GREENFIELD — They sit on couches, sipping coffee and sharing tales. Of the weather, their families, their days at work. To someone peeking in through a window, it might look like a book club.
But the stories these people will tell during their monthly meeting, the thoughts and opinions they’ll share, all follow a much more serious thread – a loved one who has struggled with drug abuse, who is sick and ailing from addiction.
Healing Hearts is a newly founded local support group that meets monthly and provides peer counseling to the families and friends of addicts. Its attendees are mostly Greenfield-area parents who come to meetings seeking encouragement and friendship from those who understand the strife they’ve faced.
Perhaps most importantly, the group helps families realize that they aren’t alone in their struggles, organizers say. Watching a loved one, especially a child, fight substance abuse can have traumatic effects on families. And while various treatment programs and counseling services exist for those in addiction recovery, there is very little available locally to families to help repair the damage addiction has done, they said.
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“When you love someone who is destroying themselves, it’s horrible,” said Linda Ostewig, who helps organize the group. “I wish there was a book to tell us what to do, but there isn’t. So, we just need to love and listen to each other.”
Healing Hearts is coordinated by Hancock County-based nonprofit Friends of Recovery and meets on the second Monday of the month at The Landing, 18 South St., Greenfield.
In the three years since The Landing, a safe space geared toward at-risk teens, opened in Greenfield, it has gained a following as a teen recovery program; but when its leaders opened a larger, remodeled headquarters last year, they announced plans to expand offerings to include programs for all segments of the community, said Ostewig, who also serves as The Landing’s director.
Healing Hearts is one of the new program additions to The Landings lineup, and what the support group offers in unlike any other program in Hancock County, said Carol Wright, the executive director of Friends of Recovery and the host of the Healing Hearts group. Similar to the 12-step groups that addicts are encouraged to attend, Healing Hearts creates a network parents can lean on during tough days.
Their goal is that no one feel the loneliness that often accompanies a struggle with addictions, Wright said. This meeting, this place, is where they can come to discuss what is really happening in their worlds without feeling judged, she said.
To tell their stories, not their addict’s story.
“The addict is getting well, and so many times, (their family) is not,” Wright said, of why Friends of Recovery chose to create the Healing Hearts program. “We want to help them as well.”
So, they come together once a month. They bring along news articles, readings or even prayers that got them thinking or helped them through a particularly difficult moment, Wright said. They also give the dozen or so other group members an update on the addict in their life – whom they try not to refer to by name during the meeting to help maintain the person’s anonymity – while discussing common experiences.
Healing Hearts hopes to expand its reach in the community in the coming months. Its leaders are working toward creating a program curriculum that can be recycled each year. Wright hopes membership will grow enough to evolve into several small-group discussions that can meet more frequently.
Those who already have joined the support group say having a place to open up and talk has been a tremendous help.
Janet Decker of Greenfield said she’d never thought addiction would have such a heavy impact on her family; but as she’s watched various loved ones struggle over the years, she’s found herself carrying many of the same burdens they do.
Having a place to come, to focus on themselves and their own healing, is a blessing, she said.
“… It’s easy to believe you’re the only one dealing with it,” she said. “It’s a family disease; it’s not just an addict’s disease, it affects everyone.”
Healing Hearts is newly founded local support group that meets monthly and provides peer counseling to the families and friends of addicts. Healing Hearts meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at The Landing, 18 South St., Greenfield.
For more information, call 317-525-7791