From ad­dict to fam­ily

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - L ORRI I RRGANG

Edi­tor’s note: Ever since the Whig con­cluded its “Voices of Re­cov­ery” se­ries last fall, many have asked the pa­per to con­tinue dis­cussing re­cov­ery and ad­dic­tion. As an ex­ten­sion of that fo­cus, we now present “Shift the Fo­cus” an ev­ery-other-week col­umn by Lorri Ir­rgang, a lo­cal author, re­cov­ery ad­vo­cate and mother of some­one in re­cov­ery. Join us as Lorri dis­cusses many top­ics per­ti­nent to the re­cov­ery move­ment.

— In Jan­uary 2011, I dis­cov­ered that my son was suf­fer­ing from a dis­ease that was rarely dis­cussed. It was not a dis­ease that friends and fam­ily would show up with meat­loaf din­ners to help us cope. It was a dis­ease that caused anger, iso­la­tion, con­fu­sion, frus-


tra­tion and help­less­ness. I dis­cov­ered my son was suf­fer­ing from ad­dic­tion.

It was that dis­cov­ery that changed the course of my life. As many par­ents ex­pe­ri­ence, there are tears and many unan­swered ques­tions. It is a chal­lenge to get out of bed each day. It is dif­fi­cult to fo­cus on your work, home and fam­ily. Re­la­tion­ships with your spouse, friends and clos­est fam­ily mem­bers of­ten change. You find your­self on an is­land that you did not know even ex­isted.

Min­utes turned into hours, and hours into days. The feel­ings of anx­i­ety and fear fail to sub­side. I re­al­ized I was not go­ing to get through this alone. I knew if I were go­ing to sur­vive this trauma not only for my­self, but in order to con­tinue to be a good par­ent to my healthy daugh­ter, I was go­ing to have to get some con­trol back of my life. It was within days of this re­al­iza­tion that I ran into a friend who bravely shared she was suf­fer­ing with her son’s ad­dic­tion as well. We de­cided to start a sup­port group that gave us a new fo­cus: “Peace and Hope.” This meet­ing is at Bethel Lutheran Church ev­ery Mon­day at 7 p.m.

Shortly af­ter our 12-step group be­gan, a men’s re­cov­ery house opened in Ce­cil County called “The Dex­ter House.” Be­ing able to con­front the is­sues of ad­dic­tion in the sup­port group gave me the courage to be­come in­volved in re­cov­ery. The first group of men at the house will­ingly and openly shared their own sto­ries. I be­gan to un­der­stand the tor­ment and de­struc­tion that ad­dic­tion has caused all of them. Watch­ing their thought pro­cesses and phys­i­cal changes as they got far­ther and far­ther away from drugs and al­co­hol was truly amaz­ing. I was able to see that there was hope for my son’s fu­ture.

Ad­dic­tion is truly a fam­ily dis­ease. It af­fects many lay­ers of the ad­dict’s life, as well as, the fam­ily’s life. I knew that if I could help just one par­ent by pro­vid­ing sup­port and hope, they might not feel so alone and help­less. “Where Did You Go, Addi?” by L.A. Fry, was my first ef­fort in this di­rec­tion. It is a chil­dren’s book that shares the story of the chaos that ad­dic­tion brought into my home. The child you once knew be­comes lost in the grips of the drugs and al­co­hol. The book also iden­ti­fies the pro­gres­sion of drug use that all peo­ple go through, many start­ing dur­ing their teenage years. There is a check­list of the many signs to look for to help you de­ter­mine if your child may be us­ing a chem­i­cal sub­stance of some sort. “Where Did You Go, Addi?” is a ba­sic re­source for those par­ents who are new to this dis­ease.

Two years ago a non­profit ad­vo­cacy group called “Voices of Hope for Ce­cil County” (VOH), was launched. VOH meets at the Ce­cil County Health Depart­ment on Wed­nes­day nights from 5:30 to 6:30 pm. Due to my sup­port and par­tic­i­pa­tion, I was asked to rep­re­sent the fam­ily on the Board of Di­rec­tors. This is a group of Ce­cil County res­i­dents in long-term re­cov­ery who have planned many events to give back to the com­mu­nity in hopes of help­ing oth­ers in search of re­cov­ery and re­duc­ing the stigma of ad­dic­tion.

In­ter­ven­tions and sup­port for the ad­dicts, how­ever, is not enough. I pas­sion­ately feel that in order to in­crease the ad­dict’s op­por­tu­nity for re­cov­ery, we must pro­vide sup­port for the fam­ily mem­bers. Just as the ad­dict suf­fers, so too does the fam­ily. In ad­di­tion to rep­re­sent­ing “Fam­ily and Com­mu­nity Out­reach” for VOH, I pro­vide in­di­vid­ual fam­ily sup­port through my con­sult­ing busi­ness, A.D.A. Fam­ily Trauma, I of­fer re­sources, sug­ges- tions and guid­ance to help par­ents make de­ci­sions, not only for them­selves, but for their ad­dict and the healthy sib­lings in the fam­ily who have be­come in­vis­i­ble. I have pre­sented ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams and work­shops for churches and mid­dle schools. Ad­di­tional pre­sen­ta­tions were pro­vided at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege, Ce­cil Col­lege and the Univer­sity of Delaware. I also led work­shops through Ce­cil Col­lege’s “Life Long Learn­ing” pro­gram that also pro­vided sup­port and in­for­ma­tion about ad­dic­tion.

The goal of this col­umn is two-fold: to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion that may be ben­e­fi­cial to those of you who are search­ing for help with an ad­dicted loved one and, more im­por­tantly, to “shift the fo­cus” on what you can con­trol dur­ing this jour­ney.

Be sure to check out “Shift the Fo­cus” on Aug. 19, which will help to an­swer the ques­tion: Is ad­dic­tion bi­ol­ogy or psy­chol­ogy?

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