Hope Soldiers Bring Inspiration to Granite
“Everyday someone dies of a drug overdose. The time to fight is NOW! Who is going to fight with us?” asked Lindsey Greinke, president of the Hope Soldiers. Greinke rallied the big crowd at the Granite Falls High School PAC on April 23rd as she opened the powerful presentation with her fist pumped in the air.
A recovering drug addict from Everett, Greinke started Hope Soldiers in 2013. Sponsored by the Granite Falls Community Coalition and Youth Coalition, this was only her second event. The near 400 attendees in the audience more than doubled those hearing her first presentation at Jackson High School. When it ended, an energized and inspired audience brought the house down with applause and crowded around for pictures with the speakers.
Greinke started the night with a tribute to “fallen soldiers” who died of drug overdoses. She then shared her painful story of recovery from the drug addiction that almost ended her life. Despite her fairly affluent, middle-class upbringing, Greinke started using drugs at age 12 and continued for a decade. “I was bullied in elementary school and became a party girl in high school to fit in,” said Greinke.
“I dropped out of high school at age 17 and went down the wrong path for a boyfriend. I was homeless and became a rape victim. I used OxyContin until I found out I was pregnant then went back to using after my son was born. I eventually became addicted to heroin. ” Greinke told of CPS involvement, treatment, relapsing, losing her son and committing crimes to maintain her drug addiction. “I ended up suicidal in a life of living hell,” Greinke tearfully told the audience.
“I finally decided I really needed help, but had to fight my way into treatment,” Greinke said. She had no health insurance or money. Without resources, Greinke explained, “I almost gave up in the month it took me to find treatment. I finally got clean in April of 2011 and have been clean and sober ever since.” After three years of sobriety, regaining custody of her son and getting a job at Microsoft, she is now driven to help others by sharing her story and bringing resources to others in need.
Greinke asked Anthony to share his story of recovery next. The two met after he was released from federal prison last year. Good looking and clean cut, Anthony shocked the audience with his gut wrenching story. He told of being a high school athlete that became addicted to painkillers after an injury. This led to drug addiction and criminal activities to support his habit that ended with the 2008 armed robbery of a Brinks truck in Monroe. When caught two months later, Anthony was sent to a federal prison in Texas, leaving his wife and two children on welfare.
Anthony’s description of prison life sounded like a prisoner of war experience in a third world country. He told of being in solitary confinement for seven months, living in a five by eight foot concrete cell with temperatures hitting 116 degrees, barely enough food to survive and cockroaches crawling on him every night. “I experienced true hunger. Most in solitary go crazy, some kill themselves,” said Anthony. “I hit rock bottom and decided I had to get clean.” After five years in prison, “I am now a good guy without much, but trying to make things right with those I hurt and trying to help others,” he explained.
Following Anthony, Greinke introduced Bruce Wise, a Juvenile Drug Court Judge she met during her recovery. Judge Wise spoke of trying to help young drug users combat their addictions though a program called “Reclaiming Futures”. This is a national youth partner program connecting youth with positive adults. Wise said, “We are trying to expand the program to help more kids.”
Wise gave examples of youth that could have been helped through a program like Reclaiming Futures. He explained, “Kids have been sold a bill of goods about the safety of marijuana. It creates brain abnormalities in young kids. Crimes are committed under the influence of drugs and alcohol.” He said, “Marijuana was the primary drug of choice for a long time. Now it is heroin. This is a life and death situation with heroin,” warned Wise. He encouraged adults to look at young addicts as a resource, not as villains. He said, “They’re not bad kids. A detour has taken them off the road to success, and we need to help them get back on the right path.” (See the Everett Herald article from February 20, 2014: “Reclaiming Futures Pairs Addicted Teens with Adult Mentors”)
Pat Slack, Commander of the Snohomish Regional Drug and Gang Task Force spoke next. Slack said, “I have been in law enforcement for over forty years and things have gotten worse. We lock people up and it does not work; we send people to treatment, but it only works if they really want to get clean.” He advised the parents in the crowd to watch their children for signs of change in behavior or school work. Slack said, “Addiction happens fast and then it may be too late.” He had the whole audience laughing as he described his addiction to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and went into a comedy routine about stupid things people post on Facebook and other social media sites “they are there forever for everyone to see.”
Slack got really serious though as he talked about the number of youth drug deaths in the county. He said the 10 to 19 year old group of drug users is growing due to heroin and the lack of quality control over the drug makes it very dangerous. Slack explained that most heroin is cut with other chemicals. If a user gets pure heroin, they can easily overdose and die. “We shut down meth labs and got pharmaceutical companies to change the formula for OxyContin so it could not be crushed, to stop addiction. Unfortunately it forced users to turn to heroin, where addiction can happen with the first use,” explained Slack.
Commander Slack encouraged parents to talk to their kids and work with them if they suspect drug problems. He told people to call 911 if they see drug deals and to leave their name so officers could get back to them for details. He explained they might save a life if they called for help when a friend was in trouble with drugs and would be protected by the Good Samaritan law. Slack was pessimistic about the impact of legal marijuana. He feels the state will add so many taxes that users will turn back to the black market for cheaper product. (For more information on the task force and drugs, see the SRDTF website)
Trent Shelton was the closing speaker for this powerful program. Shelton explained that he was addicted to football and could not live without it. His organization was born from attempts to heal himself. Shelton said, “I have no elaborate plan and no expensive cameras, just a desire to help people. I went from rock bottom to traveling the world talking about getting better.”
Shelton was an NFL football wide receiver. He is the founder and president of a Christian-based non-profit organization, RehabTime. He played college football for Baylor and was signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2007. Shelton also played for the Seattle Seahawks, the Indianapolis Colts and the Washington Redskins.
A motivational speaker with infectious optimism, Shelton spoke of six principles or affirmations for getting better. With his encouragement, each was followed by a collective chorus of “Yup” from the crowd.
Shelton told the audience to accept “It’s on me”, taking responsibility for their own actions. He said, “You may have bad chapters, but the story can still end well. Give your pain a voice and use setbacks to plan a positive comeback. Nothing will change until you make the decision to change. Take small steps forward in your journey.”
Shelton also told them to “Protect your why.” He said forces pull you in many directions; you need to know why you want to succeed. Shelton explained, “My ‘why’ is my son.” He told the audience, “You need to find something bigger than yourself, a reason to wake up and do good things.”
“Tell yourself it is possible,” was number three. Shelton said, “Impossibilities are only in your mind. You have a dream and a purpose. Break the generational boundaries and be the change you want to see in the world.” He advised, “Don’t expect people to understand your vision. If they understand, it’s too small!”
The fourth principle was “I am enough.” Shelton said, “The world will try to hold you back. You gotta’ believe in yourself and say ‘I am not my past.’” He told the crowd, “Opinions do not matter. They are just criticizing you without solutions. Embrace your flaws. We were all created by a God that does not make mistakes.”
“Today is special” was the fifth. Shelton told everyone, “Say it when you wake up in the morning. Don’t let your mind keep you in prison. Look forward to each day. ‘Just one choice’ can change your life.”
Finally, Shelton told the audience to stay loyal to their vision and say “I am not going back”. He said, “Burn bad bridges and move on! Say, “Get used to who I am today because I ain’t never going back to who I was”. He ended by telling the audience, “Problems are not there to drown you. They teach you how to swim.”
Following the presentation Lindsey Greinke thanked the audience for coming and encouraged them to seek resources or contact her if they need help.
Greinke is trying to raise funds to become a national non-profit organization. A 50-50 raffle was held during the event and Hope Soldier bracelets were being sold to generate funds.
For more photos and comments about this amazing event, go to the Hope Soldiers Facebook site.