The people who need love the most are often the hardest to love. The counselors at Norman Addiction Information and Counseling make it their job to help people learn to love themselves again through taking personal responsibility for their recovery.
“We’re not excusing people’s behavior,” said Executive Director Teresa Collado. “It’s about owning choices, learning new behavior and making new choices, but the fact that they have a disease is not their fault.”
NAIC’s adult and adolescent treatment programs are supported by United Way.
“When people ask what we do at NAIC, we save lives and heal families,” Collado said. “It’s life and death.”
Collado said one success story involved a homeless teen who was estranged from her family. Angry and defiant, she was on a fast track to incarceration.
The teen was connected with Bridges where she found a home. She got her GED and is now making plans for college and is talking to her parents again. Grateful, she wanted to give back and stayed in her NAIC recovery group longer to help newcomers.
“What we do is help people have hope and have the stability they need to make changes in their lives,” Collado said. “We get to see the lights come on in their eyes, and people start to trust their children again. We see moms and dads get their children back. It’s an opportunity for people to heal and grow and become adults.”
While alcohol and marijuana are the most common drugs abused, methamphetamine and painkiller addiction are also prevalent.
NAIC serves close to 180 teens and 1,500 adults. Adults come from all of Cleveland County and beyond.
“We also do gambling addiction treatment,” she said.
Collado said researchers studying the brain see it light up in the same ways whether the addiction is to substances or gambling.
“There’s more secrecy around gambling,” she said. “By the time the families find out about the gambling, they’ve lost the house.”
Suicide is even more common with a gambling addiction.
“Sometimes they’ve even been caught embezzling so their lives have crashed around them,” Collado said. “With drugs and alcohol, there’s a physical manifestation.”
Parents can bring teens in, but most are referred.
“The bulk of kids we get in are either from the city of Norman municipal court or Juvenile Drug Court,” Collado said.
Teens who do not make it in drug court face incarceration in a Juvenile Detention Center — the teen equivalent of maximum security.
“It’s not a pleasant place to be and they don’t get to get the opportunity to deal with their issues when incarcerated,” she said.
Whatever the addiction issue, NAIC individualizes the treatment plan.
“The counselor and the individual create a treatment plan together,” Collado said. “The therapist helps them set their own goals. It doesn’t work to have a cooking cutter approach.”
The United Way of Norman funds programs at 27 local nonprofit organizarions. The United Way and these agencies work together to create lasting community changes in Norman, Noble and southern Cleveland County. For more information or to give to the United Way of Norman, visit UnitedWayNorman.org.