Parents Of Addicted Loved Ones Turn To PAL Groups For Support

Friday, July 21 2023 by Monika Kelly, Marya Morgan

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Young man screams at himself in the mirror
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(Air1 Closer Look) – Both of his sons tested positive for opioids. “My wife and I were like, “are we the worst parents on the planet?” says Kim Humphrey, Executive Director of Parents of Addicted Loved Ones. PAL groups bring moms and dads together for mutual aid and comfort.  “The guilt and the shame that goes along with finding this out is going on your family and honestly -- you don’t know what to do,” he admits. “Your natural parenting skills sometimes, unfortunately, don’t help.”

Midnight calls for money, angry outbursts and prolonged disappearances are all too common when an adult child is addicted to drugs or alcohol. The temptation to rescue, help or fix your child’s situation can lock a family into an endless cycle of chaos. “When we found PAL we’re like ‘okay, we’re not alone -- there’s other people who’ve been down this road.”

PAL groups were first formed back in 2006 and the Christian-run non-profit now hosts more than 180 meetings nationwide. Members may attend in-person or choose to join online sessions available most days of the week. All meetings are free, confidential, and open to any parent who needs to connect with others for help and hope.

The Humphreys were desperate for a ray of hope after a worried neighbor called to tell them their 15-yr-old was experimenting with Rx drugs. “We went from zero, no problem, no knowledge no nothing, to we have a son who was taking opioids.” Their heartbreak was not yet complete, as soon thereafter his younger brother followed him into the same terrible addiction. The education provided through PAL helped Kim and his wife understand the science of what was happening to their kids. They “gotta substance that’s hijacked their brain and they’re making really bad decisions,” he says, comparing an addicted person’s need for drugs to their basic need for air. “What would you do if I held you underwater? What would you do to get air?”

“Now you understand what kind of grip these drugs have on them -- it is now above air in their own minds.”

PAL teaches coping skills, like setting healthy boundaries, understanding the differences between helping vs. enabling, and at meetings parents can share stories or simply listen with compassion to other mothers and fathers grappling with the dangerous choices their children make. “That’s what we started to learn -- how to be loving, and kind to them and set boundaries -- but learn how to respond to this in a different way.”

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