Hope for Kids Facing Addiction

You help kids like Emerson know they're not alone
Diverse group of elementary aged kids in fitness class
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"Just because someone in your family has addiction, it's nothing to be ashamed about."

As an eight-year-old, Emerson H. stayed awake at night listening for clues and worrying about whether her mom was okay.

"I would be in my bed staring up at the ceiling and thinking, ‘What if something happens? What if there's an accident? What if she falls or gets hurt?' I needed to stay awake to make sure nothing bad happened."

When Emerson's mom sought help and started treatment for addiction to prescription medications, her family learned that there was help for Emerson, too: The Children's Program at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

Emerson wanted nothing whatsoever to do with it.

"The night before I went to the program, I stayed in my room crying. I was depressed. I didn't understand what any of this had to do with me. No way did I want to talk about what was going on."

During her first day at the Children's Program, Emerson was stunned to learn that addiction was actually a disease—and that she didn't cause it. Her mom was in rehab because she had a disease, and the other kids around Emerson were there because their parents had the disease, too.

"I always felt so guilty, like I made things difficult for my mom," Emerson explains. "When I would see her get stressed or upset, I thought it was because of something I did or didn't do, like not cleaning my room or not getting good enough grades. It felt like all I ever did was make things worse."

At the Children's Program, Emerson learned that addiction wasn't her fault or her responsibility. Her job was to be a kid and do the things she enjoyed, like swimming and singing and dancing around the house and playing with her dogs.

Today, as a 12-year-old, Emerson credits the Children's Program counselors with saving her relationship with her mom.

"A girl my age needs her mom," she shares. "I'm blessed to say I got my mom back, but it was hard for us."

As a part of the Children's Program, kids learn the importance of sharing their feelings and practicing healthy new ways of coping with difficulties. Four years later, Emerson continues to use many of those self-care skills and strategies, and she counts several kids she met during the program among her closest friends.

"I had no idea there were other kids who were experiencing what I was," she explains. "Some of the kids came through much tougher situations than I did. I used to think everyone else had the perfect family. Now I know every family has problems, and I know that keeping everything bottled up inside only makes your problems get worse."

Emerson also realizes there are a lot of kids who need to know what she knows, which is why she has her heart set on becoming a children's counselor when she gets older.

"I don't want other girls and boys to think for a minute that they caused addiction. I know how dark and alone that feels, and no one should have to feel that way."

In the meantime, Emerson takes every chance she gets to speak up about addiction and recovery.

"Just because someone in your family has addiction, it's nothing to be ashamed about. Addiction doesn't define you. You get to be your own person."

Your dollars help families heal

Reach out with care and support to children hurt by addiction. Let them know they're not alone. We'll put every dollar you give to work in providing healing and hope for hurting families. HazeldenBettyFord.org/For-The-Kids

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