Sober Help: A Child of Addiction Learns To Thrive | All Sober

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Maeve O'Neill

Maeve O'NeillMaeve O'Neill

EVP of Addiction and Recovery, All Sober

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Coming from a household in which both parents struggled with addiction and mental health issues, Maeve felt called to the field of mental health care at an early age. She has worked in behavioral health for more than 30 years, including 10 years in direct service with many in-need populations, 10 years in management in various settings, and more than 10 years in executive leadership with nonprofit and for-profit organizations. "The most inspiring part of being an addiction professional, I think, is the people we get to work with," says Maeve. "The change we get to see in people as we work together in treatment centers, in schools, in communities, in virtual environments. The change you get to see from someone who comes into [treatment and recovery] not knowing what to do and how to do it, and are surrounded by the love and support and compassion and information to make different choices."


A Child of Addiction Learns To Thrive

All Sober EVP of Addiction and Recovery Maeve O'Neill reflects on the messages and mentors that helped her understand her childhood and inspired her life's work

A Child of Addiction Learns To Thrive
Maeve O'Neill

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!

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