Don’t Give Up: How to Maintain Hope for the Addict in Your Life
I frequently receive late night calls, especially on the weekend, asking for help for a person with substance use disorder in need. Last weekend, a colleague needed a placement for a long time alcoholic. The alcoholic had previously “failed” at two facilities, but it was clear from the therapist’s description that neither facility was suitable for the alcoholic’s complex needs. After two “failures,” the family had given up hope. That is why the therapist called for a referral. The alcoholic had come to her therapy appointment and sought assistance. That one step toward health was enough to give the therapist hope. If your loved one has “failed” at treatment in the past, here are a few ways to help maintain hope for the future, especially if your loved one is still actively seeking assistance.
- Do your homework on the treatment center you choose. It has been said that families do less research on the addiction treatment center they’re sending their loved one to than they do purchasing a new car. That may be because families don’t know what questions to ask of a treatment center. Not all treatment centers are the same. Look for a treatment center that uses evidence- and abstinence-based programs that are of significant duration. It is well known that a 30 day stint in rehab has very little efficacy. Ask about recovery rates. Treatment centers that don’t track their clients after treatment or say that failure is always the addict’s fault, should be avoided. Quality care is compassionate, evidence-based and of significant duration with aftercare.
- Forget the “tough love.” While it is critical that the family have appropriate boundaries with the addict, the best care is always compassionate care. Boot camp style programs that involve humiliation or the “breaking down” of the addict have not been shown to have long-term positive outcomes.
- If your loved one is seeing a psychotherapist, get that professional involved in choosing a treatment center. One of the saddest things in the situation I consulted on over the weekend was that as soon as the therapist was told which centers the addict had “failed” out of, she knew immediately why the treatment did not take. One center had a terrible reputation in the therapeutic community and neither was licensed for dual-diagnosis, which is the condition of having a psychological disorder such as anxiety or depression in addition to addiction. Both issues must be treated concurrently if the addict is to be successful. Your loved one’s therapist can be a tremendous resource in helping you find the right placement for your loved one.
- Remember that the whole family needs support and treatment. The addict does not exist in isolation. Whether or not the addict gets better, the family needs to look at the dynamics that created fertile grounds for addiction to develop and learn how to set strong, healthy boundaries with the addict and each other. The addict may or may not recover, but the family still needs help becoming healthy.
- Take care of the children. Many addicts have children, who are often the first casualties of addiction. Especially if someone in the family is capable of taking the children, get the children out of the addict’s care. Put them in therapy and help them get the support they need to grow up as best they can without the insanity that addiction causes in homes. Do not put the addict’s desire to see his/her children above the children’s welfare. Take care of the children first.
Addiction treatment works, but you have to do the work of finding the highest quality care you can that appropriately meets the addict’s specific needs. Get professionals involved in the process of choosing a treatment program and first and foremost, take care of yourself and any children in the family.
Families can be reunified and addiction overcome, but for that to happen, you have to maintain hope.