Giving and Receiving the Gift of Compassion – Alicia Peterson, RSS, Family Recovery Coach, and Marisa Mittelstaedt, MBA, Director of Development and Marketing


8:22 and FM 97.3 WZBG. Once a month we visit with folks from the McCall Behavioral Health Network. This time we’re crowding up close to Christmas. So our topic today is really very timely. We’re joined at the microphones by Marissa Middlestats. She’s Director of Development and Marketing. Good morning Marissa. Good morning. Welcome back.

Welcome back.

Thanks for having us.

And also a welcome to Alicia Peterson. She is a family recovery coach with the McCall Behavioral Health Network. Good morning, Alicia.

Good morning.

Thanks for joining us on the program. So, we are right here in, really in the absolute thick of it, in the holiday rush. And there’s a lot going on for folks who have loved ones among them who are battling substance or just troubled with what’s going on with the stress of the holiday. We want to try to get a little bit of help here, some tips on how to navigate this and make it as good a holiday as possible. So how do we open this? How do we begin? For families that are in the midst of this, let’s try to set the mental state.

Absolutely. The holidays can be a really stressful time for anyone, but especially if you have someone in your family or a loved one who is struggling with substance use. I am actually the family recovery coach at McCall Behavioral Health Network, and I can work individually with people to help them create boundaries, communicate effectively, listen with empathy to their family members. And I’m available Monday through Friday, so anytime anyone needs help, they are more than welcome to get in touch with me. In addition to that, I am a person who is in long-term recovery, and I also have been in a family full of people who struggle with substance use disorder my entire life. I lost my father, my husband, my son’s father, and my sister all within a two-year period. I know how stressful holidays can be.

Wow, I would say so. First off, sorry for your loss. It’s immense. That is a whole lot.

Thank you. And I think your first point, managing expectations, is probably key here.

It’s a good way to start.

Absolutely. I think our society as a whole, we pay a lot of attention to social media and try to come up with the perfect holiday, the ideal holiday, and we have to be aware that there is no such thing. And to just be mindful of the things that you enjoy doing, not to overwhelm yourself with saying yes to every invitation and everything that other people expect from you, and to just take it slow. Sometimes it’s important to ask your family member or loved one if they’re trying to cut down their usage, what you can do to help support them. Coming up with new traditions, possibly alcohol and drug-free to help support that person, that is all key in this situation.

I’m listening to your statement right there and I was about to say how important is flexibility during the holiday season and you pretty much articulated it very, very well. Manage your expectations, but also you’ve got to go with the flow. As we know from people who are in substance in the battle, one day can differ very largely from the next in terms of what they think they can tolerate and resist. You’ve got to go and meet that where they are, right? Exactly.

On a day-to-day basis. Yes, meeting people exactly where they are. That’s what we do here at McCall’s, and that’s what I do in my personal life too. Our expectations are the biggest thing. We can’t have expectations of other people. We can just manage how we feel and how we act.

So take it day by day and this is a good time if you’re planning a holiday and you’ve got the family in and you’re going to celebrate with family and you do have some issues, steel yourself and take some of these cues that we just talked about. Set some boundaries that work for you. Be flexible. Try some new traditions. And just be realistic about what the holiday is. The fact that you’re all together and you’re celebrating together, start with that. Everything else is gravy or frosting on the cake or what have you. Absolutely. Our guest this morning, Alicia Peterson, she’s a family recovery coach with McCall Behavioral Health Network. This is the Giving Season 2, and Marissa’s here to join us a little bit. We talked a little bit about this last year. You know, I think there’s a greater awareness, and there should be, of the mental health stress that our population is under. That is what the McCall Behavioral Health Network is all about.

And there’s a way in which people can help support that through McCall VHN. Yeah, this year through our annual appeal we’re raising money for children, so of all ages, and seniors. You know, when we look at who is really experiencing, you know, really, they’re really struggling right now and oftentimes they can’t necessarily speak for themselves. Right. So we are raising money to support our programs, you know, for those two populations.

I didn’t realize, I’m just looking at one of the statistics, half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin before the age of 14.


So, early intervention or early awareness really is key, isn’t it?

Exactly. It’s really important. And it’s, when you look at statistics too, 23% of Connecticut residents, you know, aren’t getting the mental health support that they need. So yeah, that early intervention is key and having the programs to support, you know, these early interventions are really important. You know, we’re really looking and need our community to help us support, you know, these populations and all the people that we serve.

If they want to do that, the easy way to do that, if you wanted to, somebody wanted to support, make a donation, what’s the best way to do it?

Yeah, it’s really easy. Just go to our website, slash donate. You can pay by credit card. And yeah, we just really are so grateful for all of the support from our community.

And nearly one in four Connecticut residents have had some symptoms of mental health disorder. One in four. Yeah. That’s a lot. And during the holiday, it’s even more tough because it just exponentially piles on.

Exactly. Yeah, the stress of the holidays and all of it. So, you know, whether you are able to donate or you’re looking for help for yourself, you know, please reach out to us. We’re here, you know, anytime that you need support.

I’m going to circle back to you, Alicia, just to hit those primary points again for folks who have a family that is managing crisis or trying to manage substance about how best to have the best holiday possible.

Okay. Setting boundaries, communicating how you feel, taking time for yourself. If you need to step away for 10 minutes or ask somebody to help you, that is okay. Giving yourself grace and managing your own expectations are key to get through the holidays. Be realistic.

Yeah, absolutely. I want to thank our guests this morning joining us ahead of the holiday. We hope this has been helpful. Marissa Middlestadt is Director of Development and Marketing. Alicia Peterson is a Family Recovery Coach with McCall Behavioral Health Network. Best of the holiday to you both and to everyone at McCall for all the great work you guys do. And we look forward to seeing you in 2024. Thank you. Thank you. great work you guys do. And we look forward to seeing you in 2024. Thank you. Thank you.

Happy holidays.