By Cindy Filipenko
It’s a beautiful, sunny, Pemberton summer morning. Walking
out of the post office, I run into an acquaintance I haven’t seen in months.
Standing at the corner next to the Esso station, we catch up in the shorthand
common to such relationships. Within a few minutes, we’ve covered the essential
territory: work, kids, partners, summer plans and the quest for more downtime.
“You look great!” I say with all sincerity, because she
does. There’s an energy and a freshness to her that I have never noticed
“I’ve been on the sobriety train since January,” she says,
matter-of-factly. “And I’ve lost 20 pounds.”
Two women, who marginally know each other, candidly
discussing an issue long kept in the dark, literally in the light of day. Maybe
the winds of change really are blowing.
The effects of substance abuse extend far beyond the user. Families, sometimes generations of families, can be affected by having to cope with an alcoholic or drug addict. In the ’80s, this was well documented through the literature of the ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) movement. People raised by them share a distinct set of traits, from having to “guess” at what normal behaviour is to being extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that loyalty is underserved. These people have an increased likelihood of either becoming substance abusers or partnering with them — in some cases, they do both.
Failing that, these people may adopt other compulsive
behaviours, such as food or work addiction. More importantly, adult children of
addicts tend towards insecure relationships because they parallel their
childhood relationship with their alcoholic or dysfunctional parents. Thus, the
chaos addicts create impacts another generation.
While an addict’s family may most keenly feel the effect of the
individual addict, communities also feel the effects. These run the gamut, from
teachers having to deal with young children whose academic/social performance
in school may be impaired by living in an unpredictable, unstable environment
to tragedies of far greater magnitude. A horrible, heartbreaking event brought
the issue of substance abuse in the Pemberton Valley to the forefront of
community concern in May 2002.
Ross Leo was just 15 years old when he died. The Mt. Currie
youth was brutally beaten to death by two adult men in an altercation over
alcohol. The teenager had come across two men “sleeping it off” in a wooded
area of BC Rail lands near the local elementary school. Nicknamed “The Jungle”,
the densely treed area was a well-known drinking spot among alcoholics who went
there to consume the alcohol they bought a few blocks away at the government
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