. “We feel as though we have some responsibility to correct that brokenness because we weren’t able to before.”
Sophomore Keyona Shabazz spoke about a personal struggle with addiction. Shabazz grew up in an urban, drug-ridden part of Fort Worth, Texas. They even infiltrated Shabazz’s home.
“The functioning members of my family have done marijuana. Some of them even got into crack cocaine,” Shabazz said.
In eighth grade, she made up her mind to try marijuana. During her high school years, her use of the drug remained somewhat sporadic until she was a senior. Even then, however, she told herself that her using wasn’t a problem — she was doing fine in school, she had gotten accepted to Hillsdale, she had good friends.
This year, she began drinking, too. Her addiction reached a low point during winter break. It was then that her mother found out about her use of marijuana, and Shabazz realized her dependency. For those who find themselves having to justify their use of alcohol or drugs, Shabazz warns: “There’s going to come a day when it’s stronger than you.”
Lutz closed the event by talking about his experience with substance abuse. His father died from alcoholism when Lutz was 13 years old. Lutz, too, developed a problem with alcohol.
Sober for six years, he still speaks about the reach of alcoholism in families and in one’s own life.
“We so often want to hide from those things that actually spur growth in our lives,” Lutz said. “Recovery happens when we deal with them, and that takes brutal honesty. It takes a commitment to learning how to handle difficult things.”
Senior Katy Norton, president of Lighthouse, the campus’ club for mental health awareness and the host of the event, said that denial is one of the biggest issues with addiction.
Lighthouse will be hosting their fourth Stigma event on eating disorders soon.