Break the Mold: The Power of Storytelling in Prevention

Guest Blog by: Ezra Rose

This week (May 8 – 14, 2022) marks National Prevention Week. This annual event aims to raise awareness about the importance of substance use prevention and positive mental health. The goal of the event is to strengthen community, build resilience, and create hope. In addition, SAMHSA encourages organizations and communities to celebrate prevention efforts. This year SAMHSA created a new way to participate in National Prevention Week, through #MyPreventionStory which is a way to acknowledge mental health and substance use experiences.

Substance use disorder happens when an individual’s brain becomes chemically dependent on the substance itself, causing the brain to feel as though it needs a particular substance in order to survive; no one chooses for this to happen. Yet, there are still many who view addiction as a choice which causes stigma that can keep individuals from getting lifesaving care they need and deserve. An important part of prevention is informing individuals about substance use, and breaking stigma. Prevention strategies can come in many forms. One possible step towards educating the public on substance use disorders is through storytelling. Sharing our stories is a way to bridge the gap between ignorance and understanding. We are able to become human rather than being reduced to a diagnosis or statistic.

Break the Mold is an event that was created in 2018 by Nevada Recovery and Prevention (NRAP) at the University of Nevada, Reno. NRAP is a collegiate recovery program managed by CASAT, a university approved center, located in the School of Public Health. NRAP provides an environment of nurturing support and peer connections for students recovering from substance and behavioral addictions and students choosing a substance-free lifestyle. NRAP members participated in a national collegiate recovery leadership academy through Stop the Addiction Fatality Epidemic Project (SAFE Project). The theme of this project was to reduce stigma or advance the recovery field. Break the Mold was thus created to reduce the stigma that those in recovery and active addiction face within society in a creative way. Break the Mold showcases Reno community members’ experiences with substance use disorder and their recovery path with the hopes that in doing so, it will create community change where all areas of the continuum of care are celebrated.

In honor of #MyPreventionStory, we interviewed Grace, whose story is represented in the Break the Mold project:

Grace Thompson #MyPreventionStory

My sobriety has to be my number one priority, without it I lose everything else. I have a long family history of addiction, and somehow believed it would skip me. I falsely believed it was a matter of will power; that lack of understanding nearly cost me my life. I became addicted to alcohol at the age of 25, and I lost nearly a decade of my life enslaved to alcohol. I am not defined by the disease of alcoholism; I am much more than that. I am a mother, a wife, a sister, an auntie, a daughter, a niece, a granddaughter, and most importantly I am a person who has overcome an addiction. Every struggle I endured as a result of addiction has made me stronger, more compassionate, less judgmental of myself and others, and for that I am truly grateful. I describe myself as a grateful alcoholic, this might sound like a contradiction to some, but to me it rings true daily. I intend to dedicate my life to helping others who suffer with the disease of addiction, ensuring that no matter what stage they are in they know their value as humans. The calling on my life is to help others, and make a difference. I will continue this journey and continue to trust the process one day at a time.

Sobriety date: 5/25/2017

Break the Mold Art Piece

What made you interested in being a part of Break the Mold?

I am interested in being a part of the change I want to see in the world, and have endured a lot of negative stigma related to my addiction. I wanted to participate in Break the Mold to help spread awareness, and to allow people to realize that people with addiction are just like everyone else.

Why do you feel it was important to share your story?

I have felt a lot of shame related to my story, because it involved child protective services, and losing custody of my children. It is important to tell my story to encourage others that have been through similar situations, or are possibly in the midst of a similar situation. I want people to know there is hope after going through a CPS investigation. I am allowed to see my children whenever I want to now, and have a wonderful relationship with all of them. This is thanks to my sobriety.

How does Break the Mold tie into prevention from substance use disorder?

Break the Mold ties into prevention by allowing people to see that addiction does not discriminate, and anyone can become addicted. This allows individuals that believe they are immune to the disease of addiction to see themselves in the stories of others. This might be eye opening enough to cause them to pause, and be introspective about their lives and coping skills (or lack thereof). This might cause someone to get mental health help before becoming addicted.

How has recovery affected your life?

Recovery has allowed me to have a life; without it I would likely be dead, or close to it. My recovery is the foundation of all aspects of my life. I lost so much to my addiction, and fought like hell to gain my life back. Recovery not only saved my life, it also gave me a life worth living, for that I am grateful daily.

What do you want people to know who are struggling with a substance use disorder?

Know that there is help, and there are people all around you that are willing to help you achieve sobriety. You never have to face this thing alone! I remember feeling like I was completely alone in my addiction, I felt judged by everyone around me. Just know that there are people that care about you, and know what you are going through. Reach out boldly, and know that you are not alone.

Break the Mold: The Reno City Hall Metro Gallery

Break the Mold is currently being showcased from April 18 through June 17, 2022 at the Reno City Hall Metro Gallery.

We have over 20 posters from Northern Nevadans who have struggled with a substance use disordered and developed a pathway to recovery that works for them. Please join us on May 26, 2022, from 4pm-6pm to honor these individuals and celebrate recovery. Follow NRAP on social media to continue getting updates on our upcoming projects and adventures!



O’Connell, M. E., Boat, T., & Warner, K. E. (Eds.). (2009). Preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders among young people: Progress and possibilities. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

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