You have, on a regular basis, all encountered a family member, friend or acquaintance that we know has been caught in the web of addiction. You feel that your hands are tied and the spoken word has fallen on deaf ears or you don’t feel you should interfere in their lives. You know they are caught in the web of addiction and your feeling of inadequacy sometimes proves a great stress. You can help and your words maybe, just, what is required to help in the recognition of the problem.
Addiction or substance abuse as it sometime referred to can be described as when an individual persists in the use of alcohol or other drugs leading to the effects that are detrimental to the individual’s physical and mental health or the welfare of others close to that individual.
As we are all aware the consumption of alcohol in Ireland, is and has been, a cause for growing concern and more so with the advent of the new drinking laws. These new laws are a double edged sword, stopping people from going to the pub, and creating a greater amount of alcohol to be consumed within the four walls of an individual’s home which creates and develops huge problems in itself.
Alcoholism, as we all know, can lead to serious problems and can be both physically and mentally destructive. Traumatic experiences and indeed an individual’s environment can be the cause of greater drinking and this leads to comfort drinking which are the first steps to alcoholism. There are many health problems associated with alcohol such as brain damage, cancer heart disease and liver disease. Life expectancy can be greatly reduced for those that continue to drink by between 10 and 15 years.
The behavioural habits of an alcoholic change dramatically from the person we once knew and indeed the need for drink on an increased level causes much sadness within the alcohol themselves. In the words of one very learned person ‘In the case of an alcoholic, there is no such a thing as a happy drinker’. This is something we are not always conscious of and it is imperative that the alcoholic is treated in a manner that will highlight their problem and make them see the damage that is being done to themselves, their family and friends. It is only with this recognition that the person themselves feels that the need to seek out help.
When the recognition is made and help is sought there are so many centres that can and will assist in helping the individual to overcome their desire and need for drink. No matter what is said or done it comes down to the realisation of an individual that they need to stop drinking and that in order for that to work they have to seek help in stopping. The desire to stop drinking is the first and most crucial step to sobriety.
Not every alcoholic is prepared to face the difficulties that led to their drinking and this proves to be a major stumbling block on the road to sobriety. One of the most difficult obstacles on the road to a life without drink is identifying and overcoming the events that led to drinking in the first place. When this stage has been reached and overcame, the road becomes clearer and although it does not mean the person will not drink again it give them a reason to fight their addiction.
Hope House is a centre based in Foxford, Co. Mayo, a town legendry for its Woollen Mills – as a matter of fact you pass the building as you make your way to the world renowned Foxford Woollen Mills. It is committed to helping people overcome their addiction to alcoholism and other addictions. It is a house that upon entry gives you a warm welcome and you get the feeling you are entering an environment emitting a great sense of serenity.
Sisters of Mercy nuns Attracta and Dolores who along with their dedicated staff are helping and challenging people to reach their own goals of sobriety and future life of quality living. Both come from families with a hugely successful background in the GAA, which in rural and urban Ireland encompasses all forms of lifestyles and the quality of life in dealing with the highs and lows of parish and county successes and failures. This also gave them a full insight into the pitfalls the can befall young and old people in their ordinary daily living and gave them the desire to help those that fell foul to addiction.
In the early 90’s, Hope House opened its doors to residential care to treat people that are addicted to alcohol, are drug dependant, compulsive gamblers, and suffer from eating disorders, to mention some of the addictions. Hope House was formerly a convent and it has been completely renovated to welcome residents who want to rid themselves of their particular addiction that is not only destroying their own life but the lives of their family members and loved ones.
For the duration of 30 days residents are faced with the effects their addiction had on themselves and those close to them. This is brought home vividly to the addict in many ways and they also face the dread of Wednesdays where close friends and members of their families recount the behavioural patterns of the addicted person in a forthright manner. As Hope House highlights ‘the work done with the residents is no doubt reflective, extremely supportive, and considerate; for the resident it also encourages strength of mind and character to help overcome the addiction. The backup available for friends and family members is a great help, support and learning’.
For both the addict, family members and friends the ‘Family Day’ is a day is probably one of the most difficult. It is hard for the addict as they hear of what they were like during their addiction and indeed they sometimes hear things that they cannot remember doing due to their condition at the time. It can also be very difficult on family member or friends to speak frankly about the problems the addiction caused can be very quite harrowing. There is a sense of guilt as they feel that they are letting down the addict. The importance of the forthrightness during this session by the family member or friend cannot be overstated. It is one of the most important and vital constituents in the aid of the addict’s recovery.
Family Day is exceptional and different from the point of view that the dignity of the addict and family member or friend is paramount and the Family Day conference is strictly between the counsellor, addict and single family member or friend basis only. Although the conference is difficult in the extreme, a priority is that it retains the dignity and utmost confidentiality of all. In Hope House all of the counsellors are fellows in addiction and all have gone through the regime and know what is crucial in the quest for sobriety.
The opening lecture from Attracta identifies and brings home very clearly the behavioural patterns of the addicted person. She explains the behaviour and patterns and it is so clear as she builds a wall of deeds and actions of the addicted person that every brick in the wall bears an incredible commentary of the actions of an addicted person. It really brings home the fact that no matter what the addiction is, the effect on family and friends is no different – behavioural patterns cross all addictions.
Dolores follows up with identification and effects an addiction has on family members and clearly identifies the roles they play during the addictions. It is remarkable to see similar patterns occurring in almost each and every family. The roles family members take on does not vary from one family to another. These lectures prove to be very informative and invaluable to family members and friends as they identify themselves and learn to alter their position if they ever find themselves, again, in a similar position.
During the 30 days the addict has to detail their life, identify the start and cause of their addiction and look at the patterns that then evolved leading to the addiction. One of the most significant aspects of recovery is the continued feedback from the peer group within Hope House and the addict’s honesty and acceptance of this feedback. For an addict to move forward all of the identifiable reasons and concerns of the addict has to be faced up to and cleared from the memory bank and a bright new world has to be welcomed and embraced.
As the 30 days comes to an end, there is an aftercare programme set in place and it is very important that the addict as well as their spouse or partner attend once a week for a period of two years. The aftercare is of huge support and benefit to the addict and it is also a great support and learning for the spouse/partner as it helps them understand what addiction does and the vital need for the support of the aftercare as well as AA meetings. There is also a periodical review with the counsellor in Hope House ensuring that all backup support is available.
The opportunity is available for all addicts to avail of the facilities Hope House has to offer but it is only a minority that avail the opportunity voluntarily. To make their lives a life free of addiction takes a lot of work and the strength. For the addict to lift the phone and make that initial call, we must understand takes immense strength of courage and character. These self same traits of character will again be needed when the first steps are taken outside of Hope House and back into a world that held so much sadness during the times as an addict. But with the support of Hope House and its backup, AA, family and friend support life can and will be much more pleasurable and enjoyable.
For further information contact Hope House 091 9256888.