Nonprofit turns up volume of silent battles

By Sara Bruestle | Apr 22, 2015
Courtesy of: Rachel Hawthorne Photography Former NFL football player Trent Shelton speaks at the "Silent Battles" event on April 15 at Mariner High School. An estimated 900 attendees turned out to hear the motivational speaker.

Addiction is a mighty battle.

It’s a battle that Lindsey Greinke fights every day, for herself and for others.

A former addict, Greinke, 26, is founder and president of Hope Soldiers, a nonprofit that helps fellow addicts fight the disease.

Hope Soldiers hosted “Silent Battles” on April 15 at Mariner High School to expose addiction, self-harm, depression and suicide, and to restore hope and inspire change. The school gym was packed.

Speakers included Greinke, president and founder of Hope Soldiers; Cmdr. Pat Slack of the Snohomish County Drug and Gang Task Force; and keynote speaker Trent Shelton of RehabTime.

Hope Soldiers partnered with RehabTime to make the Mukilteo School District a stop on Trent Shelton’s Under His Influence Tour, in which he’s working to spread inspiration and hope. Find more on the tour at underhisinfluence.org.

A former Seattle Seahawk and NFL wide receiver, Shelton, now a motivational speaker, also spoke to students at ACES High School earlier that day.

“Nothing is impossible,” Shelton said. “Lindsey can’t make you change, I can’t make you change. Change starts with you.

“Everything that you’ve been through will make you stronger. The strongest people you know have gone through the most pain.”

Addiction, self-harm, depression and suicide are all taboo topics. For many, it’s too embarrassing to admit it and seek help, so it becomes their silent battle that they eventually lose.

Hope Soldiers doesn’t want them to be silent anymore.

“Every single person here has a silent battle that they’re facing,” Shelton said. “Something they’re going through that nobody knows about, that you don’t want to open up about and tell people about because you don’t want people to judge you.

“The worst thing you can do in your life is be silent about what you’re going through. It’s OK to not be OK. Give your pain a voice.”

Greinke, of Everett, is in recovery from drug addiction and is now four years sober. She turned to drugs when she was 12. She was soon popping pills and smoking heroin every day.

Addicted to heroin, Greinke lost everything within months: her job, her family, custody of her son and nearly lost her home. She dropped out of school, struggled with self-harm and contemplated suicide.

When Greinke sought help, she had no money or health insurance. Without any resources, she almost gave up. It took her a month to find treatment.

“It took two months to get into treatment,” she said. “They had to get me a bed date and all this stuff. I had to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait. It sucked, but I did it. I’ve been clean ever since.”

Through Hope Soldiers, Greinke helps addicts into recovery. She assists them in getting jobs, sober or transitional living situations, health insurance, medication for mental illness and a mentor to talk to through their treatment.

The nonprofit recently expanded its scope to include self-harm and depression/suicide, which often go hand-in-hand with addiction. It also helps parents who are struggling with their children in those cases.

Though it is a never-ending battle, it is a fight that can be won.

Hope Soldiers has helped numerous addicts get sober and start over, some of them Greinke’s good friends.

Sadly, some “soldiers” don’t make it. Greinke said she’s has had four friends die from drug overdoses, mainly heroin.

Heroin deaths are at epidemic levels in Snohomish County, according to the Snohomish Health District. From 2011 to 2013, about 1 in 5 heroin deaths in the state occurred in Snohomish County, a county with only one-tenth of the total population in Washington, the health department reported.

In 2013 alone, heroin and prescription opioid overdoses represented two-thirds of the 130 accidental overdose deaths in the county.

“The opiate addiction is by far the worst thing we’ve ever seen,” Cmdr. Pat Slack said. “It attacks all ages. It is down in the junior high level, and it’s devastating.”

Slack and Greinke regularly team up and do interventions for heroin addicts to try to get them into treatment. Slack finds that 20 year olds are more willing to listen to Greinke than they are to him.

“I carry a badge and a gun, but that’s not the way to solve the problem,” Slack said. “Lindsey’s tactic is the way.”

Slack also said the Snohomish County Drug and Gang Task Force worked get a state law passed in 2010, so that if a person overdoses on drugs and is in danger, he or she can call 911, and the police will not arrest them.

“This was a challenge to get passed,” Slack said. “If we don’t do this, people are going to die, and we cannot treat people when they’re dead.”

He said officers will soon carry naloxone, a nasal spray to treat potentially fatal overdoses from heroin and prescription opioids. Snohomish County has recently purchased 1,000 naloxone kits.

Like her, Greinke said many turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with bullying, trauma, abusive relationships and mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. A lot of them may want help, but don’t have access to resources.

“Hope Soldiers was started originally to help people get into treatment who don’t have money or insurance, because I figured out how to do it,” she said. “Now I can get people into treatment within 1-2 weeks instead of 2-3 months.”

Greinke is also the executive assistant of RehabTime Organization, as well as a partner of Kamiak High School’s Together We Can Task Force and True North Families at Mukilteo Foursquare Church.

A Hope Soldiers support group meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of the month at Mukilteo Foursquare Church. The group is for those who have lost a loved one to addiction or suicide, those who are struggling with or recovering from addiction or suicide, as well as their families.

Do you need hope? Hope Soldiers can help. Email hopesoldiers@gmail.com or find Hope Soldiers on Facebook.

Want to help? Send donations to Hope Soldiers, PO Box 4811, Everett, WA 98204.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.