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Group eases pain for parents of adult addicts
Group eases pain for parents of adult addicts
By JOAN DEMIRJIAN
For parents struggling with the challenges and heartbreak of coping with adult addicted children, there is hope.
John and Nikki Corrigan, of Russell, know firsthand what it's like to experience the ongoing life problems resulting from adult children with substance-abuse addictions.
They have lived through the experience, and, after taking the course "Take Back Your Life" in 1999, they now open their home to meetings of Parents of Adult Addicted Children, a confidential support group for sharing and validation.
Parents can be in their 50s or older and dealing with children over the age of 21.
With the hope of bringing more parents peace of mind, the Corrigans now are sponsoring the same course they took in 1999 to other parents.
A course in "Take Back Your Life" will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 20, 27 and Oct. 4, 11, 18 and 25 at the Federated Church Family Life Center in Bainbridge.
Ellen Bishko, a licensed social worker and chemical dependency counselor for more than 40 years, will teach the course for parents of adult-addicted children.
The classes include: parenting adult children; powerlessness and addiction; dealing with their own needs; steps to recovery, managing change; and taking charge of their own lives.
"We're offering it for the first time since 1999," Mr. Corrigan said. He stressed that anonymity and confidentiality are preserved.
The Corrigans openly share their own story, in which their daughter was addicted to heroin.
The course is a way to extend the help to other parents and give back, they said. "It is our gratitude for our own daughter's recovery.
"We'd like to pass this on," Mr. Corrigan said. "So we're starting this class.
"Our daughter had to work through her own pain and recover, and we were there to be supportive of her own actions for her own recovery, and we are totally grateful for her ongoing recovery," Mr. Corrigan said.
Their daughter, Elizabeth Bakken, 40, also shares her experience with others, giving families hope to carry on.
Recently, on a return visit from Arizona to her parents' home, she told about her recovery from substance abuse. She recalled a normal early childhood with a good family.
However, in junior high she said she began experimenting with drinking and smoking pot, and it continued into high school.
She tried to take her life while a college freshman. Her parents brought her home to begin some treatment and counseling. Despite controlled-substance abuse over the next four years, she graduated from college with a degree in art history.
She continued to use drugs and was in and out of treatment as well as jail. Relationships with family deteriorated. The Corrigans finally found a place in Arizona in 1999 where she could go for assistance.
One of the revelations in her journey to recovery was that she is bi-polar, a major depressive illness. Self-medicating with drugs and alcohol only makes it worse.
She has since married a fellow recovering addict and they are raising a son. She stopped abusing drugs 10 years ago at age 30.
Ironically, the day in 1999 when her parents were putting her on the plane to the Arizona treatment center, they were scheduled for the first session of "Take Back Your Life."
Parents need the support and sharing with others who are going through the same thing, Mrs. Corrigan said. The course prepares them for what they are dealing with.
One of the more difficult things about being a parent is saying no and it is especially difficult for older parents whose adult children abuse drugs or alcohol.
Parents and addicted children often are caught in an endless cycle of broken promises made by the child and guilt and despair felt by the parents.
Learning to stop trying to solve their grown children's problems is key to the program. "We have 80-year-old parents who are still giving their children money," Mr. Corrigan said, in an attempt to get them into treatment and paying bills and fines.
Traditional sources of support such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Families Anonymous can be helpful for parents, but because parents are often ashamed to reveal the extent of their child's problems, such groups might not fit the parents' needs.
In the course, parents learn how to say "no" and to understand that to continue giving money will not help their children overcome addictions. They are little steps that are important to the road to recovery.
After taking the six-week "Take Back Your Life," course, the Corrigans felt a need for a support group. The group, Parents of Addicted Adult Children, started 11 years ago, meets monthly at their house.
"We want to reach out to people who feel so lost, and who need to address their problems and concerns," Mr. Corrigan said.
It is a fellowship of people who share experiences, strength and hope, the Corrigans said.
The home setting is conducive to feeling comfortable and to sharing concerns and taking part in discussions. "I sense more and more people are being open about it," Mr. Corrigan said. "The issue is so widespread and crosses all boundaries.
At a recent support group meeting, a woman told of how her addicted daughter took money from her bank account, causing her rent and car payments to bounce. She expressed anger, but also guilt.
Another told of how her daughter had to hit rock bottom before starting the uphill climb to wellness.
"And there's a lot of humor involved as well, Mr. Corrigan said. "The laughter keeps you going."
Mrs. Corrigan said they held a 10-year anniversary party last summer for the support group.
It is important to reach out to other parents, the Corrigans said.
"You may be out there with this kind of problem, and here is something that may open your eyes and be a door to getting your life back," Mr. Corrigan said.
For more information on the six-week session "Take Back Your Life," or the monthly PAAC support meetings, the Corrigans can be reached at (440) 247-2877 or (440) 840-0177. Cost of the six-week course is $150 for individuals and $225 for couples.
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