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As a family recovery advocate, I’ve written in the past about the severe lack of options we have when it comes to our recovery. While people who have addiction issues have many different recovery options to choose from (and rightly so), family members only have Al-Anon or Nar-Anon and if that doesn’t work for you then you’re on your own.

That was the situation I found myself in recently when Al-Anon was no longer working for me. As I’ve written about previously, I went back to Al-Anon last year after 14 years and for a while it was working out quite well. I connected with a wonderful group, I was getting what I needed from the program in terms of taking what I needed and leaving the rest, but the last few meetings I went to something was definitely lacking…

When I would go to the meetings, sometimes we would sit for long stretches without anyone saying anything, and when someone would finally say something I couldn’t respond to it because you can’t cross talk in Al-Anon. I have to say that’s what bothers me the most about Al-Anon; the inability to respond to what someone has shared, to offer a different perspective or support…it’s always annoyed me and I really don’t understand the reason behind it.

So we would be sitting there in silence, and just speaking for myself, this is very uncomfortable. I feel like I need to say something but even if I do no one can respond so what’s the point? Anyway, I started to dread going to the meetings and eventually stopped so once again my recovery was on hold.

 

Is There Something Else?

 

Fortunately for me, I still have my online support in the form of addiction and recovery Twitter chats and they have truly been my lifeline in terms of being able to stay on track. However nothing beats real human interaction and I knew that I needed to find something offline, so I started to do some research. I struck gold when I found SMART Recovery, and looked for a local chapter here in my city.

I couldn’t find a family and friends meeting, so I attended my first regular meeting on April 30th and it was excellent! I was the only family member there but felt very welcome and was told that my perspective was very much appreciated. What I loved the most though was the ability to cross talk; people could respond to each other, ask questions, and we even did an interactive exercise on the pros and cons of drug use. There was a nice cross section of young and old, male and female, and time in recovery.

What I also liked was that the energy in the room felt different; because we could talk to each other there were no awkward silences and it just felt good to be there. I think it also helped that we were in a bright sunny room, and not in a dark dreary basement or a formal room in a church.

I invited a dear friend of mine who is also a family member of a person in recovery, and she attended her first meeting Saturday and really enjoyed it as well. She also really appreciated the ability to cross talk and we plan to attend the next meeting together.

For those family members and friends who are looking for an alternative to Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, there is another option. I highly suggest they look into SMART Recovery; it will not disappoint.

 Nadine Herring is a blogger that specializes in writing about addiction from the family perspective and community building & organizing. She is a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate, community activist, runner, new cyclist, and owner of a small animal kingdom consisting of 2 dogs and 3 cats (all rescues).

Connect with me on LinkedInGoogle+Twitter, or Pinterest

On April 21, 2016 the world lost a musical legend. On that day Prince Rogers Nelson, better known to the world as Prince, died unexpectedly at the age of 57. I was on a lunch break when I got the news from my daughter in a text that Prince had passed away and I could not believe it…


I immediately jumped online to see if this was one of those celebrity death hoaxes or if it was real and the first site I went to was CNN and it was breaking news. When I saw that, no exaggeration, my eyes filled with tears and it was all I could do to keep myself from crying. It’s only May, and already so many people have died this year; from well-known celebrities to everyday people, it seems not a week has gone by without news of someone’s passing.

 

The news of Prince’s death though hit especially hard because it was so unexpected; he had just performed at a concert a few days before and seemed fine…
When I got back to work I shared the news with my coworkers and they were all as shocked as I was and one of my coworkers was hit especially hard, as he said that Prince was on his bucket list to see perform live and now he would never have the chance. I remember clicking on a clip of Latoya Jackson talking about Prince’s death with her mom, and how upset her mom got because it was like she was reliving the loss of her son Michael all over again. When she said that and started to cry I had to turn it off because I was on the verge of tears and I refused to cry at work.

 

Of course not long after Prince passed, the rumors of how he died started. Why people are so quick to put out all types of lies and innuendo I will never understand; everything from AIDS to murder was floated and one particular cause that really caught my attention was an overdose.


A Point of Reflection

 

I remember when I first heard and read this I took to Twitter and put out a tweet that said I hoped it wasn’t true. I had never heard anything about Prince abusing drugs and knew that with his devout faith, this is something that wouldn’t even enter his thought process. But then I had to catch myself; since when did faith have anything to do with addiction, if this were true?


As the rumors started to pick up steam, I remember thinking so what if he did have an addiction? Did that negate everything he meant to me and millions of people all over the world? Did that change his gift, his talent, his legacy? If anyone could understand about addiction it would be me as I have dealt with family members who are now thankfully in long term recovery, and lost a brother to alcoholism. That didn’t change how I much I loved my brother, it didn’t change how much he meant to me and all the people he touched…

 

As the rumors were confirmed and news came out that he was seeking treatment for opioid dependence; as a matter of fact he was scheduled to check into rehab the day he died, it once again brought into crystal clear focus how devastating any dependence on drugs can be. This may be controversial, but I don’t believe that Prince was a person suffering from addiction I believe he was a person suffering from chronic pain. He had been dealing with debilitating hip pain for years and was simply trying to find relief. All I can do is speculate, but it could be that his body had built up a tolerance to the painkillers he was taking so he had to take higher doses to get some relief and accidentally overdosed. We’ll know more once the full autopsy results are released but that is what I believe happened and nothing that comes out will really change my mind.


If there is any good that can come from such a tragic loss like this, it’s that it is bringing new awareness to the issue of how to deal with chronic pain management. We need to understand that there are millions of people who depend on opioids not to get high, but just to literally be able to take a step without being in excruciating pain. How do those people survive without what is for them lifesaving medicine and not suffer the same fate Prince did?


Prince’s sudden passing has brought these people out of the shadows to speak up in hopes of breaking the stigma that people who rely on these opioids face. They want people to know that for them, their opioid use is not because of a brain disease; it is a way to deal with the nonstop daily physical pain that they have to endure and that for the vast majority of them, they can do so without developing an addiction.


I know this is controversial and I know that there are many people who are much more learned than me who will disagree, but I for one have been doing a lot of reading on this since Prince’s passing and the stories are heartbreaking. I hope that these people will continue to come forward and share their stories to help educate the rest of us so that we won’t judge them as we judge others who are dealing with issues we can’t understand.


Rest In Paisley Prince; you will be missed.

 

Nadine Herring is a blogger that specializes in writing about addiction from the family perspective and community building & organizing. She is a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate, community activist, runner, new cyclist, and owner of a small animal kingdom consisting of 2 dogs and 3 cats (all rescues).
Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, or Pinterest

I had the honor of recently being chosen as a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate. As one of eight chosen from across the country, our mission is to help break the stigma surrounding addiction by gathering the stories of those who have been touched by addiction and sharing their stories of recovery.

 One of the first people I thought about interviewing was my daughter.

You see addiction doesn’t just touch the person with the addiction; it touches the family as well. For the first 11 years of her life, I raised my daughter as a single parent while her father was in active addiction. I did the very best I could to shield her from her father’s drinking and drug use, and because of that she no memory of ever seeing him high or drunk and for that, her father and I are both grateful.

In the interview I did for the Heroes in Recovery website, which you can read in full here, my daughter talked about how her father’s recovery, and to a lesser extent, her aunt and uncle’s experiences with addiction and recovery, have affected her life and shaped her views.

I learned so much talking with her in depth for the first time about her father’s addiction and recovery and I cannot tell you how proud I was listening to her talk so openly and honestly about something that I know had to be difficult for her. I found out some things that I never knew before and it reinforced in my mind how important it is to hear from all those who are affected by addiction; especially the children!

I’m so grateful to her for having the courage to share her story because people who are suffering from addiction need to understand how they are affecting their children’s lives and their voices need to be heard.

 

Finding a way to explain

 

I know that having to try and explain why a parent isn’t around because of addiction can be very difficult, and when your child is younger you have the “luxury” so to speak of not having to go into much detail in explaining why they aren’t around. But as they get older and their absence becomes more evident and the questions start becoming more frequent, you need to find a way to explain what is going on in a way that they will understand and not destroy their view of the other parent.

It was a delicate balance for me and one that I agonized over at times, but I’m happy that through this interview I got to learn that my daughter understood my reasons for not going into great detail about her father’s addiction and that she appreciated it. I never lied to my daughter about what her father was going through and why he wasn’t there, but I kept it age appropriate and did the best I could to get her the help she needed to understand.

Fortunately for all of us, my daughter is very intuitive and has always been able to read situations and pick up on things without being told much, and was able to find her own way through her father’s addiction on her own terms, which meant reaching out to me for help when she felt she needed it. The pride and profound happiness she now feels having her father back in her life, celebrating what will be 16 years of sobriety this year; as well as exceling in his career as a drug & alcohol counselor is the best gift he could have ever given her and all I can do is be extremely proud of both of them!

Nadine Herring is a blogger that specializes in writing about addiction from the family perspective and community building & organizing. She is a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate, community activist, runner, new cyclist, and owner of a small animal kingdom consisting of 2 dogs and 3 cats (all rescues).

Connect with me on LinkedInGoogle+Twitter, or Pinterest

I had the honor of recently being chosen as a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate. As one of eight chosen from across the country, our mission is to help break the stigma surrounding addiction by gathering the stories of those who have been touched by addiction and sharing their stories of recovery.

 One of the first people I thought about interviewing was my daughter.

You see addiction doesn’t just touch the person with the addiction; it touches the family as well. For the first 11 years of her life, I raised my daughter as a single parent while her father was in active addiction. I did the very best I could to shield her from her father’s drinking and drug use, and because of that she no memory of ever seeing him high or drunk and for that, her father and I are both grateful.

In the interview I did for the Heroes in Recovery website, which you can read in full here, my daughter talked about how her father’s recovery, and to a lesser extent, her aunt and uncle’s experiences with addiction and recovery, have affected her life and shaped her views.

I learned so much talking with her in depth for the first time about her father’s addiction and recovery and I cannot tell you how proud I was listening to her talk so openly and honestly about something that I know had to be difficult for her. I found out some things that I never knew before and it reinforced in my mind how important it is to hear from all those who are affected by addiction; especially the children!

I’m so grateful to her for having the courage to share her story because people who are suffering from addiction need to understand how they are affecting their children’s lives and their voices need to be heard.

 

Finding a way to explain

 

I know that having to try and explain why a parent isn’t around because of addiction can be very difficult, and when your child is younger you have the “luxury” so to speak of not having to go into much detail in explaining why they aren’t around. But as they get older and their absence becomes more evident and the questions start becoming more frequent, you need to find a way to explain what is going on in a way that they will understand and not destroy their view of the other parent.

It was a delicate balance for me and one that I agonized over at times, but I’m happy that through this interview I got to learn that my daughter understood my reasons for not going into great detail about her father’s addiction and that she appreciated it. I never lied to my daughter about what her father was going through and why he wasn’t there, but I kept it age appropriate and did the best I could to get her the help she needed to understand.

Fortunately for all of us, my daughter is very intuitive and has always been able to read situations and pick up on things without being told much, and was able to find her own way through her father’s addiction on her own terms, which meant reaching out to me for help when she felt she needed it. The pride and profound happiness she now feels having her father back in her life, celebrating what will be 16 years of sobriety this year; as well as exceling in his career as a drug & alcohol counselor is the best gift he could have ever given her and all I can do is be extremely proud of both of them!

Nadine Herring is a blogger that specializes in writing about addiction from the family perspective and community building & organizing. She is a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate, community activist, runner, new cyclist, and owner of a small animal kingdom consisting of 2 dogs and 3 cats (all rescues).

Connect with me on LinkedInGoogle+Twitter, or Pinterest

With the heroin crisis dominating the news, it got me thinking about how addiction is portrayed in the media. There is nothing glamorous or appealing about addiction and the movies and shows that realize this are the ones that portray it most accurately.

There have been many, many movies made about addiction from the perspective of the person with the addiction but very few from the perspective of the family and friends. One of the best I’ve ever seen and one that personally helped me so much in dealing with my husband’s addiction is “When a Man Loves a Woman”.

This movie came out in 1994 and stars Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia as married couple Alice and Michael Green; Alice is an alcoholic and Michael does his best to deal with Alice’s alcoholism while raising their two daughters. While I didn’t see it when it first came out, I remember renting the VHS from my local video store a few years later and being absolutely blown away by how accurately it portrayed the frustration, helplessness, sadness, and loneliness of dealing with a loved one’s addiction and how devastating it can be to everyone involved.

The best description I’ve ever seen about “When a Man Loves a Woman” is from the late film critic Roger Ebert, who summed up the movie as follows: “here is a wise and ambitious film about the way alcoholism affects the fabric of a marriage. So many movies about the disease simplify it into a three-step process: Gradual onset, spectacular bottom, eventual recovery. It isn't that simple; most alcoholics never even give themselves a chance to recover. And recovery is a beginning, not an end. "When a Man Loves a Woman" is about an alcoholic who recovers - and about her husband, who in some ways dealt with her better when she was drunk.”rogerebert.com

 

Finally someone was showing what it was like to be on the other side of addiction…

 

While our situations were slightly different; my husband was the alcoholic and I was the one raising our daughter, I identified so strongly with everything Michael was going through and I can’t explain to you how much it meant to me to see that played out on screen. Finally someone was showing what it was like to be on the other side of the addiction; how you think you’re doing your best to keep everything together when in reality, everything is falling apart and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

I remember sobbing through much of the movie because I had experienced so many of the feelings that Michael experienced and all the stages of hitting bottom that the couple went through, we went through as well. I think I cried as much for me as I did for him because I knew exactly what he was going through and it was almost like a therapy session watching this movie; whoever wrote this knew what it was like to be the spouse of an alcoholic and captured it note for note.

I rented the movie so many times, I eventually ended up buying it and when VCRs became obsolete, I found the DVD online and bought that as well. I’ve watched this movie so many times that I can recite whole scenes, yet every time I watch it I get as emotional as I did the very first time I saw it because it is such a powerful movie. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to see my story being played out so realistically on screen and with such detail. It absolutely gave me chills at the end and gave me hope that maybe, just maybe my husband and I could experience the same thing and I am happy to say that we did!

Even though this movie focuses on the relationship between a husband and wife, thus the title of the movie, it also touches on how the children are affected, as well as other family members and friends. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a loved one dealing with alcoholism, or for those who want to know what it’s like. It truly captures the essence of why alcoholism and addiction is a family disease and makes it easy for those not familiar to understand why.

Nadine Herring is a blogger that specializes in writing about addiction from the family perspective and community building & organizing. She is a Heroes in Recovery Lead Advocate, community activist, runner, new cyclist, and owner of a small animal kingdom consisting of 2 dogs and 3 cats (all rescues).

Connect with me on LinkedInGoogle+Twitter, or Pinterest

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