It's been almost two years since I lifted my head out the sand and discovered that harm reduction approaches offer me so many ways to be more effective as a therapist and addiction treatment consultant.
When I began using harm reduction principles such as 'people use drugs for reasons' 'meet your kid where she's at', I was worried that parents would think that I was condoning their kid's drug use. Well, I was pleasantly surprised that once parents understood the ideas a little better, they were more willing to embrace a different perspective and began to use these ideas to work at improving their relationship with their child.
As an addictions counselor, I'm inspired by the courage and determination that people are able to summon up to help them cope with chronic, complex, often life-endangering problems.
I'm sharing an example below from a mother who is kind (and brave!) enough and willing to share her story so others may have a better understanding of the rollercoaster journey that so many like her take. Her story is similar to many others with addicted children, but this is her unique path. The love of her child, her personal spirituality, along with courage and determination have supplied the hope for her to move forward in her life:
This type of anniversary no one ever wants to be in a position to celebrate.
GRASP represents a nationwide network of support groups for parents and family members of those who have died from accidental drug overdose.
I spoke about what led me to become involved with GRASP and it's parent group Broken No More: my experience with addiction and mental illness in my family, my recent awareness of our country's failed drug policies and how my work with my clients has been transformed as a result.
The anniversary meeting was an opportunity to acknowledge the growth of the Bucks County GRASP group, which offers those suffering from their devastating loss the opportunity to connect with others in an atmosphere of safety that helps to promote their healing.
I just got back from the inaugural retreat of GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing), a support group for family and friends of those who have suffered accidental overdose deaths. About 40 GRASP members from around the United States made the trip to Tampa FL, and it was great to meet many folks that up until now I had only known via GRASP's Facebook page.
The retreat combined an opportunity for everyone to connect and participate in some experiential exercises around grief and loss as well as take part in a lively workshop led by the dynamic Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) duo of Meghan Ralston and Stephen Gutwillig. Meghan and Stephen educated us about harm reduction and how the failed public health drug policies of the United States contribute to thousands of accidental overdose deaths every year.
As an addictions counselor, it’s always a pleasure to work with parents who have the instincts and skills to maintain good communication with their teenager as well as the courage (and energy!) to set appropriate and consistent boundaries and limits.
Sometimes, however, these skills can be a double-edged sword and work against us, especially when the emotional and behavioral instability of our child keeps pushing us out of our parental ‘driver’s seat’ and into the passenger seat—or even worse, the back seat.
Being in the family back seat contributes to the fear that develops when we start losing control of a child’s behavior. This fear often motivates us to become even firmer in our resolve to ensure our child’s safety while keeping ourselves sane along with the rest of our family.