by Patti Fish Stephens
Since my post last week on unconditional love, I have received many requests for help in finding support for parents and families of addicts. There are a multitude of organizations, both national and local, plus books, videos, websites, and more. The amount of information can be overwhelming, and I wouldn’t dream of trying to compile an exhaustive list. What I can do is tell you what worked for our family, and point you in the direction to get support NOW. Education truly is the key to understanding and dealing with addiction. Below you will find resources for emotional support and education.
If you are the mother of an addict, you can find support for yourself and resources for treating addiction at The Addict’s Mom, a website just for mothers where we can Share Without Shame. There are discussion threads for newcomers (Introduction); Supportive Resources (information on rehab, detox, sober living, and more); information about local and Events, Rallies, and Support Groups; a Sounding Board where you can go to share and get support; a thread about Success Stories, providing hope to all of us; and much more. The great thing about The Addict’s Mom is that you can go to addictsmom.com NOW to start getting the support you need. You will need to set up a simple, free account with your email address and a password. You can also join The Addict’s Mom Facebook page as well.
The most important step that my husband and I took to get the support we needed was to go to our local Nar-Anon weekly meeting. Nar-Anon meetings are for relatives and friends who are concerned about the addiction or drug problem of another. We resisted doing this for quite some time, not because we didn’t feel we needed a support group (we did) but because the meeting we attend is in a neighboring community to where we live as well as the school district where my husband works. For the first year of our daughter’s addiction, we didn’t go to this meeting because we didn’t know how to handle running into parents of students my husband taught or currently teaches. Once we finally did attend the meeting, we knew instantly that we were in the right place. Check out the website now, where you can get basic information about the organization and search for a meeting near you at nar-anon.org.
During the first year of our daughter’s addiction, we attended many different Al-Anon meetings, which provide “strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers.” Al-Anon is a much older organization than Nar-Anon, just as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is much older than Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and therefore there are many, many more Al-Anon meetings in any given area than there are Nar-Anon meetings. We are so fortunate to live in an area where we have many choices about meetings. I know that others may not be so fortunate. My husband and I found that while Al-Anon was moderately helpful, Nar-Anon members understood our plight much more clearly than did many at Al-Anon meetings. That being said, this was our particular experience, and if you do not have the option of a Nar-Anon meeting near you, by all means you should seek out the support of an Al-Anon meeting. The website for Al-Anon offers basic information about the organization and you can search for a meeting at al-anon.org. Also, if the addict has a teen in their life who could use support, there are also Alateen meetings. Get more information here: al-anon.alateen.org
An important note about Al-Anon and Nar-Anon meetings: don’t give up after one or two meetings if the group doesn’t seem to be your style. Some people are resistant to attending 12-step groups because of the caricatures of these types of programs in popular media. Yes, some of the slogans or sayings may seem hokey at first. No, you are not going to get the magical answers for how to “fix” your addict at meetings. What you will get are the tools you need to live with your loved one’s addiction, whether your loved one seeks treatment or not, and whether your loved one is in active addiction or recovery. We found in our Nar-Anon group a new family that understood our plight in a way no one else can, and it was a Godsend.
Another important source of support and education for us were the family programs offered by both the inpatient and outpatient facilities where our daughter was treated. When our daughter was in an outpatient program, there was a family night offered once a week. This consisted of a portion of the evening with just other family members as well as a portion of the evening with both families and addicts together. I won’t lie; sometimes these sessions were very difficult. It is hard to talk about the most painful thing going on in your life with perfect strangers, but in our experience, once we were able to share with others we found our burden to be lightened. Our daughter’s in-patient facility offered a much more in-depth family program which consisted of an all day program on Sundays. We drove an hour each way and had to be there between 8 and 9 p.m. and the program went until anywhere from 3 – 5 p.m. This was a LONG day, but well worth it. Not only did it result in better understanding of addiction through the educational lectures, it helped us be able to talk with our daughter about her addiction in a safe setting where we were guided by a trained drug counselor/therapist. It also helped us to bond with other families going through the same crisis, and to know we were not alone.
By attending the family sessions at our daughter’s treatment facilities, we were also able to get to know her drug counselors. Her outpatient counselor was a huge help to our family, offering individual family sessions for us and even one-on-one sessions with me and my husband during the most critical crises in our daughter’s treatment. It was our daughter’s outpatient counselor who encouraged us to attend Nar-Anon or Al-Anon and to find other ways of handling the stress of addiction in our family. She stressed the importance of self-care for us and gave us practical advice and information on resources. Likewise, our daughter’s inpatient counselor also went above and beyond and scheduled a special family counseling session with us when we felt we needed counseling in addition to what we were getting on Family Day. While the drug counselors’ main focus is, of course, the addict, we found that they were also tremendously supportive of families. “Addiction is a family disease” is something you will hear over and over again, and because it is true, good treatment centers and drug counselors will offer support and education to addicts’ families as well.
Several books have been very helpful to me on this journey. One book that especially spoke to me is called Comeback: a mother and daughter’s journey through hell and back by Claire Fontaine and Mia Fontaine. This memoir, narrated alternately by the mother and the daughter, gave me hope that my daughter could come out on the other side as did the daughter in the book. Another book that I highly recommend is the Nar-Anon daily reader: Sharing Experience, Strength, and Hope or SESH for short. We bought our copy at our first meeting and it is a great tool for staying grounded between meetings. Finally, a book that is not directly about addiction but which can be really helpful in establishing boundaries during this critical time is Melody Beattie’s The Language of Letting Go.
These resources are just a start, but I hope they are helpful to anyone searching for support and coping tools during the painful journey of a loved one’s addiction. Please share this post with anyone you know who has an addict in their life. If this post has helped you, please follow my blog (hyacinthstofeedthesoul.wordpress.com) to continue receiving information on what helped our family through this crisis. The more we speak out in the open about this topic, the less stigma it will have.
Self-care is crucial for loved ones dealing with addiction. Please watch for an upcoming post on this important topic.
Read more at hyacinthstofeedthesoul.wordpress.com