A Reason from Wreckage
“Everything happens for a reason.”
At first acknowledgment, it seems passive and thoughtless; a convenient answer to get oneself off the hook of the sticky and difficult conversation. However, when we give it deeper thought, it is truly a selfless and courageous answer – one that looks at trials, uncertainty, and pain square in the eye and doesn’t flinch.
Sadie Holland is one of those people – one of those selfless, brave few who have looked at misfortune and painful circumstances in their life and came out the other side positive, and ready to change the world around her.
This is her story.
When you first meet Sadie Holland, you would never know she’s a survivor of personal tragedy. You’d probably never know unless you ask, because not only does Holland not look the part of a tragic car accident survivor, her sparkling personality doesn’t give hint to such a past, either.
Holland is a 2011 Buffalo High School grad, and 2015 graduate of Bethel University, with a degree in Business and Political Science. Currently, she is serving at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, as a Prevention Education Manager for “Know the Truth,” the prevention program for MnTC.
Her journey to the program, however, isn’t one that you’d expect.
It was at 10 years old when Holland’s life would take a dramatic change. Her mother was driving them in the family car in Buffalo one afternoon, when their vehicle was struck by a drunk driver, leaving Holland with a fractured skull, and what she described as a “shattered face.”
“Most of my teeth were knocked out upon impact, which resulted in a lot of bone loss in my jaw as well. I also had metal plates inserted to repair my fractured skull and shattered cheek bones,” she explained with confidence and all the assurance of a young woman. “I’ve had over twenty surgeries since I’ve been 10 years old, to get me to this point in my life.”
Believe it or not, Holland is a lovely picture of a woman – one would never know she’d endured so much facial trauma and reconstruction by appearance alone. What is perhaps more astounding is that Holland does not possess the aura of one affected by a life-changing accident, either. She is happy, she is beautiful, and she is thankful for life.
While explaining the history of the accident, Holland gives an interesting perspective to the scenario, a serious but gracious look on her face, as she does so. “I wouldn’t change anything about that night. While it’s been difficult at times, I look at my life now, and am so grateful. What I’ve been through has made me grow as a person in ways I never would have imagined, and it’s given me a greater love and appreciation for life.”
Enduring maturity from 10 years old and forward was rough, Holland explained. There were insecurities and questions of “Why me?” along with much pain. November 26 marked the anniversary of the accident, and Holland shared that it was her personal faith, support of her family and friends, and work that has helped bring her through the low and rough moments.
Which brings her to Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.
Holland began her journey with MnTC in 2015, during her senior year of college. She signed up to be a mentor in the program’s ranks, wanting to share in the lives of people who were recovering from addiction and other unhealthy strongholds in their lives.
“It was there, being a mentor, that I really got a good understanding of addiction as a disease, and not always as a choice,” Holland said. “How family history, or emotional trauma can play into someone’s decision to use. It’s oftentimes just an unhealthy coping strategy to a deeper hurt or pain.”
It was in June of 2016 when Holland was hired as a Prevention Program Coordinator, after investing interest and time into the organization. She accredits her love for the people and the program to the accident, which played a big part in her journey to MnTC.
“One of the biggest things I learned that helped me through healing and recovery was that I began to understand that addiction is not always a choice,” Holland said. “There is a stigma that comes with having a battle with addiction – A stigma that individuals are stuck and don’t want to get out, but that’s not always the truth.”
The “Know the Truth” prevention program focuses their efforts with the students. The team of presenters is made up of young people who have personally struggled with addiction, to create a peer-to-peer format with the students.
The team speaks at over 160 high schools and middle schools each year, reaching approximately 60,000 students. They are trained in facilitating a presentation on gateway drugs, to reinforce what is already being taught in the health classes. But by sharing their personal stories, it sends a message of “I know the pressures that you’re facing, I’ve been there, but this is what happened to me when I said yes to using drugs and alcohol, and I want you to learn from my mistakes.”
“We hope that by being vulnerable with the students, it will in turn give them permission to do the same with us. We want them to know that our team just wants to help and be a safe space for them to connect with someone if they’re struggling,” Holland said.
“We’ve had students give over pills after hearing from our team and telling us that they know they’re not supposed to take them, and that they don’t want to, or share with us that they themselves are a few weeks or months sober, and this presentation was their motivation to keep going. To hear those live results is a powerful thing,” Holland shared.
Another successful platform for reaching students and families is the anonymous text hotline that “Know the Truth” promotes at each speaking event. The hotline allows anyone who has questions, or needs support, to text in anonymously at any time.
“What is great about this is that it reaches a person in our team immediately, but it doesn’t have to stay with one person. If someone’s struggling with an issue one of us has experienced personally, we can go one-on-one with that person and help,” she said.
One of the main issues that the team faces when speaking to students is the gap between their perception and reality. So many students admit to drinking or smoking for the first time because they felt pressured by their peers and feel that ‘everyone is doing it’ when we know that’s not the case at all. While yes, a lot of students are exploring, there are more that are staying abstinent from drugs and alcohol. But the students that are doing it are talking about it. Social media plays a huge role in this, as we see everyone’s ‘highlight real,’ but the reality is, everyone has bad days, and that’s okay too.
“Know the Truth” also offers parent education, because they know that it takes a collaborative effort to fight this battle. They also aim to educate teachers and school staff.
“It’s important for them to know what their students are facing, what the warning signs are, and avenues to get their student connected to help if they need it,” Holland shared.
“The thing is, addiction is scary- everyone is impacted by it in some way or another. Whether it’s a friend or family member, someone at work, or your neighbor. But if we come together with the common goal to educate others and ourselves on the disease, we are equipped with resources, and it creates a network of people invested in fighting this battle and looking out for those who are struggling,” Holland explained.
On her journey to Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, Holland says this: “That drunk driver who hit me is a result of a disease. This job has enlightened me to the cause and effect of addictions. I wondered why for a long time, and wanted closure, but I soon realized that this wasn’t him – again, it was what was happening to him.”
Closure would come to Holland in October 2018, while speaking at a professional training – she met the driver’s wife, and learned that he was maintaining sobriety since the accident.
“That was really emotional for me,” Holland said. “I always wanted to know if the accident had changed his life, or what had become of it. There were moments where I wondered why I even had to endure it. Now I know – it was not only to help the man who hit me, but to give me a platform to help change the lives of so many. Without that accident, I don’t think I’d be able to relate like I do now.”
In recent weeks, Holland has been promoted to Prevention Education Manager, and oversees the “Know the Truth” team of speakers and influencers. The team is working to understand technology and integrate social media into prevention education, as it is a powerful and mainstream tool in today’s society.
The statement of “everything happens for a reason” may seem generic or even lackluster to many who stumble across its platitudes. However, for some of us, it is a fact of life, and hope for tomorrow’s journey. For Sadie Holland, it drives her in making a difference in the fight against addiction. Her story gives hope to so many who may not have hope otherwise.
Everything does happen for a reason. Sadie Holland believes it.
She hopes you do, too.
For more information about hosting “Know the Truth” in your school, please visit knowthe truthmn.org, or if you or a loved one need help in the journey towards recovery, please visit https://www.mntc.org/, or call 612- FREEDOM.