An addict’s net cast wide…” HBO Mini Series A Night Of, August 28, 2016
In five simple words, the above quote manages to capture the essence of the disease of addiction. It is a family disease, not unlike any other chronic disorder. It requires family work. It is a two-sided problem. But for some reason, an addiction diagnosis, like many mental health disorders, often carries with it elements of shame and guilt.
With any health diagnosis one can experience an array of emotions: shock, terror, fear, resentment, confusion...and so the story goes. How we learn of a family member’s addiction diagnosis will vary. One might be standing in a hospital emergency department, one could receive the phone call in the middle of the night from a jail, one may find himself at a parent-teacher conference listening to someone describe their child’s unexplained behavior. Every parent has their own story. But most parents won’t share their story after receiving a final diagnosis of addiction. They will pull inward, feeling guilt, shame and fear of the unknown.
So, what steps should parents pursue to start the family’s recovery?
First and foremost, the family must understand and accept they are not alone. An estimated 21 to 25 million Americans struggle with substance abuse. Indeed, last month the U.S. Surgeon General reported that one in seven Americans struggle with substance abuse. To put that number in perspective, if you live in a neighborhood of 100 people, then 14-15 could be dealing with addiction. And each of those 15 have a story they are afraid to share.
Secondly, get the facts. If you have a family primary care physician, seek their advice. If your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), then determine what programs might be available for your loved one.
Third, take a deep breath, have a family meeting and make a plan. If planning doesn’t come easy, then perhaps you need an interventionist to guide you in this process.
Fourth, if an intensive primary care substance abuse treatment program or intensive outpatient treatment program are in order, then review your health insurance policy and move forward.
Finally, take the first step and start to care for yourself; learn to set your boundaries. Seek out an Al-Anon meeting and understand the three “C’s”: You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it. Work your own program of recovery and allow your loved one to work their program.
Dr. Phil helps one young man take his first step
This past November Dr. Phil viewers were allowed to meet one young man and his parents. If you happened to tune-in, you may have been shocked to hear their story. But if you have a family member with an addiction diagnosis...then you may have been empathetic and hopeful that this family will find recovery. Here is how Dr. Phil guided the family to consider PACE Recovery Center’s multi-pronged approach to addiction and co-occurring disorders. In his own words, Dr. Phil explained:
There is an organization called PACE Recovery Center and it is a gender specific, extended care program for young men struggling with chemical dependency and behavioral health issues, such as immaturity, the inability to modulate, regulate, predict their behavior. Whether it is neurological, psychological, or whatever. The PACE approach utilizes a model of integrating philosophies and research and clinical practices from medical, psychiatric, psychological, social, familial and self-help communities. I mean this is a very integrated model."
If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.
Family recovery is possible…
PACE Recovery Center specializes in treating young men. We have a core philosophy to offer a place where men can delve into their underlying issues, which have caused them to resort to substance use and self-defeating behaviors. We understand that a positive attitude changes everything.
Parents are encouraged to attend family therapy with their loved ones at PACE to address how addiction has impacted family members. This therapy allows family members to leave behind the guilt and shame; they are encouraged to share their story. Working with PACE Therapists and counselors, family members can learn about the disease of addiction, acquire tools to end enabling or co-dependency, and develop new healthy communication patterns in sobriety.
Yes, the story goes on...
Together, we can, and do recover from addiction. Those who suffer from substance use disorder are not lost, but rather they are living with a debilitating mental health disorder which, left untreated, can be deadly. There was a time when recovering from addiction consisted of what is known as “white knuckling” it, that is when one gives up drugs and alcohol but has nothing to replace it with. Those who fell into that category were often considered to be a glum lot, angry about being unable to use mind altering substances the way “normal” people can. Suffice it to say, they are not considered fun to be around.
The advent of 12-Step recovery programs was a paradigm shift with regard to breaking the cycle of addiction. To put it simply, those living with addiction had a metaphorical hole that alcohol and drugs filled; by working the 12-Steps people could fill that hole by connecting with a higher power and helping others find recovery. Naturally, there are 12-Steps for a reason, and recovery under that model requires working them all—and reworking them in order to maintain constant contact with the higher power of each person’s choosing. Sadly, some addicts and alcoholics are unable to be completely honest with themselves and others, and work a program; maybe they will be able to surrender down the road, but it does not always happen the first time around.
For those who have been able to do the work, stick to the principles of recovery and help others—the sky’s the limit. There is no cap on the amount of gifts that a program of recovery can provide—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Everyone who continues to recover from drug and alcohol abuse, day in and day out, should take a moment to be proud of how far they have come—especially since National Recovery Month happens every September.
National Recovery Month
Over the last 27 years, September has been designated as National Recovery Month. Over the next 30 days there will be recovery related events held all over the United States with several different goals. Of top concern are efforts to break the stigma of addiction, which is a clinically accepted form of mental health disorder. What’s more, bringing to the attention of those still abusing drugs and alcohol that not only is help available, recovery is possible. By acknowledging and applauding the efforts of those who have managed to get and stay sober, we can encourage others to seek help.
In 2016, the theme is Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery! Which, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is about pointing out the value of family support throughout recovery.
Family Addiction and Family Recovery
Addiction is like a bomb. Ground-zero being the addict or alcoholic. And just like a bomb there is fallout, i.e. friends and family. Addiction can, and does, wreak havoc on the entire family. Recovery is as important for the person living with a substance use disorder, as it is for the family. National Recovery Month 2016 encourages individuals in recovery and their family to share their personal stories of heartache and successes in recovery they have made, with the hope that it will encourage others to seek the help they so desperately need.
If you would like to Join the Voices of Recovery to help inspire others, please click here. If you would like to watch personal stories of recovery on Recovery Month's YouTube, please click here. Below is an example of one young man’s story:
If you are having trouble viewing the video, please click here.
When we talk about addiction recovery, we speak on what it takes for people living with a substance use disorder to change their life for the better. Everyday people turn to addiction treatment programs and/or 12-Step recovery meetings to learn how to live life clean and sober. It is often said that the easiest part of recovery is putting down mind altering substances, the hard part is not picking them up again. This is a fact that can be clearly supported by the rate of relapse in early recovery. That aside, if newcomers are willing to take certain steps and follow the guidance of those who have managed to maintain long term continuous sobriety, recovery is possible.
Recovering alcoholics and addicts rely on one another to stay the course, without one’s peers life can quickly fall apart. The same can be said for the families of people living with addiction. Addiction affects entire families, watching a loved one slowly self-destruct takes its toll on others. Mothers and fathers find themselves brought to the brink of despair, a byproduct of the realization that their children's addiction is out of their control. There is a reason why many primary care addiction treatment facilities have family programs. Families often lack the tools to cope with their loved one’s addiction, they often do not understand how this could happen and why there are changes they need to make in their own lives.
Families often struggle to find people they can talk to about their son or daughter's addiction, especially since there is still a lot of stigma surrounding the disease. Many people continue to view addiction as a moral failing or that somehow addiction is the result of bad parenting. The aforementioned idea, could not be further from the truth as is evident by the millions of Americans abusing prescription opioids and heroin, or the 70 plus overdose deaths every day. The opioid epidemic has brought addiction out into the light; more and more people are accepting that addiction is a mental illness that is out of the control of both the addict and their loved ones.
There are a number of outlets that parents can turn to for support. Just as those in recovery lean on each other, parents can find support from other parents who are facing the same reality, i.e., Al-Anon. And now, even if you live in rural America, where prescription opioids and heroin have taken thousands of sons and daughters, you can find support - all one needs is an internet connection. In fact, thousands of mothers of opioid addicts connect with each other online, The Wall Street Journal reports. Online support groups have become beacons of hope across the country, ranging from as small as five individuals to tens of thousands. The Addict’s Mom (TAM), a place to “share without shame,” has more than 70,000 members on Facebook.
For probably 10 years I had no one to talk to about it. I had my head down like a guilty parent,” says Margaret Worthen, a member of a small support group called Soul Sisters, “All the sudden I had other women, other good moms all going through the same thing.”
Here at PACE Recovery Center our treatment team, many of whom are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, takes an active role in working with our clients and their families to define their goals and move towards these goals.