On Thursday, Jan. 29, the Addiction Prevention Coalition hosted a "Wake Up" breakfast to a packed house at the Vestavia Country Club. The event focused on drug and alcohol culture among local youth and how to better prevent substance abuse.
The Addiction Prevention Coalition is a grassroots organization that helps to prevent substance abuse by fostering community collaborations, facilitating student led drug prevention programs and expanding access to services across Alabama. The coalition is planning to partner with Vestavia Hills High School in the coming year.
During the event, Addiction Prevention Coalition Executive Director Sandor Cheka presented the city of Vestavia Hills with the Community Impact Award, honoring the city for its efforts in fighting substance abuse.
"As we've watched this community, we've been inspired," Cheka said. "What's going on in Vestavia Hills is people being proactive together."
During the breakfast, VHHS graduate Brad Blount shared his story of addiction and recovery. Blount was on his high school’s football, baseball and wrestling teams. In 2008, he began taking painkillers after a high school shoulder injury crushed his dream of playing college baseball.
Blount was in emotional and physical pain, but when he took a Lortab he immediately felt a weight lifted. Eventually, Blount was taking pain pills every two to four hours and became good at hiding it from his family and friends.
"If I ever thought signs were noticeable I would do whatever I could to protect my addiction and cover it up," Blount said. "There was a time when I thought I would never take a sober breath again."
Blount's addiction to pain pills eventually led to heroin addiction. Heroin death is on the rise according to the Jefferson County Coroner's office. Deputy Coroner Bill Yates reports there were 129 confirmed heroin deaths last year, compared to 58 in 2013.
Luckily, through the support of family and friends, Blount was able to overcome his addiction. He has now been clean for a year and a half and is sharing his story with parents and children everywhere.
His advice for parents is to not let their emotions get the best of them when speaking with their children.
"You don't need to say things like 'I didn't raise you this way.' They already know that you didn't raise them that way," Blount said. "It's important not to minimize what they are going through."
Blount encouraged parents to regularly communicate with their children and to watch for suspicious behavior such as a frequent unexplained disappearances, a drop in grades and loss of interest in activities.
"Many parents tend to fall into this mindset of believing what they want to believe. Don't risk the life of your child by letting things slide," said Blount. "You can't alter a choice a child is going to make but you can give them every reason possible to make the right decision."
Previous Help the Hills coverage in the Vestavia Voice
Help the Hills hosts town Hall meeting with panel discussion
Breaking the silence
Upcoming Help the Hills event
On April 7 at 6 p.m. at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church, Help the Hills will host a session with parents and children. Dr. Stephen Taylor will be the speaker. For the past 19 years, Dr. Taylor has worked as a licensed, board-certified general, child/adolescent, and addiction psychiatrist. He is also certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine as a specialist in addiction medicine.
For more about the Addiction Prevention Coalition, visit addictionpreventioncoalition.org. For more about the Help the HIlls initiative, visit leadershipvestaviahills.com