To hear Valerie Hardman, who founded Live in Love with her sisters Jennifer and Julie, talk about her charity’s intention to break the cycle of alcoholism “through hope, compassion, and education” is an inspiring thing. After all, 1 in 4 children is affected by alcoholism, and programs directed at them are few and far between, and often expensive.
Live in Love is a new endeavor, but has its roots in the sisters’ family. Theirs was a close and loving family, but addiction entered the family system when Valerie was in high school. Once the sisters had grown up and were reminiscing about that time, they began talking about what helped them grow and thrive despite their experiences with the adverse impact of addiction. The sisters concluded that they had “found healing in serving other people,” and in finding safe people to talk to who were not judgmental of the girls or their family. Their desire to serve, and their awareness of how to help children of alcoholics, bred Live in Love; and the sisters spent over a year researching and creating the Live in Love program.
From their experience, there is a lot of support for a person struggling with alcoholism, but not much for their family members. Valerie remembers that groups for families were often led by people who struggled with addiction themselves, and while that perspective was useful, she and her sisters did not feel they could identify with them.
The girls decided on two major themes of their program: knowledge and opportunity.
Knowledge is achieved through a 12 week program in which children meet weekly to learn and discuss an aspect of alcoholism. In these groups, children learn to talk about their experiences and get support from peers. They can learn important things about alcoholism, like that kids who start drinking before the age of 15 are 4-5 times more likely to become alcoholics than those who start drinking at 21.
Valerie shares that this is the best part: that even though every situation is unique, there are many opportunities for the kids to see themselves in one another and to help each other problem-solve. Valerie said they thought they would have to lead the groups, but after awhile the kids really get good ideas and manage the groups themselves. It is through these activities and discussions, “you can really see the self-healing happening.”
Live in Love provides opportunity in two ways: 1) by linking kids who need professional services to the appropriate professionals in their community, and 2) by getting kids involved in community services. They introduce kids to community service by organizing large community service events, and by helping each group member find their own project to be passionate about.
The sisters’ family was very involved in the community so they grew up with community service. Each sister found ways in which they were passionate about serving and as adults were able to see how much this benefitted them. Families affected by alcoholism tend to have established roles for each member to play, and Valerie shares that by providing community service they were able to contribute and “find more meaning, a different meaning” in their lives.
In one of the first groups they ran, a 15 year old girl said, “this has changed my life, I am going to start this at my school” and the idea for Live in Love groups were born. These groups are service groups based in schools, where kids can learn to have fun and help the community in a safe and sober environment. Those groups can provide prevention to the 1 in 4 whose lives are impacted by alcoholism, as well as kids who are affected by a number of other risk factors.
All of these programs are offered free of charge to the family. When asked why they did not set up the program for-profit, Valerie exposes her insight and compassion by stating that treatment for the parent can cost thousands of dollars, and the family is often under immense stress to begin with. Lil does not want to make the child getting help uncomfortable or to add an extra burden ,and they “wanted it to be where a kid could go online, find us, and find support. Have it be that easy, and not another thing they have to problem solve.”
Want to organize a group in your area? Just contact Live in Love and they will arrange to bring one to you. Or ask your local school counselor or yoga studio to contact Live in Love and they will arrange for a school or yoga-studio based group.
For parents who struggle with alcoholism and have a child, Valeris shares that, “one of the most loving things you can do for your kids is allowing them to find their own healing.”
It is clear to me – from talking to Valerie – that she and her sisters have taken their life-long experience in serving the community to the next level. By being brave and willing to share their own stories and experiences, they are likely to help the hundreds of kids that participate in their program to break the cycle of alcoholism.
I couldn’t agree with Valerie more, Since every 1 in 4 children is affected, it is something that every community should get behind.
There are many ways to help:
Have a child you know who may benefit contact Live in Love. Groups in North Orange County start October 1 , South Orange County start September 15, and San Diego start October 3.
Go online and donate.
Contact Live in Love to see how your time or skill can support a volunteer event or a local group.
Ask your company if they have a matching program and how they get involved in the community. If nothing, it is a great place to start a conversation.
Live in Love is a non-profit organization focused on helping individuals whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking cope appropriately with past hurts, develop confidence and become inspirational members of society. LiL was created to support children of alcoholics. We believe that through hope, compassion, and education, we can break the cycle of alcoholism. LiL is our response to bring that belief to life. Although each of our stories may differ, we recognize similarities in our need for peer support, a better understanding of alcoholism, and the comfort we found in serving others. We created LiL to be an extension of what unites us. We invite you to share your own story; and in doing so, we hope you find healing and friendships through the knowledge and opportunities LiL provides.