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DYLAN SPEAKING AT A GENERATION S.O.S. MEETING

DYLAN: Accepting that I was an addict, at 21, was the hardest thing I ever did. I thought, “It’s impossible at such a young age!” However, when I sat down with a fellow alcoholic and recounted my journey from first drink to last, there was no question I, too, suffered from addiction. I was so ashamed to consider myself an alcoholic because of the stigma. It meant I was different, and growing up different from anyone was a “death sentence.” It didn’t fit with who I thought I was, who my parents expected me to be, how I wanted others to see me. I was angry at the world and didn’t want to admit defeat. Addiction didn’t begin with my drinking. I developed a severe eating disorder at age 15, and was taking Ambien, Xanax, and Adderall — but not as prescribed. I describe my relationship with substances (metaphorically) as important as my best friend, my boyfriend, and my parents. Imagine the person you feel safest with, happiest with, and trust to always be there for you. Now, replace that person with a substance. I didn’t choose this path, and no matter how much I loved you, the disease of alcoholism made me love the substance more. Addiction kept me isolated from help by convincing me that I always knew best. Substances robbed me of my childhood, my relationship with my family and friends, and my self-love and confidence. I made some attempts at changing, but with every failed attempt I found another addiction to hold on to, like cocaine, which only made everything worse. I didn’t have access to resources or people who could show me what being sober meant. I needed another person in whom I saw myself, who had been through what I had and come out the other side. I had to put to rest the idea that only I know what is best for me and allow other experienced individuals to guide me. Conquering addiction is not easy, it is not something you can defeat alone, but it is possible for anyone. I found Generation S.O.S. through a friend and instantly wished it existed when I was younger. It might have spared me all the pain and suffering. It’s such a welcoming community — for people with no experience with addiction, people who know someone struggling, and those of us

and is led by, young adults, focusing on preventing addiction. We don’t preach abstinence because it is unrealistic in today’s society. Instead, our young adults create awareness about the dangers of substance misuse, in order to engage and educate their peers before they are faced with difficult choices — or worse. Our members are involved in an extraordinary range of projects, including forming school clubs, creating peer support videos, producing community events, posting social media content, and even building our website. A year ago, Generation S.O.S. expanded to Miami and, in November, Los Angeles. Within five years we will be in 25+ cities across the country. We’re building a massive social media presence, creating interactive programs to be used in schools, and working with a leading producer to create concerts to grow our movement around the country. An annual fundraiser was held in Bridgehampton in August — “Shoot for Awareness” with Jay Williams, former NBA star and ESPN analyst.

who are recovering. I was honored when they asked me to share my story with high school students and parents because I wanted to speak to that girl struggling with an eating disorder, to parents who feel helpless because they don’t know how to help their child, or just to give anyone hope. Those amazing events that once made me feel so ashamed and disgraced now allow me to share my journey with others… and maybe help just one. BUILDING A MOVEMENT We are helping build a movement of youth who will support each other and transform how America responds to this health crisis. We focus on movement-building because there is, literally, strength in numbers. When our youth realize they are not alone as they confront challenges with substance use, they feel empowered. Within just a few years, we intend to make Generation S.O.S., and the resources we provide, known to virtually every student in the country. Generation S.O.S. is unlike any other national nonprofit organization — it serves,

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