A Chance to Grow

Written on by Maria Miller

As I sit reflecting upon the completion of Help and Hope: From Families Who Have Walked the Walk, Substance Use: The Growing Need to Know, I realize it is exactly three years from when it began. It has been, from front cover to back, a daunting task. Never on a project have I been so pulled, so stretched, and so driven, to complete a book—to stand for those who courageously shared the most difficult moments of their lives—with integrity.

As the book emerged, one topic, one story at a time, I began to carry quotes with me and put them aside for what is now (at least in part) the back cover. The primary one I read again and again is scribed on a worn sticky note at the base of my computer monitor:

“Hope sits in the ability to love and be afraid at the same time.”

The Challenges

It was this quote and many others that kept me going on a topic that frankly, at the onset, made me very uncomfortable. I felt unqualified. With the first Help and Hope book, I live that life as a mother of a child who lives with disability. My father-in-law, who I knew only briefly, was an alcoholic who lost his life to the disease at the young age of 54, so I didn’t feel disconnected from the reality of addiction, but I did feel somewhat removed from the very personal details that I was asking our writers to share.

I felt strongly, as I did with our first book, to present information that was accessible, clear, and comprehensive, but also visually appealing and in a format that offered something to readers who may be seeking information at different stages of substance use and addiction: a parent of a young teen who is experimenting with alcohol or marijuana, an older teen who is been secretly using for a period of time and needs a more structured intervention, a person or family of a loved one who has relapsed and is looking to be more educated about what a solid treatment and recovery program should include. Our books are not necessarily a “read from start to finish” type of publication—the reader can go right to what they are looking for and get answers. Also, we don’t want the reader to be overwhelmed with information, so giving them several good sources to “dig deeper” into a topic we feel is also important.

This book is unlike our first in two primary ways: first, it has a wider and broader geographic audience, serving not only Bucks county like our first, but Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties as well. As Voice and Vision is growing, we feel called to serve our broader community. This is primarily reflected in the resources we provide but also influenced our decision to keep topics broad regarding treatment and recovery modalities, and both successful and unsuccessful outcomes. Some of our stories are about individuals who lost their battle with addiction, and we felt it was important to include these families as well. They are not the first, nor will they be the last to endure this heartbreak: this reverts to Help and Hope’s primary mission: families need to know they are not alone.

Secondly, we felt professional voices were essential to present the information in Substance Use: The Growing Need to Know. WHO is at the “front lines” of this battle? And HOW are they being successful? And WHY are these interventions effective? To answer all those questions, we sought out specialists in the fields of prevention, treatment, trauma, education, family engagement, etc. They provided detailed, research-based information on these complex topics that will allow individuals and families a meaningful understanding of how a range of supports may be necessary to live a life of recovery.

The Outcome

I cried. A lot. Even though I hit the 50 year mark while working on this book, I felt that in a professional sense, being tasked with something “uncomfortable,” I “grew up.” My perspective was broadened to the tests, trials and triumphs over substance use and addiction. I read stories of young children who lost parents to being ill, living apart from them, missing, or dead…stories of parents who buried their children, or who experience fear that many of us cannot contemplate.

And I read story after story of HOPE…people whose experience with substance use and addiction, or that of a family member, has brought them to a life of service to others experiencing those same trials. Some individuals, who after decades of substance use have found freedom and purpose, and JOY in their life again. At a time when all of us are struggling with JOY during the isolation and uncertainty of COVID-19, we can all be lifted by the realities that there are many avenues for healing from substance use, that good work is being done every day in this fight, and that even after the darkest of days, JOY is possible. That this book can accompany someone in that pursuit and perhaps be of use and a source of guidance and encouragement, is a source of JOY for me. 

About the Front & Back Cover:

Substance use and addiction is not a cheerful topic: our authors disclose difficult matters: emotional pain, physical alterations, self-loathing, imprisonment, and death. We wanted our cover to reflect a more serious tone. One that still represented cooperation of family and community, of a journey from darkness to light, but one that in small ways reflected the many avenues of substance use and that even in the treatment supports (represented by the stepping stones in the lower left of the cover…there is still gray-ness, still much work that takes place there, still healing and hardship. For addiction, the road does not end, it just changes. The image on the back cover represents the precarious path through recovery…one step at a time.

This blog was written by guest author, Maria MillerMaria joined Voice and Vision in 2013 as the editor of Help and Hope: From Families who have Walked the Walk. She also works as a Team Leader for Independent Monitoring for Quality. Maria is a wife and the mother of three. She has written a previous blog, 9 Lessons from the Farm, and has previously published two other articles about the transformative experiences she and her daughter have had with horseback riding. 

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