KAPAA — It’s never just one person affected by addiction.
That’s why Kapaa Missionary Church offers a support system to provide education and a safe place for the families of individuals suffering from alcoholism and addiction.
“The purpose was to address family members who dealing with a loved one who is dealing with alcoholism or addiction,” said Brian Kohatsu, chair for the mayor’s advisory committee for the treatment and community integration. “And what we’re finding is that there are a lot of families not willing to reach out for many different reasons, shame being one of them.”
The monthly meetings, “Drug Addiction 101,” aren’t just to provide pamphlets or pass along medical information to family members regarding their children or spouses’ addiction issues.
They’re also a place for healing.
“It’s a family disease. Everyone in the family is very much so affected by the person who has the alcoholism and drug addiction,” said Sandy Takaezu, a member of Kapaa Missionary Church. “The focus is on the friends or family members. It helped us learn to cope being a part of that situation.”
Takaezu doesn’t just go to meetings to help other families. It’s personal. Her son is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
“Because there are other people at the meeting, it’s easy for everyone to relate to one another. It’s a support group,” she said. “Right now, we’re at a very good place. Our son is in recovery for almost five years but it’s been a very long journey. From being a teenager, all the way through adulthood, and next month he turns 41, you experience so much.”
Having people like Takaezu at the meetings and speaking in support of her son is precisely the message Kohatsu wants to get out.
“These meetings are mainly to get information from them and learn some of the challenges they have,” Kohatsu said. “Addiction is definitely (prevalent on Kauai). When you’re even talking about people who were in the justice system, there’s a high percentage of those who are linked up to a substance abuse.”
The most recent data regarding Kauai’s addiction rates were not provided by Kauai Drug Court and Hawaii data is not broken down by counties. But there are some indicators as to how prevalent the issue is on the Garden Isle.
According to the Kauai Police Department’s Narcotics Section Statistics, there have been large drug seizures by KPD, including 20,329 grams of marijuana in 2010 and 7,271 grams of crystal methamphetamine from 2010-2014.
Kohatsu said many people who attend meetings are ashamed about substance abuse by their family members.
“They aren’t willing to step out and say that their family needs help, so they just suffer in silence,” he said. “And even when they do step out, they find it difficult to navigate because they are totally unaware of what their resources are, who to call or what to do.”
One family’s journey
One mother chose to spoke with TGI about her daughter’s troubles, but asked for anonymity.
She said pastor Jed Young knew of her family’s struggle, and encouraged her to attend the meetings.
“My daughter is an alcoholic,” she said. “She got suspended from her job and got a DUI. Even for herself, to find the help, it was really difficult. She don’t know where to go for treatment or she didn’t like it.”
The mother has gone to three meetings with other family members, despite her daughter’s disapproval. And when the daughter started arguing about it, a son interjected, saying “It’s for us, not you.”
“We learned how we can help and understand her addiction,” the mother said. “Up until then, it was like ‘Why can’t you quit? Why can’t you get better? Don’t you know you’re ruining your life?’ All of those things. But when it was explained to us, we realized what is really going on. There’s always people there to help us.”
The meetings gave her a new perspective on things and that is benefiting the family, even if her daughter is still battling her drinking problem.
“She did improve, but she relapsed also,” the mother said. “It’s difficult. It has ups and downs; it’s hard on everyone. But I guess accepting that I need to accept this and take it from there (helps). It’s not going to work itself out by butting heads.”
The mother hopes her daughter, as well as other families looking for help, find it soon.
“My daughter is early in her addiction. For us, because it’s early, we’re trying to help her right away,” she said. “She was court-mandated to seek treatment and she knew she needed it. When we went to the meetings, Brian had a lot of people who spoke up and we were able to understand it more.”
The next meeting is scheduled 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday. Family members looking for help or information regarding a loved one’s addiction problems are welcome to attend.