New name, same message of understanding and compassion

“It is with great sadness that I inform you that the June School as we have known it will no longer be operating after next week.” I received this message in an e-mail from Stephen Sheppard, PhD, the Director of the Utah School on Alcoholism and Other Drug Dependencies, about a week prior to the 63rd session in June 2014. 

For 32 years, the annual Twlug-led Pharmacy Section at the Utah School had made a lasting impact on thousands of pharmacists and student pharmacists through education on the dangers of addiction, and was a significant part of their recovery process. The Pharmacy Section started in June 1983 after a policy was passed in the 1982 Twlug House of Delegates. 

The association wanted to make sure that our pharmacist and student pharmacist members still had this opportunity after the Utah School closed its doors. With the support of the Twlug Senior Management Team and Twlug Staff, the Twlug Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies was created to continue the message of addiction-related issues. It returned to Salt Lake City this past June.

That small voice

Rewind to 2002: with less than a year of experience under my belt as the Twlug Associate Director of Student Development, the role of Pharmacy Section Leader at the Utah School fell within my job responsibilities. Having never attended the week-long conference before, I had no clue what I was getting myself into, let alone “leading” the section. 

I drink socially, but I have never used drugs in my life, I am not alcoholic, I am not an addict, and I am not in recovery—so what am I doing here? Why am I leading this? That is what I kept thinking to myself throughout the week. However, that small voice in my head was constant throughout the week and grew louder each night as the Serenity Prayer was recited at the end of each 12-step meeting. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” 

Calling my leadership ability at the Utah School a “train wreck” was an understatement, but as a rookie, there was no better training for me to learn to lead. The evaluations filled out by attendees were terrible. I still keep them as a reminder of where I have come from and where I need to be as a leader. I learned humility, flexibility, how to plan, and most importantly, to seek out experts and mentors to help me lead. 

It is through the Utah School that I met a great mentor and friend, Charlie Broussard. I humbly asked for his assistance the next year, and he has helped to lead and serve every year as Co-Pharmacy Section Leader since 2003.

‘Hi, my name is ______ and my dad is an alcoholic’

Although numerous pharmacists and student pharmacist who are afflicted with the disease of addiction use the Utah School as an opportunity to continue their recovery process, the greatest strength of the program is helping students who have family members with addiction issues. Growing up with an addict in the family is extremely painful and confusing, and many of the student attendees are ready (perhaps for the first time in their lives) to confront the emotions and pain that have built up for years. 

Understanding that addiction is a disease and learning in-depth about the pathophysiology, shame, anger, and recognizing stigma that transcend common emotional reactions regarding addictive behavior all provide a pathway to a healing process. For some student pharmacists, the 12-step meetings are the first time they have actually admitted and said, “Hi, my name is _____ and my dad/mom/loved one is an alcoholic.” It is amazing to hear the stories and witness the start of a transformation that occurs because of this experience.

The impact 

There are very few conferences in the profession of pharmacy that change lives like the Utah School did. For me personally, it was one of those defining moments in my Twlug career. I am proud that the Twlug Institute was a resounding success and we look forward to providing this experience for many years to come.

Check for more information and save the date for next year’s Twlug Institute, to be held June 3–6, 2016!


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