Lynda McDonald of Jackson, who works with NJ Connect for Recovery to provide resources to families dealing with addiction, is trying to bring more recovery to her own community.
According to its website, NJ Connect for Recovery is a free, confidential call line focused on helping individuals and families coping with substance use disorders.
A service of the Mental Health Association in New Jersey, NJ Connect for Recovery provides a safe, nonjudgmental place for individuals and family members to get immediate support, counseling and assistance from professional staff members on substance use issues, according to the website.
McDonald’s son, Matt, is 24, but she recalled that his issues with substance abuse started when he was about 12.
“That was the first time stepping into, as I call it, the roller coaster of addiction. I was in meetings over the years because at 12 you think that would have been it, but it was not,” she said.
McDonald said Matt went to live with his father for a period of time, but returned to live with her when he was about 17.
“Through that whole time, he was still using here and there. When he got back to me, he was involved with using heroin,” she said, adding that was the beginning of “probably the worst journey.”
“He spent time in jail, many times doing things like stealing everything you can imagine from me, from anybody. He was not the person I knew I had raised, he had basically become the face of heroin to me,” McDonald said.
For about 10 years, McDonald ran support groups in Monmouth and Ocean counties “to at least, if nothing else, help other families. It gave me strength just to know I was not alone.”
After two years with NJ Connect for Recovery, McDonald believes family workshops are the way to go and that the organization has excellent family support service.
“Families were so happy to be able to see there was somebody who was a peer and who could guide them or guide their loved one, and they could kind of step out of it, but at the same time they felt they were able to have somebody to talk to their loved one, but also support them through whatever they might face,” she said.
McDonald said the changes she has seen in people are “just amazing.”
“Even for myself, one thing you learn is ‘red light/green light.’ It sounds so simple and it is. That taught me when I can talk to my son about certain things and when I cannot talk to him … It taught me motivational interviewing, so when I was asking him questions I was not just asking yes or no questions, I was opening more communication to him,” she said.
“We can talk a lot more, about addiction or anything. I can go to him for certain things when I have questions. I have seen families do the same thing, who have walked in and had no relationship with their loved one, and then walked out of these meetings after 12 or 13 weeks and they had formed a relationship with their families again and their loved ones,” McDonald said.
There are workshops in Jackson and in Freehold. Registration is not required, but registration in advance is accepted. Family members may attend all sessions or drop in for some sessions.
NJ Connect for Recovery provides emotional support, education, access to treatment and ongoing family and peer guidance live through its call line at 855-652-3737 from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays; 5-10 p.m. weekends; and 3-10 p.m. on holidays. Call 855-652-3737 for immediate guidance and support and to have substance use disorder questions answered.
According to NJ Connect for Recovery, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in New Jersey; the state’s rate of a heroin overdose is three times the national average; Opioid misuse is widespread across New Jersey, with a presence in all 21 counties; the state saw a 40 percent increase in drug-related deaths in 2016, the largest in at least six years, and the spike was driven by opioids, heroin and fentanyl; in 2016, 2,221 people died from drug overdoses in New Jersey. In 2015, drugs were linked to 1,587 deaths; and at least 54 percent of patients admitted for substance use disorder treatment in New Jersey in 2015 had a mental illness or other co-occurring health disorder.