May 2023 Newsletter

The Reason Why Must Be the Focus

By Stephen Hill, J.D.

Why me? Why did I misuse drugs and alcohol and develop a substance use disorder?

The reason why is one of the most important parts of my talk where we can closely connect mental health and substance use. You likely have heard in the past that people who use drugs are bad people. “Don’t hang out with them, they are bad people.” “Stay away from them, they are bad people.” In my experience, that is not the case. 

People start using substances because they don’t like the way they feel and are trying to change that uncomfortable feeling. Depression, anxiety, trauma, bullied, low self-confidence, low self-esteem, loneliness, struggling with friends, wanting to fit in, wanting to be cool, wanting to feel accepted, and really just wanting to feel okay. Do people who have these struggles sound like bad people?” I think not.

The problem is any relief you get from using substances is only temporary, sooner than later substances will stop working altogether when you develop a tolerance, and using drugs and alcohol does something much worse than changing the way you feel—they change who you are, and it is certainly not a better version of yourself. Instead, you get progressively worse until one day, you lose your true self completely. Unfortunately, some people never find their way back.

One reason I started using drugs and alcohol was because I had low self-confidence and low self-esteem as a result of struggling in school. I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2nd grade. I felt like there was something wrong with me. If I wasn’t playing sports I did not feel comfortable in my own skin. 

As a result of excelling in sports I was playing with older kids and I wanted to be accepted. I realize now I wasn’t just chasing the drugs and alcohol, I was also chasing the validation I received from my peers when I used drugs and alcohol with them. I felt accepted. A pat on the back from my older teammates. Everyone needs to feel accepted, but I found it in an extremely unhealthy way.

Sometimes, we don’t feel good about ourselves, and that is okay as long as you ask for help. We must develop healthy coping skills and learn healthy strategies to work through those uncomfortable feelings, overcome them, and then come out on the other side—stronger.

Stephen Hill and Christine Badi, Director of Guidance, finishing breakout sessions with juniors at Regis High School.

For any audience I am blessed to speak with, my keynote presentation is educational, motivational, and inspirational in nature. It is supported by stories which effectively help the audience better understand the big picture of why people use substances, how to avoid the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol, and how to work through struggles that can lead to addiction and worsen mental health.

In my breakout sessions and workshops, I dive deep into the specifics, especially as it relates to healthy coping skills and strategies that lead to a sustainable lifestyle of wellness.

I cannot stress prevention and early intervention enough because once someone develops an addiction—particularly adolescents—the journey back can be an extremely difficult, dark, and long road. Even worse, in keeping up with current drug trends—the fentanyl and xylazine crisis—the road may not be long at all as there may not be time to intervene before it becomes fatal.

In honor of National Fentanyl Awareness Day on May 9th, 2023, my heart goes out to all of the families who lost a loved one due to fentanyl.

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