Eye Have a Story: Gina, Speaking Up About Drugs
“I have a story, and it's a story of enlightenment. It's been a hard journey to get here, and our family has paid the ultimate price for this enlightenment.” For Gina Allgaier the ultimate price came in the devastating loss of her son Tristan to a drug overdose. Yet, Gina met the tragedy with a heart of helping others and started the organization, Speak Up About Drugs.
“I named it that because Tristan did speak up,” Gina shared. “He did, even in the spiral of addiction and all the devastation that it was causing him personally. He was always educating me about all of the drugs that were out there. He wanted me to educate his brothers. He didn’t want them, and others, to end up in the same painful place he had found himself.”
Speak Up About Drugs has now evolved into a statewide coalition with 25 people across Arkansas, all who have life experience in the space of drug addiction, working together to change lives. Some, like Gina have lost loved ones, others are in recovery themselves, and some have living children currently fighting addiction. “We go out and do speaking engagements, talk to kids in schools and sports groups, and help in community events,” Gina explained. The organization is also putting together a peer to peer program that will work toward prevention and deterrence. “We are really trying to be out there and creating a collective impact to save lives,” Gina shared.
Gina and her coalition see the importance of providing resources for families and individuals who find themselves in the midst of fighting drug addiction. Gina said, “I always say I’m a dot connector. To connect the dots and help make it easier for people when they do find themselves in this situation, that they know where to go, and that they are equipped and have tools and resources at hand. Because when you’re in a crisis, that’s not a time to create a plan. You need to have those resources that you can go to quickly and easily, because lives are at stake.”
Statistics show that more than 72,000 people are dying from drug overdose each year. “That’s a tragic statistic, and on Father’s Day in 2017 my son became a part of that statistic,” Gina shared.
“I feel like we raised a beautiful family and a beautiful child that taught us so much. Tristan was my firstborn, so he taught me how to be a mom. He taught us how to be a family. He taught us how to live life to its fullest. He also taught us about the dark side of life, about the scariness of addiction. He taught us about death, and he taught us about overcoming. I can remember telling Tristan, if something happens to you, I won't be able to make it. I mean, I can remember looking at him and saying that and having that conversation with him, and when he died I remember thinking, I can't. I can't do this. I can't live without my child. But day by day, sometimes moment by moment, that veil lifts and the enlightenment comes, and my faith takes root and propels me. And even though it's hard and it's sad, it's also healing and it's very fulfilling to be able to take what we've learned and this hardship and pain that we've endured and turn it around into something good that can help other people.”
Bringing an authentic voice to people who many times aren’t heard, bringing awareness to the forefront, those are the things that really matter to the Speak Up About Drugs organization.
Gina explained, “There's nothing more gratifying than when we get a call or an email from somebody that says this life has been changed and saved because of the work you're doing, and that's happened now three times. So, I'm really thankful for that. This is a journey of enlightenment because the more we know, the more likely we are to make those healthy lifestyle choices and use that to help others... and that’s a good thing.”