Working for clients dealing with addition

LISBON – For the past several weeks we have shared discussions about stigma, recovery from the addict’s perspective and recovery from the viewpoint of family members who have dealt with the addiction for a long while. We wrap up this series with the insight of some of the staff members at Family Recovery Center who are there because they want to make a difference in these lives.

How do staffers find the stamina and strength to deal with the issues of their clients? They have worked at this for years, some of them for decades. What prevents them suffering burn out? They answer that self-care is important. They may get angry at the addiction, but they have empathy for the clients.

“Hate the addiction, not the addict,” they agree. Spiritual beliefs are high on their priority list. Spirituality is very important to addicts in recovery, believing in a power stronger than themselves and having that sense of accountability.

Linda said, “What helped me was understanding the difference between religion and spirituality. ‘Religion is for those who don’t want to go to Hell. Spirituality is for those who already have been through Hell.’”

Some staffers do meditation. All of them have healthy people to go home to at the end of the day. They also are a strong team helping each other to help the clients.

“We are fighting a war,” Cheryle said. “We may not be winning the war, but for each client that comes into recovery, we’ve won a battle. We’ve done something right.” A difference has been made, one little miracle at a time. Cheryle tells the clients, “Each time you sit down here, that is one little miracle.”

Some clients are court-ordered to come to FRC. They try to work their way out of doing everything expected of them. They aren’t all there because they want to be. Some clients are referred by their doctors, although it was stated that all doctors in the area are not aware of FRC or what the agency does. Some clients come to FRC on their own because they want to get healthy and stay clean, sober and healthy. Treatment, though, usually is the result of consequence.

The first person a new client sees is Susie who conducts an assessment. She wants to find the underlying reasons for the client’s addiction. The staff, a team effort, strives for a holistic outcome. They treat the whole person, not just the addiction, and guide them to other resources to help them with their needs in order to heal the whole person, mentally and medically. Harm reduction doesn’t work, they say. Complete abstinence is their goal. Alcohol and drugs, they advise, are coping mechanisms for the pain in the clients’ lives. They don’t know how to deal with things in any other way.

The more 12-step meetings they go to, the more likely they will succeed in recovery, Herr said.

“Part of my job,” Susie said, “is to show them why they need to be here.” She uses paper and pencil and a timeline to show them what they have been through and where they are at the moment.

Several months ago, Dave, a new therapist arrived at FRC. He was in private practice for a long time. He has learned from his clients, females between the ages of 18 and 32, that he is their male role model. Many of his clients are mothers. Many of them have been involved with addiction since the age of 11-12. Many were handed their first joint by their fathers, he said. About 85-90 percent were physically or sexually abused and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a problem. They abuse drugs as a means to numb the pain of all they have survived. They don’t want to feel pain, he says. “These women are so fragile.” He works with them, slowly, one step at a time so they can adjust as they go and not be overwhelmed all at once.

Education is important, say the staff, which the clients and their families have been saying, too. The clients want a normal life, but they don’t know what normal is. Normal is things like healthy families with safe boundaries. Normal is removing toxic people from your life because they prevent you from living a healthy life.

“It’s not easy for someone to walk away from their mother,” Susie said. “Especially teenagers.” But recovery and staying sober depend on having good, happy, healthy people and influences in your life.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities. For more information about our education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail,