Yes, “these lives” are worth saving!

Posted by Rob Brandt, With 0 Comments, Category: Announcements, NarCan, Recovery, Stigma,

Drug-Addiction-642x336What is a life worth. What is your child’s life worth. These are questions that I ask when I hear people question the value of Narcan (Naloxone). There is nothing I wouldn’t do to have Robby back with us. So when people question the value of Narcan it does, well, piss-me-off.

At a meeting last summer, I even had a Police Officer tell me he struggled saving “their” lives.

Really? Their Lives?

Are we talking about kids like Robby who was so full of compassion as he dealt with the residents at the nursing home he worked at or when he chose to serve his country? Are we talking about kids like my friend Aaron who now, in recovery, is rising through the ranks of his company, is recently married, and who is a leader in the battle to stop this epidemic? Are we talking about our friend Stephanie who battled addiction, and now has dedicated her life to making a difference for young women in need?

Just whose lives are we talking about

Who gets to decide which ones live or die, which ones will make a difference in the lives of others or which family should have to live with the loss of that loved one?

Maybe we need a new movement called  Addicts Lives Matter to get the point across.

Every addict was once a child full of hopes, dreams and potential. Somewhere along the line they got derailed; overtaken with a disease they did not understand and have no ability to control. A disease that drives desperation and behavior that is simply, at times, reprehensible. But inside, under the weight of that disease, they are still those same kids that were once so full of life and hope.

Narcan saves lives. Narcan has proven, in communities where it is deployed, to reduce the incidence of use and addiction because it allows help to get to those that need it. Will some abuse it, play the Lazarus game? Probably. But should we condemn the majority of addicts who would trade every possession to be free of the monster that chases them daily for the actions of those under the influence of the devil himself?

Every addict is someone’s kid. It is never your kid until it is; then what? I believe that every addict deserves the opportunity to turn it around, to become that person God created them to be. You may not, but ask yourself this; “If it were my kid, would I want them to have that chance.”

For more information on Project Dawn, Narcan and distribution sites, please click on the links below:

Ohio Project Dawn

Cleveland Project Dawn

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Part 3: A Local Kid’s Story – Working Towards a Better Future

Posted by Chris Schinke, With 0 Comments, Category: Recovery, Tags: , , ,

RV-HopeIn the first and second post in our series, we learned about a young man, Alex, his invincible attitude and the consequences he experienced when caught with drugs.  This is the last post in the series and here we read the conclusion of his story, so far, and his hope for the future.

How do you think this will affect your future?

Having these charges on my record can affect my future negatively. I already touched on the fact that finding a job after I get my degree will be difficult, but there are many other things that could be affected in my future. I can see myself eventually getting married and I want to start a family. I want to have my kids grow up in a place that they can call home for many years. I am not expecting to be making a ton of money when I decide to get married and start a family because hopefully I will still be in my late twenties. It won’t be easy to get a loan for a house that me and my want to buy/build with a criminal record. I don’t expect to raise a family in an apartment building and having a criminal record could dissolve plans that my wife and I could have when we are ready to start a family. That is a sickening thought to me and I pray every day that is not the case. I am a very future-oriented thinker.

A court record could affect my future by making it impossible for me to coach hockey. I have been an avid hockey player, fan, and lover since as long as I can remember. One of my dreams has always been to coach a hockey team, preferably one in which my son was playing on. All in all, this experience could damage many of my life dreams and goals. That is very upsetting to me and that is why I am so motivated to fix my mistakes so that I am not held back by poor decisions earlier in my life.

Did you at any point, think about the severity of the consequences; the impact on your future or the things that could have happened?

There was one point that I can remember when I thought about all three of these things at the exact same time. This was at my last court hearing where I was going to be prosecuted. The judge had looked over the things that I had done leading up to my court date, but my attorney wasn’t sure if I had done enough to improve my chances of not having the four charges against me being put on my permanent record. I was charged and going to be prosecuted on were curfew, underage drinking, possession of an illegal substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. I had worked with my attorney over the course of the previous couple months to establish a defense to prevent some, if not all, of the charges going on my record. I went to AA meetings, took drug screenings every month on my own accord, and I improved my grades to show the judge that I was heading in the right direction with my life. I went into sentencing not knowing what to expect. The prosecution team worked with my attorney, and due to my admission of guilt, they were only going to pursue the possession of a substance and underage drinking charge. This was a relief to me, but I was still not happy to have both of those on my record. That is when the judge tasked me requirements and a message that I will be forever grateful for. Judge Michael J. Ryan talked to me as if I was his own son. He told me that I had too much potential and that it was not worth throwing away due to alcohol and marijuana. I listened to every word he said. He gave me the second chance for which I was hoping. All charges against me were to be dropped if I completed the requirements that he set forth. They included drug testing every two weeks, an apology letter to the police officer that pulled me over, an apology letter to my parents, a report on Mitch McGary and his situation regarding marijuana use, as well as thirty hours of community service through Robby’s voice. If I did not complete his requirements, I could potentially spend 30-90 days in juvenile detention. When the thought of me being in juvenile detention became a reality that is when the severity of the consequences, the impact on my future, and how worse off I could be, all became blatantly obvious. The real threat of spending time locked in a cell immediately motivated me to do everything in my power to have a clean slate.

What was your reaction to being sentenced to CS with ROBBY’S VOICE?

At first, when I was sentenced to community service with Robby’s Voice, I really didn’t have much of a reaction. I wasn’t frustrated that I had to do community service because I knew through completion, I would get a fresh start. I didn’t have a reaction because I knew nothing about RV. I was a bit nervous to do community service because I figured that everyone would look down on me as another screw-up kid who is required to simply complete his hours and that is that. I wasn’t sure if the members, or RV, would understand that I was just a naïve kid who made a couple poor decisions and who had to face the consequences.

The first step that I took when was researching Robby’s Voice. . What I discovered had a very personal effect on me. I read Robby’s story and I connected with more aspects of it then not. For some reason, I found myself consciously thinking that Robby was just like me in so many ways. In a way, it scared me. In another way, it brought me peace. Peace with my situation that my struggle with marijuana and alcohol was not even in the same caliber as Robby’s struggle. I remember thinking while reading Robby’s story that I don’t even know what addiction means. I really had no idea. It is impossible to fathom what Robby was going through during his struggle with addiction. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the difficulty of his battle. I was weak. I wanted to give up at times I thought were difficult. My battle with addiction is not even credible in relation to Robby’s. From the point, I never have felt sorry for myself again. There is no room for complaining; there is only room for action.

I was motivated. I learned a major principle from Robby’s story. That principle is that even when you think that things could not get worse in your life, someone else always has or had it much more difficult. Instead of being remorseful of having to do community service for RV, I was eager to engulf myself in their mission. I knew this even before I made contact with Rob, the director of Robby’s Voice, and Robby’s father. When I told him that I was excited to do community service for RV he said, “Alright let’s be honest no one is excited to do community service.” I was nervous but truly was excited. I was nervous because I wanted to be accepted by this great organization for who I am and not be judged by my mistakes.

I first helped the organization with their annual 5k run. As soon as I arrived, and met a couple members of the organization, I knew there was no need to be nervous. I also met Rob in person for the first time and the mission of RV became clear to me. I am happy to say that I am also the first court-ordered community service member that was assigned to hours with RV and I could not have been luckier. I learned that RV is made up of friends, family, and members that all carry on the legacy of Robby by helping those in need of guidance or help.

Addiction is a disease and just with every disease it is not easy to beat alone. RV works to educate those suffering with addiction and their loved ones on the dangers and the confrontation of addiction. I am glad to be doing community service through RV. I have learned a great deal about myself and I have learned a great deal about those battling everyday. I will not forget some of the people that I met at the race because their optimistic attitude on this subject amazes me. I will continue to do work with RV even when I am not required by the court simply because I believe in the purpose they are serving as an organization in the community. I have broken my silence when it comes to addiction and my personal struggle through the help of Rob and RV. I want to help others “break the silence” as well.

What have you learned so far?

I have learned a variety of different things throughout the course of the situation. First, I cannot change the past, but I can change myself so that I am better in the future. I don’t want to sound cliché, but as a result of being at the lowest point in my life, it has motivated me to be the best I have ever been both emotionally and physically.

I am the healthiest I have ever been. For once in my life, I am totally invested in my schoolwork and the pursuit of a good education from an amazing university. This is cheesy but I found a girl that accepts me for who I am, even though I have made all of these mistakes. I am happy but not content. I wont be completely content until I have finally taken care of all the court requirements bestowed on me so that the charges against me will be expunged.

I have also learned that I am not invincible. I am susceptible to the law just as anyone else is. It is a shame that I once thought that I would never get caught and that I could get away with anything. I also learned a lot about myself. To be specific, I learned how much stress and pressure I can actually handle until I break. I have learned that being involved with the law only complicates everything else one has going on in their life. I have learned, and honestly believe at this point, that if I never got pulled over that night when I was 17 years old, I may be in jail at 19 years old, my current age. Getting into trouble was “a blessing in disguise” and I thank God for that.

I also learned that when they say that your parents love you “unconditionally” they are a hundred percent correct. My parents have stuck by my side and supported me on this journey and I am forever grateful for them. I was a hard kid to love as they watched me stand as the judge read the charges against me the first time I was in court, but they still did everything they could for me. It is unbelievable that I was blessed with such wonderful people as my parents and mentors in life.

Above all, I learned that everyone makes a few dumb decisions in their lives. The people that really face the brute end of those consequences are those that just don’t do anything to improve. The ones that come out stronger are those that build of those consequences to make themselves a better person by righting the wrongs they have done in any way they possibly can. I am confident that I am one of those people that would do anything to right my wrongs. Finally, I learned that even though sometimes you are required to do something that you may not like or may not see a purpose in, just do it. You might be surprised by what you learn about others as well as what you learn about yourself.

We want to thank Alex for sharing his story with Robby’s Voice.  We have high hopes for him and know he will succeed and accomplish all the dreams he has for his future. And we are also grateful to know that Robby is doing such great work from Heaven, touching people in ways we could never have imagined.

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Part 2: A Local Kid’s Story – The Consequences of Drug Use are Real

Posted by Chris Schinke, With 0 Comments, Category: Blog, Recovery, Tags: , , , ,

forgiveness-and-consequences-300x204This is the second post in a series – a firsthand account from a local high school student who began a journey with drugs and alcohol never thinking the man behind bars could be him. The author Alex and he shared his personal journey with Robby’s Voice. Often getting caught feels like the worst thing in the world, but it can bring acceptance and change.  We ended the first post when Alex was arrested. Here is more of his story.

What was it like going to court?

It was very intimidating going to court for the first time. The whole time that I was there I felt like I really didn’t belong. Being an 18-year-old who thought of himself as being a pretty good kid, I was not in my element. The thing that I didn’t really comprehend at the time was that I did belong exactly where I was in juvenile court. I broke the law. I broke the law many times actually, I just happened to finally get caught. Court was a very intimidating experience walking into a massive yellow building, which has a juvenile detention center that is connected to the back.

When I first laid eyes on the barb-wired fences, the severity of my offense really hit me.  I thought to myself, “I could end up behind those fences and all of the barb-wire. I would be a convict.” The thought of that happening to me made me shake with nervousness as I walked into the juvenile court building for the first time. The thing that made me most upset about the whole ordeal is that both of my parents had to be there with me. I had already let them down. Now they had to both take time off of work to sit in a courtroom as a judge read the charges that were against me. I had no idea what to expect court to be like, but when you are in that room, the focus is exclusively on you. No one in that courtroom knew the content of my character, with the exception to my parents and attorney. They only knew me based off of the paper that included all of my charges. I was guilty. I had an uphill battle to try to prevent me from ending up in detention. It was terrifying to say the least. I put myself in that situation, now I had to work hard to make sure that I never ended up in front of a judge again.

As I understand it, you didn’t adhere to the program first time. Why?

I wish I could explain why I didn’t adhere to the program the first time because things would be so much easier for me. I was given a second chance by the Diversion Program. The outline of the program was that I needed to pass random drug screenings for a full year, attend three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and provide a summary on each meeting that I attended. I would technically have been on probation for a year, but my record would be completely clean at the time of completion of this program. Again, I found myself unable to abide by the guidelines set forth by the law.  I was terminated from the Diversion Program when I failed a random drug screening in January of 2014. I don’t know what it was that prompted me to continue smoking marijuana, but I suffered the consequences, yet again.

Maybe I just didn’t take my punishment seriously. I recall thinking that if I smoked for 2 weeks after I took a drug test, which would give me enough time in between drug tests to get clean. I was sadly mistaken. I guess I thought I could squeak by. The first time that I had to go to court, it was actually at city hall in North Olmsted. I had been there many times before for random things so I don’t think that it struck a chord with me as much as it should have. I also didn’t fully realize the gravity of the situation I was in. I didn’t really think of how detrimental the charges were against me to my future. It wasn’t until I read the letter from the director of the Diversion Program for North Olmsted that I realized I had dug myself an even deeper hole. They say that two wrongs don’t make a right, but that is exactly the situation  I am in. They also say that there are no second chances, but I am lucky enough to have a second chance through my own hard work and the hard work of my attorney.

How do you feel knowing that at your age, you have a lawyer and a court record?

I am absolutely disappointed in myself that at the moment, I have an attorney that is fighting for me so that I don’t end up in detention or jail at 19 years old. It is also very depressing to think that I already have a court record. The whole purpose that I am going to college is to get a good education so that I can find a good-paying job after I get my degree. Having a court record may be the difference in whether or not I get a job in the future. That may be the deciding factor between myself and another candidate that is trying to get the same job as me. This scares me to the point where I want to do everything in my power to get all of the charges against me thrown out.

It is unfortunate that I am in this situation but in the end I have to realize that I put myself here. Another feeling that I get when I think of the fact that I have a court record is of extreme discouragement. Sometimes I feel like I want to give up and that I won’t complete everything I need to do for the court, but then a little voice in my head tells me, “Imagine how you will feel once this is all over?” The thought that I still have the opportunity to abolish all of the charges against me so that I can focus on school and hockey entirely keeps me motivated every day.

In the next post, we’ll learn more about how Alex thinks about his future today and what it meant to do service with Robby’s Voice. There’s a lot to learn here from Alex. I hope he knows how much his experience can, and is helping others.

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Part 1: A Local Kid’s Story – Getting Caught

Posted by Robby's Voice, With 0 Comments, Category: Blog, Recovery, Tags: , , , ,

policeThis is the first post in a series. The author is a young man,  Alex, who shared his personal journey with Robby’s Voice. Our organization worked with Alex as part of his court ordered community service after his arrest for possession of drugs and alcohol.  Parts have been edited for brevity and clarification but the words are his and the message will resonate for many parents and teens.

1.      How did you get into this situation?

I made a few very poor decisions over the past couple years including frequent marijuana and alcohol use during my high school career. This is how I got caught. I started my day just like every other kid in high school who was excited for prom. Texting my friends back and fourth, talking about how much fun we were going to have at prom and camping the day after. I was excited to get dressed up to spend a fun night with my friends that would be filled with laughs and sadly, marijuana.

Things started rolling around 5pm or so when my friends and our respective dates took the usual pictures that our parents would cherish for years to come. After that boring affair, all of us car-pooled to the dance, which was at La Centre. Prom went smoothly and it was a good time, but I constantly kept asking myself what else I could do to make my night more fun. After prom, my date and I drove to our houses so that we could change into more comfortable clothes for after prom. On our way to after prom, I decided that I would make a stop at a kid’s house to pick up some marijuana. Once in my possession, I had this great idea that I should smoke in my car before going to after-prom. I did and so I went into after prom totally incapacitated. I felt guilty, but I needed to get my fix.

The worst part about me being high at after prom was that I had to talk to both of my parents. They were working the event and dedicated countless hours of time setting it up for my us. After the event was over, I drove my date home to her house. On my way home, I was pulled over about five minutes away from my house. The officer that pulled me over searched my car and found alcohol and marijuana that I was planning on using the next day at camping. Sitting in the back of the cop car, I knew that my life was going to change drastically. I never thought I would get caught.

2.      What were you thinking about when you were making the choices you made?

I honestly  wasn’t thinking about the consequences. All I was thinking about was how to obtain and use marijuana and alcohol again. Being a kid that was 17 years old at the time, I really thought I was invincible. I mean I heard stories of how classmates of mine had run into trouble with the law, but I really never thought I would end up in a situation just like theirs. Now that I look back at the things that I was doing, it amazes me that I didn’t get caught earlier. I mean there were times when I was 15 years old that I would sneak out of my house late at night so that I could just go smoke with my friends. I must have had a great judge of character at the time because those “friends” were not really friends of mine in any aspect. The friends that I have now would never even put me in the position in which my actions could have a substantially negative effect on my future. I really wish that when I made those poor decisions, I had at least some conscious thought in the back of my head that I was not only putting myself in a detrimental position, but I was putting my family in one as well.

Truthfully, I cannot express in words what I was thinking at the time. When I look back at who I was then, I don’t even know where to begin explaining my actions or thought process. Who knows where I would be today if I didn’t get caught. That is what scares me so much. I guess, in a way, getting caught woke me up. It made me realize the opportunities I had before me, and how I could potentially throw all of them away by doing something so drastically stupid. In conclusion, I wasn’t thinking. That is the saddest part about who I was back then. I flew by the seat of my pants, and that is no way for a naïve, 17-year-old kid, to live his life.

3.      What were your feelings when the police stopped you?

The exact moment when I got pulled over, I knew that I was in trouble, even before the officer found anything in my car. I knew that I was guilty and that I had finally got in trouble. I was very cooperative with the police officer who pulled me over because like I said, I knew I was guilty, and there was no way I was getting out of it. There were many feeling that rushed into me when I got pulled over. The first thing that I felt when I looked behind me and saw the officer flick on his lights was immense fear. When you know you are guilty of something and a police officer stops you, any other feeling of fear cannot mirror the feeling that you have, flowing through your body. I would rather ride all of the roller coasters at Cedar Point, without wearing a seatbelt, than get pulled over by police officer if that puts how I felt into context.

After I admitted that I did indeed have marijuana and alcohol in my vehicle at the time, at this point I felt just completely empty inside. I had no idea what to expect would happen next and my feelings of fear were soon accompanied by instant regret. I regretted everything that I had done that night, as well as what I did the previous couple years of my life. I was totally upset. I thought about my parents. I thought about how disappointed they were going to be in me. It was about 4am in the morning and I had to call my mom and wake her up to tell her that a police officer was escorting me home. I can’t even imagine the feelings that were rushing through her body at the time. I was incredibly scared and very disappointed in myself when I had to sit in the back of a cop car for the first time in my life. It was a place I never thought that I would be. I felt some things that I never felt before in the back of that cop car. I didn’t cry. I didn’t curse the cop for pulling me over. I just simply sat there. Lost in my own thoughts. It was the lowest point in my life by far and I was completely empty.

After getting home that night, I laid in my bed. I was still in shock, but I also realized what had just happened. The only positive thought that I had that night, was that I could now start my road to recovery. I was at my lowest point and the only direction to go was up. I was nervous and terrified at what to expect, but I also, for some reason, knew that I would never feel like this again and I made that my goal for the rest of my life on that early morning, at that instant in time.

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