St. Mary’s Students Smash Stereotypes of Addiction

Meet Colby and Olivia: Two St. Mary’s School students who are learning that addiction isn’t as simple as it’s made out to be. These two ladies are spending their junior year volunteering with Healing Transitions Men’s Facility in Raleigh, a rehab facility who offers “innovative peer-based recovery oriented services to homeless and under-served individuals with alcoholismand other drug addictions.” Colby and Olivia served with RYM last spring during St. Mary’s COMPASS week, and Olivia was able to work at Healing Transitions Women’s FacHT-Logo-cmykility one afternoon. Olivia’s eyes were opened to the realities of addiction, and she was inspired by the work done there, so much so that she convinced Colby to volunteer with her there the next fall. On their first day volunteering, though, they realized they had accidentally gone to the Men’s Facility instead, but they stuck around, making connections with the staff, and realized there was pleny of work to be done there.

They volunteered regularly twice a week for months, addressing letters to donors, updating the website, creating a powerpoint to be used for education and promotion, and researching stories of people who have experienced addiction or homelessness. Colby told us that it was through these projects that she learned the most, and that their unique gifts as teenagers were able to shine and most help the facility. She said, “I feel like I’m able to make a difference because… [the staff there] has been trying to get the message across in one way when me and Olivia can come in through a new way and maybe touch more people.” She said she believes that as teenagers they can make a difference because they came in not knowing much about addiction, and can offer a fresh perspective to the staff and other people their age.

Colby Warren
Colby Warren

Both girls said that what they learned the most is that addiction isn’t what it’s generally perceived to be. Part of their work was to read the stories of those affected by addiction and homelessness. Colby said, “There’s a lot of stuff we assume about addicts and the homeless…but by reading stories…we learned so much more than we knew, and how hard it is what
they actually go through, instead of just assuming what we usually do.”

Olivia Collins

Olivia said her interaction with one of the directors there helped her to break down stereotypes of addiction. She said, “I always imagined an alcoholic as someone who was quiet, and defensive over their problem, but yet he just spilled it all to two teenage girls whom he just met an hour ago.” She said he was”living proof” that people can recover if they have access to help.

Healing Transitions is a unique facility because it offers services to those who generally would not be able to afford it. Without services like these, those who are addicted and living in poverty would have no access to help, or would potentially end up in jail, perpetuating a cycle of poverty. What are these resources in your community? What is your youth group doing to serve them? Let YMCo know by emailing us at [email protected]! We’ve also created a resource for you to use to talk about addiction with your youth. Check out our study guide here!

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