Tracy Smith, President and Founder of SpeakersForChange.org, understands the pain of watching a child fall into addiction. She understands that family recovery is as important as recovery for the addict or alcoholic, and she firmly believes that improving the health and well-being of an addict’s family members increases the odds of the addict getting well. With this in mind, she founded a speakers bureau, which aims to educate people about addiction and the importance of family recovery.
When her daughter became a drug addict as a freshman in high school, Smith eventually found her own wellness deeply compromised. A former sales executive for American Express, earning a six-figure income, Smith was forced to take family leaves on two separate occasions. She took the first leave to help her daughter and the second to help herself after falling into a crippling depression as a byproduct of her daughter’s addiction.
“I was ill-prepared,” Smith said. “Even though I was a smart businesswoman, I had probably all the wrong information on substance abuse and addiction. I was not educated—like many families. I was lost and went through a variety of emotions. It broke me.”
It was not until she began attending family support meetings that Smith begin to pull herself out of the fog and find her way back to wellness. She did this before her daughter entered recovery. “The key is working a recovery type of program regardless of whether your loved one is working a program or is in active addiction,” she says now. “My recovery journey started way before my daughter’s.”
Change for Smith began after attending free family support meetings at a local treatment center. After personally experiencing and witnessing the life-transforming impact of family recovery, Smith started helping other family members who were struggling with the addictions of their loved ones, taking them to meetings, and speaking to them at treatment centers.
It was her service work—an essential aspect of 12-step groups like Al-Anon and Nar-Anon—that inspired Smith to switch from the world of finance to building a business model dedicated toward helping families suffering from addiction. The idea began while Smith was speaking for free at different events. She felt that many of the other speakers lacked education and information.
“I would end up onstage with someone else who was absolutely horrible,” she recalls. “They would either be giving the wrong message, like ‘Don’t do drugs, they’re bad, and they’ll lock you up,’ or it could have been someone who was totally outdated. “I thought, ‘How can we inspire change in communities, at colleges, at high schools, at police departments and at ERs; how can we do that at these price points?’” Speakers for Change officially launched in January of 2016.
“One in three families is affected by addiction today; that’s a current state,” Smith says. “Until we understand addiction, we’re never going to find recovery solutions.”