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BrightView's Kelli A. Talks About What It's Like Balancing Recovery And Being A Parent To Teenagers

January 22, 2020

Wouldn’t it be cool to go back and talk to our younger selves? Perhaps to warn ourselves of the bad decisions we might make or persuade us to take this path, instead of that one? The coffee cup I drink out of every morning says, “OMG my mom was right about everything!” Gosh, if I just would’ve listened a little!

I struggled with substance abuse for many years. If I could tell my younger self anything, I would try to get myself to understand what using these drugs would do to my life. I would explain how much these drugs would take from me -- eventually they would take everything. I would tell myself how I wouldn’t be able to fulfill any of my hopes and dreams. I would tell myself how miserable I would become. How I wouldn’t be able to be a mother or part of my family or society. How I would end up homeless and in prison.

I have two children. My son is twenty and my daughter is eleven. I got sober when my son was seventeen so most of his life was spent with me in addiction. I really tried to be a mother to him, but I was pretty unsuccessful. Now that I found recovery, one of my biggest goals is to help my children to not have to go through what I went through. They both know about my addiction and have seen me overcome these obstacles.

In the kind of world that we live in today I believe we MUST talk to our children about addiction. According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, statistics say that, “children of addicted parents are the highest risk group of children to become alcohol and drug abusers due to both genetic and family environment factors.” So, I talk to my children about how I did not want things to be this way and I did not plan on my life going like this. I talk with them about how I could not control my addiction and how the drugs ended up controlling me.

I want them to know that this can happen to anyone, especially them, due to their genetic predisposition for addiction. I want my children to know how I thought I was just having fun and didn’t think this could happen to me. I try and teach them to come to me with their problems. I want them to know that if they do make a bad decision that I will help them through it and that there is always hope. I believe that if people who struggle with addiction can find recovery then the odds for our children not having to go through that greatly improve.

My oldest son and I have repaired our relationship in a beautiful way. He knows that he can depend on me. I am a good role model for him, and he knows I will lead him in the right direction. I have been able to raise my daughter not having to go through everything my son did with my addiction. She and I have even gone to hand out Narcan (the opioid antagonist used for the complete or partial reversal of an opioid overdose), and she has heard all of the conversations I have had with others about their loved ones struggling with addiction.

Addiction is real. The disease took a lot from me and I have many regrets. They are things I cannot change. Today, I continue to take the next steps in the right direction. I surround myself with positive influences. I help others when I can. My amends are how I live each day, whether someone is watching or not.

This article was written by Kelli Achberger. She is a Peer Recovery Support Specialist at BrightView. Below is a picture of Kelli and her daughter, passing out Narcan at the Narcan Distribution Collaborative at the Family Justice Center in Cincinnati.

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