At least five people affected for every addict

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Problems associated with addiction to alcohol, other drugs and gambling don’t stop with the individual.

Research presented to a seminar last month at the welfare and support agency of the Church in Sydney, CatholicCare, revealed that on average at least five other people are affected for every person who is directly involved.

CatholicCare has been working for 16 years to assist those who are forced to carry some heavy burdens as a result of what could be called the “ripple effect” related to being close to those who are addicted.

Glen Brack of CatholicCare told the gathering at its Lewisham offices about the methods used to provide outreach to family members of those addicted to alcohol or other drugs or who gamble to excess.

“We use the Holyoake program to work with family members, often the parents of people aged 16 to 26 who are addicted to various substances, along with helping people between 12 and 18 who themselves are addicted to substance abuse and gambling,” he said.

“Even younger family members, those aged between six and 17 years can be strongly impacted by seeing the effects on parents or siblings and they’re helped through sessions which span eight weeks under the banner of what is called Kaleidoscope.”

Kaleidoscope encourages young people to look after themselves and to try to enjoy their lives, despite the dark times they are facing.

It’s one of four separate branches of the Holyoake Program which has been operating and developed through a much longer period than its adoption by CatholicCare – spanning more than four decades.

Other branches include the 12-week Pause program which supports the parents of adolescents and young adults who are dealing with the problem of addiction and possible mental health concerns, and the Focus program which is designed for partners and other family members of people who are affected.

The work also extends to trying to assist individuals who are at the centre of the issue through the 10-week Pathways program, using music among other aids to assist teenagers in Sydney and adults also in the Hunter region to back away from substance abuse.

Holyoake provides education, therapy and support through each of these individual programs, with strong emphasis on the individual regarding issues of self-responsibility and respect.

“Family involvement can increase the effectiveness of any treatments and other help which may be received by addicts, and support provided to children who are in these situations is good for their future well-being,” according to Mr Brack.

He said that involvement with the programs helps families develop “a new equilibrium in attempting to find a solution to the problems they have been forced to handle”.

Statistics from the Australian Drug Foundation reveal that one in six Australians (about 15 per cent of the population) consumed 11 or more standard drinks in a single session during a recent 12-month period, and one in five aged over 14 drinks at levels that put them at risk of alcohol-related harm over their lifetime.

Figures regarding illicit drugs are much higher, with that same research finding that 41.8 per cent of people admitted to using them at some stage. Given that they are obtained through so-called “black markets”, their reach into human lives may be much greater.

Behind the cold, hard figures are many stories of heartache and of broken families, which is why CatholicCare aims to provide help.

Unfortunately the numbers who have been through their counsellor-based programs are not as significant as may be required to address the overall problems, but the results achieved have been very positive.

Last year, more than 50 per cent of Holyoake clients reported that the family member affected had either stopped using or had reduced the use of these products, or at least was searching for further help following the 12-week Pause program.

After attending the CatholicCare seminar and learning of at least this one aspect of their positive community work, I reflected that the program was helping to keep otherwise troubled families united – in a way that’s often attributed to the power of prayer: “The family that prays together stays together”.