Ron Merk is co-ordinating Sharing Lived Experience, an initiative of the Community Action Team’s Families Helping Families, March 25. Learn about a planned workshop series, offer feedback about topics of interest and chat with other families.

Families come together to explore impacts of addiction

CAT’s Families Helping Families hosts afternoon session March 25

If you have a loved one struggling with substance use, you know the effects reach far beyond the individual.

At the same time, the experience can be extremely isolating, as families struggle with the stigma associated with substance illness.

A new initiative from Port Alberni’s Community Action Team aims to bring people together in shared understanding and for sharing information.

Coming up March 25 at the Barclay Hotel, Sharing Lived Experience is an initiative of the CAT’s Families Helping Families. The informal drop-in session is an opportunity to chat with others, learn about a planned workshop series, and offer feedback about topics of interest.

“Our hope is that there’ll be interest in future workshops exploring more in-depth topics for families who have a loved one with substance illness,” says Ron Merk, who will co-ordinate the afternoon.

The afternoon event is also an opportunity to meet other families who have their own lived experience with substance illness, Merk says, but emphasizes it’s a casual session – no one will be asked to speak or share their experiences.

Merk, who himself has a loved one living with substance illness, understands that families living through the experience can feel isolated and unsure where to turn for information. This is offered as a welcoming venue to ask questions, get information and learn more about what’s coming up for families. Ideas for future topics? They’d loved to hear about that too.

Workshops planned for families

While every family’s experience is unique, simply knowing they’re not alone can have a significant impact. A variety of community resources are also available and the planned workshops will explore some of those options.

“The workshops are designed for families struggling with having a loved one with substance illness and/or mental illness, and are facilitated by people who have been there and walked in your shoes,” Merk says.

Here’s a look at what families can expect:

  • An open, non-judgemental forum to share personal stories, if you wish.
  • Understanding causes of addiction, treatment options and expected outcomes.
  • Signs to look for and what the signs would be for each type of drug.
  • Understanding mental illness causes, treatment expectations and the link to addiction (self-medication).
  • Trauma and the link to addiction and mental health illness.
  • Setting conditions between family and loved ones with addiction.
  • How words can influence conversation.
  • Positive language.
  • Respect on both sides.
  • Moving from resentment to compassionate inquiry.
  • Understanding guilt and grief.
  • Providing community resource information for families.

Everyone is welcome to drop in to the Sharing Lived Experience session, 2 to 4 p.m. March 25 at the Barclay Hotel but if you’d like more information or have questions about local resources, email Merk at

opioid epidemic

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