It has become common for young people with substance abuse problems to go through multiple treatment programs. Sometimes this is due to a parent not knowing what else to do. In other cases it is because another round in treatment may be necessary to save a young person‘s life. A young person’s motivation to enter drug rehabilitation is usually different than an adult’s. In most instances a young person enters rehab because of outside influences; parents, school, or the law. Adults often enter treatment because of similar factors but can usually see more clearly the responsibility they have for the problem’s existence. What adults and young people have in common is that without significant lifestyle and attitudinal change, long term recovery will not take hold.
Addiction Treatment and Approaches
A philosophy that is gaining momentum in treatment is MAT. MAT stands for medication assisted treatment. This approach is in response to the increasing rates of opiate addiction and is built on the premise that addiction is a brain disease. In other words, the addict is a victim of brain dysfunction. His or her behavior is as the result of something being “organically” wrong. Yet again, we are at the place of treating drug issues with more drugs. Although it seems easier to accept that someone is suffering from a brain disease, the fact remains that if an individual is to achieve long term recovery he or she must address all areas of life. Harm reduction methods, MAT, or any other alternative substance abuse treatment may provide temporary relief and may open the door to long term recovery but the addict must change his or her behavior.
Recovery Doesn’t Always Feel Good
Today it is popular to avoid feelings of discomfort. Who likes to feel any kind of pain? Unfortunately this has led to an increased desire to make sure addicts “feel ok” rather than work through issues. Referring to an addict as an addict is not shaming or demeaning. It gives an individual the opportunity to acknowledge and address the problem. Whether there is an issue in the brain or not the door needs to be open to the recovering substance abuser to own his or her behavior. This can be uncomfortable but with the appropriate level of support the person in recovery will not feel lost or alone. Substance abuse affects a person physically, emotionally, and spiritually. For recovery to be effective all areas need to be addressed.
Drug addiction and alcoholism destroy innumerable areas of an abuser’s life. An addict will suffer physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Despondency, anxiety, anger, and guilt are emotions regularly experienced by a drug abuser. Many substance abusers feel alone and that no one else understands what he or she is going through. Most connections with other people, especially family and friends, have been severely damaged. The idea of “sharing” with someone else or asking for help is rarely considered. However, in order to achieve recovery the suffering addict must form real and meaningful relationships with those who can help.
One of the main effects of drug and alcohol abuse is disconnection from empathy and concern for others. A person with a substance abuse problem is primarily concerned with figuring out how to feel good right now. It can be discouraging to watch an addict or alcoholic lose the motivation to participate in normal life activities. A tool that can be useful for parents and the recovering addict is effective communication. In Enthusiastic Sobriety, the term used to explain this vital skill is C.R.A.P., communication resolves all problems. Beyond The Yellow Brick Road provides an entire section on this idea.
C.R.A.P. Provides Relief
If a family is unable to talk effectively to each other it will remain fractured and wounded. Sometimes the solution is as simple as learning how and when to talk. For example, trying to work out a disagreement in the heat of the moment is generally a bad idea. When two parties are able to separate for a period of time in order to cool off, they can usually come together later and find a solution to whatever the disagreement is. The need “to be right” is one of the greatest destroyers of relationships. An addict has to learn the value of restraint, especially with words, but so do parents. When people learn to pause, seek counsel from an objective party, and let go of the need to be right the situation usually gets C.R.A.P.ed out.
It is common for parents of kids with substance abuse problems to believe they are somehow at fault. These parents convince themselves that if certain circumstances were different, or if other decisions had been made, that somehow their child would not have a drug problem. It may be true that some parenting techniques or childhood events may have contributed to emotional factors that predispose someone to a drug or alcohol problem. However, when a young person chooses to use for the first time that decision is almost always motivated by peer acceptance and a desire to have fun.
Not What You Think
On a regular basis I challenge parents to think about their motivation to do certain things when they were teenagers. Whether they drank alcohol or used drugs is irrelevant; most young people find ways to rebel. Almost everyone who is asked admits that even though they may have been taking actions that would be construed as defiant, they weren’t thinking about their parents when deciding to cross the line. Not everyone who grows up in a difficult environment develops a substance abuse problem and not everyone with a substance abuse problem has reason to blame his or her family. I grew up with an alcoholic parent. I often explain to people that this was the greatest form of prevention I could have been exposed to. Living with an alcoholic is horrible. However, when a group of kids who I thought were cool gave me the opportunity, I drank. In spite of everything I knew about the consequences of alcohol abuse, I drank. This developed into a serious drug and alcohol problem for which I needed a lot of help.
Get Help For The Right Stuff
I understand why my parents felt guilty. In fact, I manipulated their emotions as a means to do whatever I wanted to do. But once they realized that my actions were my responsibility and let go of their guilt, recovery for me and for my family became possible. Their are certainly issues a parent needs to resolve. Any family scourged by substance abuse knows this. At the same time, there is no way to go back in time and fix past issues. Self-pity and remorse attached to past parenting blocks a person from being able to heal the relationship with the addict. There is no perfect parent and anyone can look back at the past and recognize all kinds of things that could have been done “better.” This awareness cannot change anything if the focus is not on building a better relationship today.