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Day by Day: A rosy life sometimes depends on your perspective

I was having lunch at work last week when somebody noted after something I said that maybe not everyone’s life is as “rosy” as mine.

It shut me up, at least for a minute or so, but got me thinking nonetheless.

At first I felt defensive – rosy, my life rosy. Let’s see, in the last five years my 60 plus husband was laid off of his job, I got cancer along with some other family health issues, several major appliances have gone to the graveyard and had to be replaced and all the water aerobics in the world won’t work unless I get my sweet tooth pulled.

With that said, this past year has also taught me some hard truths about when things look rosy from the outside. Life in a community like ours makes it easy to assume that things are going pretty well –- that we must be doing OK because we have a lot of people living in very nice homes, that our kids are doing great because of those ACT scores and all the positive things they do around town, that we don’t have a lot of crime and when we do, it comes from the outside in, and we just generally have lots to brag about and less to fear because we live in Hudson.

Life in Hudson is rosy in a lot of ways but there are also a lot of darker colors at work as well. As a community we need to acknowledge that and decide together that we are going to do something about it.

Last week, “Know the Truth,” a drug education and prevention program from the folks at Teen and Adult Challenge, a drug and alcohol treatment organization in the Twin Cities, came to town. They were familiar with Hudson and its problems with drugs and alcohol from last summer’s forum on heroin in Hudson. They came at the invitation of the Hudson School District to talk with students at Hudson High School and Hudson Middle School and to any parent or resident who wanted to learn about how to talk about this problem in our community.

They made a powerful impression, primarily because the message came from young people not a lot older than our own kids and students. I heard at least half dozen nice-looking young men and women describe a world I couldn’t imagine them in and in a lifestyle that could have ended for them on any given day. They are the sons and daughters of parents like a lot of us -- a high school principal, working moms and dads, parents who don’t believe their child would ever do drugs, would ever risk so much –- why would they?

These kids had answers. They talked about all things we’ve heard before –- that they wanted to be liked, accepted, keep up and be as good as their parents think they are. That isn’t easy and when someone they know offers them a little something to help make those things happen, it sounds good. And for those kids who think acceptance or friendship will never come to them, it’s a way to escape that sounds heaven sent.

The kids who talked in Hudson last week ranged in age from 18 to 23. They came from cities like Milwaukee and small towns up north. Some had battled drugs for years starting in their early teens. Others spiraled down in just a couple of years. All of them started on things like alcohol, marijuana and pain pills they either had prescribed for them or from their home medicine cabinets. And from there, the jump to heroin seemed inevitable for many, a cheaper, better high that became the most important thing in their lives.

A son who is in the midst of his year-long treatment stood on the HHS auditorium stage and told his story, one that changed the night his brother was dying of an overdose in their home. He called 911 but ran upstairs to inject himself one more time before the ambulance got there. He knew he had to stop but he wanted it just one more time. His mother joined on stage. At first she had no idea about his drug use, even what drugs looked like. When the school brought her in to show her the marijuana he was caught with, she didn’t know what it was –- it looked like dried herbs. Once she knew, she didn’t know what to do to help him. But now they have been learning together how to get their life back.

There were only about 75 people at the “Night to Know the Truth” for parents and community members last Wednesday. It was a disappointing turnout in light of what has been happening in Hudson. One father spoke up and said how sorry more parents weren’t there. He said his 17-year-old son had come home from school that day and told him and his wife about he had learned from Know the Truth. “We talked about it for the first time and it was so great. My son seemed so happy that we had actually talked about it together. I hope other parents get that.”

And after all the stories and experiences and brushes with death, that is really what it all boils down to -- every kid who presented said it -– it’s about communication and having the conversation, not once, but repeatedly as they grow up. For kids it’s about having someone they trust to tell what they are feeling and doing. For parents, it’s about paying attention, asking questions and above all listening with an open mind and an open heart. For a community, it is about accepting the challenge to look at how things really are, what isn’t working and finding a way to make things better.

We do that in Hudson and life could be a whole lot rosier.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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