From the Desk of Laura Bunker
It’s no secret that substance abuse is devastating to individuals, marriages, and families. But you may be surprised to learn that “today, one in every seven people, age twelve or older is facing some type of a substance abuse problem.” What can be done? Today’s inspiring alert by Kari M. Cox is an eye-witness account that there is hope. Whether you are the one struggling with a substance addiction, or the family member suffering with the consequences of a loved one’s addiction, you can be a transitional character and change the course of your family in one generation. You can say it stops with me. The addictive behaviors — and/or the cycle of unhealthy reactive behaviors from family members — stop here.A New Year is a perfect time for a new start. We invite you to read Kari’s article to learn more about the impact of substance abuse on families, and make 2016 the “Year of the Transitional Character” in your family.
United Families International, President
Substance Abuse: You Can Change the Future
By Kari M. Cox
How does one tell a story of a little girl who eventually finds her happy ending, though nonetheless, is scarred and bruised for the rest of her life? As I ponder these thoughts, and wonder how to approach such a story, I am filled with immense love, compassion and respect for this little girl. She overcame abusive obstacles that no child should ever have to face. This little girl is my mom. Her story is my story, and as I dig deeper into her life, her story may also become part of yours.
In 1942, Joanie was the second child born into a family with a mother, father, and a big brother. When taking a good look at her family portrait, anyone would assume her life was good, happy and secure; however, appearances can be deceiving. Substance abuse in the form of alcoholism, reared its ugly head in her family and virtually destroyed it. By the time Joanie was a young girl, her parents divorced and the family was split up in many different directions. Alcohol in any form became her mother’s poison of choice. Over the years Joanie endured emotional and physical abuse, not only from her mother but also from her mother’s boyfriends. She was bounced around from home to home, never enjoying any lasting security or love.
The Lasting Effects
Unfortunately, this story is not unique; many of us can relate. Today, one in every seven people, age twelve or older is facing some type of a substance abuse problem. The severity of abuse ranges between mild to severe, and can lead to addiction and other life threatening issues (CASA). Supporting these claims, theNational Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, states that an estimated twenty-million Americans aged twelve or older have used an illegal drug in the past thirty days. This estimate represents 8% of the population, and horribly enough, is starting in early adolescence. These illicit drugs include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, or prescription drugs used with or without a prescription.
Drug abuse once was considered an “adult” problem, however, it no longer is. It has been noted most recently, from the government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health that over 70% of young people who abuse prescription pain relievers got them from friends or relatives, while roughly 5% bought them from a drug dealer or over the internet. Further, opiate overdoses, once almost always due to heroin use, are now increasing due to abuse of prescription painkillers. This needs to be reiterated; 70% of these adolescents are receiving their drugs from friends and family (whether it is intentional or not), this is exactly why it is a big concern; and is threatening our families. This is a catastrophe and needs more attention.
Substance abuse not only hurts parents and individuals but its targeting our youth, directly or indirectly. The majority of data collected on the lasting effects of substance abuse among parents upon their children, demonstrates that their drinking problem or other substance abuse (including prescription drugs) often has a negative and lasting impact on children. As children and adolescents become addicted to such substances, or are raised in homes where a parent (or sibling) is addicted, it causes a ripple effect that lasts for many years and potentially generations. As written in the NCBI, Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy manual:Intergenerational effects of substance abuse can have a negative impact on role modeling, trust, and concepts of normative behavior, which can damage the relationships between generations. For example, a child with a parent who abuses substances may grow up to be an overprotective and controlling parent who does not allow his or her children sufficient autonomy.
In today’s society, all over the globe, families are falling prey to this destructive cycle. More often than not, children end up being the innocent victims of such atrocities. Addiction and substance abuse is an atrocious component that affects the lives of so many people and their families. Extended family members are greatly affected as well. Many report experiencing feelings of abandonment, anxiety, fear, concern, embarrassment, or guilt. Often they have desires to cut family ties or seek legal protection (NCBI).
There is Hope
It is not a surprise or a shock to know and understand that substance abuse and addiction threatens and destroys not only the lives of individuals, but also their marriages, friendships and families. What can be done? Is there any hope for the addict, or for his/her marriage and family? The answer to this question is a resounding YES! There is hope and there is a way to receive the necessary help. However, there is no easy way to receive it. It takes acknowledgement, sincere desire to change, faith, understanding, time and much hard work – continuously. Nothing good in life comes easily; happiness and joy can be found in family life when the necessary efforts are employed.There are many addiction recovery programs available today. A simple Google search will pull up thousands of sites and links that will bring the researcher much-needed information and knowledge to know where to start. For example,recovery.org has a great source of valuable information to help anyone who may be seeking it, including a telephone helpline. Many communities and hospitals offer free programs or counseling for families in crisis. Health insurance providers also offer assistance with these types of problems; clergy and other church leaders also provide assistance. No one should be left to walk alone; help is everywhere. The stories of people who have found help and recovery are out there to offer hope and inspiration.
As I mentioned in the beginning, Joanie found her happy ending but not without much sorrow and difficulty along the way. She eventually married, accepted God into her life and raised, along with her husband, three children. Joanie cut the cycle of abuse. She is a hero to her family and has shown that substance abuse does not have to be handed down from generation to generation. Nevertheless, her invisible scares will most likely be with her forever. She still struggles from time to time with the sadness and grief of never having a “mom” that loved, protected or cared for her. Her confidence and self-esteem waivers, even after all these years; yet, her story has become part of my heritage. Today, as Joanie moves forward, she is now a facilitator and volunteers her time in helping others in their addiction recovery.Many might argue “it is my life – I can do what I want with it” but that is a lie whispered into the hearts of many. The way we choose to live our lives, for good or bad, affects the lives of many others near and far; for many generations. Now is time to educate our children, our families, be an example and to take a stand to stop such madness. It is my hope that I have conveyed in this article, even to a small degree, that substance abuse ruins and destroys families. It is simply not worth the risk to take the chance in believing that we can control our addictions. Make a change for the better; just like my mom. Be the transitional character your family needs. Take a stand, make a difference – and stop it!
Kari M. Cox is currently a student at Brigham Young University-Idaho. She is earning her BS degree in Marriage and Family Studies and is enthusiastically anticipating graduation in 2016. She has been married for twenty years to Gary Cox and they are the proud parents of two-teen daughters, Kira and Sunni. _