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Surviving Addiction: Reclaiming Lives and Relationships Through Peer Support

Dec 22, 2020 07:00AM ● By MED Magazine

The negative, painful impacts of addiction are far-reaching and affect nearly every facet of family life. That was the case with Sonja Lindsay, a longtime nurse whose husband struggled with alcohol addiction. In 2017, Lindsay’s husband’s drinking had become unmanageable. She was distracted and fatigued at work, but didn’t tell anyone why. 

“As much as Todd was ashamed, I had that shame also,” she said. “You feel like people are going to look at you differently, treat you differently.”

Looking back, Lindsay wishes they had known where to go for help sooner.

“In general I think people don’t know where to go,” she said. "And we were those people. We didn’t know where to go.”

‘That’s all you know’

When Lindsay’s husband became “desperate” for help, a friend recommended Face It TOGETHER, an addiction wellness nonprofit. Face It TOGETHER offers professional peer coaching to those impacted by addiction, including loved ones. 

After learning there was a coaching option for loved ones, Lindsay enrolled as well. Before coaching, Lindsay knew very little about the disease of addiction. 

“I completely understood that Todd had a drinking problem and that we needed to seek help, but I didn’t think he had an addiction,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about the true reality of what his problem was.”

Lindsay also didn’t realize how stressful and exhausting their lives had become.

“I look back and I think, ‘I guess it wasn’t right that I cried every day on the way home and didn’t want to come home,’” she said.

Loved ones often have similar realizations once they start getting help; they recognize how much stress and conflict have become a part of their lives.

“You just go with it because that’s all you know,” she said.

‘(My coach) truly knew what I was going through’

Lindsay appreciated the lived experience of her coach. 

“He understood where I was, being a family member himself,” she said. “It’s just really comforting that he truly knew what I was going through.”

Though Lindsay has received other types of support since peer coaching, including a marriage counselor and loved one support group, Face It TOGETHER is where her education started.

“I can say they probably saved my husband’s life. That whole company did. The sad thing is I just don’t think enough people know about it,” she said. “I so wish everyone with an addiction or a loved one would reach out to Face It TOGETHER for help.”

Lindsay’s experiences as a loved one, as well as the education she received at Face It TOGETHER, still inform her work as a nurse today.

“Whether (their charts) say addiction, depression, anxiety, I feel like I have a different compassion for those people,” she said. “Not that I would say I looked down on them, but in my heart and mind I feel more compassion for those people than I did before.”

Learn about free peer coaching for healthcare providers at wefaceittogether.org or call (855) 539-9375.