When Caroline Pagan and her parents found out that one of their family members was doing crystal methamphetamine, they had a lot of questions – what was this drug, and what would it do to their loved one? After learning just how bad meth is – it’s often said to be one of the most addictive substances – devastation set in.
“I felt really sad for this loved one who was now battling this,” recalls Pagan, a Makakilo resident who works as a pharmaceutical customer service associate. “My family just wanted to know how we can help, what we could do and how can we find support.”
In looking for guidance, Pagan realized that she had an opportunity to reach out to others facing similar situations. While running for Miss Hawaii in 2010, she made providing support for family members of meth addicts her platform. She didn’t win, but she did launch her own nonprofit, Families in the Fire, to motivate, encourage, teach and offer hope to those with a relative or loved one who is addicted to meth.
Pagan and her mother run the organization with the goal that it can be a safe place for people to share their experiences – and a safeguard against the loneliness and confusion that they faced early on.
“I think that is what a lot of people go through, and through the organization, we try to teach them that they are not alone and that there are many other people experiencing the same feelings that they are feeling,” Pagan says.
The group hosts support meetings on the last Tuesday of every month from 7 to 9 p.m. at Inspire Church in Waikele. Each meeting focuses on a new topic, from understanding the chemical effects of meth to dealing with anger and guilt.
“There are so many people that I have talked to over the years and they say, ‘I don’t feel like I can tell the rest of my family,’ or ‘my friends don’t understand,’” Pagan says. “That can create a real sense of feeling like you are dealing with this issue alone. And that is the biggest thing that we want to share – that you are not alone.”
For Pagan, her favorite part about being involved with Families in the Fire has been helping to fill others with optimism.
“I believe there is always hope. But for a while, you will feel hopeless. That is why getting together with people who are going through the same thing can show you that there is hope,” she says.
Running the group has been a way for Pagan and her own family to deal with the situation.
“There have been ups and downs,” Pagan says, “and every day we have to take it a step at a time. (My relative) is not out of the woods yet, but we have hope that in time, that person will be fully healed.”
For more information, visit familiesinthefire.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 372-9577. The group hosts a Christmas meeting/potluck at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at Inspire Church in Waikele.