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Heart Support Interview

Posted: December 17, 2015 | the scene | august burns red, ben sledge, heart support, interview, jake luhrs | 0 Comments

Heart Support is a raw and authentic community where no music fan has to struggle alone. We had the chance to chat with founder, Jake Luhrs, and executive director, Ben Sledge. We learned how they got started and what they strive to accomplish.

 

1. Heart Support 101: Give us the lowdown in 2-3 sentences.

Heart Support was created by Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red and exists to equip, encourage, inform, and provide emotional support to young adults caught in cycles of addiction, suicide ideation, depression, sexual abuse, relationship issues, and family issues. We achieve this goal through peer-to-peer mentoring and support, musician partnerships and involvement, recovery programs and faith-based teachings, and connecting young adults to resources in their local areas. Our ultimate vision is to create a raw and authentic community where no music fan has to struggle alone.

 

2. Why and how did Heart Support form?

[From Jake] As a touring musician and lead singer for the band August Burns Red, I felt that God gave me this incredible gift to share music with the world and has radically transformed my life in the process. I feel extremely blessed having my life-long dream become a reality and wanted to find a way to give back.

One night on tour, while sitting outside a hotel across the street from the Chicago House of Blues, I began thinking just how blessed I’d been in this journey and how I wanted to do more to impact people and show them a loving side of Christianity. I have a habit after every show of heading to our merch table and speaking with fans and a lot of times I hear heart breaking stories of pain, struggle, and addiction and how through the power of our music it has transformed their lives or encouraged them to live differently.

So out of this great need I saw from our fan’s struggles and need for support, I felt God calling me to be more involved and help them past the point of just talking at a table but providing a place to come wrestle, find counseling and care, and other people going through the same things. This vision birthed Heart Support.

 

3. Why does Heart Support specifically focus on the alternative music scene?

It’s the scene that we know and all grew up in. The Executive Team all grew up in that scene and struggled with the same things many of our peers and young adults do these days. Ben was a veteran struggling through addiction and depression. Nate was an addict too and felt he always had to earn his worth. Jake struggled from being abandoned as a kid and growing up in a broken home and having family members who were addicted. We all felt lost, broken, and unsure of our futures at points, and Jake began to hear the same stories every night at the merch table after shows. We knew we could relate, and that we could help. And aside from that, it tends to be a scene people immediately write off. They think we’re all messed up and hate everything and worship Satan. But the truth is that it’s a giant family, and the more we grow in love together as a family and help each other, the more we heal.

 

4. Heart Support has partnered with quite a few alternative bands. How has this aided your movement?

The bands have been our biggest assets and we owe much of our success to them. Many of them have wanted to help their fans but don’t know how. What do you say to a young girl who walks up with her bloody razor blades and says, “Your music saved my life?” The music masked what was on the surface the bands realized, but that person still needs more. Now they have an opportunity to say, “Thank you so much and I appreciate that, but I have friends in a great organization called Heart Support that I’ve even done interviews with and think you should check out.” It gets their fans help and also allows them to impact them for the better while creating more loyal fans that know they really do care. Their interviews show fans that they’re people with struggles just like them. We’ve been fortunate enough to have bands like We Came As Romans, Black Veil Brides, BlesstheFall, Memphis May Fire, and so many more that have really rallied to our side and been loyal supporters and continue to see the impact of lives changed because we’re all partnering together.

 

5. How do you reach your audience? Can you tell us about your forum and hopeline?

The problem most young adults face when they go through struggles is feeling they have nowhere to turn. Sometimes the things they go through feel too embarrassing to share with others. They fear people will judge them and think they’re some kind of monster. In that place, they’re paralyzed from seeking help even though they might want it because they’d have to risk being rejected in their most vulnerable place. So they don’t check into rehab centers, and they don’t go through the twelve steps, and they don’t go to counseling. They pretend everything’s okay, and they stay stuck.

But if they had a place where they knew they were safe to open up, a place where people would accept them as they are, they would find the confidence to seek the help they need and want.

And Heart Support is that place. Because of the power of community they hear from people on our forums or blogs who are going through, or have gone through what they have. They receive encouragement, advice, and small steps to make big changes through our online community, all in the safety of their home. Those small steps eventually transcend the computer screen and affect their lives. Sometimes, however, you don’t want to wait for a response and need to talk to someone NOW. So we have a 24-hour Hopeline that is staffed by life coaches who help them walk through whatever hardship or struggle they’re facing.

 

6. One struggle that Heart Support specifically focuses on is addiction. How has the brand helped people overcome addiction?

There’s a fantastic article, book, and video by Johann Hari explaining that everything we think about addiction is WRONG (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8L-0nSYzg). In it, he explains that addiction has more to do with a loss of community and creating a cage for ourselves. When people live in a healthy community, they quit their addictions as they’re not appealing. Without community, they numb that isolation and loss of purpose with something that distracts them. Currently, there’s this Oprah mentality everywhere that we need to “love ourselves” and “accept” ourselves first, but for the addict, that’s absurd. The belief is that if you love yourself and practice self-love, then you can overcome these feelings of inadequacy and quit addiction. But here’s the massive problem with that. You cannot get significance through self-recognition; it must come in great measure from others. You cannot name yourself or even bless yourself. You ultimately can’t say to yourself, “I don’t care that everyone thinks I’m a monster or I’m an addict. I love myself and that’s all that matters.” That would not convince us of our worth unless we were mentally unsound. We need someone from outside to say we are of great worth, and the greater the worth of the person telling us so, the more powerful that recognition is to our identity formation. So if we try to self-authenticate or validate, what happens is we end up in an endless cycle of narcissism or self-loathing. In the end, our value must come from others or a Higher Power (which we believe to be Christ). In the end, if the addict has loving people around them that they respect and believe care for them and continue to convince them of their worth, then they begin to take small steps to break chains and quit habits. Couple that with a Higher Power that they believe loves them despite their failures and you begin to have men and women walk in freedom. That’s the power of our online community plus action steps and what has caused so many people find self worth, quit cutting, chose life over suicide, freedom from addiction, and heal from abuse.

 

7. Can you tell us about the Restore Program?

At the heart of the music scene, there’s always been a deep-rooted message of hope. Hope that things will get better, that the pain we feel is not what we will always experience, that there’s more to life than what’s happened to us or the mistakes we’ve made. But while we’ve always had hope, we haven’t always had a way to reach it.

Restore is that bridge from hoping-for-better to actually taking the steps to get there. It’s a recovery program custom-built by bands in the music scene for their fans to heal from past wounds and overcome present habits. It’s a movement in our scene from hope to healing, from singing to living, from being stuck to being free. We were not made to wander and wish for a way back; we were made to find it. Restore is your roadmap out of your past and towards a more abundant life.

The program itself has six modules with band interviews, round-table discussion and analysis, and an accompanying workbook. The program content covers various struggles an individual might be facing:

  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Relationship Issues/Broken heart
  • Cutting/Self-Harm
  • Addiction
  • Self-Hate
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Abuse
  • Loss of purpose/direction
  • Trauma
  • And a whole lot more….

We’ve all been taught that these things are the real problems we’re facing in life, but the truth is they’re the things we use as a solution to deeper wounds. In Restore, we drive to the core of what’s keeping us stuck, and we heal from the inside-out. Think of it as a first step for people ready to begin their healing process along with our community at Heart Support

 

8. How can people get involved?

We have an online volunteer program called the Core. They work like the minutemen from the early American Revolutionary War. There’s times of rest, and times of action. So whenever we call on them they spring into action. You can begin by learning more about that process by going to http://www.heartsupport.com/volunteers/