I was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office one day and overheard a woman talking about addiction…how it “impacts everyone” and how the addict “just keeps on using”. How she wanted to go to “those meetings” and tell “those addicts” just how badly they hurt others; how they need to listen to their family and friends and just stop it. As a therapist in the field of mental health and addiction, I could not help but to say something. I shared with her that AA and NA meetings are for those who are working to be sober, that these individuals know how they are hurting their family and friends. I shared with her that there are resources out there for the families of addicts as well and that she may find Al-Anon more helpful to her situation and give her a place to express her fear and frustration and, ultimately, find support.
After hearing more of her story, I found myself talking to this woman openly, not sharing what I do as a professional, but rather speaking as a fellow human waiting for their own loved one to finish a procedure in a doctor’s office. We talked about mental health and it’s impact on addiction, how the effects of adoption may have a role in how a person behaves, and how feelings of abandonment develop and impact our lives.
Moments like this help me connect authentically in my chosen profession. As a Licensed Clinician, my focus is on helping others daily…helping them grow, improve, survive. To move toward not only existing but living, engaging and thriving. To help them find peace knowing they have areas of need and care and that they can find places, people and things to help them be well.
I think about that woman in the doctor’s office often and I pray that she found an Al-anon meeting to express her feelings and thoughts. I could feel the pain behind her words which to an unknown person, may have sounded mean and ignorant, but I had the blessing to be the one listening that morning and I am honored to have the opportunity to guide her to her own healing and also hopefully, help her to understand that the pain she had in her life, with her loved one who is suffering from trauma, addiction and mental health is just trying to live the best way they know how. With the guidance of those who will listen and care, helping guide them in meetings, therapy, and yes, sometimes a doctor’s office waiting room, they will come out the other side ALIVE and thriving.
What Is Al-Anon and Alateen?
Al‑Anon is a mutual support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. By sharing common experiences and applying the Al-Anon principles, families and friends of alcoholics can bring positive changes to their individual situations, whether or not the alcoholic admits the existence of a drinking problem or seeks help.
Alateen, a part of the Al-Anon Family Groups, is a fellowship of young people (mostly teenagers) whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking whether they are in your life drinking or not. By attending Alateen, teenagers meet other teenagers with similar situations. Alateen is not a religious program and there are no fees or dues to belong to it.
About the Author
Kristen M. Smith, LMHC, CTT, EMDR trained
Kristen has been working in the mental health and substance abuse field since 1997. She has always focused her career, education and training on trauma survivors, the healing process of her clients and their ability to move forward into safer, healthier futures. Kristen is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor for the state of Florida and a supervisor for licensed interns. Kristen’s trauma work experience has ranged from in-home, outpatient, inpatient and out of home placements as well as private practice. Through trauma specific treatment modalities such as EMDR, Kristen has provided safe, nurturing and heartfelt healing to children, adolescents and adult trauma survivors. She is always humbled by the strength and integrity of her clients as she plays a part in their steps to recovery from traumas and addictions. Kristen believes everyone can heal their hearts through the care, love and the commitment of another human being who takes the time to listen, help and even sometimes cry with.