SARANAC LAKE - Chemical dependency affects millions of people in the United States every day, those who abuse drugs are not the only ones impacted, however; their family members also often suffer.
In 1984, St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment & Recovery Centers, in recognition that addiction is a family disease, launched its family program, the first of its kind in New York state, to educate family members about chemical dependency.
The program gives clients and families the opportunity to participate in an intensive, therapeutic process with highly-skilled professional counselors and to do so in an inviting and comfortable setting away from the demands of day-to-day lives. For many parents, brothers, sisters, and other relatives, the program is the only such educational and healing opportunity they have ever experienced.
St. Joseph’s and Mountain Lake Academy staff combine to provide new family program for adolescent clients. Pictured from left, are Kathleen Trombley, Stephanie Stevens, Sam Hall, Muna Ezumah, Tom Bull, Rob Hendricks, Melinda Drake, Bob Ross, Bernadette Burns, Jared Croy and Bryan Amell.
(Photo courtesy of St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment & Recovery Centers)
At the end of the sessions, participants often leave with hope that there is the possibility of recovery for their loved one, but also that there can be a future of recovery for their family.
Many other rehabilitation providers throughout New York, nationally, and the world have replicated St. Joseph's program, including the House of Hope on the Hill in St. Petersburg, Russia, with whom St. Joseph's partners.
The family program has proved so meaningful for its inpatient residents, St. Joseph's recently extended the therapy to its Mountain Lake Academy Outpatient Clinic in Lake Placid.
Mountain Lake provides a wide range of treatment for adolescent males, age 12 to 21, who are at imminent risk due to challenging behaviors at home and in school including truancy, defiance and substance abuse.
St. Joseph's established its outpatient clinic at Mountain Lake to provide addiction treatment in 2000, and this year, with a generous grant from the AMC Foundation, worked closely with the academy to initiate an Outpatient Family Program at the site. As a result of this close collaboration, five North Country families came together this past week for three-days of healing and recovery held on St. Joseph's campus.
The session began on a Friday evening and continued through a Sunday afternoon providing a supportive immersion into the challenging and often emotional subject of the family's role in addiction and recovery.
General objectives for the weekend included: recognizing the symptoms of chemical dependency; understanding the disease as a family illness; recognizing the effects of chemical dependency upon the family, and the behavior patterns developed in response to the disease; expressing feelings about problems family members may have; and exploring appropriate ways of responding to the addicted relative's rehabilitation and continued recovery to enhance the lives of all in the family.
Nicole Sirianni, a treatment coordinator at Mountain Lake Academy summed up how the program impacted one mother in particular, "I feel empowered with the knowledge that I am not alone in my family's journey of recovery," the mother related, "I found friendship and support from the other families who participated in the program as well as from the healing community of Saranac Lake."
The Mountain Lake Academy Family Program will serve as a model for establishing similar programs at St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment & Recovery Centers' additional Outpatient sites in Ticonderoga, Elizabethtown, Malone and Saranac Lake.