For the team at A Light of Hope, the heart of fighting any addiction is finding community among people with shared experiences.
The local nonprofit organization seeks to help people facing addiction, whether it be substance abuse, self-harm or eating disorders, by connecting them with others who understand what they are going through.
A Light of Hope began in the thick of a local family’s fight against drug addiction. Nine years ago, Tim and Susan Traurig were at a loss as to what to do when two of their three daughters were struggling with substance abuse.
Tim is a retired firefighter of 35 years and Susan is a counselor who raised their daughters with strong faith and morals.
Though they were still in the middle of fighting this battle themselves, the Traurigs said they felt a calling to make a difference in others’ lives.
“We really wanted to build something that we did not get to have,” Tim Traurig said.
“We experienced the heartache and the confusion and frustration of not knowing what to do. The experience was horrible for us. To be able to provide a place that parents could find direction, it made us feel like we could do something.”
Within a month of deciding to they wanted to found the organization alongside Steve Marckley, their program director and a former teen addict himself, they started A Light of Hope to support and encourage 14 to 26-year-olds in recovery.
“The hub of recovery should be a support system,” Marckley said. “That was the vision originally, was to try to provide a safe, ongoing support system for kids to hang out with.”
Through the organization, young people have a place to go for group sessions and activities where they can find a positive community of people who know what they are experiencing firsthand.
Sessions are open twice a week, with separate groups for youth and parents. On weekends, team members take the youth on fun outings, varying from bowling to mountain biking, to allow them to have fun and separate themselves from their addiction.
While the age range spans across a decade, the Traurigs say the root cause of all addiction is pain, which is something youth of all ages relate to.
“You look for the similarities, not the differences,” Susan Traurig said. “The root is always the same.”
Susan knows from personal experience, fighting an eating disorder as a result of being an incest victim when she was a child, that pain leads to addiction.
“I know what I felt and what I went through,” she said. “If I can look at a group of young people and share my experience…then it’s worth it.”
The founders call former addicts “wounded healers,” referring to the help they can lend to people who are currently struggling with addiction by relating their experiences.
The team makes a big deal of benchmarking recovery, especially through sobriety anniversaries.
After 30 days of sobriety, youths are given a sailor knot to wear, which they call a “monkey fist,” as a symbol of making contact with solid ground in their journey to sobriety like a sailor makes contact with the shore.
The youth the organization services includes both those who have gone to rehab and those who have not, offering pre-treatment and post-treatment care to get youth to a place where they use the tools they learned in rehab.
Tim Traurig said it is important for parents and team members to show grace to the youth and understand that they will sometimes make mistakes and relapse.
“We get out of the way, let their journey be their journey and let their failures be their failures, let the consequences of their choices have the impact they need to have in their life, but from this side, continue to love them through that process,” he said.
While a common solution to fighting addiction is letting an addict “hit rock bottom,” Tim Traurig said one of the organization’s roles is helping parents to “bring the bottom up” by enforcing rules and issuing consequences before youths are seriously hurt or killed.
“Now we bring the bottom up in that child’s life and we don’t wait for the disaster,” Traurig said. “When you let people hit bottom, you’re playing Russian Roulette.”
In light of the eight recent heroin overdoses in Santa Clarita, A Light of Hope has continued to support the youth they service while mourning the loss of those who overdosed.
These overdoses have also encouraged the team to continue to spread the word about their programs to let the community know help is available.