Finding ‘Our People’ Is Crucial

By Peter Babineau, Learn to Cope Regional Manager

Editor’s Note: I joined a Learn to Cope meeting a year ago and was introduced to Peter Babineau -- an uplifting facilitator who works on the front lines and has experienced substance-use disorder on a personal level. He sprinkles empathy and joy into peer support meetings packed with resources and up-to-date information. The Still Learning, Still Coping meeting is for parents who have lost a loved one to an overdose and have another family member still struggling. You could ask yourself how that could possibly be joyful, but, speaking as one of those parents, I can tell you -- it is. He offers truth, hope, and light, which we all need in equal parts. I asked Peter if I could share this piece he wrote recently for Learn to Cope. It touched me, and I hope it touches you. — Kerry

 “How will I ever survive this?”

I swear I can still hear those words echoing in the inner sanctum of my own thoughts. Terrified, mortified, confused, panicked, angry, and perhaps most of all ... alone with just the sound of my own inner voices and self-deprecation. This is where the realization that addiction had moved into my house and taken possession of my son brought me. I had no idea how he, I, our family, or perhaps even my marriage would ever survive this attack from the domestic terror that is substance-use disorder. It seemed there was no amount of reading or research that held any relief. My education couldn't do it. My experience couldn't do it. The endless string of sleepless nights only led to crawling skin, impatience, suspicion, and blame. Every sound, every unexpected glance seemed to conspire against me, against us ... driving ever-widening wedges between me and those I should have felt the closest to. It felt like sacrificing the security of home and it threatened to strip me of all that I loved.

It is often said that addiction is a disease of isolation. That isolation affects not just the person who uses the substances but also those of us who love them. The shame of stigma and the belief that we should be able to love someone to health can be crippling emotionally, spiritually, and yes, even physically. So where can we find the strength to survive? How can we cultivate the skills and perhaps even the motivation to rise above the heartache and fear this disorder brings? I believe it is through the power of connection ... spiritual, intimate, human connection. Regardless of one's personal spirituality or belief system, the fact that human beings are social beings is irrefutable. We need one another to survive. We need to have real interpersonal connection and interaction free from judgment and full of mutual concern, support, and understanding. The only way I can survive is in the context of We in the presence of Us! 

Finding "Our People" is crucial to our recovery as the loved ones of people dealing with chaotic substance use and recovery. Just as the opposite of addiction is connection, it is also the key to our recovery.