Gita Blakeney-Saltus
Gita Blakeney-Saltus

As regional vice president of Caron Bermuda I am continually humbled to be able to honour the hard work and dedication of members of our community who devote their time and talents to creating awareness of the devastating effects of addiction on individuals and their families. 

Most recently, we recognized Nancy and Brian Duperreault for their significant contributions in the realm of substance abuse treatment, not the least of which through the provision of educational opportunities via the Duperreault Fellowship, highlighting their collective efforts, enormous compassion and understanding of the disease of addiction and its impact on our society.

The formal fundraising dinner was held on Thursday, April 24, at the Fairmont Southampton, under the distinguished patronage of His Excellency the Governor, Mr George Fergusson and Mrs Fergusson, and featured Clifton “Cliff” Crosby, the inspirational, former NFL player and Super Bowl champion, as our keynote speaker and Wendy Dill, a Caron Alum, who courageously delivered a powerful testimonial. 

Cliff’s testimony

Cliff had an important message for our guests and I would like to share with you some of Cliff’s story. 

Cliff Crosby grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, the oldest of five children. 

His mother, a single parent, faced addiction. Because of her illness, Cliff took on the role of parent to his siblings.  He recalls baby sitting them, walking to the store to buy them food, cooking meals, and washing their clothes. As a result, he lost a good part of his childhood. 

Like many children in his situation, he was angry, confused and embarrassed of his family’s lifestyle and conditions.

Despite these circumstances, Cliff was able to focus his energies on sports during high school and went on to play college and professional football. 

After retiring from the NFL in 2004, Crosby refocused his career on becoming a motivational speaker and youth advocate. 

Today, he takes the lessons learned from this experience to talk to teens about making the right choices and about how they can become successful regardless of their challenges. 

Cliff shared some helpful tips in case you have a parent or loved one who suffers from addiction. 

Here are some thoughts to remember: 

n Their addiction is not your fault. It’s a disease and you did nothing to cause it. 

n You need to take care of yourself. Learn what activities make you feel good about yourself and pursue them. 

n Instead of holding things in and shutting down, find other people to fill the void. Talk to a relative, a teacher, a coach, or a guidance counsellor at school.

n It’s also helpful to understand that you may be more susceptible to addiction because of genetics, so it’s important to be mindful of that and find healthy ways to cope with your feelings.

Life skills and choices

Cliff currently serves as a consultant for Caron Student Assistance Program, speaking to children and teens in schools throughout the US. 

While he was in Bermuda, he spoke at the Berkeley Institute school about the life skills and choices that will protect them from risky behaviours, using his own life experiences as an example.

Caron Treatment Centers, a not-for-profit organization, is recognized as a leader in the treatment of addiction. 

Since our inception in 2007, Caron Bermuda has served 2,518 persons, including 115 adolescents and family members via the Caron Bermuda and Bermuda Youth Counseling Service Adolescent and Family Programme. 

We have been greatly encouraged by the success of the individuals and families who have been supported by our services to date but it is also apparent that truly heroic efforts will need to be made to break the cycles of addiction prevalent in Bermuda. n 

For more information about Caron Treatment Centers, please visit www.Caron.org or follow us on Twitter @CaronTreatment.