Family Workshops-and Relationships-Make a Difference
Each week Tonia Ahern makes her commute to Ventnor where more than a dozen family members will gather.
On this particular night, the meeting topic will be communication with a family member or friend who is living with addiction. The evening’s presentation will include tips on how to talk like a “motivator,” what’s an open-ended question, and how to let the person talk.
It’s part of a series called Family Education Workshops, which are funded by NJ Connect for Recovery initiative. Ahern is one member of the team that provides these across the state.
For family members and friends who are facing a crisis and associated high levels of stress, the workshop teaches and reinforces methods that will benefit themselves as well as their loved one.
“A healthy family can be the strongest tool,” says Ahern.
Ahern wants participants to view themselves as part of the recovery process. She knows – and research confirms – that the success of recovery is related to the family.
Another week, Ahern will cover how family members and friends can learn to forgive themselves. In a different session, she will teach self-care and why it’s healthy to take time-out for recreation, pastimes and hobbies. There also will be a workshop on mental health and education on addiction as a disease.
Once a week for 12 weeks, Ahearn and the participants will work on an aspect that aims to offer support and education.
“They may begin the meeting telling their story in tears, but by the end, they find that they feel less alone, more understood,” says Ahern.
Ahern knows firsthand the importance of this support system. Her son was diagnosed with a mental illness, bipolar disorder, in his teens. He preferred street drugs over prescription medication, which is a battle he and the family have fought for the past decade.
When it all started, Ahern found comfort and reassurance through a friend whose daughter also lived with addiction. She also found support through online resources.
During a chance meeting with MHANJ CEO Carolyn Beauchamp, Ahern was asked to consider teaching these workshops. Ahern accepted. Since June, she has reached about two dozen people.
“I think one of the most important parts of my job to give people hope,” said Ahern. “There are so many stories about the tragedies, the losses. But I also know many people who have found their way.”
Find a workshop – or tell others – by sharing the NJ Connect for Recovery call line 855-652-3737.