Group helps parents cope with their kids’ drug addiction
PAL meetings are at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays in the basement of the First United Methodist Church in downtown Glenwood Springs. For more information call Lina Pierson at 970-948-8804.
On Wednesday, just as they have done every Wednesday since May, a table full of concerned parents gathered at the First United Methodist Church in Glenwood Springs to share their stories and struggles, trials and tribulations.
The group, Parents of Addicted Loved ones, or PAL, gives families the chance to discuss and deal with their children’s drug addiction together.
The meeting came just hours after President Donald Trump called the opioid epidemic “a crippling problem throughout the United States” and asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to head a new national commission to combat it.
“I think it’s almost untalked about compared to the severity that we’re witnessing,” Trump added.
Some in Garfield County agree that heroin is “untalked about” as it continues to take lives, destroy families and leave those touched by drug abuse feel ashamed.
Their stories drive home the fact that heroin and drug abuse are part of life in Garfield County, even if the opioid epidemic isn’t yet widespread here.
“Because we live in a resort community, we don’t want to talk about drugs because that’s not going to bring tourists,” said Linda Pierson, facilitator with PAL. “Generally when people come the first time you can see their anger and the shame.”
Pierson is the parent of a 23-year-old who has dealt with addiction for nearly a decade. Her daughter is currently serving time at La Vista Correctional Facility as a result of her addiction.
“When you have 14-year-olds getting addicted to heroin, it is obviously a problem,” she said.
While each parent is dealing with very real and personal problems, they all feel safe in a room where they are not being judged. They can share, laugh or cry for 90 minutes each week.
“You don’t know until you’re in the middle of it,” said Mark Walker, who goes to the meeting every Wednesday to wrestle with his kid’s addiction to alcohol as a family with his ex-wife and her husband. “This meeting gives me a sounding board to better understand what’s helping and what is enabling.”
The group allows parents to be honest about what works and what doesn’t.
“We’ve been through five counselors, none of whom made any progress,” parent Ed Sullivan said. “For five or six years we’ve struggled that our kid’s life is going nowhere. This group is by far the most productive thing we’ve been to.”
Michael Speakman founded PAL in Arizona in 2006 after working as a licensed substance abuse counselor with adult addicts and alcoholics in rehab centers since 1988. While there are many addiction resources available for adults, he felt there wasn’t nearly enough offered for children or parents dealing with the same problems.
“In working with men and women being treated for alcohol and drug addiction I witnessed how much the entire family is impacted,” Speakman says on the PAL website. “Parents in particular are confronted with challenges they’ve never had to face before. I saw how difficult it is for them to identify and work through these challenges alone.”
Every PAL meeting begins with a prayer and includes an educational component followed by sharing time.
The Glenwood branch is the first PAL group to be held in Colorado.
While Al-Anon is a great resource for people dealing with addiction, PAL offers more education and discussion, according to Pierson, and remains one of the only resources in town available for parents to share their struggles openly.
In fact, many at the meeting Wednesday thought that more such groups should be available across the valley to help combat and deal with drug addiction.
“Addiction needs to be addressed differently in our community,” said Sonja Linman, adviser and substance abuse educator at Yampah Mountain High School.
One option could be using marijuana taxes to help fund a detoxification facility, but those discussions with the Valley Marijuana Council are still just that, discussions.