Rowdie Erwin Runs his first Marathon for the NACoA

Rowdie Erwin Runs his first Marathon for the NACoA

From Rowdie Erwin

The National Association for the Children of Addiction (NACoA), a non-profit organization that aims to eliminate the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children through community education and enrichment programs.

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By June 22nd, I will have run close to 700 miles (about the distance from Minneapolis, MN to Tulsa, Oklahoma) over the course of 16 weeks for the National Association for the Children of Addiction (NACoA), a non-profit organization that aims to eliminate the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children.

As many of my close friends and family now know, my Mom was diagnosed with Korsakoff’s Syndrome during my freshman year of college. Korsakoff’s Syndrome is a severe form of short term memory loss that leaves its victim unable to form new memories.  Long-term alcoholism is the primary pre-requisite for this disorder to manifest.

My Mom’s alcoholism was something that was present throughout my life, although it’s taken years of introspection and reflection to begin to come to terms with the impact it’s had on my life. When sober, my Mom’s been referred to as kind, caring, compassionate, intelligent and creative, but when she was drinking her behavior was unpredictable at best. The presence of alcohol dulled all of the positive traits described above, and seemingly flipped them on their head. 

The children of addicts have a significantly higher likelihood of facing adverse effects from the addiction of a loved one[1], as they are in the closest proximity to the toxic behavior for the longest duration of time during the most psychologically formative period of their life.  Coping mechanisms are generally not in place at such a young age so victims are usually left to make sense of their feelings of guilt, anxiety, fear and shame on their own, resulting in a distorted version of reality that can endure through adulthood if not noticed and addressed by others around the child. Expressions of this distorted perception of reality include trust issues, self-loathing, self-judgement, approval seeking behaviors, and the normalization of alcohol and drug use. These distortions result in a myriad of interpersonal communicatory deficits that lead to damaged relationships, fumbled projects or missed opportunities. These deficits leave lasting effects on the emotional, physical and mental well-being of the individual in question—all of which leave room for this cycle to continue another generation.

While my Mom’s illness introduced a variety of challenges into my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a strong support system to help navigate and comprehend the more difficult periods.  Other children of addicts are not often in the same position. While addiction affects individuals from all walks of life, it disproportionately impacts those who are at an economic disadvantage.  This makes care, recovery and hope seem impossible to the addicts, and completely foreign to the children of addicts.  To address this disadvantage, there needs to be consistent and ongoing education available for community leaders in these areas on how loved ones of the addicted are affected, and what can be done to help. 

To express my support of this cause, I’d like to dedicate the training and participation in my first Marathon (Grandma’s Marathon, on June 22nd in Duluth, MN) to the NACoA, whose mission is to eliminate the adverse impact of alcohol and drug use on children and families. To aid in accomplishing my goal, I’ve signed up for the Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA), and began attending their 16-week marathon training program on March 9th, which meets Tuesday and Saturday mornings.

Grandma’s Marathon began in 1977 as a race amongst 150 local runners, but has evolved into a self-governed nonprofit organization that draws more than 18,000 participants. In 2018, 50 countries, all 50 states, and 20+ charitable organizations were represented.

NACoA has not previously been included as a charity partner, but I’ve been in communication with the Program Director from Grandma’s Marathon to have them added in 2020 (as the application period has already ended for 2019.) This will allow other runners to more easily fundraise on the organization’s behalf, as well as increase visibility of the organization and their mission.

I’ve partnered with Sis Wenger, the President/CEO of NACoA in order to pull together the information presented below, attached, and described in the various giving levels.

NACoA’s goals are as follows:

  • Raise public awareness around the adverse effects of addiction on the children of the addicted
  • Educate justice professionals, faith leaders, primary care providers, educators, social workers and other community systems on the way children and loved ones are affected by addiction, and what they can do to help
  • Provide leadership in public policy at the national state and local level
  • Advocate for appropriate education and prevention services
  • Initiate and advance professional knowledge and understanding of the issue at large
  • Advocate for policies, programs, and resources that support children and families adversely impacted by alcohol and drug use

In support of my time and effort training to compete in the race, I humbly ask for your donation in support of the cause detailed above. 100% of your donation will go towards the NACoA.

Please feel free to reach out for any additional information on what I’ve described above, if you have any questions, or if you just need an ear to talk about your own experience.

Thank You for your time, attention, and support.

Rowdie Erwin

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