By Dedra Cordle
At first glance, a journal wields little power. Held together by flexible bindings, it gives an outwardly appearance of being spindly, weak.
Upon opening, it does not fare much better. With its thin, blank pages, it is easy to overlook the potential of this object but Pam Basil has always been one to see how it can make an impact on a life.
Growing up on the westside, Basil began journaling at a young age. Like most people, she used it to write about her insecurities, her joys, first crushes, and the complex feelings she had about always been known as a “little mother hen.”
As life progressed, she carried her love for putting the pen to the page throughout adulthood. She had no idea her journaling would one day be used as a lifeline for herself and for others.
It was the late 1990s and she was a single mother raising two teenage boys; Sean was the eldest, Brian the youngest. Though finding it difficult at times parenting the rambunctious duo who had a fondness for sports and motors, she was content in their circumstance and tried to let those ‘mother hen’ comments from her sons roll off her shoulders.
Eventually, she came to fully accept the term that has been directed at her since childhood.
“I am a mother hen,” she said with a laugh. “I always have been and will be.”
But, she later admitted, not even the best or most protective mothering could have prevented what was about to happen to her family.
As Brian was entering the mid stages of his teenage years, Basil said he began to hang out with the wrong crowd and running away from home. She believes it was during this time that he began to experiment with illegal substances.
Within two years, Brian and the Basil family would experience heartbreak when they lost their beloved council and nephew in an automobile accident and within four years even more as a back injury at work introduced the teen to prescription drugs.
The following years would be a near endless cycle of trips to rehabilitation facilities, relapses, sadness, bursts of promise, broken promises and deep weariness of what might come next. Basil said she could barely function when Sean, who also became addicted to prescription drugs due to a back injury at work, checked into rehab concurrently with his younger brother.
“When I look at this time in my life, I think I just got through most of this because I was so numb,” she explained. “I just felt numb, like I was having an out-of-body experience where I was watching myself go through the motions of life.”
As a religious woman, Basil has always relied on her strong faith in a higher power to get her through challenges, but she said even she was tested during this period.
“I would always ask ‘Why?’” she said. “‘Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to my boys?’”
Throughout this difficult time, Basil kept journaling. Though not much made sense in her life, jotting down her thoughts, fears, hopes and disappointments helped. Reading past entries even made her realize enabling behaviors once confronted during Brian’s intervention.
In 2007, recovering from a foot surgery, Basil decided she would try to create a book from previous entries about her family’s struggles through addiction. She wanted others to know that they were not alone.
“So many families going through this do not talk about it,” said the social worker who is also the director of social services at Heinzerling.
She said much of that is due to the stigmatization of addiction.
“This isn’t a disease that happens to someone and friends and neighbors bring over casseroles to show their support,” she said. “What many people don’t see is that addiction is also a disease and it affects every single person involved with those struggling with addiction.”
She said she hears about all of these stories of those struggling and those who have lost loved ones and feels nothing but compassion for them and their circumstances.
“I think the number one thing to remember, and this is something I always relay, is that I have never met a person with addiction who did not have a heart of gold,” she said. “When your loved one is going through this, remember that their heart of gold is still there but it is masked by the drugs.”
She said one should never give up hope, no matter how hard it may seem.
“In those horrible times, I never truly gave up hope, I never stopped praying and I never stopped looking for a way to fix this.”
For over a decade and nearly a decade, respectively, Sean and Brian have been in recovery: Brian is now an interventionist. Both are married and have helped give Pam Basil grandchildren to mother hen, or grandmother hen, as it were.
She said she gives blessings to God each day for the recovery of her sons.
Copies of Pam Basil’s book, “When a Band-Aid is not Enough” are available in limited quantities at the Grove City Library and available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Basil recommended those struggling with addiction reach out to Alli Addiction Services at 1-855-521-2554 or via website alliaddictionservices.com. She is also willing to be contacted for speaking engagements or book inquiries at email@example.com.