The founder of Full Life Counseling & Recovery, which specializes in substance abuse counseling and recovery for addicts and their families, has worked with enough families to know that parents can be a part of the problem or a part of the solution when their sons or daughters develop addiction. Ginny Mills, a licensed clinical addiction specialist with over 25 years of experience, has learned a lot from parents who participate in free education and support groups she offers at Full Life on Thursday nights. She has learned that, while they still do not have the power to get their sons or daughters sober, parents get a lot of relief by learning about the disease of addiction, the strategies that help and hurt, and that they are not alone. As the parents become better equipped and emotionally healthier, they know what to do to help when their sons or daughters are ready for treatment. Until then, they are learning how to survive while maintaining a loving, supportive (but not enabling) relationship with their child.
Mills explored solutions to deliver those same services to parents outside of Winston-Salem. She surveyed parents and learned that they have different needs at different times, may or may not have resources to pay for services, but they all want help. Full Life’s weekly Parent-to-Parent group is free, but many parents request private sessions to get individualized help. Parent surveys also revealed parents’ biggest needs and which topics helped them most. She even asked them to help name a new service for parents just like them. From that research, Ginny and her husband, John, developed ParentingThroughAddiction.com, a membership site for parents everywhere.
Parenting Through Addiction was the name chosen by Mills’ parent advisory group, which can be abbreviated to PTA. “That’s ironic because these are all the kind of parents who were probably members of the PTA – Parent Teacher Association – when their children were younger. They chose to be PTA members to help create more positive environments to enhance their children’s educational experience. Today, with increasing concern about their sons and daughters drug use, they choose to be members of PTA so they can create a healthier environment for their children’s recovery from addiction.”
Mills is quick to share that, while The Other PTA can be a great resource, it is still important for parents to find local, in-person support groups like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, or even Full Life’s Parent-to-Parent.
Recent news about the opioid epidemic brings the most fear to parents, but in many cases, the use of opioids by young people is preceded by use of other drugs. “Addiction is similar to cancer in that it is a progressive disease, and the sooner recovery can begin, the better. The conventional wisdom has been to ‘wait until they hit bottom,’ but to me, it is irresponsible to wait to offer treatment until the person’s disease has progressed to the point of overdosing or negatively changing lives forever. Even if early treatment is followed by relapse, learning how to recover and where to get help can result in earlier stabilization and less wreckage from the disease. Relapse and recovery rates from addiction are no better or worse than they are for other chronic diseases like diabetes, COPD, and asthma. It is just that the symptoms of those diseases don’t have the same negative impact on families or communities. That is why families and communities affected by addiction need to learn right along with those who are sick.”
Mills isn’t alone in that opinion. Howard Wetsman, MD, FASAM published in 2014 that, “It turns out that regardless of the chronic illness that the patient has, the relapse rate of 50 to 70% is common to all. Diabetes, asthma, COPD, addiction, and anyone else you can think of, all have post treatment relapse in this same general amounts. That means that addiction treatment doesn’t have a unique problem, so it won’t necessarily have a unique solution. What was the problem with chronic illness? People don’t want to have it. They like taking vacations from care. They like to make believe they are normal, just for a day.” So often though, when those with addiction take that “vacation” and try to use drugs or alcohol for just a day, they propel themselves into a relapse that may last months.
As a response to the national and statewide opiate epidemic, ParentingThroughAddiction: The Other PTA provides 4 levels of membership depending on parents’ needs, preferences and resources – currently priced as Free, $19/month, $49/month and $350/month, with progressive access to materials, groups and supports. All members receive daily devotionals, access to an online course, and Mills’ free e-book, Why Rehab is Like a Crash Course in Recovery: Understanding Addiction Treatment and Aftercare. All paying members get access to additional content, courses, and weekly videoconference education and support groups. Those at the highest level of membership can have private videoconference parent consultations twice monthly.
Mills says that, “At the heart of Parenting Through Addiction is the core belief that all parents (human and otherwise) are hard-wired to love, nurture, teach, and even rescue their young. When parents apply those instincts when drugs or alcohol are involved, it leads to enabling behavior that makes addiction worse. The conventional wisdom to “detach” feels completely counterintuitive to parents, especially when they have progressed from anger to fear for their child’s life. Instead of trying to convince them to detach, we’d rather teach them how to parent differently and to let them know that they can love, nurture, and teach a child with addiction – just not using the same methods they might use with a non-addicted child.”
ParentingThroughAddiction.com does not provide counseling services, but early feedback from members in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and NC confirms that parents benefit from education, support and consultation through The Other PTA. Full Life Counseling and Recovery continues to provide direct counseling services in Winston-Salem and Raleigh.
Release ID: 208986