Tim Varga speaks with members of the Victims of Addiction Family Support Group at People Place during their bi-weekly Thursday night meetings at People Place. Anyone struggling with the consequences of a loved one addicted to drugs and/or alcohol is welcome to attend the group.

Tim Varga speaks with members of the Victims of Addiction Family Support Group at People Place during their bi-weekly Thursday night meetings at People Place. Anyone struggling with the consequences of a loved one addicted to drugs and/or alcohol is welcome to attend the group.

Addiction consumes loved ones

Loving an addict is like reaching down to try and save someone who is drowning and they pull you down with them

Loving an addict is like reaching down to try and save someone who is drowning and they pull you down with them.

For the mothers, fathers, grandparents and loved ones of those who are struggling with drug and/or alcohol addiction, this is what life is like.

They want so badly to help and support but in reality, there is nothing they can do to save them. So in the meantime, their own life of heartache takes a toll. But at least in Vernon, there is a place for those seeking refuge.

The Victims of Addiction Family Support Group meets every two weeks (with the next meetings taking place August 11 and 25) on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. at People Place.

For one mom, whose son is passed out on the bed at home, high on heroin, the meeting is a breath of fresh air from a life that consumes her.

“Whether he’ll be there in the morning or not I don’t know,” she says, her voice cracking, while another mom is overwhelmed by her story and reaches for the tissue.

“But we love these rotten kids that are doing this to us.”

It’s been a year now since the group was first formed, and as organizer Tim Varga explains, it’s been a year of ups and downs for everyone with an addict.

“We all have to ride the roller coaster and hope that he gets off it eventually,” said Varga of his own alcoholic/pill addicted son.

“We’re not here for our sons and daughters, we’re here for ourselves. We need a place to vent our frustrations. You can’t stop them — only they can do that.”

Finding common ground, sharing and learning from others who are on the same ride is what each of these “victims” gets out of the group.

“Searching for hope is part of it,” said the mom of a 22-year-old heroin and crystal meth addict who has been in jail three times now and she just wishes he could find hope, God or something to believe in.

“A higher power than drugs would be good.”

But as she and the others know, drugs and alcohol are their god, their everything.

“Unfortunately it becomes bigger than them, bigger than us. It just turns your world upside down. It’s very easy to get sucked into their world of addiction.”

She just wishes there was more help for him and the many others who desperately need support to break their addictions.

“It’s sad, we’re losing a lot of our youth. It’s an epidemic. Unless there’s some kind of program or treatment for them afterwards (jail), they’re going to fall through the cracks. There is no place for them.”

The love for their children is what keeps the moms going, keeps them fighting.

Like the mom of three kids, all of whom have torn her world apart with their individual addictions.

“I’ve lost that one again,” she said with her broken heart on her sleeve, of one son who was clean for nine months while in treatment, but recently fell off the rails. He came home to see his father, who is dying of cancer, and overdosed. She found him cold on her couch, where EMTs had to revive him.

She wants nothing more than to show him the door, but it’s harder said than done.

“It’s a tough thing to say no to desperation like that.”

She says jail is where there should be treatment, where they already have them confined and can control their environment, instead of courts ordering treatment after their sentences are served.

“It’s very frustrating. You’re locked up for nine months, you don’t want to go anywhere after that.”

The mother of a 35-year-old alcoholic adds: “When they want help today, there’s nowhere to go. He has no money so he has no way of paying for treatment. And even if he has some money, how does he go to treatment and pay bills and keep his apartment?”

Another 22-year-old methadone addict’s mom is outraged that her son can continually get prescriptions, which he abuses, from walk-in clinics.

Even those who want treatment are usually limited by funds.

“My biggest pet peeve is access to treatment unless you have money,” said the parent of a heroin addict who has been clean for 10 months now, “we think.”

While some can be successful the first time, more often than not, treatment is ongoing in the precarious life of an addict. Therefore multiple visits to costly treatment centres are needed, often sucking parents dry of any savings, retirement funds or even forcing them into poverty.

Being the parent of an addict also means experiencing judgement from others, especially from members of the family.

“They’re the first to judge,” said one mom, on the brink of a breakdown due to dealing with her cocaine-addicted son with little support from her husband. “They tell you, ‘you must’ve done something wrong because my kids are fine.’”

But Varga defends all parents of addicts.

“It’s not because we’re bad parents,” he said. “I know we didn’t raise them wrong.”

Still, the sharp accusations that others can make about not being a good parent are nothing compared to the guilt that loved ones already place on themselves.

“Nobody can make us feel worse than we already have,” said one mom.

But it’s these meetings where each of the mom finds strength to carry on.

“Just for sanity I come here.”

It’s also where the stories that would disgust some are welcomed with open arms.

Like the mom who hadn’t heard from her daughter in three years and suddenly found out she was pregnant, while an addict.

“I had to get her out of Grande Prairie, I had to go meet some person on the street to get some fentanyl just to get her to come with me. I still feel guilty.”

But as a mother, she was willing to do anything to help her child, and her grandbaby. And knowing that this group has her back, and is there to support her, is what keeps her going.

“I’ve been gone for a couple of months and I really missed these people. They don’t judge. It’s taught me to look after myself because you’re draining yourself.”

The mom of a 34-year-old alcoholic, who recently lost his job and went off the rails, adds: “It’s just one day at a time and that’s why I come to these meetings.”

Following 17 years of struggling with her now 39-year-old drug addicted daughter who lives on the streets, another mom says it’s these meetings that help her make it through life.

“I need the strength that I get from everybody here. It’s a lifelong struggle. All of us will be dealing with this for the rest of our lives.”

Anyone interested in attending the group can contact Varga at vinnyv59@hotmail.com