About the author:
The focus for Gail Echeverria is primarily on education not just for the addicts, but their families as well. The goal is helping them find solutions to living day to day drug free while developing emotional maturity and an ability to maintain familial relationships through continued sobriety. Gaining a strong commitment to using the tools afforded them during the advancement of information on addiction, the disease concept and creating a healthy (family) support system.
What Gail Echeverria provides in this article is a host of knowledge and wisdom that she has earned throughout three decades of personal recovery, 20 years of education and continued work towards being of service to those who suffer endlessly from addiction.
Gail Echeverria has worked in the industry of substance abuse and co-occurring disorders from 1993 to present day. She is an adult child of an addict/alcoholic as well as being a person in recovering herself. Being raised, educated and trained as a human service worker in rural Northeastern Oklahoma (in the 9 Tribes region, located in the 4 state areas of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri) she has firsthand knowledge and insight with regards to multiple generational struggles in the communities and families of addiction. Her training in addiction began in Southern California and currently holds the accreditations of Licensed Advanced Alcohol/Drug Counselor, LAADC-CA California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals, (CCAPP) of the State of California, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor, CADC from the State of Oklahoma, Board of Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors. She has a Bachelor of Science in Human Service Work and Management (BAHS/M) from the University Of Phoenix (UOP). Her current position is working with families in the 4 state areas of Northeastern Oklahoma in the faith based spectrum of treatment for families who are recovering from addiction, at the United in Christ congregation in Quapaw Oklahoma.
There are words of wisdom taught to new and advanced providers in addiction that state the following, 1. An addict/alcoholics emotional maturity stops when they start using/drinking, 2. Parentified children are not taught self-care, are neglected, abused and often abandoned, 3. Childhood trauma is the root of addiction and mental health issues, 4. One in ten may find continued sobriety and live life free from addiction….most will fail over and over.
When I heard these concepts, I accepted them as a factual basis for program development. My sobriety began in 1987, my training as an addiction counselor began in 1990. I didn’t appreciate being raised in a family with multiple generations of addiction; however I never considered myself an addict until a family counselor at Charter Behavioral Health in Corona California suggested my daughter’s drug use could be a result of my drug use. All of a sudden a light was lit doors of understanding opened and I found a solution to my personal instability and emotional immaturity. It’s called S O B R I E T Y.
The expectations I had for my then 16 year old daughter was basic, detox, clean up, new clothes, new hair style, register for some form of education, get a job and straighten up….never happened, not one time. Yes the basic goals were pushed on her over and over, year after year however she couldn’t manage anything in her life and I would raise hell for her to get it right. I abused her verbally for being a total failure, blaming her for ruining my life. (I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about). Now at the age of 52, I celebrate the days she has clean and sober, the days she gets out of bed holds a job, pays her bills stays out of jail/prison, doesn’t steal anything or act out or hurt her or others.
- An addict/alcoholics emotional maturity stops when they start using/drinking: She began using at the age of 12, when we look at 12 year old children we do not expect them to manage work home finance and relationships. They are still in training, learning to cope with basic information. People that age are naturally hormonal and their Bio-rhythms have begun to develop in the progression of puberty. They experience changes in their bodies, moods and ideas. What we witnessed in the beginning and even now in her senior years is child-like emotional break downs. She has bouts of sobbing, threats of suicide, feelings of low self-esteem with a lack of personal accountability for her relationships. I hear from her less now that she has some sobriety under her belt, but on occasion, “Momma why is everyone mad at me, I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I am doing so good and why do I even bother when nobody forgives me? Can’t they see that I am doing better? I am alone in the world, my family doesn’t care if I live or die, it’s hard to go on knowing that everyone is ashamed of me and hates me.”
- Parentified children are not taught self-care, are neglected, abused and often abandoned: She was left as an infant with my mother and others in my family, who had such issues of child abuse substance abuse and sexual abuse. All of which was normalized for me and I saw no problem at that time with leaving my beautiful tender baby in the hands of my abusers to repeat the same towards her. Today I cringe, at times I cry at the thought of that baby. Now I focus on her as an adult, I seek knowledge to help her and me change our expectations of each other and celebrate our achievement’s. We cannot help our children or loved ones until we understand addiction as a disease, not of the person but of the family. Everyone….must participate in healing attaining sobriety and gaining insight into the recovery process individually and as a unit. I have a saying, “For me and my house we are a sober place for those of us who chose to heal from addiction.”
- Childhood trauma is the root of addiction and mental health issues: I was a teen mom, my mom was a teen mom, her mom was a teen mom and my daughter was a teen mom. All of us were sexually abused, none of us were prepared to be mothers and none of us were educated passed middle school. My mother myself and my daughter were raised in domestic violence, were neglected as children and nor protected as teens or young women, We learned from each other how to survive, how to fight how to leave our children behind while we tried to figure out what we were supposed to do. Every aspect of parenting was impossible with the maturity of an adolescent, my maternal and paternal grandmothers gave birth to 10 children…my mother had 8 children…I had 5, that’s 33 humans born into addiction trauma and emotional immaturity. The odds of failure are high in a family with generations of trauma and addiction.
- One in ten may find continued sobriety and live life free from addiction….most will fail over and over: My lovely daughter was admitted to every type of detox, facility in and out of prison and jails, failed relationships and over and over we pushed her into recovery. Nothing worked, no program no medication, no treatment, no therapy, no professional, no self-help group NOTHING! Until we learned how to heal our own trauma, gain sobriety and work together as a family did my baby now an adult in her 50s found hope in recovery.
The key for our family, we stay in the moment; we support one another in accepting who we are, where we came from and making right choices on a daily basis as well as holding one another accountable for the past, while not dwelling on it. “For me and my house we are a sober place for those of us who chose to heal from addiction.” I say to my children as much as I can “Right or wrong, good or bad, sick or well you are my child and I am your mom, and I stand beside you no matter what!” which means I never ever will give up on you.
Addiction is not our fault; it is however our responsibility to begin healing and it takes one person at a time to begin that process. For our family, it began with our daughter, and together we have fought the battle for over 30 years and because of that we have multiple family members in recovery, who work in the industry of treatment from addiction and mental health. Our trauma is in the process of changing its course and by the grace of God I get to live long enough to see the next generation not take that long and harsh road that leads to jails institution and or death.
It is my prayer that you and yours will find that path to healing and freedom from continuing to trauma based family structures of addiction.
Gail Echeverria daughter of mother of grandmother of sister of aunt of cousin of niece of granddaughter of an addict/alcoholic.