UES65

TYLER: I wondered if my mom and I would ever really know each other again. When I was in fifth grade my mother became addicted to drugs, and this incredibly unexpected part of her life’s story became part of mine, as well. For one year my mother was not herself. She lost her way, lost me, and lost almost everything that mattered to her. The news is plagued by stories of addiction, and “experts” visit schools to lecture kids on this topic, referencing statistics and complex brain functions. But NO ONE shares personal experiences. No one tells you that the person you love can’t get out of bed. They don’t talk about the rage, depression, abandonment, irresponsibility and incredible pain and sorrow the people around them go through. The experts leave out the real-life details. But I know the details, witnessing my mother’s battle with her addiction and my father’s fight to save me from it. I didn’t tell anyone about my mother’s addiction for six years. I was ashamed of what people would think of me and, worse, of my mother. If other parents knew about my mother would they let their kids play with me? Would they shun my mother? I was urged to attend a Generation S.O.S. meeting nearly four years ago — a snowy afternoon on MLK weekend. I sat quietly, still unsure why I came, wondering how this was going to help me considering I wasn’t an addict. The leader asked us to say our first name, school, grade, and why we were there. My luck — I was first. I stared at the floor as I recited the words, “ Hi, my name is Tyler, I go to Trinity, I’m in 11th grade, and I’m here because my mother is an addict.” I can’t explain it but saying it out loud for the first time felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. As the rest of the kids spoke, I was in shock. Each was either an addict or had someone in their family who suffered. These kids were my contemporaries but what I noticed was they all accepted their stories. Their lives weren’t perfect but the group helped me understand the “perfect life” does not exist. I saw so many brave souls tell their stories and I wanted to be one of them. I asked my mother if she would be willing

secrets. I was free. Afterwards, I was approached by so many kids asking if they could come to this meeting, and the school psychologist’s office had a line of kids coming to get help. They said it was the most engaging assembly they had ever seen. My mother still meets with adults who reached out to her that day. I might not be a rock star, but for one day I got to feel what it was like to be one, just by sharing my story. “A MILLION STORIES” The “S.O.S.” in Generation S.O.S. stands for “Sharing Our Stories.” Story sharing will always be at the core of our

GENERATION S.O.S. SPEAKERS

mission because everyone, directly or indirectly, knows someone impacted by substance misuse or overdose and, as a result, everyone has a story to tell. We also know that sharing these stories — which in many cases have never been told due to the crippling stigma and shame that, sadly, surround this issue — can be incredibly cathartic, even hopeful. For many, it is the end of a painful, often private journey and the beginning of healing. Generation S.O.S. is launching an ambitious movement-building campaign called “A Million Stories.” The idea is really very simple. We want youth all around the country to create short (20-30 second) videos of their stories on their mobile phones, and then post them to Instagram @GenerationSOS. We are not looking for works of art, just authentic stories from people whose lives have been touched by this issue. As more and more teens and young adults share their stories, the movement will grow, as will the realization that they are all in this together and, with each other’s love and support, they will get through it. And Generation S.O.S. will be here to help them however we can.

TYLER AND HIS MOM

to let me break her anonymity by speaking to my entire high school about what I’d been through and how I was getting help. My school offers seven assemblies a year, run by a senior about a topic important to them. I applied to be a speaker and, sure enough, I was chosen. As I told my story from the podium, I saw kids with tears streaming down their faces and in disbelief. As I finished, an entire room leapt to their feet. There was an outpouring of love. The relief and joy I felt was indescribable. I had no more

38 WESTONMAGAZINEGROUP.COM

Made with FlippingBook - Online catalogs