This is Part Two of a 3-part series on PAL, Parents of Addicted Loved-Ones, by Mike Speakman. Part One focused on how PAL started. Part Two explains how Pal works. Part Three will advise how to get involved.
A support group for parents with a child suffering from addiction.
Part Two: How it works.
Parents of Addicted Loved-ones (PAL) is a support program for parents with a child addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some consider it an alternative, or supplement, to Al-Anon, the 12-step program associated with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Founded in 2006 by Michael Speakman, LISAC, today there are 17 PAL meetings now in Arizona with new ones getting started in other states.
Speakman founded PAL specifically for parents because, “There is no human relationship like that between parent and child,” he says. “As the saying goes. ‘When it comes to our children, every parent is blind.’ However, any family member is welcome, including spouses and adult children.”
PAL aims to help parents or other family members deal with issues arising from an addicted loved one. These issues tend to be more alike than different, which is precisely why these groups work. Members quickly realize they are not alone, a big relief in and of itself.
Once family members realize a loved one is indeed addicted to drugs or alcohol, the big question is: What now? More often than not this gives rise to a broad range of feelings: anger, guilt, fear, loss, denial.
“If you have an adolescent son or daughter with an addiction problem you may still have some control over their actions,” Speakman says. “You may still win at the negotiation table, the place where your life and their life collides. But, when your child turns 18 everything changes. Now, you lose at that table every time, even when it looks like you’re winning”.
“That’s why parents get so angry. They wonder, why is this happening, how is this happening, what can I do to change it? Solving this mystery is the essence of the PAL curriculum.”
There are two parts to a PAL group meeting: an educational component and a sharing component. Along with information about addiction and recovery, PAL uses stories and metaphors to help parents better understand what they are up against.
For instance, a first-time parent might be asked to picture their child’s age. They are often surprised to find they picture a 25-year-old son as a 15-year-old adolescent. This mental picture is important because it shapes how they decide to help, which can turn into enabling a grown man to act as a boy. Once parents realize this, they gain a better understanding of the problem and more clarity on possible solutions.
“It is important for parents to realize they did not cause their child’s addiction any more than a condition like asthma or diabetes,” Speakman says. “Yet once they realize their child suffers from addiction they can learn about what to do just like with any other ailment.”