Local resources are available for those ready to take the first step
The holidays are a stressful time for families, but especially for those families dealing with substance abuse. Help is available — financial help right here on Shelter Island and treatment options at nearby facilities.
TREATMENT A GIFT OF LIFE
James Eklund, president of the Island Gift of Life Foundation, is trying to spread the word that funds and logistical support to enter treatment are available through his organization. Established in 2000 to assist those in need of vital medical care such as cancer treatments, the foundation has “broadened our view of what is a life-threatening illness” to include addiction.
“What we want to do is make it as easy as possible once someone decides he wants help,” Mr. Eklund said.
Applications to the foundation are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Services available from the foundation include direct monetary grants, assistance with the insurance process, travel expenses, and logistical and support services associated with the need for specialized care and the impacts it has on families.
“We do that legwork and we are willing to help,” Mr. Eklund emphasized. Those worried about privacy issues need not — whether treatment is sought for addiction or other illnesses, the confidentiality of the patient is guarded.
The Gift of Life Foundation has already helped Islanders seeking treatment. Mr. Eklund has found that the process is not always easy for individuals to navigate without a support system. “Once they take that first step, we want to make it easier and more likely to have success.”
Gift of Life application forms and other information are available at the foundation’s website, islandgiftoflife.org. Look for a complete listing of hotlines and help lines for every type of addiction on the foundation website in the near future; several of these are included on the adjacent list.
ON PREVENTION AND AWARENESS
The Shelter Island Communities That Care, a local substance abuse prevention organization, is also working to make Islanders aware of treatment options. The group, which formed in 2007, has identified risk and protective factors to keep kids off a path to addiction. But it sees that mission as one that the entire community must engage in and talk openly about, during the holidays and year-round.
“With the use of extensive data collection, CTC has identified alcohol abuse as one of our biggest risk factors on Shelter Island and has devoted many of our efforts over the last three years toward helping families combat this destructive force,” said CTC Coordinator Marilynn Pysher.
“Alcoholism affects all members of the family, not just the addict. The holidays frequently increase the evidence and impact of the disease,” she said. “There is help. You are not alone.” Ms. Pysher urged those thinking of getting help to contact Alcoholics Anonymous, “which has proven to be the most successful ongoing process in supporting recovery for the addict,” and Al-Anon, which provides support to family and friends and teaches them how to be part of the recovery process.
“These resources are available on the Island. Meeting times and places are listed in this paper (see page B3). For off-Island meetings, check the Internet or call 669-1124 (24/7 Suffolk County AA hotline) or 1-800-344-2666 (Al-Anon information).
For free, anonymous, confidential help on locating other resources in New York state, call 1-877-8-HopeNY.
Ms. Pysher concluded with this message: “Remember that your actions are stronger than your words in influencing your child’s behavior so have a healthy, happy and sober holiday.”
HOLIDAYS STRESSFUL FOR ADDICTS
CTC works in conjunction with the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). OASAS estimated in 2009 that 2.5 million New Yorkers struggle with an addiction. The additional challenges those addicts face during the holidays has been documented by OASAS.
Holiday festivities can often put significant strain on people suffering from addiction. Stress, lack of confidence in social settings, low self-esteem, spending extended periods of time with relatives and financial strain — any or all of these can lead to substance abuse or relapse for a person in recovery, OASAS warns.
New Yorkers often suffer from what OASAS calls the “post holiday blues.” The agency documented that during five of seven years from 2002 to 2008, January admissions to treatment facilities in New York rose above December levels by at least 3,000.
One antidote to addiction risks during the holidays is celebrating stories of successful recovery, according to Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo, OASAS commissioner, who cited these holiday messages from recovering addicts:
“This is the time of year when I become most grateful. I remember back when I was struggling in my addiction and how bleak and black the holidays were. Now I have people in my life, good friends, family, people who care about me and I about them.”
“For many years the magic of Christmas was destroyed by my drinking and subsequent shame. Today, as I anticipate my 35th sober Christmas surrounded by children and grandchildren, I am filled with incredible gratitude and joy. Recover is the gift that keeps on giving.”
“Be of good cheer! Let nothing or no one prevent you from experiencing the joy of recovery. It’s priceless.”