Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
We are all affected by addiction, whether we have struggled ourselves or know someone who has. My own family has experienced much more addiction than recovery. I am glad that I work in a field that helps others who are in similar situations.
I’ve known since the age of 17 that I wanted to help others recover from these situations. It took me a long time to go through school, college, and graduate school, but I was finally able to transition into the role I am in now. Today, I love working in my field as the director of an outpatient facility in Nashville, Tennessee, where we help people recover from substance use disorders and mental health issues.
I had a grandfather who was an alcoholic and I have lost two aunts to this fatal disease of addiction. I saw how the alcoholism of my grandfather impacted my mother. It was very difficult for her. I heard her stories of growing up and the problems she was facing with her father because of the disease.
I am lucky that I haven’t had to battle the disease of addiction. I think it is because I have seen so much. Even as an adolescent, my mother didn’t have to put in much time or effort to keep me away from alcohol and drugs. My parents also set a very good example by not drinking or using anything; we didn’t even have any alcohol in the house.
Two big losses in my life were also tied to addiction– one family member passed away from liver problems after a life of alcoholism, the other one overdosed not too long ago on drugs. Even though I’m a therapist, it’s different if it’s your own family. I can’t treat someone that close to me. You need someone else to step in and help. When my own loved ones were involved, I often felt very helpless, but there was not much I could do.
If someone isn’t ready for recovery, it doesn’t matter what your skill set is– there is nothing you can do to change the situation for an addict. You can’t save that person; you can’t fix that person.
I lived all my life in Nashville, and I have been working in the field now for over three years. The first step is to make that first call and reach out for help. We are family. We take those under our wing that need help. I always try to make it a comfortable process for someone to get the help he or she needs.
Some people are genetically pre-disposed to addiction. Addiction is a family disease. We also sometimes get sucked into addiction by what we see growing up, what is around us, or what the norm is in our family.
Also, I have not yet seen anyone truly succeed without a healthy family support system. At my facility, we work with the family to engage all members into the process of recovery. But your family support system doesn’t always need to be your biological family. Family can be anyone you find that gives you the support and the love you need as you go through this journey. Everybody needs someone, it doesn’t have to be a biological relative. Sometimes family relationships can be toxic and we encourage people to find the person that is the right one to help.
I feel blessed to be in this role and able to help a population that needs our support. If we each help just one person at a time, we are doing an amazing job. Every single life matters.