Every other Thursday night, Parents Helping Parents meets in a room at the Norman Regional Hospital Education Center. The meetings consist of mostly adults gathered around a rectangular setup of tables in the middle of the room. People ranging from their mid 20s to their 60s are in attendance. Hugh Benson, a board member for the group, helps organize these twice-monthly meetings.
“Parents Helping Parents is generally parents of children of any age whose kids are struggling with substance abuse of some form” Benson said. “What’s unique about Parents Helping Parents is that we help parents deal with their children who are dealing with substance abuse. We don’t directly help the substance abuser.”
Tonight’s meeting featured a speaker whose personal experience with recovery from substance abuse has led him to helping others. The speech was followed by a discussion. There were also poster boards set up with pamphlets for attendees to take with them.
“We wanna help parents, substance abuse is a family problem, it doesn’t just affect the substance abuser, it affects everybody in the family,” Benson said. “We want to provide support for everybody in the family and help everybody get healthy. That helps the substance abuser, but it helps the family even if it doesn’t help the substance abuser.”
The group emphasizes anonymity, but after everyone else had left the meeting, one mother agreed to tell her story.
“It started noticeable between, my child was a freshman in high school. The first semester, a 3.5 grade point average, the second semester right hovering about 2 point, and some failed classes and incomplete,” she said.
She and her husband, like so many parents do, attributed these changes to typical teenage rebellion, until things started to get worse. They began getting phone calls from the school saying their child hadn’t attended class.
“We then got calls from the police at night about 2 am, saying ‘we have your child’ and we’d go ‘no you don’t they’re in bed’ and we’d get up and discover that the child had left our home,” the mother said.
From the mother’s point of view, a big shift came when her child made the switch from marijuana to methamphetamine. The problem went from sort of manageable, to completely out of control.
“Lots of things began to go missing in our home, things stolen, things mysteriously gone, and our child would have no explanation,” the mother said. “Lots and lots of lies. Lots and lots of confusion. And then with meth, lots and lots of anger.”
They turned to school counselors who did not have the resources to help, and then they found Parents Helping Parents.
“They suggested, a couple options for us because our child was an adolescent, we could put them in treatment they didn’t have to agree to go,” the mother said. “ So we met with an adolescent licensed alcohol and drug counselor who recommended inpatient treatment.”
Finally, the parents were able to find help and figure out a plan to get their child help. This woman’s child is now in recovery, married and holding down a job. She still attends meetings to help others in the same situation however she can and her advice for families is simple.
She said, “I began to think I was what was wrong, and I began to lose confidence in myself as a parent, so the first thing I say to a parent is trust your gut, trust your instinct, because you’re gonna be 99.9 percent correct.”