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Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 4, 2013
“Real World 101” talks addiction at DISHS

 DISHS students attended an all-school assembly about addiction

Students attended an all-school assembly about addiction on Thursday, February 28. From left, Marvin Galloway, Kyra Alex, Andrea Gabel-Richards and Suzanne Ruch share information and stories about various forms of addiction.

Photo by Jessica Brophy Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Jessica Brophy

Ready by 21’s “Real World 101” classes at the high school have included cooking competitions, fitness demonstrations, panel presentations on owning your own business and more. On Thursday, February 28, an all-school assembly was held to address a serious topic: addiction.

“Addictions get in the way of our dreams,” said Suzanne Ruch, who moderated the panel.

The panel’s discussion was not limited to drug and alcohol addiction, though that was discussed. Relationship addiction—needing drama or being co-dependent on someone else—was discussed, as was sugar addiction.

Marvin Galloway, a retired New York Department of Corrections counselor, talked about the ease and danger of drug and alcohol addiction.

“The Latin for addiction means ‘nailed,’” said Galloway, who said addiction is like nailing down the brain. “For a normal drinker, they have a few drinks and they start to feel out of control. For an addict, it’s the opposite—they only feel in control after the drinks.”

Galloway talked about addiction as “buying a feeling”—in other words, experiencing the drug or alcohol instead of the person’s own feelings.

“Real feelings give you information,” said Galloway. Doing drugs or drinking allows “something outside of us define what we are. But what happens when you come down?” Most addicts end up “broke and lonely,” he continued.

Kyra Alex, director of mentoring for Ready by 21, talked about her own addiction to sugar, which started as a child.

“I never ate real food, I would always grab a cookie,” said Alex. “I was tired, depressed and I lived every day on sugar and white flour.”

Alex said the constant diet of sugar made her moody and irritable. “I was addicted to a feeling,” said Alex.

Several years ago Alex decided to cut out sugar completely. She felt focused, more level and healthier within days, she said.

Alex said one of the important parts of overcoming addiction is forgiving yourself. “It’s hard to be us, and easy to pick up a crutch,” said Alex.

Licensed therapist Andrea Gabel-Richards discussed relationship addictions, such as co-dependency and feeling “like you can’t live without someone.”

When you love someone, explained Gabel-Richards, you need them. But it’s unhealthy if you can’t function without them.

Sometimes people lose themselves in relationships, she continued. “Try to remember who you are,” she said. “People are a million things—a daughter, a runner, a student—don’t define yourself by a single relationship.”

“Tune in and check out those places in your life where you have no control,” she continued.

Galloway agreed that awareness was important, and that it can be difficult to identify addiction at times. “Addiction is a disease that says you don’t have a disease,” he said.

Ruch shared her experiences living with an addict. “I thought I was the one with the problem,” said Ruch.

Growing up, she had always been encouraged to “fix things.” Ruch said that made her think that her job was to control the world around her (and the people in it).

“That was my job: to fix it,” said Ruch. Eventually, Ruch joined Al-Anon, a support group for friends and families of alcoholics.

“My life was unmanageable. I knew I had to do something for me,” she said.

Admitting she needed help was not easy for her, said Ruch. She said students can reach out to teachers who will “help you find the help you need.”