Growing up in a family with addiction was challenging, scary and yet one of the things I am most grateful for.
Challenging and scary because of the unpredictability and chaos that go along with addiction, whether it's that of a parent or other loved ones. Grateful because it led me to a professional career path where I have been able to help many others on the same journey, and because personally it has made me realize the true power of resilience. HELP is available when we have the courage to share our stories!
I first realized my family was suffering from addiction and mental health issues in a psychology class I was taking in 11th grade. It was 1985, and we were living in Hawaii with our mother after she had once again left our father back in Virginia due to both of their diseases. Part of me was relieved to learn that this thing I was experiencing had a name and that maybe I wasn't the only one suffering.
From there, I discovered the work of organizations like the National Association for Children of Addiction (NACOA) and amazing people like Robert Ackerman (author of "Perfect Daughters" and "Silent Sons"), Claudia Black ("It Will Never Happen to Me") and Jerry Moe ("Understanding Addiction and Recovery Through a Child's Eyes"). Reading their books, learning from them over the years and having the chance to work with them many years later literally changed and saved my life in many ways.
I have often referred back to the tools and resources I learned over the years, as the simple messages apply to all of us. I was able to bounce back, and maybe even thrive, in spite or because of my early childhood experiences. I truly believe I was able to do this because the field I chose to work in forced me to have the courage to share. HOPE is when we can trust others, talk to them and share our thoughts and feelings!
I was surrounded by compassion from many I worked with early in my career, including at NACOA under longtime president and CEO Sis Wenger, who loved me and held me accountable like no one had before. Having connections with other helping professionals with similar stories was inspiring. HEALING happens when we can own our stories and truly love and support each other along the way!
Over the years, I have gained much education and training to support these basic messages. Most impactful was being trained in the work of Brené Brown and being certified to share her curriculum with others. Authenticity, vulnerability, values, trust and rising are skills we can learn to be more resilient for ourselves and others. The messages I learned all those years ago are consistent and still provide us with the needed guidance to love and support ourselves and each other:
- Help: help is available!
- Hope: hope is possible!
- Healing: healing happens!
Today, as part of the All Sober team, I get to spread the message to end the stigma around addiction, provide helpful information and support all those impacted. Please join us!