When America’s Opioid Crisis was Already Your Own

The first time I remember seeing my father cry was on October 17, 1989. I had just come home from high school to find neighbors gathering on my front lawn, surrounding my mother who was seated on a white whicker chair. My older sister parked the car and we exited together and swell of confusion and disbelief words were said and a message was conveyed that my older brother, Jon Foster, had died of a heroin overdose. Time became a social construct that no longer had relevance.

At some point I must have started crying before I determined that this joke had gone too far and an anger my 15 year old brain did not understand marched me into the house to get some tissue so that I could blow my nose and wipe my eyes so that I could confront whoever was cruelly mocking my family — and that’s when I saw him. As my righteous indignation marched me out of the bathroom I happened to look up and see my father sitting at the kitchen table. He was alone. He did not see me. He was just hanging up the phone and as he did so he laid his head in his hands and began to cry. Giant father sobs that anguished his shoulders with a burden I had never seen.

That’s when I knew. My brother was gone. It was not a cruel and senseless joke. A substance I did not know had ripped him out of the fabric of our lives and we would never be the same again.

Fast forward about 20 years. I’m a single mom of six (yep, you read that right) kids. I’m back in school and wondering how I’m going to support us and am still trying to make sense of the tapestry of my life. I learn about a Substance Use Disorder Program where I can become a drug counselor. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know what it meant and had to do some research.

I find that a Substance Use Disorder Counselor (also known as a SUDC and in lay terms is often called a drug counselor) is someone trained and licensed to offer a support system for people with addictions, including drug and alcohol problems. They teach individuals how to modify their behavior with the intention of full recovery. Because clients are susceptible to relapses, many substance abuse counselors work with clients on an on-going basis.

Some duties include:

  • Meeting with clients to evaluate their health and substance problem
  • Identifying issues and creating goals and treatment plans
  • Teaching clients coping mechanisms
  • Helping clients find jobs
  • Leading group sessions
  • Providing updates and progress reports to courts
  • Referring clients to support groups
  • Setting up aftercare plans
  • Meeting with family members and provide guidance and support

I’ve now been working in the field for approximately seven years. I have such passion for this work. I absolutely feel the honor of being able to jump in the trenches and work side-by-side with my clients. Recovery is no easy journey but I have seen miracles and this gives me tremendous hope.

The road to recovery is not easy, but it is possible and worth it!

I cannot change the events of October 17, 1989 but I have come to accept them. America’s opioid crisis started out as someone’s crisis. My hope is that the tides can turn through greater education, funding and research. Meanwhile, I’m grateful I have the chance to do my part.

If you live in Utah and are interested in Substance Use Disorder Counseling (or drug counseling) please contact us at (801) 407–9998. We are passionate about this work and have some hope to spare.

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