Sue Shea, the office administrator at the First United Methodist Church of Land O’ Lakes, understands the challenges of having a child with a substance addiction.
There are feelings of fear, anger and hopelessness that can lead to a host of problems for all concerned, she said.
It was her firsthand experiences that have played a role in the formation of a new group at the church called “You Are Not Alone,” or YANA, for short.
Pastor Kevin Grills said the ministry is one that addresses a widespread need.
“I believe that things that need to happen within the church are naturally born.
“We walk through the doors that God opens,” Grills said.
Right now, the program is very small.
But Grills said, the need is very big.
The problem, Grills said, is there’s a high likelihood that the people who need YANA the most, won’t respond.
Parents of children with addictions often feel conflicted, Shea said.
“They’re adults now, but we gave birth to these babies. We’ve loved them from the very, very beginning and we still love them. But they’re not only hurting and destroying themselves, but they’re eroding relationships around them,” she said.
Parents of children with addictions often feel like they’ve failed their children, Shea said.
They also get caught up in a cycle of shame and guilt that prevents them from seeking help for themselves, Grills said.
But YANA hopes to help people lower their guard and seek the support they need.
The program provides a confidential setting, where people facing similar circumstances can gather.
“There’s a great level of comfort when we get together on Tuesday evenings. We bring comfort to each other, even though we’re not solving the problems that our children – our adult children, in this case, have,” Shea said.
She added: “It sometimes lightens the load, lightens the stress level, so we can actually look at our addictive loved one through different eyes.”
“We do not do a lot of cross-talking, and we certainly don’t say, ‘Well, what you need to do is this. And, what you need to do is that,’” Shea said.
The church wants to spread the word about the program, and asked The Laker/Lutz News to help raise awareness.
“I would not be shocked if there were not 10,000 people (living within the newspaper’s circulation area) who have this exact same struggle. I also would not be shocked if we don’t hear a peep from this,” Grills said.
The group doesn’t promise magic solutions.
“This is not a, ‘Hey, how do we solve the problem of our addict?” Grills said.
It’s more of an “I’m baring my burdens and I’m recognizing that I’m not alone,” the pastor added.
Shea said has come to realize that: “My loved one’s addiction doesn’t define me.”
And, she added: “For me, this helps keep the guilt at bay.”
The church’s prayer is that people who most need YANA will respond.
Grills said he wants to encourage people to overcome that voice in their heads that is discouraging them from doing what they need to do.
He hopes they will walk through the door, to have these conversations.
The first step, the pastor said, is taking that first step.
You Are Not Alone (YANA)
A program at the Land O’ Lakes United Methodist Church aims to allow its members to support one another as they care for themselves and help — but avoid enabling — loved ones who are experiencing substance use disorders.
The group, called You Are Not Alone, is based on biblical principles coupled with 12-Step guidance. It is working to build a community of people who want to be there for their loved ones, but also take care of themselves along the way.
The free group, which abides by confidentiality, meets from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., on Tuesdays, in Room 103, at Land O’ Lakes United Methodist Church, 6209 Land O’ Lakes Blvd.
Published October 11, 2023