The #OYACommunity continues to grow and each new participant contributes experience, resources and hope. At our May 2016 conference, From Statistics to Solutions, recovery coach and author Gloria Englund, MA, introduced herself and gave me a copy of her book, Living in the Wake of Addiction: Lessons for Courageous Caregiving.
A few pages in, I was highlighting relevant passages and nodding my head in appreciation for Gloria’s gift. It is a gift that I want to offer you – the parents and professionals who are concerned about a young person’s substance use. By sharing her personal experience, Gloria offers up the many lessons she learned in hopes that these will help others who are concerned about a loved one’s substance use. This gift is a resource, a guide, a handbook, and an information source, and I’m certain you will want to share it with others who are “living in the wake of addiction” and serving as caregivers.
Today, I am sharing an excerpt from a short interview with Gloria.
What prompted you to write this book?
I’ve been a writer my whole life. I have journaled my way through my life events– it’s how I figure out my existence. When my son Aaron was in treatment, I would write letters to him because it was easier than face-to-face conversations. Especially for difficult issues.
After Aaron died, I had reams of journals and grief work. My loss was twofold. First, because of his illness, I had lost the dream of his life and what it had become, but held on for a new dream for his life, if he could recovery. Then, when he overdosed and died, everything crashed.
I could not believe that I could not save my son.
When he died, I wondered how I could go on. I wondered what the struggle had been about. I kept praying to God and asking, “What am I supposed to do?”
One morning when I arrived at Zumba class and was getting out of the car, God said, “You need to write a grief book for people who have gone through this kind of loss.”
During this time, I had also become a recovery coach through training provided by Minnesota Recovery Connection. This was restoring my hope in recovery and it was time to put together the conglomeration of all I had been writing. It was around this time that the opioid epidemic began to grow and I realized how much there was to share.
The initial manuscript was a memoir about my 20-year journey through Aaron’s illness and the knowledge I gained as a caregiver. It also included my thoughts on how death from addiction is different from any other loss because of encompassing stigma from the illness.
My editor saw this as two different manuscripts for two different audiences. She helped me turn the information about my caregiver’s journey into a handbook that incorporated new knowledge about addiction I had gained since Aaron’s death. I decided to include a glossary of terms, resources, and pull-out quotes so readers would get valuable takeaways.
The main message is education, education, education – know your options. What started out as a book about grief turned into a book about caregiving and self-empowerment. It shares the courage not only needed by the caregiver and lessons learned, but also the courage involved for those who endure this illness.
Within the book, you make an important distinction between being a caregiver and a caretaker. Tell us why this is so important.
I had read and learned about co-dependency and many approaches seemed so black and white and really didn’t work when I applied it to my relationship with Aaron. In my experience, I needed to find a way to have a relationship with my son even if he was still using. I also believed that a parent’s job is to protect their child no matter their age.
The caregiver concept kicked in for me when I realized that Aaron had an incurable disease and that he could reach a point when he could not recover any further. It changed my entire perspective. Did I want to continually try to change him, or could I just love him for who he was, my very ill child. Today, when I speak to others, they are surprised to learn that certain behaviors are symptoms of substance use disorder not the cause; usually, people have this the other way around. Recognizing this helps us give care; we become caregivers.
In the year ahead, I hope to get going on the grief book – the one I originally thought I was going to write. Since writing Living in the Wake of Addiction, I have learned to focus on the positive and to acknowledge what is going well. That’s a lesson I pass along to all the other caregivers out there.
Gloria Englund, founder of Recovering u breaks new ground in the field of addiction recovery and support. As an ally of the recovery community, she honors all pathways of recovery. She is a psychotherapist, who holds a Master of Arts degree in Human Development. As a certified Recovery Coach, she works with individuals and families dealing with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, and relationships. Gloria has personal as well as professional knowledge of addiction and recovery; her oldest son, Aaron, died of a heroin overdose in 2007. As an accomplished public speaker, advocate and published author, Gloria brings a message of hope and recovery to others.
Note to readers: If you are interested in learning more about Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), a topic that she Gloria addresses in the book, she has kindly prepared a three-part series for our blog (6/16, 6/23 and 6/30); following the series, it will be available as part of our Resource section.
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