A Lawrence County High School student seeking to spread awareness for opioid addiction and recovery by sharing his mother’s success story spoke to Moulton Middle School students last week as part of a Red Ribbon Week program.
Seventeen-year-old Levi Smith, who founded the charitable organization Making a Difference: From My Story to Yours, called it a blessing to be able to speak to more than 700 middle school students on Friday. He said he was also grateful and honored to see his mother, Paige Freeman, bravely take the stage to share her experiences following her battles with drug addiction.
“Drug addiction can happen to anyone,” Smith said on Friday. “The main problem I had growing up with my mom, I was so scared of judgement… It was such a blessing to be able to stand before 700-plus kids today and just to see the hands that were raised when I asked the simple question, ‘how many people have known somebody or has been affected by drug abuse?’ Just about nine out of ten hands rose up.”
Smith said his organization is designed to help those seeking recovery from drug addiction by offering support and access to other programs and resources. The first step in receiving help with addiction is asking for that help, Smith explains.
He said his mother’s recovery also inspired Tammy Reist, the president of Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, to form the Second Helping program. Second Helping was organized to help those who are battling drug addiction in rehab to find work in the hospitality industry.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has stifled efforts by Making a Difference and Second Helping, Smith said the programs are lifting off again and ready to make a difference in north Alabama.
The young advocate plans to hold other events and continue his outreach. Smith has been featured on the podcast, The Mark White Show, and continues to expand on his social media presence.
“Our mission is to use my personal story to help families and individuals affected by opioid abuse. Our greatest desire is to love, save, counsel and give a voice to those children and young adults impacted by this major crisis,” Smith details on his Facebook page.
“Drug addiction is never going to go away, but there is help out there,” Smith said. “If you’re struggling with drug addiction, please seek help. Go find a local AA meeting, find a new church or something you can rely on, find a friend. There is help. Don’t be silent.”
Smith, who has spoken to Lawrence County Jail inmates prior to the pandemic, said the Making a Difference effort should continue at the jail as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Smith and his mother were also joined in speaking to Moulton Middle School for Red Ribbon Week by Sgt. Breland, who serves as a student resource officer for Lawrence County.
Red Ribbon Week is a nationwide observance that encourages participating communities to hold anti-drug events and by encouraging students and participants to pledge to live drug-free lives.
For more information about Making a Difference: From My Story to Yours, visit the organization on Facebook and Instagram, or email LeviSmith7887@gmail.com. More on Levi Smith’s story is available via the Mark White Show podcast, available on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud.