Just before Christmas, I had the good fortune to meet Senator Frances Black in Dublin where we discussed a whole range of topics from pop stardom, addiction, recovery, politics and the setting up of The RISE Foundation.

She has spoken very openly in the past about her own recovery from addiction and the overwhelming response she received from the public:

“I was inundated with calls from family members, who wanted to know how to cope with someone they love who could possibly be in addiction. People would come up to me at signings and tell me their stories. I was very moved by it.”

After finding recovery Frances went back to college, despite having left school at 15, and graduated as an addiction counsellor. She then did her training in the Rutland Centre with the renowned addiction specialist and Clinical Director at the time, Stephen Rowen (who now co-facilitates the The RISE Foundation’s Family Programmemes with Frances).

Through this experience Frances realised that more support was needed for family members who were often extremely anxious and worried and sometimes depressed about their loved ones in addiction. It was here that she saw the stress and heartache that addictive behaviour has on families:

“Every day, family members feel like they are watching someone they love slowly killing themselves. No matter how many times they may ask them to stop, unfortunately their loved ones in addiction just can’t hear them. Family members feel like they are grieving for the person they are losing to addiction.”

Frances felt inspired to set-up a primary care organisation that would support family members in their feeling of powerlessness, heartache, stress and anxiety. So she founded The RISE (Recovery In a Safe Environment) Foundation in 2009.

“The reality of addiction is that it doesn’t just destroy the person, it destroys relationships, self-worth, and the family unit.”

“My philosophy is that it is important for the whole family to step into recovery, addiction is a family disease”

The RISE Foundation offers both one to one counselling and group educational and therapeutic sessions to family members of those with addictive behaviour. The stress, anxiety and worry of having a loved one who has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, drugs, or addictive behaviour can have physical, emotional, social, and spiritual consequences. Family members who are affected by the impact of someone else’s addictive behaviour often feel confused, frustrated, angry, helpless and completely exhausted. At RISE, Family members learn that they can’t control a loved one’s addictive behaviour, they didn’t cause it, and they can’t cure it. By becoming aware of the beliefs and experiences that shape their own behaviours, participants identify new, healthy ways of coping with addiction and relationships.

RISE have developed a documented 10 week educational and therapeutic programme for family members, which offers a unique recovery experience. Family members are referred to their services by doctors, treatment centres, probation services, HSE (like the NHS in the UK) and other support services. Others contact them by email or phone after an internet search or word of mouth for support for families with loved ones in addiction.

All of their programmemes are run by their specially trained team of counsellors who bring a breadth of experience and compassion to their work. Each counsellor is specially screened and chosen for their empathy and depth of understanding, not just about addiction, but about family dynamics. They have a team of 4 experienced counsellors providing both the one to one counselling sessions and also facilitating the family and after care programmemes.

Frances has a clear vision for The RISE Foundation over the next 5 years which includes the roll-out of our Family Programmemes nationwide. Rise has family programmemes running in Dublin City, Swords, Dundalk, Portlaoise, Kilkenny and Newry. Their one to one services are provided in Aungier St. Dublin and Kilkenny.

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) awarded Frances with a prestigious Social Entrepreneur of the Year award 2010 and 2011. The RISE Foundation also won a Vodafone World of Difference award 2010.

Frances has explained that it was her work with RISE and her collaboration with other community and charitable organisations that inspired her to run for the Seanad, as she believes that there is a need to represent these services and be the voice of those who are vulnerable in society. She was elected to the 25th Seanad Éireann in April 2016. She is the chairperson for the Oireachtas Cross Party Group on Alcohol Harm. The impact of harmful parental drinking on children was highlighted in the Seanad by the Oireachtas Cross Party Group on Alcohol Harm.

"Children living with parents who drink in a harmful manner are amongst the most vulnerable in society. The wide range of harms that are caused to children as a result of harmful drinking in the home is known as ‘hidden harm’, as the harm is not often visible in public and largely kept behind closed doors.”

Senator Frances Black was also instrumental in the recent passing of the alcohol bill in Ireland. She is an inspiration to many and we are honoured that she will be opening iCAAD Dublin 2019 for us and hope you will join us all there.

A blog by Araminta Jonsson