Working with clients that suffer from addiction and all of the co-occurring issues that come with addiction is indescribably rewarding and incredibly taxing. We have the duty and the privilege to walk with families through this journey. And there is no “silver bullet” answer to cure the disease of addiction. We have seen a lot through the years and the outcomes run the gamut from miraculous to tragic. Recently I had the pleasure of welcoming a former client back to the field so he could share his experience, strength and hope with group 3 here at Cascades. Upon returning back to the front country we discussed how all of this has turned out. We chuckled as he shared, “Yeah man… this wasn’t the plan”. We hear this a lot. It is a part of my story as well. I am supposed to be teaching high school history and coaching wrestling somewhere. Alas, my plan didn’t pan out and I couldn't be more grateful for that fact. I think of Joseph Campbell’s words, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” That is what recovery means to me… If I let go of “my plan” and become honest, open and willing there is no telling what kind of amazing gifts I might find… granted they are amazing gifts that no one ever wanted. This just wasn’t the plan.
Viewing entries tagged with 'addiction'
Last week I received another call from a law office looking for background information about Evoke’s Wilderness Therapy Program. She let me know her client, a previous parent of our program, was bringing a suit against their family’s insurance company. As I got off the phone I noted this case would make 7 current cases I’m aware of just this year, and 3 more already settled in favor of the families. Wilderness Therapy is making significant headway in getting families insurance coverage.
One of the most challenging aspects of my job is helping family members understand what it means to do their work. When working with chemical dependency/addiction, the problem is most often pretty clear. Typically, addicts have a slew of consequences and easily observable patterns. The problem is tangible. When it comes to co-addiction, co-dependency, parental anxiety, etc., the problem becomes much more difficult to define. During my first phone call with families of Evoke clients I will say, “The more you treat this as if it is YOUR treatment, the better off this goes. The best thing you can do to help your son is to do your own work.” A common response to this point, “Wait… What? My treatment!? I’m not the one with the problem!”
In an effort to meet clients with compassion and understanding, the mental health industry has made a shift and replaced the often negatively referred to term, Failure-to-Launch, with a more empathetic term, Emerging Adulthood.
I have spent this week reflecting on the messages from the 2017 Forum for Innovative Treatment Solutions’ [FITS] Keynote Speakers. Dr. Nim Tottenham shared her research on attachment and the impact on brain circuitry. Dr. Gabor Maté followed with an illuminating message about how fractured attachments are at the root of many mental health and addictive disorders. Dr. Maté challenged the audience, sharing observations from his practice and life, suggesting that the only important variable we ought to study is the stress (trauma) on our clients—genetics taking a back seat or maybe being kicked out of the car altogether in the pursuit of understanding that the root cause of addiction and mental health is the events in a person’s life and the pain and turmoil where they originate. Addiction, he explained, is not the problem. It is the addict’s attempted solution to the problem. Lastly, Dr. Jami Gill reviewed attachment theory and encouraged therapists by suggesting that we have the capacity to repair attachment trauma by providing a safe container (or context) for others. That safe context, she explained, was the mind of the therapist, consultant, friend, or parent, and their capacity to listen and really hear the one with the attachment trauma.
As an educational consultant and learning specialist, I sometimes have parents seeking my input on becoming better at discipline and how to be a stronger, more effective parent. My advice has changed over the years.
Our "family intervention” approach works because it focuses on the total picture and all of the people and the dynamics involved. We do not single out the addicted loved one as “the problem” and we don't let labels and myths keep him or her from being held responsible for either fixing the problems or living with the consequences. More importantly, we work with the family members who want the situation to change, ignoring the addicted loved one, who obviously has a vested interest in things staying the same.
This question often arises when a family is left to explain where their child is after they have been sent to therapy. Enrolling a child in treatment can temporarily leave a large hole in a family unit, and parents often struggle to explain this to the community, to extended family, or to the child’s school. And while many parents may not choose to or need to send their child to a residential treatment center, they may still experience feelings of loneliness and isolation because of dealing with a difficult child who is struggling with addiction, depression, anxiety, or any number of other common struggles.
This is the problem. The mainstream philosophy used in addiction and mental health rehabilitation can best be described using the following story: A family goes for a drive and gets into a severe car accident. The paramedics arrive at the scene...and only the driver gets taken to the hospital for treatment. In our scenario, the "driver" is the addict. The rest of the family is left at the scene of the accident: left with their pain, their fear, their rage, their hopes and their dreams. They are just as affected, and in many ways just as responsible, but only the addict gets whisked off for help.
Despite the ideals of connectedness, family and merriment, holidays can be a tough time for anyone. This is exceptionally so for families who have loved ones in treatment. This certainly wasn’t “the plan” was it? John Lennon’s lyric from the song Beautiful Boy rings true, “Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans.” Evaluating our beliefs about what it is supposed to look like or what “should be” is really an integral part of the process. The clients in my group spend a lot of time assessing their patterns of thinking. The disease of Addiction requires a circuitous logic that allows the addict to justify, minimize, externalize and rationalize their behaviors. Under every drinking problem is a thinking problem and the process of recovery requires us to step away from our own best problem-solving. The concept of letting go is a central theme in recovery literature. Letting go of expectations is especially important. We often say that expectations are premeditated resentments. When we have expectations of ourselves, others, or situations, we are planning in advance to be upset when things don’t go the way we expect them too.