Finding peace, strength and hope when your child has a substance use disorder
The owner of a yoga and massage therapy practice, Linda Geraghty of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, has three adult children—two of the three struggled with substance use disorders for many years.
"When we started down this road, we didn't realize the impact this disease has on the family," says Linda. "At times, I was mentally and physically sicker than my daughter and son, who both have a substance use disorder. My entire life revolved around my kids, their addictions and how to fix them. I lost relationships, and my job and health were affected."
A family disease
"I don't have a substance use disorder, but I have my own recovery journey as a mother," says Linda, explaining that a parent can get stuck in fear so great they lose sight of themselves, leading them to a place that is as destructive as addiction itself.
Substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic disease that destroys lives and can tear families apart. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a record 107,000 Americans lost their lives to an overdose in 2021, up 31 percent from 2019.
Sharing their story
To spread awareness and hope, Linda and her family welcomed a film crew into their home, leading to the recently released documentary film "Our American Family," an intimate, realistic chronicle of the family's battle with generational addiction.
Directed and produced by Hallee Adelman and Sean King O'Grady, the film follows Linda and her family through what turns out to be her daughter's first year of sobriety, as she lives in a recovery house. Linda's husband, the children's stepfather, appears in the film with her adult children and the granddaughter she's raising.
Visit "Our American Family" to learn more. The film is available for rent or purchase through several streaming services.
Getting the support you need
It's vital for a family to understand and learn how to support a loved one in recovery and just as important to get help for themselves, because the disease and the behaviors that go along with it impact the entire family.
"I'm grateful that my kids are sober, but I know that it's just for today," says Linda, whose daughter recently celebrated five years of sobriety. "There's no formula for caring for a loved one with substance use disorder. I have friends who have lost a child to this disease. These are parents who have given their kids a beautiful, supportive and loving childhood. They are the type of parents I aspire to be like."
We're here to help
To access any behavioral health services across Main Line Health, talk with your primary care physician or a mental health or substance use disorder specialist, or call us directly at 888.227.3898 to schedule a confidential appointment or intake.
Mirmont Treatment Center has helped thousands of people break the addiction cycle and begin recovering from alcohol and drug dependency. Through Main Line Health, we can offer patients access to a full continuum of behavioral health services in addition to primary and specialty care services not found at other substance use disorder treatment facilities.
Taking care of yourself
Linda says parent support groups allowed her to connect with others whose lives were affected by a loved one's substance use disorder. "We support each other and share our recovery experience. I learned to focus on myself and my own behavior, health and happiness. Parents want to help, but we can't control this disease. If I try to change my kids or get involved before they ask, I'm wasting my time."
Instead, she collects information, so hopefully, when they are ready for help, she can be ready with answers and resources.
"I also take care of myself as best I can so that I'm rested and ready to help when it counts," says Linda. "Healthy boundaries help me from getting pulled into chaos. For instance, if my child wants to live at home, they must be sober and submit to a drug test. The decision is for my child to make, while boundaries help me stay off the roller coaster so I can live my own life.".
In her practice, Hummingbird Yoga and Massage in Bryn Mawr, Linda sees many clients who are in recovery. She begins each day with a personal practice of meditation, prayer and writing. If she feels herself heading into a tailspin of worry or frustration throughout the day, she takes a five-minute pause.
"I remind myself to hand my children back to my higher power to watch over them, trusting that it's OK to let go and get on with my day," says Linda. "This is not easy. My mamma bear voice is always tugging at me from within, but when I'm wondering if it's the right time for me to act, I pause and pray. The answers always come."
You are not alone
If your child is struggling with substance use disorder, Linda suggests getting involved with a parent support group.
"Parents and loved ones can go to Nar-Anon Family Groups, Al-Anon or visit Be a Part of the Conversation, a website where newcomers can learn about SUD and community resources," she says. "They also have a parent group. In times of crisis, Bryn Mawr Hospital has always been there for my family and they do a great job connecting people and families with drug and alcohol treatment, rehab and other specialty services at Main Line Health."