30 May Legacy of Hope® Blog
“I MATTER” Message YouTube Videos – Why did I create them and what are they for?
(All “I Matter” Messages at http://tinyurl.com/HopeforTeens)
I presented a LEGACY OF HOPE® assembly at a junior high school in Bakersfield, California to 600 students, grades 7 and 8. Afterwards, I stayed the remainder of the school day, as I always do, to hold an ad hoc support group for any students who wished to talk with me about personal concerns that the assembly brought up for them. Within 15 minutes after the assembly, the room given to me to meet with students was filled with 60 teens. They sat in a large circle; and we shared.
I always start by asking, “How many of you have someone in your life whose drinking or drug use is bothering you?” Every hand went up.
Then I ask, “How many of you have felt suicidal at times?” 90% of the hands went up.
“How many of you have cut on yourself?” 80% of the hands went up.
Lastly, “How many of you feel worthless or hopeless?” 100% of the hands went up.
So, I began to share about the family disease of alcoholism/addiction. How kids of parents/step-parents/siblings with alcohol or drug use problems often feel like it is “our” fault and that we aren’t lovable because an alcoholic or drug-user can treat us badly, call us names, tell us we’re losers. And now I have every teen’s attention, hungry to know more, and to hear that it is NOT their fault, no matter what their parents, siblings, whomever may say to them. And they are NOT worthless.
I go around the room and ask individuals if they’d be willing to share why they came to talk, what’s going on in their life that’s upsetting them.
Each and everyone of the 60 teens has their chance to share if they wish. And after each one, I share insights into how alcoholism/drug addiction has contributed, if not created, this painful life situation. AND, more importantly, how to protect themselves from verbal, physical, sexual abuse around an alcoholic/addict. How to adjust their perception to see it as a disease that they do not cause, cannot change it and cannot cure it. I also help them discover why they feel the way they do and if it is based on assumptions that aren’t true or have unrealistic expectations that have led to resentments/shame/blame. On and on our conversations go until it sinks in to the teens that they are NOT worthless nor responsible for all the trauma in their homes. They begin to have HOPE. They get that THEY MATTER!
After about 2 hours of sharing around the room, the teens stop looking down at the ground as victims and look out as empowered, worthy people. Soon, the 60 kids that had walked in slumped over, heads down, faces hidden, exuding depressive and angry personas were now laughing and dancing around with each other. Realizing they aren’t alone with these problems helps, too.
Every single teen wrote their name on a sheet of paper to be contacted if and when the school would start an on-going support group or peer helping program that they could participate in. They all wanted more of the relief and the understanding of why and how to manage dark feelings. I gave this list to the school counselor, and they assured me they would do their best to start that support group.
When I got home that night, however, I knew I needed to give these teens one thing more – a series of hopeful messages that reinforced that each and every one of them had value and could survive, even recover from being impacted by an alcoholic/drug-addict in their lives. So I recorded “I MATTER” Messages.
You can watch them, share them, help a teen or an adult understand themselves and heal using the “I MATTER” Messages on YouTube: