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Local Families Against Narcotics chapter aims to help families affected by addiction

News Photo by Julie Riddle Donna Hardies, of Up North Prevention in Alpena, sports a Families Against Narcotics facemask as she talks on Monday about the new Alpena-based chapter of an organization helping families of people battling addiction.

ALPENA — Families of people battling addiction need somewhere to turn for help.

A new chapter of Families Against Narcotics — a Michigan grassroots organization dedicated to supporting the people who support those in addiction recovery — is that somewhere to turn, according to Donna Hardies, a prevention specialist with Up North Prevention in Alpena.

In its infancy, the FAN chapter of Alpena, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties will soon, Hardies hopes, be both a refuge for families feeling alone, and a place they can be strengthened to provide help to someone battling addiction.

During monthly chapter meetings, open conversation with others who have been there will provide networks of support — support that’s not always felt in a community where addiction is still seen by many as something shameful, said Hardies, who serves as the chapter treasurer.

FAN forums, as Hardies called them, are for families affected by addiction.

They’re also for police, judges, pastors, health care professionals, education and business leaders, and anyone else who wants to learn what they can do to support those who want to break free from addiction.

The FAN chapter will fill a gap in Alpena’s recovery support, Hardies said.

The community has much to offer people who want recovery help, she said, and local medical centers and social service agencies provide invaluable recovery resources.

Other recent movements in Alpena have shown its potential to be truly recovery-supportive.

Within the past year, grants have made possible on-the-spot response to people who have overdosed to connect them with resources. Grass-roots efforts sparked the inception of Alpena Recovery Alliance, a group of community leaders and people with recovery experience dedicated to improving Alpena’s response to addiction. Residents have spearheaded efforts to provide transitional housing for people leaving rehab, leading to the establishment of a women’s sober house last fall.

Still, Hardies said, Alpena isn’t ready to be a recovery-friendly community.

Because people don’t understand substance use disorder, it’s still hard for families to talk about the addiction of a child or a spouse, she said. There is still a stigma attached to addiction that keeps people who are watching it in a loved one from asking for help.

Families Against Narcotics provides that help, Hardies said. It gives families a safe place to share struggles and hear from others who have walked in their shoes.

Board members of the new FAN chapter have been meeting virtually for some months, but future FAN forums will be in-person, allowing participants to share stories and strengthen each other face to face.

A May 19 kickoff forum will be the the first of the chapter’s monthly meetings, which will include open conversation about life with an addict and cover topics relevant to sober living.

While the chapter will provide education and support, Northeast Michigan still has gaps in its addiction response, Hardies said. The community needs more employers willing to hire people in recovery or with criminal records, and more transitional housing to keep people leaving rehab moving forward toward recovery.

It needs sober bars, places where people who want to have fun can play darts and shoot pool and hang out with friends without alcohol, people in recovery have told Hardies.

In the meantime, supporting families is the next right step, she said.

She’s seen the value in being surrounded by people walking the same walk, Hardies said, speaking of a friend who found strength and purpose by talking to other families who, like her, want to help a loved one out of addiction.

“I think it’s that connection that any of us need,” Hardies said. “It’s a connection to other individuals that understand what you’re going through.”

People in recovery are passionate about giving back to their community, looking for ways to help others fighting for sobriety see that it’s possible to make it to the other side, Hardies said.

To learn about supporting a family member

facebook.com/AMPfanchapter

Or contact Donna Hardies: 989-619-1259, dhardies@catholichumanservices.org

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