By SARA ARTHURS
The Community Reinforcement and Family Training program, known as CRAFT, has the aim of helping families of substance abusers in “Getting Your Loved One Sober.” But attendees have found that it helps them transform their own lives, to be less overwhelmed by a loved one’s addiction.
The Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services offers the CRAFT class regularly. Class sizes have ranged from three to 10 participants, and often include more women than men.
The Courier sat in on a recent class facilitated by Amber Wolfrom, then deputy director and now CRAFT consultant for the ADAMHS board, and Becky Stockard, who facilitates the You’re Not Alone support group for families of addicts. The class follows the book “Getting Your Loved One Sober” by Robert Meyers, Ph.D.
Over the course of the class, even if things haven’t changed for the person who is using, things do change for the person who’s taking the class — “how they’re handling it,” Wolfrom said. The attendee may shift when they want to engage in confrontation, or where they put their energy.
Wolfrom worked in bereavement counseling before joining the ADAMHS board and said this background plays a role, as “You see people that are kind of grieving the relationship that they had with their loved one.” Friends or family might ask how the person with the addiction is doing, but won’t typically ask how the loved ones themselves are coping.
And with the stigma that surrounds addiction, this may be the first time class members are in a room discussing things with others who have gone through the same thing. Chapters in Meyers’ book related to enabling, for instance, exist because others have gone through it.
“Hundreds of thousands of people have been where you are,” Wolfrom said.
She spoke with the CRAFT class about their homework from the previous week focusing on “You having the power to redirect these conversations.” Members discussed how to communicate differently in a conflict and how to set boundaries. Patience was a recurring theme.
“None of this is going to change overnight,” Stockard said. “It takes time.”
Wolfrom said people are seeking unconditional love. But if you unconditionally give the other person whatever they want, you may be hurting yourself.
“There is no blueprint for how to do this,” and each person knows their own family the best and knows what is best for them, she said.
At a previous class, members had talked about “how you want to use your energy and your power.” Wolfrom had advised them to “give yourself some grace” and the permission to say you are doing your best.
One attendee, who asked not to disclose her name, said the class had taught her how to work on her own life.
“The class has taught me multiple things, like how do I want to spend my energy?” she wrote. “How do I create barriers to protect myself? How can I properly communicate with someone that is under the influence of substances? How can I relate and understand them?”
She said she had formed new friendships through the class, and “I have also learned self wealth. I wake up feeling more hopeful, knowing that even if the addicts in my life are not ready to change, I am. I am ready to let certain things go and move forward onto a better journey filled with less guilt and grief.”
You’re Not Alone is open to anyone whose family or friends are struggling with addiction, not necessarily opioids. Stockard said “It’s pretty emotional” when people first come in.
“Most likely, they haven’t really talked to anybody who truly understands.” So this is the first time those attending are sharing their story with others who understand “and don’t look at you like you’re an alien.”
The group has been in existence for four years.
At the time Stockard’s family started their own journey, “The only peer support in Findlay was Al-Anon, a 12-step program,” and her family recognized that “That’s not for everybody.” She and her husband created another option, involving open discussion, and the ADAMHS board sent Stockard to training.
The group occasionally features guest speakers like law enforcement professionals and those from treatment centers.
Stockard has noticed that those who attend seem “more relaxed” over time. She said it’s rewarding to see the change in people as they attend, and she encourages those who haven’t yet reached out for help to give it a try.
“I understand the anxiety that they’re going through,” she said. “And if our group’s not the right group, I’ll help you find something else.”
Wolfrom said from the stories the CRAFT class members have shared, “I personally have seen growth in everybody here.”
You’re Not Alone meets at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at the ADAMHS building, 438 Carnahan Ave. More information is at http://hancock-yna.org/
The ADAMHS board offers CRAFT regularly, and a new six-week session is starting tonight. To register for an upcoming class, or for more information, call 419-424-1985.