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“You Are Not Invincible.” “It Can Happen to Anyone.” Drug Addiction Addressed In Powerful Dramatic Production

by Eikaiva Boyer

On Thursday, August 24th, the Walkersville community and Walkersville High School students came together to discuss the complex topic of addiction. A few years ago a family lost their son due to an overdose. This family decided to take a stand and make a difference by creating a dramatic production relaying the emotional catastrophe that builds up in one who is addicted.

Students of Walkersville Theatre were asked to be part of the program. The program was produced by a Shannon Garrett, a recovered drug addict, who then spoke later in the evening. This program spoke to community members, staff members, parents, and students.

Unlike other programs of “anti-drug use,” the addiction awareness program isn’t a powerpoint discussing what drugs are, the side effects, and how you become addicted. The program takes a look at the emotional war that someone goes through with the horror of addiction and more on blaming the disease, not the person. “It’s an emotional internal struggle,” said Principal Tracey Kibler, “The program focused on what leads people to addiction.” “The program I participated in brought addiction to life, and gave me a more thorough understanding of it; what it is, and how it affects people,” commented actor/senior Deidre Hall.

“The presentation showed the brutal reality of addiction, what it feeds off and how it doesn’t discriminate,” commented mother/audience member Janice Smith. The addiction awareness program answered questions like “What happens in someone’s life that leads them to addiction,” and “How do I understand the mindset of resorting to drugs?” “Anti-drug propaganda doesn’t prevent addiction, it just prevents people from publicizing their drug use and attributes to a lot of the shame and guilt addicts feel that cause them not to seek help,” said actor/senior Mackenzie Wright.
“Mrs. McFadden (Theatre department teacher Heather McFadden) originally told me about the program. From her description, it sounded like it would be a very impactful, moving event, and I agreed that our theatre troupe should get involved and help in any way necessary. After that, I acted as the coordinator between our school’s ITS (International Thespian Society) troupe and Mrs. Kibler, who was in contact with the company sponsoring the event, CHRIS for recovery. She asked me to gather student volunteers to act in the program, so I communicated with the students in ITS to find who was interested in participating. We had more than enough students jump at the opportunity. They all agreed that the program had an important message. I also acted in the performance along with the other student volunteers,” said Hall.
“The students came in two days before the performance and were introduced to the piece and the message they were trying to get across. Once we were aware of the material we had some time to ask questions. [We then] started running through the performance stopping as needed to get clarification and more direction. In the performance we were representing the people struggling with addiction, and then the support systems for people struggling with addiction. Something that I took from the program was the statistics and how drastic they were. Then putting faces to the numbers was insane. I think that something I wanted other people to take from it was how serious of a problem addiction is and the alternative education, not putting everything on the drugs, but the chemistry that changes and pushes people to addiction,” said actor/senior Jayla Pollock.

Around 250-300 people attended the event, including some of Walkersville High School’s sports teams, some student athletes, and some student leaders. “It really was eye opening,” commented Kibler. Kibler and Sheriff Jenkins spoke later that evening, along with two families who shared their stories. Kibler of course made a typical Alpha Lion speech, “but it was definitely more in your face,” she said with a laugh. “I didn’t hold anything back.” One part in her speech she had all Walkersville High students in the audience stand up: “there were at least 100 students.” Not only did this program educate our community on the risk of addiction, it educated our students, and with the amount of students that attended, the program at least touched one life. “Even if the event only reached one person, it was worth it,” commented actor in the production, junior Tori Pie.
Kibler felt the need to bring young people together, “We are here to prevent the use and addiction of drugs. Drugs and addiction are silent killers.” Kibler discussed that we heavily talk about guns and weapons in our schools, but not drugs, which is crucially important. “Anyone can come in a building with a gun, it could be anyone of us, but what we’re not discussing are the hundreds of kids funerals I attend for the use of drugs. Drug abuse is what is killing our kids. Parents never talk about the white elephant in the room, drugs and sex. And we need to talk about these things, there right in front of our children,” commented Kibler.
Pie stated “I decided to take part in the event because earlier in the year I lost my neighbor to an addiction. I was hoping the students would realize the reality of addiction and how painful it is for everyone involved.”
“My main motivation for participating was to show people that addicts aren’t the stereotype the media portrays, and that even though you may think drinking or smoking ‘socially’ can’t become a problem. Addiction is real and it can strike when least expected. Unfortunately a lot of teens think they are ‘too young’ to get addicted so they see no real consequences in drinking or using prescription pills or smoking weed, but addiction can happen to anyone. I hope the students that attended have learned more about the disease and have been scared into not doing drugs,” said Wright.
‘I feel that because I have a better understanding of what it means to be addicted to something, I can be a better advocate for avoiding drugs and addictive substances when I talk to other students or members of the community. I hope that by being a part of the performance, I was able to show other students around my own age that addiction can affect everyone. High school students are not invincible. I hope that they walked away with knowledge that will help them make safe decisions when faced with peer pressure and other challenges in the future. For some, I hope that they walked away knowing recovery is possible,” stated Hall.
“I thought the program was well put together and those who spoke of their personal experiences were very brave and helped to paint a picture of the pain that addiction can cause.  Most importantly, the message [is that there is] hope and help for those with this disease was so important and very moving,” said Smith.
“Our involvement as actors was all nonverbal, which was a major change from the usual stage setting. However, the message and portrayal of addiction was so moving and powerful that I didn’t feel anything I could’ve said would have better explained it. It was fun to be able to participate in something with such an important meaning and use my talent in performance to help people,” said Wright.

“From this event I realized that for a long time I hadn’t been as focused on the addiction part of addiction. I was always taught in school to avoid drugs, and that if you just didn’t do drugs you’d be fine. But having a lot of family members who have and do suffer from drug and alcohol addiction, I thought it was very important for me to be more informed about the disease  and to share that message with the public. It also meant a lot to me as a student who has witnessed what addiction does to a family to be able to use negative experiences in my life to teach other students the dangers of addiction for what it is, a disease,” said Wright.
Overall, the people who participated in the event all pushed the same idea, “You are not invincible,” said Hall, “(Do not) think you’re ‘too young’,”said Wright, “It can happen to anyone,” said Kibler. Society has made drugs more acceptable, and it’s time to fight back.

The WHS actors that participated in the production were as follows:
Seniors- Mackenzie Wright, Deidre Hall, and Jayla Pollock
Juniors- Tori Pie, Cian Pickron, Erin Kopit, and Noah Patrick.