Lauren McClain, freshman occupational therapy major, like several students, raised her hand when asked whether she or someone she knew was affected by drug or alcohol abuse.
“Both of my parents were alcoholics at one time or another,” McClain said. “With my father, I think he was more genetically predisposed to alcoholism because his father is an alcoholic.
“I remember my mom, right after my parents got divorced, she started drinking more, and it affected her behavior and her behavior toward us. Once she finally got sober, she was more patient, caring and active.”
McClain was one of more than 100 students who attended “Actions Done Under the Influence,” held Wednesday by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) in partnership with Psi Chi, an honor society for psychology majors, at David Letterman Communication and Media Building.
This event was a presentation and open discussion co-hosted by NAMI and Psi Chi to provide information to attendees about drug and alcohol addiction.
Her parents’ addiction led McClain to take on the role of caretaker for her younger siblings, she said.
“I felt lonely and really responsible for them,” McClain said. “I have an older brother who is now 21 and two younger siblings, so I always felt responsible for them and their feelings because my younger siblings were so little when my parents were both acting that way.”
While many students there were signed up to earn extra credit for their psychology class, Annamarie Clobuciar, junior psychology major and vice president of Psi Chi, said she was surprised by the amount of people who showed up without having an incentive.
“It shows that people genuinely care and know that this is a very important topic to talk about on college campuses,” Clobuciar said.
She said one of the main reasons she is a psychology major is to help and guide people who are struggling with addiction.
“I have a motherly instinct, so I want to help them through everything,” Clobuciar said. “I know a lot of people don’t have the resources to help themselves, and they don’t know how, and I would love to just sit with them and get them back on track to a better state of mind.”
McClain said she lives with her aunt and uncle, and her father currently lives in Colorado. Her mother died when she was 8.
“Abusing substances is something that’s so overlooked, and I’m grateful I’ve had the experience of seeing that first day and how it can affect loved ones because you don’t think about it in the moment, especially if you’re the one using the substance,” McClain said. “My mom would never do something to hurt her kids, but it was just her dealing with her own issues.”
McClain's advice to anybody suffering from addiction is to remember there are people in their lives who love and care about them.
“Whether you want to admit it or not, there are people who depend on you,” McClain said. “The more you face that, and the more you’re willing and open to change, the more you can affect people around you in a positive way.”
Contact Evan Weaver with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @evan_weaver7.