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FCD discussions provide valuable information on addiction

January 31, 2018

From Jan. 9-11, representatives from Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) spoke to students from 8th through 12th grades about drugs, alcohol and addiction. Sophomores Izzy Andrews and Mehak Batra share their experiences with the program and what they learned through discussions with former addicts.

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Addiction: the persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.

This dictionary definition of addiction, or one close to it, was the first thing I read during my first Freedom from Chemical Dependency session this year. “Not always,” I whispered to my friend. “My use of caffeine isn’t compulsive or harmful.”

My FCD speaker heard me and came over to where I was sitting, sparking a lively conversation about caffeine as an addictive drug. As someone who openly admits to being addicted to caffeine, I had quite a bit to say about the role caffeine plays in my daily life. While I recognized the fact that missing my morning latte triggered a bad mood and a nasty headache, I did not feel that my reliance on caffeine was “compulsive” or “harmful.” In fact, I would describe it as “deliberate” and “quite enjoyable.” That said, this dialogue set the tone for what would be an incredibly informative and eye-opening exploration of addiction over the next few days.

During FCD last year, I sat through Kahoots, verbal question sets, PowerPoints and other attempts to involve a class of disinterested freshmen. I thought it impossible that I would ever be exposed to or sample the drugs and alcohol that they spoke of, and the lack of relatability made it difficult to buy into the FCD message.

This year, however, I was much more interested in the FCD discussions, and I think the rest of my classmates were, too. There were no cliched lead-in questions, organized PowerPoint presentations or anything else of the sort — just simple, involved discussion. I now know that many of my peers have taken illicit substances, and what the speaker talked about suddenly seemed quite real. I was astounded that many of my classmates had in-depth questions about addiction and how many of them personally knew alcoholics or drug addicts.

I believe that FCD has valuable long-term potential. The program is wise to abstain from preaching abstinence, and instead emphasizes the consequences of bad choices and the importance of helping others who may be struggling with addiction. By acknowledging that friends are going to make mistakes, program shows that it recognizes that kids are fallible and that instead of casting blame, we should focus on supporting each other.

I hope that St. John’s continues its partnership with FCD. It is clear to me that we need the safe space that they provide to explore the complex issues of substance abuse and addiction. While I am not ready to give up my own “addiction,” I do feel like I can understand and empathize with how people can get stuck in tough situations. I am hopeful that we can all come away from these sessions with a new perspective and a willingness to help those around us without judgment.

  

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When an addiction prevention speaker came to my previous high school, the first thing I was told was “you should never do drugs and alcohol because they ruin your life.” Having attended a vocational school that specializes in health science, I believed the statement completely. However, I was never told what happens when you actually take a drug or get drunk.

My experience with FCD completely changed my mindset. My speaker told us that teens are likely to come into contact with drugs and alcohol. Her goal was to prepare us to ask “What should I do next?” in these situations.             

Over three days, my classmates and I discussed the definition of addiction, the importance of finding trustworthy friends and how to approach situations involving substance abuse. There were many times before FCD when I have felt uncomfortable in a situation involving substance abuse. Parties have made me feel trapped because I don’t know how to help my friends when they are intoxicated or high. The most valuable thing I have learned from FCD is when and how to get my friends and myself out of a situation that I am not comfortable with.

At my previous high school, I was taught about the physical appearance and symptoms caused by a variety of prescription and illegal drugs. FCD didn’t focus on the scientific explanation of substance abuse, but the program better explained both the social and health impact without getting into tedious technical specifics.

When asked if they have ever consumed alcohol, a surprisingly large number of my classmates raised their hand. Students also raised their hand when asked if they knew a drug addict, justifying the need for FCD. Moreover, the questions above led into an open discussion about the harms of addiction and later the speaker’s relatable story about battling addiction.

The speaker’s story started when she first consumed alcohol in sixth grade, but she only started drinking heavily in high school. Because of her academic and social stress, she used the alcohol as a stress reliever and eventually became an addict. Her addiction, which carried on until her early twenties, made her more insecure and stressed — the direct opposite of what she wanted to feel. Because our school is a stressful environment, it represents the inclination of many students to consume alcohol or drugs. Her story, however, left many students with the knowledge that stress cannot be “cured” with substance abuse.

I am glad that we have the opportunity to speak with professionals with copious background knowledge on drugs and alcohol. I engaged with classmates, heard their perspectives and opinions and listened to the speaker’s experience with addiction. I learned that abstinence is not the only way out of a situation.

I look forward to the FCD talks next year, but until then, I will have discussions with my classmates about making the right decision when it comes to the substances that could potentially control our lives.

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