Jerry Moe grew up in a family laced with addiction. At 14, he found the 12 steps of recovery. His parents soon sought help, too. By his late teens, recovery was healing his entire family.
Moe learned about communication and problem-solving skills, how to set appropriate boundaries, living one day at a time and the importance of self-care.
“It completely changed my life and put me on a new trajectory,” Moe said. “When I became a very young adult, I realized what a gift I had gotten when I was 14 but couldn’t help but wonder if things might have been different when someone would have helped me when I was 7 years old or 9 years old.”
So he decided he wanted to help children facing what he had. He received his Master’s in Counseling and has spent his career helping families fighting addiction get better. Today, he is the national director of the and works to help children with addiction and their families both at the national and global level.
Moe was in Houston on Wednesday, Oct. 30, to speak at a United Airlines conference and caught up with the Examiner for a few minutes on the subjects of recovery, addiction and building stronger families.
Moe said families can fall into a cycle of addiction as often “children don’t do what their parents say, but what they do … And we know that there is a biological predisposition. Addiction runs in family. You take that predisposition, and that psychological hurt and pain that goes on families where there’s active addiction, and that creates ripe opportunities for kids to grow up” addicted.
However, Moe pointed out that those cycles can be reversed. “The good news is it’s not just addiction that runs in families, but recovery can run in families as well.” He added that once one family member begins to change and heal, another might want that same peace that they see.
The focus at the children’s program is health, wellness and strengthening families to be able to express their love for one another. Moe said some families never talk about addiction, living under a silence of shame. Although young children may not be able to fully understand what is going on in their homes in regards to addiction, they often know something is off. If no one explains it to them in age-appropriate language, he said they can come to conclusions on their own, like no one loves them or they must have caused this.
“We want to change that narrative. We want boys and girls to see, no, this person that you love has a brain disease, a substance use disorder, and it’s not your fault and that you can’t make it OK.”
He said, “The joy of being able to teach kids at a young age and not have to carry that pain and then act it out as they become adolescents and adults” is very fulfilling.
Moe has had the opportunity to help create a new Muppet on the ever-popular children’s show Sesame Street. The show introduce called Karli, a 6-year-old whose mother just came out of addiction treatment. For Moe, getting a worldwide audience to hear about and discuss children and family addiction is a dream come true.
“It’s incredible. For me, it’s like bucket list stuff.”
For specific resources on how to help families and young children struggling with addiction and other issues like trauma and grief, visit www.sesamestreetincommunities.org. The website includes videos, interactive storybooks and activities for teachers and those who work with children. For more information about the, Hazelden Betty Ford Children’s Program, which has locations in several states across the nation, visit https://tinyurl.com/y4o6g6fe.