The People You Don’t See at TEDx

Behind the five, six, seven people who make it to a TEDx stage, there are hundreds who don’t. They don’t because they don’t audition…or because their audition wasn’t selected.maria-teneva-mo62s5dp0zg-unsplash

I don’t know all their stories, but I know ONE!

Vicky Harrison is a friend of mine. We have a brief history in the grand scheme of friendship, but one that I cherish. I’m sure I don’t have to say this out loud, but I will anyway. I LOVE TO READ!

So, when I moved 200 miles from my close friends and family to start a new job in the drug-addiction prevention arena, I wanted to make new friends. One of my colleagues gave me someone’s name. This person had a book club and he was sure I’d be welcomed with open arms, but the e-mail I sent her about the referral elicited a rejection e-mail response.

Apparently, this woman whom I had never met said that I wouldn’t feel comfortable and wouldn’t fit in.

In stepped Vicky Harrison, a school psychologist in the district I had just joined. She had only met me in passing but heard my story about looking for a book club where I might begin finding a tribe.

She didn’t hesitate to invite me to join hers.

That’s my friend Vicky. Her arms and her heart are always open. And I did find my tribe through her.

Fast forward 10 years and Vicky’s open heart was shattered by her oldest son’s heroin overdose. After she buried him, she buried herself in her new-found purpose: authoring Release Me, a book about her story, and preventing her son’s killer from murdering other young people.

(This is an affiliate link, so if you click and buy, you’ll be helping a not-starving artist while helping yourself! This won’t cost you any additional money.)

She created MOO: Mothers Opposing Opioids to address the opioid addiction issue in this country today.


She speaks to addicts to tell them what her son’s addiction did to her life before and after his death.

She speaks to teachers alerting them to the signs of addiction and ways they can intervene.

She speaks to parents assuaging the shame they might feel with the truth about this epidemic: it’s an equal opportunity killer.

And she auditioned to speak to the TED audience through TEDx Hilliard.

She wanted to tell you that you don’t need to feel ashamed if you have a loved one with opioid addiction.

This killer stalks middle class, functional families with the same gusto as it stalks famously rich, quietly wealthy, lovingly pampering, abusively dysfunctional, or single-parent impoverished families. Vicky knows that shame is opioid’s murder accomplice. It prevents parents from getting the help they need for their children.

She felt the shame when Tyler began the spiral into addiction, but she didn’t allow it to stop her husband and her from reaching out to any and all who might help. They turned to professional chemical dependency counselors, to educators, to rehab facilities, and to psychotherapists.

I’m saddened that although some reached Tyler briefly, none were able to wrench him from the terribly sharp claws opioids unsheath to carry our children away from us.

But there ARE things we can do.

I know three families whose children have escaped. They did the same things Vicky and her husband did, yet something shifted for them.

I can’t explain why that is. There is no answer in karma, religion, medical science, or psychology.

Life’s events are inexplicable.

We don’t know why you’re 6’5″ tall and I’m 5″0.

We don’t know why some babies die and others with similar birth defects thrive.

We don’t know if Ayurvedic medicine prevents cancer or acupuncture speeds surgical recovery or mom’s chicken soup cures the common cold. But we throw it all against our health issues to give ourselves the best possible chance, don’t we?

And sometimes, the cold is gone by the next morning; and sometimes the cancer comes back.

Do you know why?  I don’t.

And I think my friend Vicky would say she doesn’t know why some kids beat opioids and some don’t, but she isn’t giving up the fight.

She isn’t giving up on your kid…that’s what her life is about.

And it’s why she auditioned for TEDx Hilliard.

Why wasn’t she chosen?

I don’t know. Maybe she should have had some homemade chicken soup? Gotten acupuncture? Tried an Ayurvedic tincture?

TEDx is wonderful, but sometimes they’re wrong.

So, I choose Vicky. No, this isn’t the TED stage. But it isn’t the stage that’s important…it’s the message. And Vicky’s message is one I choose to promote.

And maybe you will too. Because maybe you know someone who’s felt the impact of this pandemic either through their own struggle or the struggle of someone they love.

Maybe it’s your niece, your nephew, your sister or brother. Maybe it’s you.

Maybe you’ve been looking for someone with open arms and an open heart to join your tribe.

If so, I’d like you to meet my friend, Vicky Harrison.

And if it isn’t you, maybe you’d like to introduce our friend, Vicky Harrison to someone you know would like to meet her.


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