I think it is important for the nation’s health that we have experienced non-professionals on the ground that can reduce the effects of someone’s addiction. It is a well-known fact that stress and trauma can lower one’s immune system. Support is needed at the coal-face where recovery takes place 24/7.
Family/whanau with addiction can relate to others in the same predicament. It is known that the assistance of a life experience recovering addict will be more successful with helping other addicts. A recovered addict is more likely to be believed and listened to. The same applies to whanau.
Where education or counselling hasn’t worked, the people at the FOA group, with life experiences, can make the difference. They can relate to others who are suffering from the effects of a loved one in addiction. Not only that, they learn the ways to communicate with the addict and assist in the recovery, instead of giving the addict a free ride – teaching coping skills, lowering fears and anxiety and promoting self-care and healthy living.
My husband and I have been attending Families Overcoming Addiction for approximately 2 years now. We have found a place where we can share our story in safety. We have learnt so much about addiction and how to self-care. Our lives were one big stressed mess and had been for years, not knowing where to turn or get help for ourselves.
FOA was recommended to us, run by Sue. We went to our first meeting and found support, comfort, understanding, non-judgement and confidentiality. The sharing, the listening, the people, are just wonderful. Advice given by Sue has been life-changing. She has taught us a whole new way of looking at issues and ways to solve them. The resources available are so informative and we now have an understanding about addiction and its consequences. We have learnt that as parents we cannot fix our person – that is theirs to do, that it wasn’t our fault and to stop feeling the guilt and how to put boundaries in place.
The group, as a whole, is full of amazing people with their own stories. They share what has worked for them and what they have had to cope with and are still going through. The sharing and advice from everyone who has been through what you are going through is invaluable. The group is a friendly, remarkable lot of people who make you feel normal. Sue is our rock and nothing we say fazes her. Her experience, professionally and personally, is a god-send to us all attending FOA group. This group is so very important and needed to help us through our heart-breaking times. Hope and faith that one day we can live a normal family life again.
It is with pleasure that I am able to write to you extolling the great people who come to the ‘group’ as we call it, that is Families Overcoming Addiction. I owe these people for their help and advice, even though they themselves are under constant pressure with their own worries with regard to their loved ones who have an addiction. By sharing our own problems and worries with these people, we all learn. It is not something you can learn by reading a book, that is for sure.
My introduction to the group was about 18 months ago when I was at my wit’s end as to what to do. My daughter, now 37, was what now could be described as an addict. She smoked cannabis and later on this turned into experimenting with methamphetamine. She had been in many toxic relationships that certainly did not help her. I know of 3 suicide attempts and, as a result of the 2nd attempt, she ended up in the Mental Health Ward at Taranaki Base Hospital. Upon release she did not take long for the drug-taking to start up again. I was not really aware of the implications surrounding this, even though she was living at home with me. She was one of a few reasons why my wife and I split up after 14 years of marriage.
One Friday in late 2020 I got a phone call to say my daughter was in the ICU in New Plymouth, again with an overdose of prescription medicines in an attempted suicide. The Mental Health Crisis Team was called but, as my daughter had clammed up, as she had previously done earlier with them, they did not think she would respond to any treatment. On release from hospital she came and stayed the night at my place. She seemed okay. The next morning she started to have a small psychotic episode and she agreed that she needed help, so we took her to the Emergency Department. It was there that she really had a major melt-down. I was just dumb-struck as I had never seen this before. The Crisis Team was called and they convinced her that she needed to go with them to get the help she needed. I, in the meantime, had left her room in complete distress. A nurse saw this and calmed me down somewhat and also gave me a card with a name and telephone number on it. I gave the lady a phone call and explained my problem and we agreed to meet the next morning.
After talking though things with her, she gave me the phone number of Sue, the facilitator of Families Overcoming Addiction. She invited me to the next group meeting, after explaining what the group was all about. I went to this meeting and I just let it all pour out. The group’s response was the most amazing thing that I could have received. They listened, they gave exceptional advice. I could feel the love and understanding as they themselves had been there and were still doing it. There was no criticism – just positive advice. I left that meeting with the knowledge that there were people out there who cared and wanted to help. My daughter certainly hit rock bottom this time and I am delighted to say that she is well on the road to recovery. She has not touched drugs since leaving the Mental Health Ward. She is in a new relationship that is working very well for her.
As for me, I continue to go to the weekly meetings to listen, learn and offer my thoughts on my own situation and also to those in the group. It is a very safe environment where we discuss all sorts of issues. We laugh, we cry and we support each other. Families Overcoming Addiction is exactly what the communities around New Zealand need. Anything less would be a travesty, as there are so many people and families out there who need this sort of support. I for one admire what Sue has achieved and she must be listened to as her own experience, plus her incredible knowledge, is a most valuable asset. Every town and city needs a Sue.
I have been attending the Families Overcoming Addiction Support Group for 5 years, since its inception in 2017.
During that time I have felt huge support from Sue Philipson, the Facilitator, and the other attendees who, like myself, find life can be challenging at times with our loved one who suffers from mental health and/or addiction struggles themselves.
The strategies I have learnt have been invaluable and, along the way, I have made positive connections and friendships for myself. This support group is empowering for us all and is a huge asset in our community.
I have been involved with FADS (Family Alcohol and Drug Services) and FOA (Families Overcoming Addiction) for the past 10 years under the Guidance of Sue Philipson. My late Father was an alcoholic and our Son has had a long history with addiction to drugs.
FOA has taught me the skills I have needed to change my thinking and behaviour – to let go – and allow our Son to move forward at his own pace.
Also being with like-minded people who understand my story, my grief and fears without judgement.
For any family to help their loved one they need a lot of awareness about issues surrounding drug and alcohol use. They also need support that will help maintain their own sanity and peace.
Our Taranaki whanau are so very fortunate to have FOA on their doorstep – to have Sue at the helm – who has guided many families through the years with her wisdom and unconditional support.
I have been coming along to this wonderful support group for a year and I see it as a life-line for me. I was at a place where I didn’t know what to do with my person who is addicted to alcohol and nothing my husband and I did helped him.
The helplessness I felt as a mother was destroying my relationship with him and also was affecting my marriage as my husband refused to accept our son had an addiction.
I felt myself slipping into depression and guilt that, as a mother, I couldn’t help my son. I told myself our daughter had the same upbringing yet she wasn’t addicted to alcohol and I tried to make myself feel better with that but, in the end, even that knowledge didn’t help.
Attending this support group has helped me to feel better about myself as a mother, able to cope better with my son when events take a drop with him, learn to get through the day in a more positive way.
There are so many reasons that this group is vitally needed. Here are a few:
- Being in an environment where we are all in the same situation.
- The confidentiality of the group gives me a huge sense of freedom and safety to be completely honest without fear or judgement.
- Sharing techniques and strategies that help get through situations that arise within my family.
- Learning to think in a positive way, taking time for self-care and recognising the benefits for me and my whanau.
- Sharing literature that helps to expand my knowledge of addictions and how they affect our people.
- Knowing that I’m not alone going through this life with a child with an addiction.
- Feeling hope for the first time in years for my son.
- Learning how to cope with family members when my son is with us at big family occasions. This was a particularly hard time for me as I felt my family were judging our son and myself.
The supportive feeling without our group is like a tonic each week. We are all living with a son/daughter/partner who has an addiction and listening to what has come up with us each week is a learning experience every time. I am so thankful that we have this group in my community and I feel that all towns/cities should have access to this wonderful service. I couldn’t believe that I would be feeling better able to cope with my life situation a year ago, but I am very grateful for this group.
When I first started coming to this group I actually thought I would come away with the answer to how to fix my son’s addiction. What I got was a whole kit of new life skills which gets bigger all the time. This group is about accepting that our special person has their own journey and we can’t make that decision for them to change direction – that is theirs to do.
Our role is to be supportive, when needed, with words of encouragement, uplifting them with affirmations, no matter how small and letting them know they have worth. Now I can function better as a mum, wife, friend, sister without feeling guilt or shame. I still have struggles when I think about how my son’s life is different to my daughter’s and ours but now I have hope for him and I can always talk my fears and feelings through with our group.
If I had to sum up the group I would say it’s an essential service and I hope more groups are set up in other towns/cities.