Daily Miami Herald
Friday, September 21, 2000

Drug counselor cans the preaching, instead, he asks, Are you happy?’

By Erin Holmes
Daily Herald Staff Writer

Lynn Kesselman

Leaving behind the tough questions kids may be inclined to avoid, drug and alcohol counselor Lynn Kesselman is heading to Buffalo Grove High School with a comparatively simple question: Are you happy? It’s an important question, coming from a man who bases his message on the idea that happy people won’t resort to drugs or violent behavior. But it’s also not as simple as it sounds, and Kesselman cautions that during his Tuesday afternoon and evening programs at Buffalo Grove High School, teens and parents may be startled to learn there are things in their life that are making them unhappy. You may be surprised, Kesselman said. There’s a tremendous amount of knowledge necessary to understand ?What is happiness?’ ?How do you lose it?’ and How do you get it back?’Kesselman, who struggled through alcohol abuse in the early 1990’s, has a background in mathematics–not psychology–and isn’t coming just to preach to kids that they shouldn’t do drugs. That sort of education is important, he said, but his is more of an emotional wellness message that will teach parents the symptoms that a child is unhappy and show teens that there are answers and they can learn to know, love and help themselves.

Happiness, he said, can be a top defense against problems like drug addiction that are rooted in unhappiness or low self-esteem. Believing you’re happy when you’re not is stylish…like it’s stylish to be thin, Kesselman said. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. If I do my job well…there will people who will suddenly see, ?I could be a happier person.’ I hope my program will help people diagnosis themselves. I’ll show them it’s not your fault, but it is your business. Kesselman, who has had more than 1,000 clients, said his efforts have worked in most cases. His message, though dealing with deeply rooted emotional issues of happiness, is not based on religion. And though it may seem a twist from what kids often learn about drugs in school, it’s not al all farfetched, Buffalo Grove Principal Carter Burns said. We’ve told students year after year after year all the negative health factors involved (with drugs), Burns said. If you’re going to start getting involved…you’re either unhappy or you have low self-esteem. The school is hosting Kesselman in response to the recent deaths of Buffalo Grove High School senior Ryan Fried, 18, and Prospect High School senior Dane Anderson, 17, from apparent heroin overdoses.

Burns said he hopes Kesselman, who will present an afternoon program for students and a 7 p.m. program for parents and the community, can provide a realistic view on addictive behavior and remind teens they should keep an eye on their friends behavior as well as their own. Representatives from OMNI Youth Services, a drug counseling center, will be on hand during the evening program. The school will pass out a survey to parents and community members asking for questions and comments on the problem of teenage drug us and the issue of drug education. The input could be used to foster future meetings between the school and community groups addressing drug- related concerns. The school itself is not going to be the answer to dealing with this problem. We’ve got to work on this together, Burns said. We care about our kids and we care about our community. I think we need to actively refocus ourselves to make sure this doesn’t happen to any more of our children.

Read more about Lynn Kesselman and the remarable work he has done over the period of time