Just before 7:00pm on a Monday, the Chestnut Street parking lot of the First Universalist Society begins to fill with cars. People make their way to the sanctuary as they do every Monday night to attend Franklin’s Learn to Cope meeting, a support group for parents and family members whose loved ones are grappling with substance abuses disorder.
As 7:00pm approaches more than 40 people fill the church for the meeting. While many of the stories shared are painful and tragic, there are many others that talk about how their loved one is in long term recovery from this disease. These stories offer people hope and remind us of the fact that people can and do recover and go on to live happy, healthy and productive lives.
On this particular evening the group hears from a guest speaker; a young man in long term recovery from an addiction to heroin. He shares intimate details of his story; how his addiction began, what it looked and felt like to be in the throws of full blown chemical dependency and how he eventually overcame his illness and entered long term recovery. The road wasn’t easy. There were many failed attempts at sobriety. But, by not giving up and committing to “working his program,” he eventually succeeded.
After speaking he takes questions from the group. Many are from parents desperately looking for a way to help their child. With great compassion and empathy the speaker lets them know that all family members are indeed powerless over their loved one’s illness. The decision to stop using and enter recovery is entirely in the hands of their loved one. And they are reminded to take care of themselves during this process. Substance Abuse Disorder is a family illness. As the addict is sick, the family becomes ill as well. Unhealthy patterns of behavior emerge. Families are immersed in shame, guilt, confusion, anger, enabling and co-dependency. All have a profound impact on family members and act as an impediment to the recovery of their loved one. These meetings help people identify these problems and offer a path for recovery for the entire family.
Learn to Cope meetings are peer led meetings designed support those who have a loved one struggling with the disease of substance abuse disorder. They are run by community members who have been trained as facilitators. Meetings provide a confidential and anonymous forum where members have the opportunity to express their feelings, find resources and ask questions of those who have traveled this road before.
Founded in 2004 by Joanne Peterson, a mother whose son struggled with chemical dependency, the organization has 21 chapters in Massachusetts. In addition to support, attendees may receive Narcan and training in it’s proper administration free of charge. Narcan is an opiate overdose reversal drug which can revive an individual quickly while first responders make there way to the scene.
Meetings are open to anyone with a family member struggling with any type of addiction. The Franklin Chapter meets every Monday night from 7:00 – 9:00 pm at the First Unitarian Universalist Society, 262 Chestnut Street in Franklin. Please visit www.learn2cope.org for more information and resources. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to call Jim Derick at 508-596-4985.