Voices of Loved Ones Indirectly Affected by Substance Use Problems, Part 2

Continuing the qualitative research project conducted by Gemma Salter, a talented undergraduate student working with me back in 2004. The research involved interviewing nine parents and one grandparent (who had assumed the role of parent) of people with a drug and/or alcohol problem. The participants were recruited from West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) in Swansea and Drug and Alcohol Family Support (DAFS) in Blaenau Gwent, South Wales.

…. It doesn’t take long for the effects of stress to manifest itself in physical and psychological health problems. Physical symptoms come in the form of eating and sleeping problems, high blood pressure, stomach problems, irritable bowel syndrome and tension aches. Some parents are prescribed antidepressants by their GPs.

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A Parent’s Story

I met Mike Blanche in around 2003 and he was the first person to help me understand the impact of a person’s substance use problem on family members. Mike was an inspiring figure who had played a key role in the setting up of Drug and Alcohol Family Support (DAFS) in Blaenau Gwent in South Wales. He organised a conference, Families in Focus, at which the following talk was given. We first posted this talk on our SubstanceMisuse website back in 2003.

‘Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am a mother and I have been invited here today to talk about my experiences as a service user. I have a son who is living at home with my husband and myself. He is addicted to drugs.

He first started dabbling with substances when he was still in school. At first it was ‘glue sniffing’, but it wasn’t long before he started experimenting with cannabis. When I tried to approach him to warn him of the dangers of drug abuse, his typical reaction was to say, ‘Don’t worry Mam, I can handle it.’

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Recovery Moments: Ian and Irene’s Story

Two of my favourite people that I have met on my Wired In journey are Ian and Irene MacDonald. I first met Ian in 2007 at a Federation of Drug & Alcohol Professionals (FDAP) meeting, although we had been corresponding earlier. Ian and Irene had lost their son Robin to a heroin overdose in 1997 and were now running a family support group, CPSG (Carer and Parent Support Gloucestershire).

Ian later asked if I would give a talk to family members in Cheltenham and I happily agreed. The talk took place in September 2008. I was still living in Cowbridge in South Wales at the time. My new partner Linda was visiting from Australia, so she came to Cheltenham with me. We spent a lovely evening with Ian and Irene. I remember thinking at the time how would I ever recover from losing a child?

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Factors Facilitating Recovery: Involvement in Meaningful Activities

Another important factor facilitating recovery involves the development of valued social roles through involvement in meaningful activities. Through these activities, recovering people gain a sense a purpose and direction in their life—they find a niche in the community. 

These meaningful activities may involve employment or volunteering, engagement in hobbies or other leisure activities, or connecting with other organisations or groups. Employment is a central way in which people can achieve more meaning and purpose in their lives and is therefore a key pathway to recovery. As described in a previous post, impacting on the lives of other people in a positive manner, ‘giving back’ as it is often called, is also important for personal recovery.

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‘Unraveling the Mystery of Personal and Family Recovery: An Interview with Stephanie Brown, PhD’ by Bill White (Part 5)

Unknown-1Bill White: Your work has enhanced understanding of the intergenerational nature of alcohol and other drug problems. Have you envisioned how such intergenerational cycles might finally be broken?

Stephanie Brown: I think we’ve started to name and describe what happens in addicted families across generations, which is helping us understand family addiction and the complexities of family recovery. And I think we are poised to move beyond our current focus on the genetic and neurobiological influence on intergenerational transmission of addiction to include exploration of the larger psychological and social processes involved.

We need more family research to understand the transmission process and the kinds of family and community support processes that can influence these cycles and positively disrupt them.

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