The Importance of Found Families

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The holiday season is known for the joy of coming together with friends and family, but for some, the holidays can bring emotional or familial traumas back to the surface. In these instances, creating a “family of choice” is just one way to ensure that you’re surrounded by those you love and by those who have your best interest and wellbeing at heart.

A childhood trauma survivor, Beth, who now works as a Peer Support Specialist at LifeWorks, said the holidays were a very painful time. She describes her biological family as “unwell” and only chooses to keep in touch with her sister, who lives in another state. During Beth’s recovery from addiction, she found her family in her recovery community.

Our Peer Support Specialists use their own unique, life-altering experience(s) to guide and support youth who are in some form of recovery.

“My very best friends today are people who I met in recovery,” she said. “You’re not sitting at home or by yourself in a park, you’re going to someone’s home and we’re having a potluck Thanksgiving.”

When Beth discovered that she could be of service to others and volunteer as a driver with Austin’s Operation Turkey, making the decision to dedicate her Thanksgiving morning to help people experiencing homelessness was obvious.

As a volunteer driver for Operation Turkey, Beth knew she would be delivering meals to some of her own clients who were shelterless, so it would be a bit easier to locate them and share a few moments in between delivery blocks.

“In volunteering, I got the sense of usefulness and gratitude that got me out of my own way during a period that can be painful for folk who don’t have anyone to spend the holidays with,” she said.

In her work with youth receiving LifeWorks supports, Beth discovered that they wanted to join her on her next volunteer shift with Operation Turkey. She arranged everything, and the night before, one of her clients spent time handwriting inspirational notes that they would give out with every meal.

That Thanksgiving morning was a special moment for that group, with conversations in between drop-offs centering around their own families of choice and who it was that made up their groups. Almost every youth said that their families of choice are made up of their closest friends, many of whom are people they met while experiencing homelessness.

Beth used their experience that morning to reinforce her relationship with her clients.

“Providers are sometimes viewed by clients as having these perfect little lives, and that’s one of the grand things about being a Peer Supporter,” she said. “My life has been messy, but my family of choice is just one way I’ve crafted a life that I’m excited about living, and you can do the same thing.”