Families Anonymous for the Family Disease

All of us at the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey hope that you had a safe and happy holiday. 

This week’s guest blogger, Jeff Schultz, is sharing his experience with Family Anonymous (FA), a support organization open to all family members and friends of those with drug, alcohol or related behavioral issues.

Jeff’s journey to help those with loved ones in recovery began in 2011 when his son entered an addiction treatment center. His story on the parallel roads of recovery for a parent and their child, "Lost and Found," can be found at PersonalJourneys.AJC.com/lost-found.

I also wanted to remind you that PDFNJ’s workplace prevention program, Drugs Don’t Work in NJ will be holding its free annual members’ webinar at 11 a.m. Thursday, January 12. The webinar will examine the recently passed referendum legalizing the use of recreational marijuana in the state and how it will affect the workplace. Click here to register and learn more.

Continued wishes to stay safe and well.



Families Anonymous for the Family Disease

By Jeff Schultz

In 2011, after my son went into treatment for an addiction to opiates and being told for a few weeks that I, too, needed help, I walked into a meeting. I didn’t believe I was sick. I didn’t believe in the concept of a “family disease.” I didn’t believe there was anything wrong with me (unless you count pain, fear, paranoia, headaches and trauma, which I didn’t). But I went because desperation can be a great motivator and I certainly was desperate for answers about what went wrong.

I didn’t find answers but I eventually found acceptance and comfort, and it began in that first meeting with the realization that I was not alone. A woman told a story about how her son had battled addiction issues for years and she had just found out that her daughter, the “perfect” child, was now also struggling. She sighed and said she was emotionally drained, and then punctuated her remarks with, “I just want a nap.”

And I thought – “That’s it! That’s me!” That moment seems like such a small thing now. But it was my first connection to a parallel recovery group. It set me on a journey when I learned how to work my own program and take care of myself, not my son. It’s completely counterintuitive thinking for a parent because we’re naturally tied to our children emotionally, even when we believe we’re “doing the right thing” for them. My wife and I began to regularly attend Families Anonymous (FA) meetings in Roswell, Ga. I listened to other parents, who shared their experience, strength and hope. I also listened to siblings of those in long-term recovery to learn about their emotions and resentments because I also had a non-addicted child. I learned about previously foreign -- or outright rejected – concepts like detaching with love, powerlessness and turning things over to a Higher Power. I learned one of the most difficult things of all: Go through daily life with a mindset of gratitude over expectations.

The more I focused on myself and educated myself about the disease of addiction, the better my relationship became with my son because we found a new way to communicate. Strangely, everything in my life improved, from personal relationships to struggles at work to how I processed the struggles of everyday life. I truly believe that despite all of the pain I went through, despite going to sleep many nights not knowing if my son was going to be alive the next morning, his addiction became both the worst and best thing that ever happened to me. It put me on a life-changing journey and a path to help others.

FA is open to all family members and friends of those with drug, alcohol or related behavioral issues. It is based on the 12 Step recovery model of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and was founded in the belief that addiction is a family disease. Just as our loved ones have their “drug of choice,” so do we. Our addiction is centered on codependency, enabling and helping. Once we accept and acknowledge those issues, we begin to accept that “our lives have become unmanageable,” as Step 1 says.

The people we’ve met at FA are now some of our closest friends and we’re active in the recovery community, passing what we’ve learned onto others, just as others have helped us. With each story or nugget of information we share, they begin to learn what I did that one day: I’m not alone in this journey. I am in control of my own happiness.

FA has meetings nationwide that can be found at FamiliesAnonymous.org. Many meetings are now held virtually during the pandemic, so it’s even easier to find one that fits into your schedule. For a list of meetings based in the New York/New Jersey area, go to FamiliesAnoymous.org/meetings/virtual-meetings.


Wishing all of you peace.

Notice: This article reflects the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ). This information should not be construed as legal advice from the author or PDFNJ. Please consult your own attorney before making any legal decisions

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