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Shelly Young on Family Support

August 9, 2018

Shelly Young joins Drew Powers at Sandstone Care in Maryland to discuss her passion for helping families. Shelly Young is a parent support advocate in the DC Metro area. Shelly also works as an ARISE Interventionist and also works with ARISE on their hotline. In this podcast, Shelly shares about the work she has done to assist families in their own recovery. We also discuss some of the concerns around facebook support groups and unethical practices occurring under the guise of “family support.” To learn more about Shelly, please visit her on www.ShellyLYoung.com or www.empowerintervention.com

Speaker 1: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Sandstone Care podcast series. Thanks for joining us today. Today, I’m joined by Shelly Young. Shelly, thank you for joining us.

Shelly: Thanks for inviting me.

Speaker 1: Shelly, tell our audience a little bit about you and what your background is, to get a sense for what the work you do.

Shelly: Okay. So, I am, I guess if we back it up a little bit, I have a 24-year-old in recovery. And through our experience of finding treatment and understanding what needed to happen in our family to provide an environment that supported recovery, I really started digging around into, you know, how did we get here. How did we get here? Where are we now? And how do we live in recovery?

So, I just really started going out, meeting people, and learning and trying to understand how we could change the way addiction’s treated, because I didn’t feel, as a mom, supported the way I needed to feel supported or guided in a way that was helpful for my son. So, once we… We had an intervention. And he went into treatment, and he stayed into treatment for a really long time. And during that time, I just kept studying and asking questions and learning and meeting with people in recovery.

And I started a support group for families where we had professional speakers come every time and people left with actionable solutions because that’s what I needed. I didn’t want to sit in a circle and talk about what was going on. I wanted it to be… I wanted it to change. So, one of the speakers that came suggested I become an interventionist. So, I got trained as an ARISE interventionist, which is a family-system model which very much aligned with what I believed needed to happen to implement treatment for people with addiction. And we were successful in that type of model, even though I was kind of intuitively putting it together myself. That’s the long answer.

Speaker 1: Okay. And you do work with ARISE outside of just being an ARISE interventionist as well.

Shelly: Yes. I work with ARISE. I work closely with the founder of ARISE, Dr. Judith Landau. And I take the calls that come in on the service line, and I speak to families regularly and get a sense of where they are, what they need, and we put them on a path of recovery. Whether it’s with an intervention or referring them out to a clinician or a community program, we always leave them with some actual solution.

Which is great that families can call the ARISE hotline and speak to somebody such as yourself, who’s had a really kind of organic experience to professional experience, and that’s an amazing service.

And so, between all those, you know, items that you’ve worked in and continue to do work, what’s the piece that if you were to communicate with our audience today something, what’s the piece that you would really want to kind of hone in on, thinking about it from, you know, perhaps it’s a family member watching this or a potential person who’s struggling with a substance use issue, what is it you would want to share about with them?

I think the number one most important thing to realize is the importance of family engagement in the recovery process. If the family isn’t part of the recovery, then you’re part of the problem. You know, you’re not… If you’re asking someone to get well and you’re not willing to get well yourself, then we’re not going to have a well environment.

And I realized through my own experience that addiction flourished in our house. It loved whatever was going on there, so I had to really think, “Okay. What is my part here, and how do we now create an environment that supports recovery?” so that my son would live, you know? And I also grew up in an alcoholic environment. So, my mom, before she passed away, spent two years in AA. And it was separate. You know, like, that was her thing. And we were over here, and we didn’t really know like how we could be supportive or… I don’t know. We felt like that was just a separate part.

But the way that we’ve come at it with my son is we’ve really done our work on our side to understand like how we got here and what patterns needed to be broken and how we were influencing addiction rather than influencing recovery or even treatment, and what kind of messaging was out there that I felt like was just wrong messaging or didn’t line up with my mother heart or my mother’s intuition. So, I think the thing I’m most passionate about is changing the way we treat addiction within the family. Within the family.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And I think programs, from my perspective obviously, Sandstone Care, we do what I would feel is a really great job with that. We involve the family with our own family therapists, and they’re coming every week in a mandatory family group. Why do you think it is that some treatment programs, at least, aren’t doing that depth of work with the family?

Shelly: I don’t know why they wouldn’t. The science is behind it, and the evidence is there that it makes a huge impact. And I don’t even work with programs that don’t have a family program. I don’t… I get calls, because we’ve been so open about our family story in social media and our community in our area, just everywhere. I get calls all the time, like “What do I do? How do I handle this? And where should I go or where do I take my person?”

If they don’t have a family program, they’re not on my radar. They’re not on my radar because not only do they need you to get some kind of clinical treatment or some kind of support, it’s traumatic. You know, it’s traumatic to be living in active addiction or with someone in active addiction, and that has to be taken care of or you’re always going to have that trigger, you’re always going to have that fear. So all that stuff has to be treated properly. It’s wounding and if we don’t go in and clean the wounds, you know, they get infected and they’ve got to go in and clean them out, and dress them, and take care, you know. Or you’re still carrying resentments, or you’re still operating in the pattern that you know somebody… Somebody said to me once, right not long after my son was in treatment, that the family relapses first. And it scared me. It scared me. I was like “(gasp) What do I have to do so that doesn’t happen?” You know, so it really scared me. So I was like, “Okay, tell me what to do, I’ll do it.”

I went to every family program. I went to the family education meetings down at VCU in Richmond and where they had the speakers come and that’s what I recreated up here for a time being. And I just asked a lot of questions and I went to people who were in recovery and was like, “What do you do? What do you need?” You know? Yeah

Speaker 1: And where would you point a family who is trying to get some of that support or education in the D.C. area right now. I know your group is no longer available, but where can people go to get some of that education?

Shelly: So you guys have one here, which is outstanding. And then Caron, there’s Caron Parents in Bethesda, and in Herndon, which is near me. And that’s where I send all families there, because those meetings are run by parent trained facilitators so I feel like it’s very important to get messaging from people who are trained, you know. I don’t necessarily believe that sick families should be leading sick families, so well family should be leading sick… you know, getting everybody to the other side.

I think there is very much power in our storytelling and understanding like “I did this and this worked” or “I did that and that didn’t work.” Or needing a safe place to express yourself in that kind of situation. But if you’re looking for evidence-based practices, and clinical recommendations, then I think you should go where there’s trained facilitators.

Speaker 1: Yeah, absolutely, I agree. And that’s why we dedicate our family clinician to be able to provide that to the community and I love that Caron has structure as well in that. You brought up earlier social media and it’s just something that’s kind of relevant right now. I would be curious to get your thoughts where there is some deceptive practices happening in the advocacy space on places like Facebook, particularly with groups that are put out there as a resource for family members to go and get support. And there’s an article in The Verge that came out recently that demonstrated that some of these groups have more deceptive practices that might be motivated to get somebody to a particular type of treatment center. What are your thoughts on that and where do we go to address that type of deceptive practice?

Shelly: My first thought is that’s gross. You know? That’s gross, cause we are in a state of crisis when we’re reaching out for help like that and for someone to take advantage of that moment is really cruel. I think that, unfortunately, there is a lot of that kind of practice in the realm, but I think you just have to really search for trusted providers. You know, like really look for trusted providers and people that aren’t doing this… that are heart based. You know, you have to have heart-based practices. It bothers me, you know, and I do know there’s a lot of like moms’ groups on Facebook and I’ve joined several of them, but I find them, the ones that I’ve been apart of, or you know, I look through and see what’s going on. And sometimes I share my stories because I think we need more recovery stories out there, but it’s almost like it’s own negative loop that’s going on and you can see who needs help, and if there’s people praying on those people, that’s wrong. That’s wrong.

Speaker 1: Yeah, would you suggest that people just stay out of those groups given where they’re at right now, or what are your thoughts?

Shelly: I think that those groups are a place of expression. There’s one group in particular though, that’s really like the wailing wall. Like every day there’s a mother wailing over the death of their child and so it’s hard to… It’s so hard to watch. And so, in that space, it’s providing a place of expression, and I’m all for expression. I think that the disease steals your voice and a way to heal is through connection and expression, so having a place to express yourself is good. But they’re also being moderated by, and people are giving advice that do not have well children and I don’t think that’s okay. I don’t think that’s okay. And they won’t allow people like me, who have credentials, to put forth any guidance because it appears that I’m trying to get… it might appear that I’m trying to get business. So it’s hard for me to watch, you know. Where I want to, my helper, fixer mode clicks right on and wants to be like “Don’t do that,” you know? “Don’t do that, don’t go there,” you know what I mean?

Speaker 1: Sure. So where can people reach out to you, Shelly? Is there a way that they can reach out to you and talk to you about your opinion and what they can do to get well or get education or move forward or resources?

Shelly: Yeah, I have a website, it’s Empower Intervention because I do not believe that we are powerless. In this realm, I believe that we can rebuild our power or restore our power and that we need our power to overcome addiction and its impact on the family, so Empower Intervention or I have my own website shellylyoung.com where I write and I can come… I go speak out in the community, so I speak at middle schools, high schools, parents groups. I spoke at the VA. I spoke at [inaudible 00:14:59]NBCP. You know, wherever I get invited to share the message that recovery is possible and that it’s important to invest in family recovery. I’m willing to show up for that.

Speaker 1: Well we’ll put those links in the description and thank you Shelly for all that you do for folks struggling and families struggling and helping to put the right sort of education and message out there, and thanks for joining us today.

Shelly: Thank you for inviting me. We are on a team to get people to the other side, and so we just keep doing it.

Speaker 1: Awesome.

Shelly: Thanks.

Speaker 1: Well thank you Shelly, and thanks everybody who watched today and we’ll see you next time.

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