Friday, May 27, 2016

Letter to a Substance Abuser's Parent

For the past 9 months, I have been working a few days a week as a Primary Therapist at a Substance Abuse Center.  So when I learned a friend of mine was struggling to help and understand her child who is a substance abuser, I wanted to help.
Dear Parent:
It must be so difficult to wrap your arms around what your child is feeling. I try to explain addiction to parents like this: say you're never allowed food or drink again. You can survive without it. In fact, you will die, if you go back to using it.  But you are still going to feel hungry and thirsty. You're still going to smell it and want it. You're going out with people who are eating all around you. But you can't touch it. Your mouth will still water. You'll get dizzy and headachy several terms a day, hunger pains, the whole deal. You'll get used to it, but it will take years. It will get worse out of nowhere. And out of nowhere, years later, you'll have those intense times. You can never let your guard down.
That's what an addict is feeling all the time, as best as I can describe it. They can succeed though.  I consider drug/alcohol treatment as a numbers game.  Yes, there are people who do it a different way or on their own. However, the people that are most successful at getting clean have all or most of the following:
  • A strong treatment path that they step down from slowly - Detox to Partial Hospitalization to Intensive Outpatient to Outpatient
  • 12 step involvement (AA, NA, CA, etc.) - which has to include several meetings a week,  a great sponsor, and commitment to work through the steps.  One recovering addict told me the only way he could stay clean was to trade the crutch of addiction for the crutch of NA 
  • A great counselor that they can really trust, open up to, and WORK with after treatment  
  • SELFISHNESS  - Their sobriety has to take priority over everything and everyone else.   They can't try to help their friends in treatment or their girlfriend. It has to be all about them, or they will get pulled down. Being a sponsor and/or working in the drug treatment industry should not come before AT LEAST A YEAR CLEAN!!!
Good luck to your child and to you.  Your loved one can do this!!! And life can be wonderful again. Your child has got to start valuing all the little wonders of life and allow them to add up to the  "highs" that used to come from drugs.  Maybe this time, they will have their "ah ha" moment. I don't believe in rock bottom, because unfortunately, they can go lower. I believe in a moment of clarity where a sober life means more to them than moments of being high wrapped in a lifetime of misery.  If one little thing a counselor says adds up on top of things they've learned at a different time, maybe this time it will click.
Take care. My thoughts are with you. 

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