Can One Person Make a Difference?
About eight years ago, at a parent Twelve Step meeting, I became alarmed when I heard a number of my peers say they were waiting for their children to hit “rock bottom.” My twenty-one-year-old son was in his third year of recovery after a seven-month treatment program for alcohol and drug abuse, and I wanted these parents to know there were options to help their offspring get better with professional help. I had heard their stories, and, like mine, their children had escaped death by the good fortune of something, perhaps a Higher Power.
After one meeting, I discreetly approached certain parents and offered them a short list of nationally respected treatment centers. I was timid about it. I didn’t want to offend anyone. A few months later, after another meeting, I offered other parents a list of regional parent support group meetings. In a few more months, I offered others a list of interventionists I had met. All of these parents were appreciative of these resources, and I became emboldened. With the help of a friend in recovery, I started to interview local therapists who had considerable experience with addiction—professionals I had learned of after asking to be invited to a luncheon for therapists who were learning about different addiction treatment options.
Parents were getting back to me with early success stories with therapists, interventionists, and treatment centers. Now, after each Twelve Step meeting, I would approach newcomers to have a chat. Usually, I had heard their stories during the meeting and had seen that they were distraught over impending disaster with their children. If they were interested, I would share a certain type of resource. My lists had grown to extended-care facilities, Twelve Step clubs, helpful websites, reading material for parents, and more. Soon, other parents in the meeting would suggest that newcomers come to me for resources.
What had I gotten my self into? Whatever it was, I didn’t want to stop. During the time I was creating these lists, Caron Treatment Centers allowed me to oversee two family support group meetings in Northern Virginia, one in Falls Church and one in Herndon. I was getting telephone calls and emails from Caron parents as well as folks just looking for addiction resources. It was all by word of mouth. The bad guys of stigma and shame had kept these resources underground, away from doctors, teachers, and others in the public domain.
Perhaps if I had established a website, I would have been able to reach even more families, but so far I have resisted that thought. I enjoy having one-on-one conversations when I get to listen to each person’s story. I’ve usually walked in these parents’ shoes, but when I was in their situation, I didn’t have the resources to help me make an educated choice or find some peace for myself. If these parents are interested, I offer a menu of options.
The real beauty is watching my fellow parents in the support groups help others. There is one professional mother in our Falls Church group who seems to wear a sign that says, “Talk to me. I’m the mother of someone in recovery. I’d love to help you!” She has brought so many people to the meeting. Parents seek her out because she has been down this road of fearing you’re losing a child to an illness that has a cure. Although she has brought more than ten parents to the meeting over the years, she’s not the only one helping others. One by one, these parents, who have survived the torment of a child suffering from addiction, are reaching out to offer their listening ears and wisdom to others. They attend local addiction programs and numerous local support meetings, and they can share experience and wisdom with those struggling with the first tastes or enduring heartaches of a child of any age suffering from addiction. These are my friends; they are humble, and they help others.
One by one, they are making a difference.
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I hold onto the fact that the struggles my son is facing are making him a stronger person and a wiser one too. I must get out of the way.
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