When someone has cancer, friends and coworkers often rally behind them with awareness walks and care packages. When someone has a stroke or surgery, family members typically step in to make dinner casseroles and drive them to follow up appointments.
Unfortunately, that built in support is not always the case for individuals and families experiencing mental illness and addiction. Mental health and substance use disorders don’t tend to elicit the same kind of attention, compassion and helping hands as other illnesses.
This powerful sentiment of stigma and support was brought to light at the 2019 Rosecrance Launch to Life Chicago Benefit, hosted on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at The JW Marriott in Chicago.
David Sheff, author of the New York Times #1 best seller, “Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction,” which was adapted into a movie in 2018, keynoted the benefit and shared on these topics of stigma, support, treatment and perseverance.
To more than 200 guests, Sheff explained how his son, Nic, became addicted to methamphetamine and David detailed the ups and downs that came along with Nic’s addiction and recovery.
“People who are addicted are not making a choice. They are sick. They don’t need to be blamed. They don’t need to be chastised or punished. They need to enter the treatment system.”
Grace Hou, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, spoke at the event and put it this way, “We have people sitting around kitchen tables desperately trying to help their loved ones with mental illness or addiction who are slipping through the cracks. Sharing stories at events like this, is a start, for them.”
Sheff was one of those family members at the kitchen table, wondering how and what to do. Over and over again he got his son into treatment and over and over again, Nic relapsed and nearly died. For ten years straight.
Eventually, Sheff’s son did find recovery and has maintained it for the past nine years. It took trying and trying again; it took the right treatment and doctors to understand that Nic wasn’t only experiencing addiction, but bipolar disorder too.
In 2017, nearly 9 million individuals in the United States were diagnosed with both a substance use disorder and a mental illness, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Research shows that providers must factor in both conditions for successful treatment and recovery.
David and Nic Sheff now serve as an inspiration in the recovery community and prove that individuals and families can make it through.
“Over and over again I hear stories from families and they say the same thing, ‘How did you get into our house? You told our family’s story,’” said Sheff. “I learned with my son and relearn every day that people who become addicted are people who look just like you and me. Every one of them is someone’s child.”
Sheff added, “Addiction is hard, but the best news of all is that there is hope.”
Rosecrance President and CEO, Philip Eaton, explained that Rosecrance provides that hope, by offering individuals and families in crisis a path to healing.
“There is power in community, just like in this room,” added Eaton. “Living life well in recovery is about community and that mindset is what allows Rosecrance to thrive. We offer care based in compassion, dignity and integrity.”
“Rosecrance is a model for programs around the country to recognize when you look at the whole person and tailor treatment to them you can change the prognosis. You can change lives,” said Sheff.
Last year, Rosecrance served nearly 50,000 individuals in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin and provided charity care for 850 families who couldn’t otherwise afford treatment. Events like the 2019 Rosecrance Chicago Launch to Life Benefit help Rosecrance to continue to meet the needs of more families who seek services.
With lunch, raffle prizes and other inspiring stories of recovery from former Rosecrance clients, the benefit truly celebrated recovery. Attendees were reminded that: recovery is possible and treatment works.
Proceeds from the benefit will support young adults in early recovery accessing life-saving programs at Rosecrance in Chicago.