By SARA ARTHURS
D’Anne Burwell has weathered something many Findlay families can relate to — how to parent a young adult who is addicted to opioids. She’s coming to town to talk about her family’s experience, and the book she wrote about it, on Monday and Tuesday.
Burwell will speak at four events in Findlay. The noon Rotary Monday is primarily geared toward members, but a talk at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Winebrenner Theological Seminary is free and open to the general public. Burwell will also visit Focus on Friends at 9 a.m. Tuesday. She will speak at the Findlay-Hancock County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at Hilton Garden Inn on Tuesday. This is open to the public, but those attending must register and pay for the event. The chamber website is https://findlayhancockchamber.com/
“Saving Jake: When Addiction Hits Home” chronicles the experience of Burwell and her family as her son Jake battles addiction.
Each chapter begins with a quote related to the topic, such as Dr. Nora Volkow’s “Drug addiction isn’t as simple as a person making bad choices. Rather, it reflects a disease of the very system that makes good choices possible.”
Jake is 19 when his mother realizes he is addicted to OxyContin. His parents ride an emotional roller coaster again and again — relief when Jake agrees to seek treatment followed by despair when he walks away from it.
As he leaves one rehab, his mother reflects, “Stunned and powerless, Bruce and I can only hope that someday soon Jake will look closely at his actions, his life, his blame — and accept his disease. But first he has to survive the consequences of this impulsive decision.”
But while Jake’s own experiences are covered, this story is told through the point of view of the parent of an addict. Much of the story centers around the struggles Burwell and her husband, Bruce, face as they learn to set boundaries and treat Jake with love while nonetheless recognizing that recovery is something he must seek out for himself.
“Our son had lied to us, taken our money, and handed it to a drug dealer,” Burwell writes in the book’s fourth chapter. “Fury and betrayal kept me searching for rehabs.”
Burwell’s daughter Alea, still in high school when the story begins, comes of age as her family grapples with her brother’s addiction. Throughout the book Alea emerges as a young woman with compassion for her brother, but she struggles with her own romantic relationships and makes some of her own teenage mistakes along the way.
Burwell learns to see addiction as a disease. She also struggles with others in her life who — though often well-meaning — say things ignorant of how addiction works.
A theme in the book is the importance of connection: how people are more likely to succeed in recovery if they have a strong recovery community.
“I hope that people really understand that one of the best ways to combat this is within the family group,” said John Kissh, chairman of the Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board, who invited Burwell to speak in Findlay.
And “family” can include other groups that offer support. Kissh said employers play a role, as he’s read studies showing that many people abusing drugs are in fact employed.
Kissh said the ADAMHS board started discussing the idea for these events in January, envisioning something similar to the Findlay-Hancock County Public Library’s CommunityRead. They spoke to staff at the library, who recommended “Saving Jake.”
Reading it, Kissh was especially taken by “all of the second guessing” that went into every single decision Jake’s parents made. After discussing it with others at ADAMHS, he emailed Burwell in the spring to see if she would be interested in speaking in Findlay.
Kissh also mentioned the importance of honesty about the topic, which is also a major theme in Burwell’s book. People who become addicted include your friends and neighbors, Kissh said. He said he hopes people recognize addiction as a disease, and reduce the stigma attached to it.
“There should not be any embarrassment,” he said.
Instead, people should talk about addiction and recovery openly and constructively. Kissh noted that breast cancer used to be something that was kept secret because of “shame,” and autism is something that is discussed more now than it used to be. Get past feeling ashamed or like it needs to be secret, “and you can deal with the problems a whole lot better,” he said.
“Saving Jake” is the winner of the 2016 Eric Hoffer Award in Memoir, 2016 Eric Hoffer First Horizon Award and 2015 USA Best Book Award for Addiction and Recovery. Books will be available for sale after the Monday night event.
“The whole community is invited to listen,” Kissh said.
For those in a similar situation, You’re Not Alone, a support group for those affected by a family member’s addiction, meets from 7-8 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month at the ADAMHS board office, 438 Carnahan Ave.