Pictured at the FASN event in Cavan recently were: Gwen McKenna, FASN Family Support Specialist; Anelle Marynowski; Maria Comaskey and Eileen Faulkner, FASN group facilitator.

‘Addiction is like a black hole... the whole family gets pulled into it’

While drugs are becoming an increasingly bigger and contentious issue, a lot of the focus tends to be centered around the drug users themselves.

However, Family Addiction Support Network (FASN) was established to support families who are struggling to deal with a loved one’s addiction. It provides a network of support, as well as an opportunity for people to come and talk, to debrief, and gives them the tools to look after themselves.

They recently had a meeting in the Kilmore Hotel where service users shared their experiences.

One of those availing of the service is Anelle Marynowski, who said she decided to avail of the service during lockdown and found it very helpful.

“I’m a single parent, so it was just me and the person in addiction. The situation worsened in lockdown. There was a sense of isolation, and I just thought ‘where do I go and what do I do?’. When I was able to meet with the group in a safe surroundings, it was an absolute lifesaver. I’m from South Africa, my family is either there or in Australia. As someone on their own, it was great to be able to go to the group,” she revealed.

Anelle also says that addiction requires a multi-pronged approach to treatment

“Addiction doesn’t happen in isolation, it doesn’t take one service to treat. It covers a lot of areas, especially with dual diagnosis with mental health issues. There is still a lot to be done in the area of mental health, because it is a huge struggle, and we all need to work together. Drugs are an issue everywhere and sometimes people don’t want to see it. But sometimes when it’s at your door and in your house, you realise the extent of it.”

A big part of treatment is support from others within your community, which Annelle says still needs a lot of improvement.

“Judgment can be an issue for people, when something like this happens it becomes very well known, with neighbours and people around you get to know what’s going on, especially with ambulances and emergency services have to be called. Instead of judging, people need to ask ‘what can I do during this difficult time?’.”

Another speaker was Eileen Faulkner from Redhills, who said FASN provided her with the right tools to treat her son’s addiction.

“Covid-19 was the starting point of my son’s spiral with drugs. It seemed that everyone knew about it but we were the last ones to find out. He was addicted to marijuana, cocaine and alcohol.

He would never would speak of his feelings but he could take them out on us.”

Eileen says her son’s issues took a massive toll on him.

“I was told by his friend he was taking drugs. He had gone to skin and bone and was up at all hours of the morning, I thought ‘how silly am I that it didn’t click with me?’. He ended up running up a big debt. He was getting phone calls, texts, until eventually myself and my husband were standing in the sheep shed and one day my son rang his father and said ‘will you come and get me? I want to throw myself into the slurry pit’.”

However it also had an impact on her and the rest of the family.

“Addiction is like a black hole. The whole family gets pulled into it, because we’re affected by it. Every family member has a different way of coping with it. I have two other children, we are a tight-knit family, but it put a lot of strain on them. It put a lot of fear in the family. They still loved him, but they were worried for his safety, annoyed at him for what he put his parents through, and resentful and angry with me because I was giving him so many chances and putting him before myself because they could see me going down.”

Eileen said that it also put a strain on her relationship with the rest of the family.

“I had guilt because I was putting him before the rest of them, they could have needed me and my time. I never felt guilty over the fact that the addiction had happened. I never felt I had caused it because I had always done my best with him.”

In order to be there for her son, Eileen knew she had to look after herself first.

“I realised I needed help, my health was suffering, I wasn’t sleeping at night. I thought to myself ‘what am I going to do here? I’m falling apart’. The dynamics of our family had changed, we were all revolving around one person. That was a big worry, I was putting everyone in front of me. I knew I had to do something.

“My brother handed me the FASN leaflet and I rang their 24-hour helpline within half an hour. The person on the end of the phone call didn’t know who I was, but she saved me, she was so kind and was there for me. She asked if would I go to a meeting, and I did. I practically knocked down the door on my first night. I brought my husband with me and we both took a lot out of it.”

The help given by FASN was invaluable, according to Eileen.

“We found support, understanding everyone in that room had similar stories. They knew how we felt, with isolation, embarrassment, shame, fear, resentment, as well as the worry we wouldn’t see our child the next day. He was in the hospital several times. I sat looking at him and thought ‘how many times can we go through this?’.

So after the first meeting, we were asked to go back. I knew in my heart and soul, I would be going back. I began to learn about myself that I couldn’t fix my son. I could only change how I was living myself, as did my husband Sean. We got to a fantastic place, and at the same time my son began to see that he couldn’t keep going so he started to look for help, and it was like we were all going on a journey together.”

Eileen said joining FASN was one of the best things she ever did.

“I had the son back that I always knew was there, he sought help from others and I learned to forgive myself, even though I had nothing to forgive myself for. I was a mother in recovery. Myself and my husband trained as facilitators. There’s a lot more to do, if I can give someone as much help as I got, then it will be worthwhile. I got so much support that I wanted to give something back, so I trained to be a facilitator.”

Eileen says that people need to be aware that addiction and drugs are in every part of society and can strike at any time and she urges others to avail of services like FASN as she did.

“No matter if you’re in a town or a city or rural, it’s getting worse all the time. In a small rural area, everyone knows your business. I had no issues with that. I was concerned with what went on within the four walls of my house, I didn’t care about anyone else. People might point the finger and judge, but they don’t understand what’s going on. People are there to help, not to judge. People need to know that they are not alone, and not be afraid.

“There are a lot of people in the same boat, it’s just not talked about. The first step in getting help is the hardest, but it’s the best step they’ll ever take.”


Drugs can ‘play havoc with your life’