Mom Promotes Opioid Addiction Recovery From a Place of Love, Respect and Compassion
Lori Erion knows first-hand the pain and struggle of addiction. A recovering alcoholic herself, she is the mother of April, a recovering heroin addict. When she noticed there was a lack of resources for families dealing with drug-addicted loved ones in her Ohio community, she founded the support group FOA (Families of Addicts) in 2013. Her mission: to educate, empower and embrace families, friends and individuals struggling with addiction by providing love, support and celebrations of milestones. To date, FOA has helped over 7,000 people and offers meetings in six cities throughout Ohio. We were touched by this powerful NBC News profile of Lori and decided to reach out to learn more.
1. How did your family’s story inspire you to start Family of Addicts?
As a person in recovery, when I found out that my daughter was using heroin, it was an animal of a different color. I could not understand how she could walk away from help after finally finding it, how she could cut the locks off our doors to steal and manipulate me to the point of becoming insane myself. She wound up educating me more about her addiction than anybody.
She explained how it was for her, why she did these things. I wanted other families to have the education I was getting at home, but when I spoke to friends and co-workers about the situation, they replied with answers that made no sense. I started to think about all the families out there that didn’t have any knowledge of addiction and recovery, and about how the stigma of addiction, even for families, must be affecting them. This launched my idea to start FOA, Families of Addicts, based on my experience and having the passion to help all affected by substance use disorder. I held the first FOA meeting in Huber Heights, Ohio, in a college classroom with six people and a pack of Twizzlers. The rest is tremendous progress and history.
2. How is FOA different other substance-abusive support centers?
Since my daughter, even in active addiction, helped me more than anyone, I wanted to have anyone who was in active addiction or recovery together with their family in the same room. The idea was that we all can educate each other based on our own experiences. When we combine people in recovery and family members together in the same room, the intersection is RESPECT. From that respect, understanding, acceptance, love, compassion and friendship flow. Feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, isolation, and loneliness disappear. The prescription should be: attend FOA three times and your symptoms will start to subside.
The family system heals just by attending. When people who are solid in their recovery attend, it becomes service work and some of them become very passionate about helping the family. For the newcomer to recovery, they connect with others in recovery in a loving, accepting and non-judgmental environment motivating them to continue growing and creating positive change. Many individuals in recovery also state that they had no idea how their addiction had impacted their family. FOA has a “waterfall effect” on the entire family system. When FOA members are loved and accepted for who and where they are, they are better equipped to support the children and other family members affected, regardless of whether the entire family is attending. This process results in improved communication and respect within the entire family. It truly is a miracle to watch and the rewards are great.
3. It’s been reported that FOA celebrates milestones rather than shaming those who relapse. Can you explain?
We believe that recovery for families and individuals is a journey, not a destination. It is a process of forward and backward movement. I noticed this in my daughter and the struggle to not ever use was real. The amount of success and effort put into that success before she had the “slip” was not being recognized as progress and once the “wrinkle” happened, she would have to go back to square one as if no progress or work had been put in. I felt that this did not promote growth and foster motivation to change. Thus, the Milestone Program celebrate personal progress, not time. Anyone can get a milestone for ANY progress.
4. Tell us about your meetings and programs.
The FOA program has three components: support, advocacy and resource management and referral. Weekly meetings are formatted in open discussion, speakers and documentaries. We offer strategies for self-care, tactics to better support a loved one in active addiction, recovery or incarceration, and addiction and recovery education. As I mentioned previously, we celebrate individual milestones.
Our goal is to build a culture of transparency to eliminate the stigma of addiction for anyone touched by it. Consequently, we hold annual rallies, outreach events and speaking engagements. Our resources include one-on-one support, coaching and networking opportunities.
5. What are your plans for growing FOA?
The FOA vision is to become the model organization, empowering individuals and families along the continuum of addiction and recovery. We are headed to be a national organization and this requires much work on our part to build capacity with staff and volunteers. We would like private and foundational funding because the reason FOA works is that we are all regular people who have “been there and done that.” State and federal dollars seem to only fund fee for service entities and programs run by “professionals.”
Since the NBC segment, I have had over 150 people from all four corners of the U.S. and in between contact me about how to implement FOA in their community. I had emails, calls, texts and Facebook messages for more info and asking for specific help for loved ones. There is a real need for FOA to become the national organization that gives the people what they want. We need a hero (philanthropist and/or foundation) to step up and help us make that happen.