Hope for families affected by substance abuse
Reprinted from "Families" issue of Visions Journal, 2013, 8 (3), pp. 32-33
I’m the mom of two wonderful sons, ages 35 and 38. When my youngest was 14, he began acting out: lying, stealing, skipping school, running away. We felt totally helpless and didn’t know where to turn for help. After he ran away a second time, the RCMP referred us to a mutual support program called Parents Together.
Parents Together is a province-wide program managed by the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC. It has been helping families for over 20 years.
I spent four years in the Vancouver group, where I learned new strategies for dealing with my son’s behaviour. And most importantly, I learned how to take care of myself and still maintain a relationship with my son. Parents Together literally saved my life—and my marriage!
The one item that I was terrified would end up on the list of acting-out behaviours was “involvement with drugs,” and unfortunately my worst fears came true. When my son reached his late teens, he became seriously addicted to heroin. By that time I had “graduated” from Parents Together as it was a program for parents of teens and my son had turned 18. After a year of trying to cope on my own, it occurred to me that the same model of support offered by Parents Together would work for parents and family members who struggle with their adult children’s substance abuse issues. In 2000, with the endorsement of the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC, I founded Parents Forever.
I’m proud to say that 13 years later, Parents Forever continues to provide comfort, support, strategies and coping skills to families affected by substance use. The current membership stands at close to 200, and everyone receives regular communication via email informing them about resources, events and speakers.
So how does Parents Forever work? It provides a safe and confidential place for parents and family members to come together to share their experiences, their wisdom and their courage. Folks come from all walks of life and from all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. From the moment they arrive at the group, they are surrounded by people who:
- truly understand what they are going through
- don’t judge or blame them
- offer hugs and shoulders to cry on
- give hope and encouragement for change
The ongoing support group meets every other Friday, with average attendance between 15 and 20 people. Parents and family members find us via our website or by referral from doctors, hospitals, social service agencies, psychiatrists and victim services.
The following is an excerpt from an article posted on the From Grief to Action website (www.fgta.ca) by a long-time member (mom) of Parents Forever:
“I began to realize that I needed to recover from S’s addiction, that his illness had affected my thinking, behaviour and feelings, and had indeed affected my sense of well-being as well as my relationships with others. Around this time we started attending Parents Forever. What an amazing group! We learned valuable lessons and coping strategies, and gained strength from the folks at the group. We rarely missed a meeting in seven years.”
After 20 years of involvement in Parents Together and Parents Forever, I can credit the wonderful support I received for keeping the relationship with my son alive—even during the dark years of his addiction. For the past seven years, my son has been living a sober life, and today our relationship is stronger than ever. There were times I believed we’d never get to this point, but as we say in Parents Forever: “Ever hopeful, no expectations.”
Parents Forever is supported by Vancouver Coastal Health, Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC and From Grief to Action. For more information, visit parentsforever.ca.