I’m thrilled to share my interview with my friend and fellow parent coach, Denise Mariano. I met Denise last May in New York at the latest CRAFT training and love her enthusiasm and devotion to the cause of substance use prevention and support.
Please welcome Denise Mariano!
Click here to hear the audio version of our interview.
Briefly tell the readers who may not know you how you became involved in substance use advocacy?
Honestly, I never had a plan or goal in mind but rather a journey that led to my advocacy work today My story mirrors thousands of others – same chorus, different verse. It’s the paralyzing pain, fear, hopelessness and financial ruin that we, as parents, experience when our children are struggling with addiction.
I hit the pavement in researching everything and anything addiction-related in an effort to gain some knowledge and to help make an informed decision as to what options we, as a family, had in helping our 19-year-old son. Little did I know, there were no options, no treatment available and absolutely no support.
It was at this time that I began learning how the system fails those struggling with addiction. It was also at this time that I began sharing all that I had learned with other parents on social media – anonymously.
In July, 2013, I attended a screening of The Anonymous People which turned out to be a pivotal moment in my life. I can remember leaving the theatre empowered to make a difference. Again, I had no plan or goal but two things were certain. I would no longer be anonymous and this journey I was on would be shifting to one of advocacy and volunteering.
You are a big supporter of United to Face Addiction. How will the event help families who are struggling with substance use? How can people get involved?
For far too long families have been told that they are part of the problem when in fact we can be part of the solution. There is no “one size fits all” in trying to help our loved ones. There is no one path to recovery.
Families can and do play a vital role in helping their children find recovery. Our son celebrated two years of recovery in June. Greg Williams says it perfectly:
The time has come for the afflicted and the affected to “come out” in a big way to humanize the addiction crisis and open people’s hearts to change.
It’s our time too as families to get involved, to be a face and be that source of hope for another family. Please join other families from across the country who will gather at the Unite to Face Addiction event October 4, 2015 – Washington, DC.
It is wonderful that you are involved in Family Naloxone Training in New Jersey. Please explain what is involved in the training and how people can find out about Naloxone training in their state.
First and foremost, I am so very grateful that many states now have Good Samaritan and Naloxone laws. Many lives are being saved! Family members are often, by default, the first responders. However, such training is almost non-existent in most states.
Through funding from an anonymous donor and in collaboration with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, we were so very fortunate to create an educational training program for families which included training and distribution of Narcan Kits.
My friend and fellow coach Pat Aussem was the driving force behind this program. Our intent is to also empower families with the necessary education, resources, and tools to help their loved ones find treatment. In addition to training family members in the use of naloxone, the program also includes education on addiction, treatment options, family support options, and resources – all tools that can also save a life.
In May, you were honored by the White House as a 2015 Advocate for Action and were recognized for your work to help reduce drug use and its consequences in your community! First of all congratulations. Tell us about any insights from your experience in Washington D.C.
Thank you! I can remember the day I learned of this honor. I truly could not wrap my head for an entire weekend. There were lots of emotions and some fear in there too. I remember saying “Me? Can I do this?”
After the fear subsided a bit, I quickly came to the realization that this wasn’t all about me. It’s a “we” thing. It’s about the family voice and confirmation that families can and do make a difference. The fact that the ONDCP chose two parents as advocates speaks volumes as to the tides changing.
Of course, to be at the White House, to partake in a staff meeting in the West Wing was beyond anything I could have ever imagined. However, what truly made this day so very special was Director Botticelli and his amazing, passionate, and welcoming staff.
They represent positive change and hope for so many. Through the many meetings and events throughout the day, there was a common theme. They wanted to hear from us – collaborate with us. They believed in every advocate chosen – our voices and work mattered.
Finally, what advice do you have for parents who are struggling with their child’s substance use issues?
First and foremost, to never give up hope. A favorite quote of mine from David Sheff:
“Don’t give up hope on someone you love – there is always hope. There is always hope for someone until there isn’t. While there is hope, it’s our job to do anything we can do to get somebody we love into treatment.”
It is imperative that parents know that today, there are options in helping and supporting your loved ones struggling with addiction. The advice given too often is that we can’t help our children. We are told that tough love is the only way and we must let them hit their bottom.
This black and white, cookie-cutter approach must change. Each child together with their family brings a different dynamic. Each family is unique. Too many, including parents, are giving advice to kick loved ones out of the house, to detach, to let them hit bottom.
Tough love can work for some, however, we must respect all paths to recovery and I think we must be careful to give advice. Tough love was not an option for our family. This was not an approach we would have taken if our child was sick with another medical disease. That being said,
I will never give advice based on what worked for our family but rather share what worked for us.
Sharing is caring. If you liked this interview, please share on social media and send the link to someone in need. Thank you!
As a volunteer Parent Coach, Denise Mariano donates her time to offer peer-to-peer support and assistance to families who call the Partnership for Drug-Free Kid’s Parents Toll-Free Helpline. These parents often seek guidance in how to deal with their teen’s substance abuse issues and our coaches help direct them on what steps to take.
Recently Denise began providing training and free naloxone kits equipping family members with the knowledge and materials they need in order to immediately respond to and reverse an overdose should one occur. Denise also serves as an advocate for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in New Jersey spearheading efforts to address addiction issues throughout the state.
Denise Mariano, was honored recently as a 2015 Advocate for Action by the White House for her outstanding advocacy efforts helping to reduce drug use and its consequences in her community. Denise joins eight other individuals and organizations receiving this award