Last November, Hailey LeClair, 15, of Bradley shared publicly in a special multimedia project what it was like to grow up in a household overcome by addiction and have her mother arrested on drug charges. Hailey changed homes to live with new guardians and described how she developed a fear of abandonment and wrestled with great feelings of sadness and anger. Yet she stressed that healing was possible.
“In some families, it is possible to heal the bond that was broken, but it takes a long time to build up that trust,” she said.
There are still few, if any, formal support groups for children of parents with substance use disorders, and that should change. But there is a new group starting in Bangor on Thursday, April 5, for parents to learn how to reconnect with their children and other family members. It’s called the Nurturing Families through Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery group, and it’s free.
Addiction often severs family relationships, and it can take persistent work to repair them. The scope of the opiate crisis magnifies the need for family healing.
It’s the first time in a while that the Penquis Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Council has offered the sessions to the general public, said Christine McMillen, a community educator at Penquis. People can call McMillen at 974-2481 or email her at email@example.com if they want to attend the group starting this Thursday at the Together Place at 150 Union St. in Bangor. It will run from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. for 17 weeks and is open to anyone.
People can also attend a group in Milo, located at Your Recovery Opportunity, 38 Elm St., No. 3, that started Wednesday, April 4. That group will run from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
It will help parents figure out how to improve communication and talk to their children. Participants will also learn how to better manage stress, set boundaries and build self-esteem. It doesn’t replace addiction treatment, which is essential. Rather, it aims to strengthen the relationships in people’s lives, which will better help them succeed in their long-term recovery.
Hopefully, children benefit, too. Nationwide, about one in eight children ages 17 or younger are estimated to live in households where at least one parent has a substance use disorder, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. How many of them ever receive an apology from an incarcerated parent? How many get to open up to a parent about how addiction has harmed their life?
Whether people are still using or in recovery, they should consider opening themselves up to learning new skills and attend the Nurturing Families group. But the unfortunate reality is that not everyone will acknowledge they need help or hurt their loved ones. That’s why Maine can’t forget to address children’s needs directly.
It’s widely known how childhood trauma affects development, and is a strong predictor of depression and suicide. But there is no real targeted response, no system of care, to help children find their own support and healing. Maine still has work to do to address the potential long-term ramifications of the opiate epidemic, so today’s young people, like Hailey, don’t carry their despair with them as they grow up.
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