How Will It Be Different This Time Around?
If you or a loved one has been through treatment for substance use disorder one or more times in one or more different facilities, and have yet to find lasting recovery, you are most likely asking yourself what will be different this time. This is a question which can plague the thoughts of those attached by bonds of affection to an addict. While there is no simple answer to this question I do believe I can give some helpful suggestions which can greatly increase the likelihood of success.
When dealing with any disease of the brain, such as addiction, it is very challenging to know how to help a loved one “fix” their problem. One reason for this is that brain science is still very much in its adolescent period. Our understanding of the brain and its functions is growing rapidly, but it has only been in the relatively recent past that we have been able to begin to understand its functioning. This is as true with our understanding of addiction as it is for any other brain disease, as a result we are in the very beginning of our ability, as a community, to offer comprehensive solutions for those suffering from addiction.
Another aspect of the difficulty is that addiction is characterized by problems of perception. Addicts suffer from high levels of delusion, cognitive dissonance, and other perceptual challenges that can make self-report and consistent decision making challenging, at best. The behavior patterns that can follow from these perceptual challenges can make assessment and treatment hard to manage for an individual.
Third, and not unimportantly, the social stigma surrounding addiction can make it hard for an individual to feel confident in seeking needed help. This is true certainly true leading up to the initiation of treatment. It is also true during recovery, when an addict may be suffering internally but is unwilling or unable to ask for the help he or she needs.
Commitment to Change
“Nothing Changes Until You Change Something”
Having a commitment to change is indispensable for the addict themselves. Much has already been written about this elsewhere. For our purposes today I am talking about the families commitment to change. Often within a family afflicted with addiction there are dynamics that exist that are preventing each member from experiencing happiness and contentment. Living with an addict and trying to cope with his or her behavior is most often a tremendous strain on loved ones.
One such dynamic that can develop is a tendency to treat information and secrets as a form of emotional currency. When this is present within a family unit, trust and connection are the price paid. Left unchecked this can result in one or more members of the family suffering some form of attachment disorder. Instead of secrets and individual alliances transparency and togetherness need to be the aim. Finding time and methods to communicate with one another honestly and transparently is vitally important for both the addict and his or her family.
Another form of trouble can be enabling behavior of members of the family toward an addict. This can take many forms but the simplest may be providing material support in the form or financial assistance (for rent, phone, car, other bills, etc). In my experience very few addicts recover while they are still able depend on others for material support. For long term recovery it is indispensable that recovering addicts feel the full weight of responsibility for their lives. Of course we want to encourage this to happen in safe ways, that said, its importance cannot be overstated.
Above are just two examples of the ways in which an addict’s behavior can impact a family, and the healing that needs to take place for a family to begin moving in a healthier direction together. These changes can be quite difficult, especially if long standing patterns of behavior are present. Both individual and family counseling can be a great help. There are also many support groups, such as ALANON and ALATEEN, for the families of addicts that can be incredibly helpful.
Creating a Life of Meaning and Connection
A Happy Life Is A Life With Meaning and Purpose
Years of active addiction causes a hyperactivity within the stress and avoidance centers of the brain (primarily within the amygdala, and ventral hippocampus). Practically speaking this means that within an addicts brain stress is felt more acutely than in the brain of an average person. There is no greater stress for humans, as social animals, than exclusion. Throughout the years of active addiction addicts have lived lonely lives. This, of course, is primarily driven by their own behavior. The brain can heal itself, through a process of neuro-regeneration, but this takes time. It is crucial then, especially in early recovery, that an addict is able to create a lifestyle that is centered around connection and community. This of course, can take many forms. Involvement with a 12-step fellowship or other recovery community is a great start. Ideally though, the move toward connection should not end there. Family involvement, meaningful work, volunteerism, and social hobbies can all be utilized to create connection, community, and meaning in the life of a recovering addict.
Moving Toward Impactful Aftercare
Treatment Is Just The Beginning To A Life Long Journey Into Long-Term Recovery
Addiction is most often accompanied by one or more underlying co-morbidities. Most often unprocessed trauma or a mental health condition. It is imperative for long term recovery that these co-morbidities be addressed with a professional on an ongoing basis. Treatment in most facilities lasts for between 30 and 90 days. This is truly not enough time to fully treat any trauma or mental health challenge. Increasingly, treatment centers are taking an active role in helping patients connect with professionals within a patient’s local area to continue the work that is started while under the care of the facility. If a patient or the family is not given these resources from a facility they need to take it upon themselves to seek them out. Even in cases where there is no co-morbidity present it can be wise to continue treatment at a lower acuity level. This can take the form of out-patient treatment, or work with a local addiction specialist.
While the above should not be considered a comprehensive picture of how to make treatment succesful it can be regarded as creating a helpful starting point. Each individual and each family will have their own needs and consultation with one or more professionals is advisable. That said if:
- If the family moves together in the direction of long term health
- The addict can create a life of connection and community
- And, a meaningful aftercare plan is put in place and executed
Then, you will be well on your way toward lasting recovery. If after reading this you have any questions or you feel that we, at Granite Mountain, can be of any assistance to you and your family please do contact us through our website or by phone at 844-878-3221 we are here to help.
Until next time
Your friend in service,
If you or someone you love is in need of help for substance use disorder don’t hesitate to call us. Reach out to us today to get the help you need and the life you deserve.