A helping hand fighting addiction

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  • Lisa Brewster (Photograph Supplied)

    Lisa Brewster (Photograph Supplied)

It’s common for addicts who have gone through recovery to relapse once surrounded by their old routine.

Lisa Brewster is especially concerned with prevention.

The programme facilitator and co-ordinator at Pride Bermuda is looking to create programmes that change cultural norms associated with substance abuse.

Next week, she will begin her master’s of prevention science degree, at the University of Oklahoma.

She was chosen as the 2017 Duperreault Fellow, an endowment fund that supports the professional development of residents working in the field of substance abuse

“It’s more than just physical health, it deals more with drug abuse prevention,” she said of her training. “It’s a comprehensive look at how we can promote healthy lifestyles.

“From an holistic view, it’s not just about the individual, but how to set up protective factors and policies — from governmental all the way to the individual.”

The mother-of-three is beginning the two-year programme after more than 20 years in the workforce.

Her undergraduate degree was in Spanish and education — her focus was on early childhood and middle school-aged students.

She expects her new studies will be challenging.

“I really want to learn how we go about changing cultural norms,” she said.

“You can do whatever you want to the individual, but if the culture hasn’t changed, it’s not going to be as easy for the individual to hold on to those things they’ve been taught.

“Young people may not have started using marijuana but because it’s socially or culturally acceptable it’s more difficult to stay away from it.

“If you look back, it was normal and culturally acceptable to smoke cigarettes, but you see that is less common now.”

She wants to see the same change with drugs and alcohol.

The former educator started with Pride three years ago. She is certified in Botvin Lifeskills Training, an evidence-based drug and alcohol abuse prevention programme. She works with children from primary one until high school.

“Essentially I’m still teaching, it’s just a different setting and for different outcomes,” she said. “A lot prevention policy has to do with executive functioning skills — decision-making, self-esteem.

“We have one programme called PATHS, promoting alternative thinking strategies. That deals with giving the kids emotional competence.

“They learn how to identify their emotions, how to identify emotions in other people and also how to deal with those emotions.

“It’s teaching communication, empathy, problem-solving and decision-making.”

Difficulty or weakness in those areas are hallmarks of those more susceptible to addiction.

“You have people with low self-esteem, poor decision-making skills, poor coping skills — they’re definitely more likely,” she said.

With children aged 12, 16 and 18, her training translates to her personal life; she talks openly to them about drug and alcohol use.

“You can only equip them, which is where the community and the cultural component comes in,” she said.

“You can build a culture in your own home, but they still have to be in the wider community.”

Pride celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. Her service is regularly contracted to schools; she has visited 12 in the past year.

“I feel like it’s had a tremendous impact on the community,” Ms Brewster said. “When I say I work at Pride a lot of people will say, I remember Pride, I was part of Youth to Youth or one of the older programmes.”

She said her new purpose has been something of a calling.

“I could easily have gotten a master’s in education, but I had something in the back of my mind saying this is not it,” she told Lifestyle.

“When I go to workshops on prevention — workshops that talk about building resiliency in young people — I start connecting the dots and I feel like I’m in the right place.

“I knew I wanted to get a master’s degree. When I came here, I said, this is it. This is definitely what I want to learn more about.”

She added: “I am grateful to Brian Duperreault for having the vision for the Duperreault Fellowship and to the committee for allowing me this opportunity.”

For more information, visitduperreaultfellowship.org or pridebermuda.bm/

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Published Aug 23, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 24, 2017 at 11:34 am)

A helping hand fighting addiction

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