Couple shares resource for guardians of addicted loved ones

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Twenty years ago, Art and Carie Wimberly were struggling to come to terms with the substance use disorder of their two oldest children while also parenting three younger children.

"You can imagine some of the drain on our resources, our energy, our time. We were despearte to find someone that could help us navigate through this," Art Wimberly said in the recent "Journey Series" webinar on addiction and recovery.

Art Wimberly, who is in long term recovery himself, is now a certified recovery coach, and  Carie Wimberly is the director of operations at Addiction Prevention Coalition.

The Wimberlys began their search for help by attending local Al-Anon groups. Later, they got involved with Celebrate Recovery, a faith-based recovery meeting.

Counseling also helped the couple prepare for the difficult journey ahead, which lasted 17 years for one child and 12 years for another.

Like many parents who find that parental punishment isn't enough to get a child's addiction under control, Carie Wimberly said she felt guilt, shame and confusion as a parent. The experience put a strain on the marriage and caused the couple to feel isolated from their friends and neighbors.

The Wimberlys found a new community in 12-step groups and later began facilitating a  Parents of Addicted Loved Ones (PAL) group in their area.

"We became really passionate about providing a place where these parents and family members can walk in and feel that sense of relief that they are surrounded by people that understand the struggle that they're in," Carie Wimberly said.

Art Wimberly added that PAL is open to anyone who has a relationship with someone in addiction, not just parents as the name suggests. 

"A big part of what we're doing in those meetings is learning how to focus on our own recoveries, how to still love those folks that we're connected to but how to help them differently," he said.

Two books that the couple find helpful in leading PAL meetings are "The Four Seasons of Recovery for Parents of Alcoholics and Addicts" by PAL founder Michael Speakman and "Smoke and Mirrors: The Magical World of Chemical Dependency" by Dorothy Marie England. 

Each PAL meeting includes an education and support component as well as an opportunity for participants to share their concerns.

"I really love the way the PAL groups are designed because you walk away every week with some information about addiction, about the brain. The topics vary, but you also have that time where you can share what's going on in your particular family," Carie Wimberly said.

She added that the PAL meetings they attended while their children were still struggling with addiction gave her a safe space to gather information and the strength necessary to make the changes that were needed in their family life.

"It's not a 'let's fixed each other's loved ones' group," she said.

During the webinar, the couple shared a new visitor handout that addresses the topic "Hope: Is It Possible?"

Relying on change in a loved one for hope will lead to the opposite, according to the handout. At PAL meetings, participants learn to release control, accept help and be willing to change themselves.

Change must happen incrementally, but one change at a time leads to positive results over time, the couple added.

The closest PAL meetings are in Birmingham.

To start a group in Walker County, email info@palgroup.org. For more information, email art@thrivebham.com or carie@apcbham.org.

"The Journey Series," a collaboration of the Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama and Walker County Health Action Partnership as well as numerous other state and local partners, will be offered virtually each Thursday through Oct. 8 at 2:30 p.m. and 3:35 p.m.

To register or view past sessions, visit www.walkerrecoverymap.org/journey-series.