Reviving Snohomish County – A call to action | Guest View

By Lindsey Greinke | Mar 23, 2016
Lindsey Greinke

This Op-Ed wraps up our Turn Up the Volume series on teen silent battles. The series aims to educate our readers while offering information – and hope – to those needing help. -Ed.

While most of us go to sleep in a warm bed at night in a house with our loved ones, getting the rest we need for a long day of work tomorrow, there are young people wandering the streets searching for rest.

While we have the comfort and security of our homes, our finances, our loved ones, they are hungry, tired, alone and lost. The shelters are full, their family has abandoned them, and they have nowhere to turn.

They have to resort to parks, fast-food bathrooms and cars.

You might ask: “Why don’t they just get a job and get on track?” It seems like such a simple solution, when we perceive the problem to be simple. But the problem is far more complex than we can comprehend.

They are in the biggest battle of their entire existence – addiction. Kids between 16 and 18, and young adults between 18 and 21, are starving, freezing, exhausted and hopeless.

You might respond with, “Well why don’t they just go get clean? Why don’t they ask their parents for help?”

Again, a simple solution to a complex problem.

No one chooses to be an addict. It is not a life that anyone desires. It is a prison – a living hell.

For those who do want freedom from addiction, there are many obstacles. The two biggest, perhaps, are the fear of feeling their emotional pain and the fear of drug withdrawal. Even when they look past their fears, many do not even know who to turn to or where to go.

When they do, they may not have a phone or a way to contact anyone, and most likely do not have transportation.

Even with a phone, transportation and resources, another problem remains – health insurance. So many are without it.

Washington State Apple Health is available, but the application process can be difficult for someone with no phone, no computer and no transportation.

You might start to analyze this further, thinking, “Well how did they get like that to begin with? What caused them to turn to drugs?”

There are various responses to this, a multitude of different answers. But it all comes back to one thing: identity. When a person feels alone, lost, hopeless, excluded, outcast, vulnerable, etc. – the first thing they question is who they are and what is wrong with them.

Knowing who you are is not a simple task. Knowing where you belong is even more challenging. We are all just trying to find our place in this world. Some of us are OK with not knowing where that is.

But most of us are not.

Being not OK causes desperation: We become desperate to feel anything other than not OK, or desperate to feel nothing at all – we are desperate to escape. We do not readily know how to cope with pain and confusion.

Drugs, and other forms of self-harm, are then used as coping tools.

You might now ask, “Well, if we know what makes people turn to drugs and self-harm, why don’t we just educate them while they’re young?”

That’s exactly what needs to happen. We need to start educating young people early on.

The identity crisis often begins in middle school-aged children. This is a good demographic to start educating. But education is not enough. Making people aware of an issue, is only half of the solution.

The other half, is to help people figure out who they are. We need to help people discover what they are good at, what makes them feel good, what makes them happy, and what makes a difference in this world.

This can be summed up to one powerful word: purpose. We need to start handing out purpose everywhere.

We need to provide healthy avenues, coping skills, and support to all school-aged kids. We need to be actively involved in our kids’ lives, making sure that they know we are here for them, no matter what.

“But what about those who are already addicted to drugs?” you might ask. The answer remains the same; they need to know they have a purpose. They need to be shown healthy avenues and coping skills, and they need love and support.

Because so many families refuse to address these issues, due to embarrassment, guilt and shame, stigmas are prevalent in our society. So many people are afraid to ask for help. We need to change this, immediately.

We need the community to come together, realize that these issues are real and that people are dying every day from overdose and suicide, and we need to try to prevent it as best we can, and help those who are currently struggling.

You now might ask, “What can I do to help?” First, educate yourself. Learn more about addiction and how it affects people. Second, have compassion and grace.

These are not bad people.

No matter what behaviors they’ve learned in order to be able to survive, they are human beings and all worthy of love, honor, dignity and respect. Our world is in desperate need of a revival. Let’s start with our community.

Let’s start a chain reaction of bringing awareness, restoring hope, and loving people back to life.

Lindsey Greinke is the founder and president of Hope Soldiers, a nonprofit that offers free mentorship and support to those affected by addiction, self-harm and depression. For more information, find Hope Soldiers on Facebook or email hopesoldiers@gmail.com.

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