Guilt, embarrassment, shame. Danielle Lalonde says those words best describe how the mother of a drug addict feels.
“I’ve spent a lot of time blaming myself and carrying that huge amount of guilt,” the Brandon, Man., woman said, adding that her son was OK with her sharing his story.
Lalonde’s 20-year-old son has been living with a serious methamphetamine addiction for about two years. One thing she said she’s learned is that resources for addicts, and their families, are lacking in Brandon.
Lalonde is hoping to change that. She has decided to start a support group that aims to bring together other parents who want to share their own experiences, and talk about where and how they found help and how they cope.
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“We need somewhere where we’re able to go talk about those issues,” she said. “Where we can advocate with our kids and share those resources … what’s available to us in Canada, what’s available to us right here in Brandon?”
Lalonde said Alcoholics Anonymous groups do help — but they aren’t for everybody. The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba offers 21- to 28-day programs for addicts and their families. Teen Challenge operates a residential facility for women just outside of the city.
“I don’t think a lot of people in Brandon right now are really aware of how bad our drug problems are here,” she said. “Meth and cocaine being two of the biggest drug problems here.”
Her son has periodically been homeless since last June and is dealing with other health and psychological issues. She says long-term continuous care is lacking in Brandon.
Addictions affect entire family
Trying to do it alone can be crippling to any family.
“The entire family can be decimated,” she said. “I have a very supportive spouse and two other supportive kids. But marriages can crumble.”
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“When you’re devoting all of that energy into trying to save your addict … you’re neglecting everything else.”
Lalonde put a call out online earlier this month seeking anyone interested in starting a parents’ support group in Brandon. Since then, she has received more than three dozen messages from people saying they are in the same situation.
“I wasn’t maybe for the longest time quite aware of how over-the-spectrum the problem was,” she said. “Everybody wants to separate the good families and the bad families … the reality is it’s crossing every gender, each aspect of society.”
She said a lot of families are scared to speak out.
“I don’t blame them for sure,” Lalonde added, “They don’t want to have that stigma of being the parent of an addict or whatever goes with that.”
Meetings to start
Earlier this week, Lalonde met with a small group of parents who have decided to start meeting on the second Tuesday of every month. She’d like to see more parents join to network and discuss resources and support in the Wheat City.
She also wants to provide other families with some much-needed hope.
“You can survive,” Lalonde said. “You can still love your [child] … you maybe don’t love the addict.”
Lalonde said her son has been now accepted into a residential treatment facility in Ontario. She’d eventually like to see a similar facility opened in the Brandon area.
“We are fighting to make things better for youth in our community.”
Anyone interested in joining the group in Brandon can email Lalonde at firstname.lastname@example.org.