For some parents who have children struggling with addiction, finding a comfortable and reliable support group locally can be difficult.
Sequim residents Cliff and Corky Schadler have two adult sons struggling with drug addiction. While they tried to find ways to cope with what was happening, it wasn’t until they discovered Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL) that they finally found hope.
“We really struggled and we didn’t know where to go for help,” Cliff said. “This program gives you hope.”
The Schadlers were attending a PAL conference call of parents across the nation whose children also struggle with drug addiction last summer when they heard another woman from Sequim with a similar circumstance.
Joanna, who’s last name has been asked to remain anonymous, also has an adult son struggling with drug addiction. She too, was participating in the conference call to find some support.
“It’s so important not only for the adult addict but for the parents to have this support,” Joanna said.
“I never was a big believer in support groups but I am now,” she said. “It really has helped especially when you feel so alone.”
PAL is a nonprofit support group for parents whose children struggle with drug addiction. It was founded in 2006 by Michael Speakman, a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor in Arizona. PAL also trains volunteer facilitators to hold meetings, and the Schadlers and Joanna are all trained facilitators because they wanted to form a support group in Sequim.
“To find there was another couple here in Sequim that were all going through the same thing, we decided we wanted to facilitate together,” Joanna said.
The Schadlers said PAL has given them the tools they need to continue their lives while still caring for their children who are struggling with drug addiction.
“You can’t control it, and you can’t cure it, but as parents you try to do that,” Cliff said. “You recognize it’s out of your control so we’re learning strategies on how to deal with situations as they come.”
“While you’re going through this horrific scenario with your kid, you can still focus on the joy in life instead of becoming so absorbed,” Corky added.
The Sequim PAL group has held two meetings so far, and holds a meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of the month at Sequim Community Church, 950 N. Fifth Ave., at no charge.
The Schadlers said there have been a few people who have attended the meetings, but the group is open to parents, spouses or other sober family members or friends 18 and older who have someone in their life struggling with drug addiction.
There are two parts to the meetings, facilitators say, an educational component or lesson each meeting and an opportunity to share about his or her current experiences.
“When you get in these groups, it’s a journey and we’re all at different stages,” Corky said.
“There is a chance for everybody to share what’s taken place and other people can offer suggestions,” Cliff said.
Joanna said that only first names are used in the meetings and anonymity is very important to the group setting. The meetings also are structured to be non-judgmental and facilitators do not provide advice to participants but can offer suggestions. The group’s educational topics are theory and they adopt the idea “take what you want and leave the rest.”
“What we have all found as parents is that we were promoting (our children) staying addicts thinking we’re helping them,” Joanna said. “We’re not helping them, we’re making it easy for them to remain addicts by enabling them.”
For the Schadlers and Joanna, PAL and the camaraderie its created has been crucial to being able to cope.
“As a parent, you don’t want to see your kids go through this and you try and protect them,” Cliff said. “Through PAL we learned that we’re never giving them the opportunity to change (by protecting them).”
“Once you start changing the way you respond to your adult children it starts coming together for you, and knowing that you’re not alone is a big part,” she said.
Corky said PAL groups have developed in over 20 states and the program encourages parents to start PAL brick and mortar meetings in their communities.
“We’re parents helping parents,” Corky said.
“What you’re trying to do is empower the parent to take control,” Cliff said.
“The goal is to get the parent and the child to work together to fight the addiction,” he said.
Facilitators encourage parents, family members, spouses or friends of loved ones struggling with drug addiction to come and try at least one meeting. They say the program is faith based but it is open to everyone.
The group’s next meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18, at Sequim Community Church.
To learn more about PAL, visit www.palgroup.org or contact Corky Schadler at 360-565-6368.