Addiction can be wedge, stake in heart of a family
Rebecca Bialecki, executive director of the North Quabbin Community Coalition, at her desk. The Athol-based community group has found itself increasingly grappling with heroin and prescription pill damage in recent years, a new animal after years with alcohol as the drug of choice.
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Members of a Nar-Anon group in Brattleboro gather round a table to talk about the week's experiences and how they are managing. Nar-Anon is the branch of Narcotics Anonymous that helps family members and friends of drug addicts.
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Addiction drives a wedge into families, sometimes permanently with the death of someone’s mother, father, child or sibling.
Heroin and opiates are something special in this respect. Where alcoholism commonly takes decades to kill, an opiate overdose can kill a first-time or long-term user at any time.
Opioids alone are dangerous, and in combination with other depressants like alcohol, exponentially worse.
Rebecca Bialecki directs the North Quabbin Community Coalition, a small community service organization based in Athol. These days, she finds herself often trying to steer families lost in the fog of addiction.
“With this new set of drugs it’s a very different approach to treatment, there’s not a lot of guidance and certainly not a lot of support for families who are struggling with it.”
With a single, chronically full, long-term residential treatment home in Orange and no detox or stabilization beds in the North Quabbin region or Franklin County, the coalition gives families the same advice they will receive elsewhere: keep calling, look farther afield.
“Don’t give up; don’t expect a call-back, that’s the only way to move someone forward to get that help, and again it’s not enough,” Bialecki said.
Negotiating the overtaxed and jargon- and euphemism-laden addiction treatment system and bewildering insurance red tape are extra challenges for families already coping with an unexpected problem.
Help for families:
The RECOVER Project in Greenfield, a peer-to-peer support program for recovering addicts provides support for addicted parents, but there is a gap in terms of support for non-addicted parents and family of addicts.
Dealing with the pain, confusion, often helplessness and guilt of raising an addicted teen or coping with an adult child’s addiction can be a lot for parents to handle alone and often in secret.
Parents may find themselves dealing with the anguish of a child’s death or caught trying to determine whether they are helping, enabling or being manipulated.
They may find themselves unexpectedly raising grandchildren, often grandchildren who don’t understand why they are being kept from their parents.
This is the situation Susan Avery found herself in 14 years ago. So she went online and figured out how to start an Nar-Anon Family Group, which now meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. The model is the same as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, but for parents, spouses and other family members affected by a loved-one’s drug addiction.
As of April, there is a Nar-Anon group in Franklin County, meeting Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church, 25 Church St., Greenfield. Contact local founder Christine Ardito by email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or visit the Nar-Anon website at www.nar-anon.org.
Learn To Cope is another model, one spoken highly of in the treatment community, and founded with heroin and other opioids in mind. The nearest meeting is held Thursdays at 7 p.m. in Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke.
Closer to home, there is a support group for grieving parents predeceased by adolescent or adult children, not specific to drug overdose. The group meets the first and third Mondays of the month, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in a first-floor conference room of Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield. The group is not geared specifically to addiction loss, but there isn’t anything else. For those interested, the contact is Jackie at 413-923-1513.
Farther afield, there is a group intended specifically for parents who have lost children to drugs or alcohol. Chapters of Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing exist across the nation, the nearest in Lowell. GRASP encourages anyone who can to start a chapter.
Visit http://grasphelp.org for more information.