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Healing the Family

In the "old days" families used to often work together, whether in the farm fields or side-by-side in small Mom & Pop shops.  The Wallers in Urbana, Ohio, still reflect that ethos.  The New Family Table Restaurant is a real "family restaurant."  Owner Brian Waller told me he employs his wife, step son, mother-in-law, niece... It's about family closeness and passing a vocation on to the next generation.  (photo by av. Joe) 

It's our belief that for strong families there needs to be a "sense of place" and solidity.  Three generations of Barbosas live on the same block in Amarillo, Texas, in a cluster of homes.  They told us they cook together, help with the children together, share lawn equipment and tools, attend church together...  (photo by av. Joe)

Healing the Family Policy in Short


*For full paper, see further below…


“To heal the country, you have to heal the family.”  [said Schriner] – CBS News, Monterey, California.


“He (Schriner) says families would benefit from a shorter work week.” – Associated Press


“As president of the country, I would be way more apt to throw out the first pitch at one of these small town youth arks, than I would, say, at the Twin’s Stadium.  It’s these kids who need our attention,” said Schriner.  Aitkin (MN) Independent Age town newspaper.



  • Highlight areas of addictive/compulsive and dysfunctional behavior in general, and how it affects the family.

  • Highlight how this dominoes into society in the form of violence on the streets, domestic violence, crime, drug abuse…

  • Inspire community programs (models are already in place) from town to town across the country.

  • Some of these models include the Healthy Community Project in Glendive, Montana; Take A Stand for Kids (TASK) on the Monterey Peninsula in California…  

  • We would also promote more funding for mental health facilities, and the like, to allow for more short-term and long-term inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation models, more halfway and three-quarter way houses.

  • We would promote way more rehabilitation programs for prisons.

  • We would promote way more hospital “Collaborative Medical Models,” that track, not just physical illness, but mental health issues as well – with appropriate referrals to mental health agencies.

  • Teach the dynamics of healthy families in classes K-12.




Constellation of issues plaguing modern families:

  • Addictions (drugs, alcohol, internet addiction, TV addiction, gambling addiction, work addiction…) ; compulsive behavior (eating disorders, inappropriate sexual acting out, over-work patterns…); physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse; tumultuous relationships and skyrocketing divorce rates…


  • Besides the breakdown in the family all the latter causes, it dominoes out into a host of societal problems: violence on the streets; other crime (including domestic violence as it repeats in the next generation); DUI fatalities; gangs, drug dealing, over-spending patterns leading to astronomical consumer debt numbers…


The Plan


  • Inspire a multi-dimensional set of community programs from town to town across the country to help heal families and reverse these negative societal trends.


  • In Glendive, Montana, (pop. 5,000) we looked at the “Healthy Community Project” there.  The town sponsors weekly relationship and parenting classes.  It sponsors regular alcohol and drug prevention programs.  There are classes taught on trust building and conflict resolution…


  • On the Monterey Peninsula in California, I did three months of research on their Take A Stand for Kids  (TASK) model.  This grassroots non-profit group did regular in-home neighborhood meetings to teach people about the signs and symptoms of addictive and compulsive behavior and how this may be playing out in one’s life, in one’s family. This group also did regular public forums and regularly talked in the schools as well about both addictive and dysfunctional behavior and what recovery options were available to help reverse some of this.


  • Our administration would also promote more tiered recovery systems (in-patient, outpatient, halfway houses, three-quarter-way houses…) to help people get as solid a footing in recovery as possible early on.  This would, in part, mean lobbying for more funds for local mental health and drug and alcohol agencies.  At these agencies, we would push for more out-patient and in-patient programs that addressed: alcoholism, drug addiction, codependency, gambling addiction, sex addiction, compulsive-overeating….   (I am a former addictions counselor and know that these agencies have traditionally been understaffed in correlation to the needs at this point in society. 


  • There is a tremendously high recidivism rate in regard to prisoners returning.  At a stop in Fostoria, Ohio, we talked with Mark West who designed an award winning, two year treatment program model for prisons called: The Oasis Program.  He said that some 80% of people are in prison because of drug and alcohol abuse.  And common sense would indicate that this issue must be dealt with comprehensively if we want to see less recidivism.  


  • In regard to the latter point…  We stopped at Pikeville College in Kentucky, where we met with Criminal Justice Professor Kay Hardesty.  He said there are a number of prison rehabilitation programs (like Oasis) that are, indeed, quite affective.  The problem is these cost money and often the taxpayer has been unwilling to prioritize this, so the cycle keeps repeating itself


  • We would also push to create more “Collaborative Medical Models,” like the one we researched in Grand Junction, Colorado.  Dr. Carl Marlito told us the Marrillac Hospital here, not only does medical work, but screens patients for mental health and other social issues.  And they have developed extensive referral network to social service programs throughout the area.


  • For grades K-12, we propose teaching classes in the dynamics of healthy families.  At Wilmington College in Ohio, we researched a program that goes into elementary and high schools to teach students about trust building, conflict resolution, active listening… all components of healthy family life.








Healing the Family Position Paper


“‘To heal the country, you have to heal the family.’” – Joe to CBS News, Monterey, California.


“‘We are concerned about the breakdown of the nuclear family,’ said Schriner.” – Salem (OH) News.


“‘What we see today is a consumption society that values material wealth above social health,’ said Schriner.” Bangor (ME) Daily News.


“‘We’re so caught up in activities… there’s no time for family,’ said Schriner.” –Gothenburg Times, Gothenburg, NE


*Categories covered below include: 1) The Issue; 2) “When Society Becomes an Addict”; 3) Home Turbulence Sent into Society; 4) Emotionally Empty Inside; 5) Adrenalin Addiction (Key Societal Issue); 6) Number of Stressors; 7) The Plan; 8) Healthy Community Project (Montana); 9) Take A Stand for Kids (California); 10) Tiered System of Recovery Options; 11) Collaborative Medical Models; 12) In the Classrooms; 13) Staying Put


Note: I am a former counselor who started one of the first outpatient treatment models for Adult Children of Alcoholics & other Dysfunctional Families in the Midwest. I have worked extensively with family systems and believe, strongly, that as the fabric of the family breaks down – the fabric of the country breaks down. -- Joe


1) The Issue


The nuclear family is becoming endangered, if not on the brink of extinction. And this breakdown is causing a constellation of social problems that are increasingly playing havoc in America.


2) “When Society Becomes an Addict”


Ann Wilson Schaaf wrote the book When Society Becomes an Addict. Her contention is that many people in modern American society have become addicted to, or are extremely compulsive about, a variety of substances and/or activities.


And the scenario goes like versions of this…


A parent (or parents) is afflicted with one, or a combination, of the following: alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction, compulsive disorders (compulsive overeating, compulsive gambling, compulsive work patterns, compulsive TV watching…), codependency…


“When parents are caught in the throes of any of these, inevitably children get shorted emotionally. And also with parents in the grips of these addictions and compulsive behaviors, children are much more apt to be abused physically, sexually or verbally,” I told the BG News during a stop at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.


These dynamics, in turn, lead to varying degrees of emotional scars, which result in the next family generation developing similar, but often even deeper and more extensive, addiction and emotional problems.


It is analogous to a flu strain that keeps getting stronger.


3) Home Turbulence Sent into Society


The playing out of these addictions and compulsive behaviors not only tear at the fabric of families, they send all kinds of turbulence into society at large.


During a stop in Fostoria, Ohio, I interviewed Mark West, who designed an award winning, two-year extensive recovery rehab model for the prison systems. He said alcohol and drug addiction are precipitating factors in some 80% of incarcerations.


As a counselor, I observed time and again how alcoholism and drug addiction led to divorce (we have a 60% divorce rate in America now). And during a talk to a graduate Religion class at Bluffton College, I explained how sex addiction, in all its forms (affairs, exhibitionism, pornography…) is destroying countless marriages as well.


What’s more, children from dysfunctional homes often grow up angry. This will translate into them later abusing their children mentally or physically. Or they will take the anger to the streets. Or they will repress their anger, which will in turn break down the immune system, leaving them more vulnerable to chronic health problems, which not only taxes them but the healthcare system in general.


4) Emotionally Empty Inside


The other factor in this is if these children are shorted emotionally, they will feel empty inside. And to fill the holes, they’ll start to, for instance, compulsively overeat. And to extrapolate that out, obesity becomes epidemic in America (which it is).


During a presentation on addictive and compulsive behavior in Lakewood, Ohio, I explained that some people will turn to gambling as a quick fix to fill some of the emotional holes. And again extrapolating this out, we have scores of people (including a lot of the poor) regularly spending their money on the lottery, bingo… What’s more, casinos, with all their attendant vices – prostitution, organized crime – are popping up all over the country.


Note: And these are just a few of a multitude of addictive/compulsive disorders that are not only playing out interpersonally, but are just as detrimentally playing out in society.


5) Adrenalin Addiction (Key Societal Issue)


And below all of what I’ve just described, there is an insidious adrenalin addiction that is absolutely rampant in many in society today. And this, too, is playing tremendous havoc across the board.


The root: Youth growing up in dysfunctional homes are under continual stress amidst the tension being created by the parents. Sometimes this is high levels of stress in the midst of fights; other times it’s lower, steady levels of stress – waiting anxiously for the next fight to happen. Either way, the body physiologically reacts to stress by pumping various levels of adrenalin.


Consequently, by the time these youth are leaving home – they are addicted to adrenalin. (Not that they are aware of this.)


6) A Number of Stressors


To keep the adrenalin going, they unconsciously set up any number of stressors. Some will be drawn to high stress jobs that will, ultimately, take their toll physically and emotionally. (This, again, will tremendously tax the healthcare system.)


Others will be drawn to high stress, tumultuous relationships to keep the adrenalin going. (This will translate into high divorce rates, domestic violence, and so on.)


Others, still, will create a continual state of debt so they can constantly worry (and thus create adrenalin) about the situation. (America has an astronomical credit card debt level, for instance.)


And others continually will be driving fast, and recklessly in general, to keep the adrenalin going. (Some 33,000 people die on American highways every year now, and countless more are maimed.)


Needless to say, some people will do a combination of these. And, I’ve only touched but a few adrenalin-producing activities.


The point is that we have to look to heal this at its roots. And I told CBS News in Monterey, California, that: “To heal the country, we have to heal the family.”


And we have traveled the country extensively looking for people who have come up with creative, common sense models to do that.


7) The Plan


We have to rally as communities to create sets of multi-dimensional programs to support each other in the pursuit of emotional health so the family can make a strong comeback in America.


In Montana, we found a town that has embraced this concept whole-heartedly – and is an excellent model for every town in America.


8) Healthy Community Project (Montana)


Glendive, Montana has started a “Healthy Community Project.” The town rallied to create as much emotional health as possible across the board.


At a stop in Glendive, we talked with Glendive Public Library’s Head Librarian Gail Nagle. She said the town set up a series of initiatives to foster emotional health at as many levels of town life as possible.


For instance, her library provides space for weekly parenting classes. There are also drug and alcohol prevention programs, classes on such topics as trust building, conflict resolution, and so on.


Our administration would point to what’s going on in Glendive as an excellent model to emulate in towns across the country.


9) Take A Stand for Kids (California)


The Monterey Peninsula in California also has a strong, multi-dimensional program to help adults heal and create a tremendously nurturing climate for the next generation.


The non-profit, grassroots organization called Take A Stand for Kids (TASK) is a volunteer citizens program that extensively educates about these addictive/compulsive cycles, and provides a just as extensive set of referrals.


During a solid three months of research on the Peninsula, I learned TASK uses in-home meetings where neighbors talk to neighbors about their addictive/compulsive disorders – and what they are doing to recover. TASK sponsors open public forums. They have a Speakers Bureau that sends people into schools, civic venues and other areas to educate about these issues.


10) Tiered System of Recovery Options


And as adults learn about their addictive/compulsive problems and come out of denial and begin to seek help, a community must have an extensive, tiered system of recovery options that are well funded and well staffed.


For instance, in Lorain, Ohio, I worked as counselor for the Lorain County Council for Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, a state and locally funded agency. The agency had an outpatient model to address such issues as alcoholism, drug addiction, codependency, gambling addiction, sex addiction, compulsive overeating…


However because of budget constraints (as is the case with many mental health facilities), the agency was understaffed and the programs weren’t comprehensive enough, or long enough, in many cases.


In the short term, our administration would propose matching federal grants to bolster these programs. We would, for instance, propose cutting some of the budget for the military and earmark the money for this purpose.


And as more and more people sought recovery in a community, they would see the value of mental health counseling, etc. Subsequently this would lead to increased levels of local funding which, ultimately, would eliminate the need for federal funding in the long run – adding to the decentralized society we promote.


We would also push to bolster, exponentially, the number – and quality of – addiction recovery rehab programs and mental health counseling programs in the prison system. On a stop at Pikeville College in Kentucky, Criminal Justice Professor Kay Hardesty told me these types of programs are, indeed, successful in cutting some of the recidivism rates for prisoners.


(I worked for two years as a counselor at a 90-day treatment program for alcoholics and drug addicts with high relapse rates. And I saw first hand how a longer rehab program at the beginning of someone’s sobriety was often quite effective.)


11) Collaborative Medical Models


We would also push to create more “Collaborative Medical Models,” like the one we researched in Grand Junction, Colorado.


Dr. Carl Marlito told me the Marillac Clinic here not only does medical work but also screens patients for mental health and other social issues. And they have developed an extensive referral network to social service programs throughout the area.


Again, this is all about helping the current generation become as emotionally healthy as possible, which will in turn, get passed on to the next generation – incrementally lessening the need for these recovery programs as time goes on.


12) In the Classroom


What’s more in grades k–8, we would propose teaching classes in the dynamics of healthy families. At Wilmington College in Ohio, we researched a program that goes into elementary and high schools to teach students about trust building, conflict resolution, active listening… all components of healthy family life.


Our current education paradigm is so top heavy in teaching skills to orient youth toward career, but we are extremely light on teaching about family emotional health.


In Holbrook, Arizona, I interviewed Bob McCarthy, who teaches about healthy families at Our Lady of Guadalupe Family Center. He said a key to a healthy marriage is when husbands and wives start to see their primary vocation as family, not careers.



13) Families Staying Put


We’ve become a highly mobile society. We often chase career, with little thought about all the years of family and community building growing up.


People move on the average now: every five years.


In his book The American Family, former vice-president Dan Quayle researched common denominators that seemed to make a family strong. One was a “sense of place.” That is, each family member felt deeply rooted in his/her family and in their community.


If you’re moving every five years, and eventually your grown kids are now in Des Moines, and Detroit, and Orlando, and Seattle… well, it only stands to reason that “sense of place” dynamic isn’t in anyway as strong as it could be.


Meanwhile in Amarillo, Texas, we talked with the Barbosa extended family. And that wasn’t too hard, because they all live on the same street right next to each other.


The families all attend Parkview Church of Christ every Sunday, share meals, tools and all the other stuff of life. The “sense of place” among them is strong, very strong.


“We are living in a time where we need family,” said Jascha Barbosa, 22, who had just moved across the street from his dad.


End note:  As noted extensively in this paper:  As the fabric of the family breaks down, the fabric of the country breaks down.


Youth who are shorted emotionally in the family, grow up developing a constellation of problems.  There are addiction problems, anger issue, inability to do healthy relationships...


This then dominoes into all types of societal problems.  We now have a 65% divorce rate in this country, with broken families everywhere.  We have all kinds of domestic violence in the streets (100,000 shootings in America each year now).  Our prisons are tremendously over-crowded.  And on... and on... and on...


Common sense says:  To change these things at their roots, we have to heal the family – using versions of the types of tried, solid programs outlined here.  That simple.


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