When I was first approached to write something about my first year in prevention, I enthusiastically replied… “Sure!” However, as the day continued, I realized I had no idea how to describe the past year of my life. There are so many words I could use to express what this experience has been. From terrifying to exhilarating to hopeless to rewarding to enlightening… and everything in between. Yet the word that best sums up the happenings between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. – is “necessary.”
I was not ignorant to the world of addiction when I accepted a position at PRIDE of Tuscaloosa. Not only did I have years of experience working with teens as a youth pastor, I had also witnessed, first-hand, the negative effects of substance abuse in the lives of family members and friends. I honestly did not anticipate learning from the job as much as I expected to use what I already knew. However, no matter what you “know,” there is always something you don’t – and boy have I learned. Whether you graduated from high school 50 years ago or last year, things have changed and are changing every day.
In the past year, I have discovered the world social media drug dealing. I have gained insight into what really happens in the halls of our public schools. I have listened to popular songs that encourage the consumption of every substance imaginable – songs our kids sing word-for-word. I have attempted to warn teens as they explain how they “know good weed” and “won’t get got” by anyone lacing their “gas.” I have spent hours talking to teen boys in orange jumpsuits who truly believe the only way out is in – in the drug game, the violence game, the crime game. And I have held back tears as I realized our kids are being attacked on all sides by influences that create a virtual brick wall for prevention.
I could write for hours (and talk for more) about what it’s like to work in the field of prevention, but I’m closing in on my word limit here. There is no way I could fully express how I feel about what I do, but I can tell you this: Education is key. That brick wall we’re up against is most certainly daunting and, at times, it feels as though we are attempting to dismantle it with a toothpick, but we carry on.
So, as I close, I ask you – will you pick up a toothpick and join the cause? Educate yourself. Educate your kids. Educate your students. Educate your friends. Education is – absolutely, without a doubt – necessary.