Ethan McCarty’s Essay
Our city is commonly referred to as a “bubble”. No adverse problems live in the open; the city has the “safe” reputation — I live in that bubble, and it continues into my house.
Drug and alcohol use was discussed in the same way one talks about war on another continent – unfortunate because it felt so far away, not a real concern.
So why am I so passionate about learning and promoting substance use prevention and leading a substance use prevention club at school when I have been sheltered in the bubble?
Well, it’s the things I’ve learned and been introduced to, like when I first “met” Chris Herren watching The First Day. At this point, I was a young high schooler and had been exposed to some stories and experiences, but not much. Yet, this film made me feel like I was sitting across from Chris Herren. I recall a moment in the film when Chris spoke about how many people in the audience have younger siblings and how we are role models for substance use decisions for siblings — this hit me hard. Thinking about my siblings, something changed inside of me that day.
I have lived in the “bubble” forever, with no substance use, life-changing experiences. Yet, through Chris, it felt personal. I knew what he was saying and what I’ve learned in my prevention group was real. His story felt familiar, even though mine hasn’t involved substances. He inspired me to not only change myself, but prevention became a passion. In making sure my peers have the information, they need to make choices that work for them. I believe this was the moment my story began. I had always been a people person. People have come to me with problems or help, ranging from mental health to familial issues and more. I’ve always had some sort of welcoming aura. Whether this community is my circle of friends, acquaintances, or students from the middle schools, I found that sharing stories – my own and now Chris’s, come easy. They help to open the dialogue about being ourselves and getting the information needed to be safe. Being this beacon of acceptance and love (may sound cheesy) attracts the desire to want to be better—this desire to become a beacon for themselves. As the Herren Project’s mission says, supporting, inspiring, and empowering people to become their own beacon, in my opinion, is what it’s all about.
I joined the Teen Advisory Board as part of a school club my freshman year. A relatively innocent introduction into the club (I heard free food, so of course I went!) brought me into a world that has opened my eyes. A world where stigma hangs around substance use conversations – but conversations the world desperately needs so that the stigma gets shattered. A world of poor mental health, not knowing where to go or who to talk to – something that, in clubs like my peers, can get the support and care needed to be the best version of themselves. As I move on to college and life, I intend to pay forward what I’ve learned, share my own story as well as those of others, and continue to be a beacon. Success isn’t given, it’s earned. #preventionisthecure #beyou