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One Mother’s Story of Family, Faith, and Substance Use Disorder

“We were a typical suburban family,” Pam Lanhart says with her hands folded in her lap.

The kids had chores. They went to Sunday School. The Lanharts ate dinner as a family.

If this exposition sounds familiar, then you may not be surprised to find out that this story of a happy, suburban family takes a painful and distressing turn. Pam’s son will go on to suffer from substance use disorder.

It begins at the age of 11, and progresses through his adolescence and young adulthood. Pam and her husband tried to get their son the help he needed, but there were little resources available to individuals so young. He was a minor; so their course of action was limited. They couldn’t kick him out of their home, but how could they protect their other children? How could they take care of themselves? How could they maintain some semblance of sanity in the eye of this storm?

They did the best that they could. Pam locked away all of alcohol in the household, and her husband took to sleeping outside of their son’s bedroom door to prevent him from sneaking out at night. While these new behaviors provided the couple with temporary and fleeting relief, they couldn’t prevent the fear, fueled by their son’s addiction and dangerous behavior, that drove their family to chaos. Their daughter began to suffer from anxiety. Pam and her husband had to wonder, “is this the beginning, middle, or end of his story?”

The unfortunate reality is that many of these stories, like that of Pam’s family, have tragic endings. This story, however, is far from over.

Pam’s son was able to find the resources and help that he needed to treat his substance use disorder. Following a five year process obtaining treatment from Hazelden, as well as a 90 day course of rehab in August, Pam’s son is officially in recovery, which will be a lifelong journey in itself.

In her search for guidance and support, Pam learned about the advocacy work of the Steve Rummler HOPE Network. She began volunteering for the network, and soon was trained and began carrying naloxone. She keeps naloxone kits in her purse, briefcase, and in her home at all times.

Pam says that working with the SRHN is a part of her family’s story, and she felt compelled to use her experiences to help others.

Born out of this journey, was Thrive! Family Support.

Thrive! is a nonprofit organization, founded by Pam, with a mission of bringing “hope, help, and healing” to families and victims affected by substance use disorder. Pam’s vision for the organization was inspired by the essential truth that addiction is a family disease, and the organization’s faith-based component has provided Pam with the strength to heal—herself, her family, and her marriage. Thrive! offers a multitude of resources, such as a helpline, a strong online community, and support groups in Rochester, Burnsville, and Chaska.

“When I look at our journey, I wouldn’t want it any other way. It changed me.”

For more information, visit http://thrivefamilysupport.org

Alicia Haugh

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