Reflecting on My Recovery, My Journey to the Partnership
July 19, 2018byFred Muench, PhD, President & CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
Drawing closer to my one-year anniversary as CEO – having begun in a full-time capacity in September 2017 – I wanted to share with our families and partners a little bit about who I am, along with the goals for the Partnership moving forward. Now that I have had time to dive in and absorb all of the great work we are doing, I am even more passionate about all we can do to ensure that families can find help and hope when facing a loved one’s addiction – and that all individuals can live meaningful and engaging lives.
I am a husband, father, son, brother, friend, coach, colleague, psychologist, technology and mental health evangelist. I am also in recovery from heroin addiction.
I know what it’s like to party as a teenager, at first without significant consequences, and then slowly finding myself falling into the grips of addiction – convinced I could handle it. I know what it’s like to lie to my family and friends, steal, get arrested, go through failed treatment attempt after failed treatment attempt – from inpatient to outpatient to methadone – being substance free for few months, only to relapse over and over again. I know that look of shame on my family members’ faces when everything about my addiction came to light, hearing them obsessively rehash how I was a “good boy,” but wondering what they could have done differently and how they failed to acknowledge the warning signs. I know the hatred I felt toward myself for making them and others around me suffer. I know that despair and utter hopelessness that can come with active addiction, not just for me, but those around me. The self-loathing. The constant disappointment. The regret. I know how all of that feels.
I’ve learned what it is like to wake up in a jail cell – after 30 days into recovery – due to relics of my past irresponsibility. Still, I had nothing but gratitude and pride that I was not using substances. I’ve learned that the pain of being uncomfortable in my own skin can slowly fade as I continue to build my life, and how to quell the feeling of self-righteousness, so I could get out of my own way to live a shared and connected life. I’ve learned I couldn’t see any of that while I was in the grips of opioid addiction, but that over time, the support of others slowly helped me see through the despair. I am lucky to be alive and to have a partner who went through it all with me. She is my best friend and the mother of our two “tweenage”/teenage children.
Today I have the joy of recovery, living day-by-day in the intense and often grueling work it takes to live a meaningful life, free from addiction. There is beauty in hard work and persistence for a reward that surpasses any individual quick fix.
Many people think my history drove me to what I do now. It did not. I was an outreach worker and case manager, even while I was actively using. I was a research assistant working with families living with HIV. My foundation has always been in service.
I went on to fulfill a career in clinical psychology, but realized full-time clinical work was not in my genes. After obtaining my PhD, I worked in academia and soon came to the realization that, if informed by research, technology advances can help us reach and serve more people. So I founded my own start-up and nonprofit organization, even working at the Partnership briefly to help launch the Parent Helpline. I consider myself an implementation and impact-focused scientist. While I have juggled too many balls on my journey, I am fortunate they have landed here.
We are about empowering parents and other caring adults through our customized, evidence-based resources for families, nested in compassion and connection. The Partnership is about helping you, so you can help your loved ones. We are using all the traditional and digital communication and connection tools at our disposal. We are utilizing personalized automated feedback and intervention tools, providing support from our parent specialists, making peer and local connections and tirelessly advocating on behalf of parents and families.
The Partnership will continue to make sure you, and the people you love, can all live meaningful lives free from the grips of addiction, and my promise to myself and to all of the families we serve is to make us better to serve you better.
I have never been more passionate, more energized or more ready to take on such important work. I hope to have a dialogue along this journey and look forward to working together for years to come to ensure that people can live meaningful lives, free from addiction.