Experience allowed me to shift my focus inward
A few days before attending the University of Utah School on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, I got a phone call that my sister had been hospitalized due to her heroin addiction. I was hopeful that going to the Utah School during this difficult time would help me to find answers. As someone who has personally experienced the dangers of prescription drug abuse and misuse in my own family, I knew that the Utah School was going to be a life-changing experience for me. At first I thought that I would come away with new knowledge about how I could “fix” my sister. What I came away with was far different.
A personal struggle
Growing up with a father who was not in my life because of his drug addiction made me resent him and the addiction. I never understood how someone who said he loved his children more than anything could act in a way that contradicted that. I was never able to understand why someone would “choose” to do something like that to themselves and to their families. Although we learn in pharmacy school that addiction is a disease, it can be a hard concept to accept for someone who has an addict in their life.
Unfortunately, even as the Generation Rx chair at my APhA–ASP Chapter, I have had difficulty putting aside my personal feelings toward drug abuse. I have always struggled with my feelings about calling addiction a disease. Part of me felt as though they made the choice to abuse drugs and to call it a disease was an easy way out.
Having these family members directly affected by prescription drug abuse has made me want to do whatever I can to prevent others from becoming a victim of this disease. I have learned how it impacts a person’s life and the lives of the people surrounding them. Education and awareness are crucial to having an impact on the prescription drug addiction epidemic.
(From left to right): Molly Bedsole, Elise Aucoin, and Aimee Patterson take part in the Utah School group hike.
A new perspective
After attending a group therapy session of addicts currently in recovery while at the Utah School, I was able to see addicts in a far different light. Seeing their struggle, vulnerability, and inability to fight this disease on their own helped me grasp how powerless an addict is. I gained the empathy that I struggled to feel for so long. The Utah School taught me how pharmacists, as a profession, can prevent and make an impact on the overwhelming problem of addiction. In the end, I believe the real focus is to learn how we can make ourselves better, rather than how we can “fix” everyone else.
On a personal level, the Utah School has taught me that we cannot help others if we do not first help ourselves. It made me realize that I needed to shift my focus inward. I was finally able to talk openly with my dad about my feelings on his addiction. The Utah School also gave me the courage to reach out to my sister. I put aside the bitterness that I was holding on to because of how much her addiction has hurt my family. I confronted the guilt I felt as a Generation Rx chair, because if I couldn’t “solve” this issue within my own family, then how could I teach others to solve their problems? Most importantly, I learned that there is only so much that friends, family, and supporters can do, and it is ultimately the addict’s responsibility to seek recovery.
Empathy and understanding
As a future pharmacist, I learned that empathy and understanding are keys to connecting with your patients and helping them overcome their challenges. You cannot be an effective pharmacist if you do not have a full understanding of the disease and its effect on the patient. The Utah School helped me overcome my personal feelings toward addiction and helped me to fully understand the numerous factors that are involved with addiction and recovery.
I am a recipient of the APhA–ASP Ronald L. Williams Memorial Fund for the University of Utah School on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, and I would like to thank all of those supporters whose generosity allowed me to enjoy this amazing experience.