“How to Cope” for loved ones of people with alcohol or drug problems

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When someone is addicted to alcohol or drugs, those close to that person suffer. Anxiety, depression and weight loss or gain are just some of the challenges for loved ones. There is help available for them in the metro through an organization called First Call.

Jill Miller came to First Call wanting to get help for her son, a young adult addicted to alcohol.

"One of the counselors said we can't do anything about him, but there's a course here called How to Cope," Miller said.

It's for family members to help them cope. Miller says her son's addiction had consumed her life.

"I didn't eat. You don't sleep because you sleep with one ear open for the phone to ring hoping you don't get that call," Miller said.

A message on a board summarizes what Miller learned in the How to Cope course. It says, "When we try and control what we can't control, we lose control of what we can control."

Molly O'Neill, President of First Call, says when a loved one is addicted, "You can't control it. You didn't cause it and you can't cure it and so you let go of all of those things and begin focusing on yourself. Reclaim your life. Stop enabling. Set boundaries."

Miller said, "For instance, if he came home drinking, he wasn't going to stay at our house."

She says it helped her and indirectly helped her son.

"He realized that you know, I need to do something different here," she said.

He's now in treatment. O'Neill knows that doesn't always happen. She heard from one woman who'd taken the course and recently lost her son to addiction.

"She felt at peace because she had gone on with her life to become healthy, and she could talk about her son in the most loving ways and understand he had an illness and that illness killed him," O'Neill said.

Miller says she still worries, but isn't nearly as stressed.

"It's a hundred, a million times better," she said.

First Call also has a program for children. There are fees for the programs, but no one is turned away because of inability to pay. For more, go to http://www.firstcallkc.org or call 816-361-5900.