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The Guiding Light of Hope

By: Margi Taber

Margi Taber’s life work is about hope and healing. Her career path has focused on adolescent and family work in the field of addiction and social work. She is on the leadership committee of NAADAC's Adolescent Specialty Committee and is the vice president of programs and operations at RSSS.

A Guiding Light of Hope is inspired by the many people she has met who are on a mission to increase awareness, provide education, and promote health and healing regarding this ever-challenging disease called addiction that is destroying lives on a daily basis.

Support for the whole family

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May 19, 2015

Recently I attended a community forum hosted by the New York State Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. A group of Senators in New York have made a commitment to address this issue and are traveling to various communities speaking with those in the trenches – people in recovery, family members, treatment and prevention providers, police and other first responders. Their intention is to hear firsthand from people who are up against the addiction about how the Senators can better address this crisis. 

One of the pleas made to the Senators was to assist in improving ways for family members to be wrapped into the treatment process. Parents speaking shared how they had struggled to get quality care for the family because there were no provisions with their insurance to cover it. One parent spoke about going out of state to obtain long term treatment for her young adult child, and encountering her first exposure to family therapy. She shared about her family’s experience participating in a week long program to address the issues impacting family members and said that the work was instrumental in bringing the family into the recovery process.

The obstacles and benefits of including family in the treatment process is not a new topic of conversation. I recall about 15 years ago while I was facilitating an outpatient adolescent parent group a similar plea from a mother became the topic of our group.  Her adolescent daughter had recently returned from inpatient treatment at Caron Foundation in Pennsylvania and during her daughter’s treatment experience, the mother had attended a week long family program at the facility. The shift in perspective with this mother was visible. She was now viewing her daughter and addiction in a different light. No longer was she voicing that her daughter “should just stop using” or shaming her for being “weak”. While what she wanted more than anything was for her daughter to live a life of recovery, she had a better sense of what she and her daughter were up against.  

She identified a slogan that she heard during the program that brought her a huge “aha” moment, “a sickie + a sickie does not = a wellie.”  Upon hearing this and truly embracing what the words meant to her, this mother began to see more clearly her dance with the addiction. She shared that she had been responding to her daughter’s drug use with what she believed was loving action, yet had come to realize she was reacting out of fear and engaging with her daughter in ways that did not support moving towards recovery for either.  This mother was then able to see that just as much as her daughter needed support so did she. This is the same concept as when flight attendants instruct those caring for another to first put on their own mask. Otherwise, they risk not being able to be present for the one they are responsible for. 

Family treatment is critical to the recovery process especially if one is planning on returning to the family system for support. I’ve seen too many times, people in recovery returning to the same unhealthy environment attempting to get well. It just doesn’t work because if nothing changes, nothing changes. It’s important to convey a message to the family members of empowerment and education instead of shame. I have seen family members believe that they were responsible or they could’ve “fixed” their loved one. There is healing in helping a family member realize that their presence in the therapy process is not about shame, it’s to bring to light an understanding that when we are used to dancing a certain way and we aren’t achieving the outcome we desire, maybe it’s time to change up the dance steps.  

Addiction has a ripple effect, just like throwing a stone into the water. Layers and layers of people are impacted by addiction and everyone deserves to experience the “wellie” within.   Here’s to creating more conversations about the importance of each person impacted by the addiction turning inward to embrace self-love realizing that we are responsible first to ourselves and then we will be in a better place to give back to others – in a meaningful and healthy way.

More from voices of recovery:

Dream a little dream of weed

Sobriety Junkie: My hope for her

Confronting cross addiction

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