As Cornerstone’s Executive Director, I’ve personally experienced challenges with mental illness and its impact on addiction. I thought I understood mental illness, but I realized how much I still had to learn when my seven-year-old son was diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Coming to terms and acceptance was not my only challenge. That means managing my own anxiety and addiction so I can be effective at work and supportive at home. I want to be available and focused.

My wife, God bless her, recognized the signs early on, but I couldn’t hide the fact that I was in denial. Having worked with mental health and substance abuse treatment, I thought I’d be more familiar with the issues at hand. But when it finally hit me, I was terrified. Through my experience with thousands of mental health patients, I suddenly became aware of what may lie ahead for my son’s life, and I became intent on “fixing” him.

Mental Health Coping Skills

So how do I cope? It was and continues to be a challenge. Anxiety strikes when I worry about my son’s future. With the help of our Clinical Director, Bob Scardino, and his own 4Ns method, I am able to calm my thoughts in moments of weakness. The 4Ns—notice it, name it, normalize it, and never mind it—enables me to identify my triggers and through this process, put them to rest. This methodology helped my wife and I to accept and embrace our son’s condition and face the many challenges that his mental illness presents. 

Overtime, I learned that there is nothing “wrong” with my son. He’s just different, and knowing that, my wife and I began to learn different approaches to parenting our son. I am happy to say that he is a hard worker and is meeting all of his goals in therapy. He is a happy, loving boy and we are affording him the best chance of accomplishing his goals and pursuing his dreams! At first, it was stressful and very difficult to cope with, but the 4N’s method helps us continuously in life and specifically with my son’s challenges.

Make an Effort to De-Stigmatize Mental Health and Co Occurring Disorders

What does this have to do with the topic of addiction and mental health treatment? I firmly believe that the family plays a crucial role in preventing or assisting in recovery from severe cases of unstable mental health and drug addiction. Noticing it, naming it, normalizing it is the first step in finding out what we need to do differently to help our loved ones. If I continued to deny my son’s challenges, it would have led to major issues later in life and he wouldn’t be progressing the way he is now

If you or a loved one is struggling, there is help and there is hope. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. In an upcoming blog, we will dig deeper into the role we play in our loved one’s lives and learn how, with support, we can stop enabling and make the necessary changes within ourselves to help them.

If you or a loved one is looking for guidance to better cope with mental illness and addiction, please contact us online or call 888-711-0354 today. All communications with my staff or me are confidential. You will be in safe and soft hands.