2024 – Awardee – Rylee Smith – Layton HS

Mar 26, 2024

Grow, Don’t Let Go!

My dad struggled with a drug addiction for 15 years. While everyone thought we were a picture perfect-family, on the inside we were crumbling and falling apart. Trying to keep my families’ biggest secret, I tried my best to put on a show and didn’t let anyone see inside. My family finally hit our rock bottom and we couldn’t take it any longer. We then sent my dad off to rehab for treatment. My mom had to start working fulltime and as the oldest of 5 children, I had to step up in our family, along with feeling like I had to keep that heaviest secret inside and be that rock for my family to not let them down. There were countless times when I felt like the weight was just all too much and I could not take it anymore. I didn’t know how much longer I could stand being alive. This was way too hard for any little girl to have to deal with. But slowly as I was able to open up and be vulnerable with others and myself, my mindset began to change from maybe this wasn’t happening TO my family but FOR my family. Over time I was able to feel this weight that was crushing me be lifted. I believe this new mindset helped me cope. My circumstances didn’t change, but I did. When this started happening and I made a conscious effort to make that mindset and perspective change, I watched this beautiful transformation occur. I started turning all of these “hate you” statements and thoughts into “thank you“ statements. Everything I was so mad about and hated most in my life was able to turn into something so beautiful and to my astonishment I actually became grateful for the these experiences that I once thought were too heavy to deal with. I strongly believe that when we choose to GROW through our trials instead of just GO through them, our greatest weaknesses can turn into our most beautiful strengths. My dad has now been sober for 6 years. Because of my family’s experience I have had the opportunity to share our story and help countless lives. I have found that sharing my experience, strength, and hope with others who have or are suffering in the same way has helped me heal. Being vunerable and sharing doesn’t only help others, but it helps heal yourself. I have now been able to speak at youth conferences, be on podcasts, start a youth support group, inspire and give hope to those struggling. A big thing that I’ve turned to in my life when going though hard times is music. Music has alwasy been a huge part of my life, it’s my outlet. For me writing songs is a type of journaling. I believe music has such a stong impact and can speak to the soul and move people in some ways that words can’t. When words can’t express it, music can. What I learned through this inspired a song I wrote about my family’s story to share my message of hope and what truly has made me who I am today. Because of this song I have had opportunities to go speak, share, and sing all over Utah, reaching the hearts of many. I now feel so grateful for the resilience I gained through the trial of years of addiction with my family.  I have found that as other struggles and trials have appeared in my life since, such as hardships with friends, physical and mental health struggles, losing loved ones, and a brothers near death experience, I have been able to rely on these same coping skills and outlets in order to not only endure the struggles but truly grow from them and come out better because of them. The greatest coping skill of all that has ultimately been my most constant source of peace and hope since a young age, that was shown and taught to me by Hannah herself, is to trust my spiritual gifts of intuition. This gift has lead me to know how and who to share this hope to. Knowing she has been there with me every single step of the way, through every up and every down, has been such a powerful source of strength, resilience, peace, and love. I am determined to keep living and spreading Hannah’s hope.

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