River Region is a substance abuse and mental health facility focusing on helping adults to combat opioid addiction and its social effects. Clients receive methadone, meet with counselors, attend groups, and receive social services. By taking a very individualized approach, River Region is able to tailor a treatment plan unique to each individual. Though this may sound like a successful model, it forgets one thing: that addiction affects every aspect of an individual’s life, including their children.
I watched one morning, as a three-year-old girl entered the clinic, retrieved a number in the line, checked that her mother did not need to meet with her counselor, and seated herself. She sat and listened to her mother discuss withdrawal symptoms and homelessness. Some say children are like sponges, absorbing everything around them. These children grow up around addiction and turmoil. Not only are they genetically predisposed to addiction, but they live in environments where risky behaviors are rampant. When most of my clients divulge their stories and path to addiction, it begins at a very young age. At ages as young as eight years old, clients watched their parents battle addiction and subsequent homelessness, poverty, HIV, divorce, and even death. And it was these social factors that contributed to their future opioid use, perpetuating the vicious cycle for generations to come.
This service term, we tackled this cycle by incorporating families in many of our projects. After all, an NHC member is supposed to do more than complete administrative tasks. It is our job to find areas that need improvement and create innovative solutions. We spent much of our time creating groups and classes that allowed children to attend, and gave parents the opportunity spend time learning with them. Our clients’ eyes light up when their autistic child signs “stop” and “go” at the correct time, or their daughter learns self-defense. Many clients’ children inspired them to take their recovery seriously, which is why I strongly stand by the philosophy of recovery being a family affair.
This blog post was written by NHC Florida AmeriCorps Alum, Manahil Agha.
Manahil served as a Case Manager at River Region Human Services.