Substance Abuse: Raise Your Hand If You Need Help! (Part 1)

Do you remember in grade school when a teacher would say:

“Raise your hand if you need help!”?

Those simple words invited students to move from clueless to clued in, bewildered to enlightened, and even lost to found.

Most of us eventually mastered asking for help with math or writing to get the grade.

But what about those less clear-cut life challenges that confound us—inducing pain or confusion in often-hidden areas of our lives? Are we equipped to raise our hands?

As someone with relatively high empathy, it hurts me to see others hurting. And I’ve been the one hurting, unequipped to solve my problem or ask for help.

I’m writing this as an invitation to those who are lost, either personally or professionally, to stop suffering alone, to be willing to raise your hand if you need help.

Today, I want to share something that is very close to my heart. You may wonder why I am writing about this as a leadership consultant and speaker. I’m addressing this because wherever I go, even if I am talking about workplace topics, I’m finding that more people are hiding their struggles as an addict, or parent/spouse/sister/brother/uncle/etc. of an addict. Until we come out of the shadows and address this as an issue that affects us—both at home and work—we can’t adequately seek solutions.

Raise your hand if you need help overcoming an addiction

According to Tim Ryan, my dear friend and national crusader leading the fight against the opioid pandemic in our nation, 179 people die from opiates each day.

As a child of the ‘70s, many musicians I grew up listening to succumbed to an addiction—artists like Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison (The Doors), Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon (The Who), Sid Vicious (The Sex Pistols), Bon Scott (AC/DC), and John Bonham (Led Zeppelin). But I didn’t personally know any of those people.

Addiction is personal.

Now think of the 179 people each day who die from an opiate addiction. Let that number sink in. Those who die from an addiction are someone’s brother or sister, parent or child, friend or cousin. It’s personal.

Have you personally known someone who has died as a result of a substance abuse problem? If you don’t, you are a very rare person. Substance abuse touches almost every family, company, and community in the world.

Less than 3 years ago, I lost my precious 18-year-old daughter to a heroin overdose. She was so much more than a statistic. She was smart, funny, beautiful, talented, and athletic. And she suffered alone with a heroin addiction that I never knew about. I believe that she hid it from everyone, including me, because she didn’t want to disappoint those who of us who loved her most.

Had I known of her struggle with addiction, I would have laid down my life to help her. For whatever reason, she didn’t raise her hand to get help. And now I’ve spent my third Father’s Day without her.

She did not have to suffer and die alone. Help was available. And if you are in the throes of an addiction, you are not alone. Help still is available. Where there is life, there is hope.

Tim Ryan’s insights don’t come from multiple degrees in psychology or addiction; they come, instead, from the nearly 35 years he spent as an alcoholic and heroin addict. His experiences led him to prison, where he finally grasped recovery. His insights come from the loss of his own son to heroin.

Instead of getting bitter, Tim uses his pain to help hundreds of people into treatment and recovery.

Instead of feeling helpless, I’ve become close friends with Tim Ryan so I can have a hand in helping others avoid the shame, guilt, and grief of loss that I’ve experienced in my life.

When Tim spoke the other day at the Indiana Criminal Justice Association, he said this to a packed room of corrections officers, prison chaplains and counselors:

“The reason I stayed lost in addiction for so long is because I didn’t know how to raise my hand and ask for help.”

Help is personal.

If addiction has you in its grasp, please raise your hand and ask for help. Call Tim Ryan’s A Man in Recovery Foundation at 844-611-HOPE (4673). Reach out to Transformations Alcohol & Drug Treatment Center at (888) 677-1646, the treatment center Tim works for, because of its high level of care. Or call Tim directly at 312-502-8671.

If you love someone who is trapped in addiction, raise your hand and ask for help. You can call Tim Ryan who can point you in the right direction. Find a local Al-Anon group to get help, and find others in your area who also love an addict or alcoholic. Forward this on to someone else you know with a struggling loved one so they can save the contact information.

If you want to learn more about how to talk to you kids about drugs and alcohol, reach out to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. They are a great resource.

If you are a Human Resource professional, start a conversation with your SHRM peers about the best-practices for helping an employee who is struggling with an addiction. If an employee comes to you asking for help, termination shouldn’t be an option any more than it would be if an employee informed you that they were diagnosed with diabetes and were seeking treatment.

You are never alone.

I have known some happy alcoholics and drug addicts, but their happiness lasts only in those waning moments between the highs and the blackouts, between the elation and the shame. I’ve never met an alcoholic or drug addict who was happy to be enslaved by their addiction.

You don’t have to be a statistic. You don’t have to leave a gaping hole in the hearts of those who love you most.

Raise your hand if you need help!

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Tom Arnold says:

    Hi Scott,
    It was great seeing you in Phoenix. Can’t believe summer is on us. You may not remember our conversation in Phoenix but I mentioned a personal issue in my life with my live in girlfriend. I have been with Heidi over a year now and life is a roller coaster. She is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. She is considerably younger than me, 48 and since I have never experienced anything like this in my family I don’t seem to have a lot of patience or credibility when we have discussions about drugs and alcohol. She is currently drug free and going to counseling and therapy for her alcohol problem. If your willing I would love to have dinner with you and your wife and Heidi and me. On me of course.

    1. Hi Tom! I remember and have mentioned it to Jocelyn. We’d love to get together with you and Heidi. I’ll email you and we’ll work out the details.

  2. Connie Bunn says:

    Hi Scott,
    I wanted to share something with you about the Hope Initiative that takes place in the tiny NC town of Nashville. You may be aware of this program but if not I wanted you to know about it. We are so proud of what our Chief of Police has accomplished.
    Or you can check it out here:
    Bless you and your family.

    1. Thanks for sharing this. Someone asked me yesterday about events and resources in NC. I will share this!

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