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February 13 is the beginning of Children of Alcoholics Week! This is a week to acknowledge and re-energize our commitment to the fact that one out of every four children is subject to alcoholism and other substance addictions within their families.
Everyone can play a role in reminding the children and the services in a position to influence them about the seven C’s (I didn’t cause it. I can’t cure it. I can’t control it. I can help take care of myself by communicating my feelings —making healthy choices and celebrating me.). It’s important to remember this is not just a family problem, but a community problem. Everyone needs to ask what they can do to make a difference and then act. I strongly suggest you begin by taking a moment to go to NACoA and see the many resources they have that make this feasible.
Also, please take the time to watch and let others know that the Nick News special on Nickelodeon with Linda Ellerbee, “Under the Influence: Children of Alcoholics,” will be replayed on February 15 at 6:00 pm (EST). Five kids will share their experiences of living with parents who are struggling with alcoholism.
On another note, the Moyer Foundation (Moyer being Major League All-Star pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife, Karen) has been helping children in distress in a variety of ways, but particularly with the creation of Camp Erin, a camp for children who have experienced the death of someone close to them. It started with one camp in 2002 in Everett, Washington and has now expanded to more than forty camps in over twenty-five states, as well as one in Toronto, Canada. Camp Erin is the largest network of bereavement camps in the United States.
The Moyers approached me a couple of years ago when they personally extended their family as a resource to foster a nine-year-old affected by substance abuse. The Moyers have six biological children and two adopted children. They were touched by the struggles of having an addicted parent and wanted to know what I thought they could do for other kids. Knowing of their success and passion for Camp Erin, I suggested a similar camp experience for children of addiction. To make a long story shorter, I became a part of facilitating their first such program, Camp Mariposa, now offered in partnership with Youth Eastside Services (YES) based in Bellevue, Washington. To date YES has conducted eighteen weekend camp experiences for both pre-teens and adolescents. The no-cost camp offers children a chance to laugh, play, explore, and learn, while increasing their understanding of alcohol/other drugs abuse and its impact on the family; raising their awareness of resources available to help them; reducing their sense of isolation and fear; and helping them avoid repeating generational patterns.
I recently met Ann Espo, appointed by the Moyer Foundation in December to be the Program Manager to take Camp Mariposa national. Ann has fourteen years of experience in nonprofit management, communications, and fundraising with agencies serving children, youth, and families. She spent nine years with Boys & Girls Clubs of King County Washington, including seven years as Executive Director of the Wallingford Branch and was most recently Development and Communications Manager for Successful Schools in Action.
I will be working with Ann and the Foundation as they develop their Best Practices for such camps, introducing them to others who have experience with programs for children of addiction and in this process create a program model with an infrastructure for replication. I cannot tell you how excited I am about this. I will keep you updated on the progress.
For the Moyers to take their love of family and children and extend it to kids impacted by addiction is an incredible gift.
New Book to Be Released in October 2011
I have a new book coming out next fall. The working title is The Truth Begins With You: Reflections to Heal Your Spirit. This is my first book project with Central Recovery Press and they just sent me a mock-up of the cover. This is a small but sweet book, and I think people will find it valuable in their healing and recovery journey. If you liked It’s Never Too Late To Have A Happy Childhood that I did over twenty years ago, you will like this even more. In later NewsNotes I will give you samples of the reflections, but for the moment, here are a couple of my favorites: “Your strengths are more powerful than your vulnerabilities,” and “You can’t be honest in the here and now when you continue to deny your childhood experiences.” I asked my assistant, Sandi, for her favorite and she chose, “Say I love you, and say it often. I love you is a complete sentence.”
Now let me tell you about one last endeavor, something I wanted to do just for fun, and that is. . . My Closet
In my office I have a lot of little knickknacks and pictures of family and friends—things that remind me of good times and special people. I surround myself with things that represent comfort and joy. I believe this is because my work is serious and I realize there is a lot about me that is quite serious as well. I have a grouping of fairies, one in a nest, another sits on the shelf, another standing next to a little sign that says “Don’t Piss off the Fairies.” I love it. We can all attribute different meaning to that, but for me it says “don’t get in the way of my fun,” and represents my inquisitiveness and my curiosity. I also have figurines of cats and lions that, for me, depict strength and my desire to touch.
Recently I had this brainstorm to share with all of you these items that represent fun and whimsicality. This may be about my getting older or possibly willing to take a risk, but these fairies and lions bring me joy, make me smile, and keep me in touch with my inner child. Maybe you too will find joy in having one or a few of them for yourself. Each fairy and lion seems to take on a life of their own, full of color, humor, and joy. I hope that you will take a peek inside My Closet.
Please don’t forget the children next week or during the other 365 days of the year.