“What could we have done to help you?”
I get this question constantly and from a variety of concerned parties. When I told my mom I was writing a drug memoir of sorts she said, “those are a dime a dozen, you should really write something geared towards parents on how to help their addicted children“.
As usual, she made a valid point. The best thing I could come up with at the time was “don’t have children“, but it forced me to think about the issue.
I could never write an entire book on the subject because the short answer is ‘I don’t know’. I certainly know what hasn’t worked. Although, I hate when people settle for fighting against something rather than standing for something. It’s just so lazy. So, to honor my single moral value, here’s what you can do to help:
Do your research.
There is a ton of anecdotal evidence advocating for one type of treatment over another. This is especially true when it comes to 12 step groups, which when evaluated on a clinical level showed less than an eight percent recovery rate. This was proved in multiple studies and eight percent isn’t much higher than the spontaneous recovery rate. The most effective tool for helping addicts get into recovery, again according to multiple studies, is a one hour talk with a knowledgeable doctor.
Keep them connected.
I recently watched a clip on addiction that said the antonym for addiction is not sobriety, but connection. Addicts are isolated. They may have started off isolated and used drugs/alcohol to connect to others. Even if that wasn’t the case, hiding things and lying all the time makes you feel alone. The worst thing you can do to someone who feels alone is to banish them to some treatment center, especially if the addict has gone to college and the rehab is state-funded. They probably won’t make many friends and just end up feeling more alone. I think outpatient rehab is a joke, but I know it works for some people. I’d encourage people to look at inpatient treatment as a last resort kind of measure. Like if your wife keeps dying on the sofa while she’s supposed to be watching the kids.
Doctors are your friends.
Some of the best treatment I’ve received have been from licensed physicians and psychiatrists. Who are you going to trust with your life? Someone who has studied the human body for over a decade or someone on welfare you met at an NA meeting whose only accomplishment is that he stopped smoking crack? One of the worst things I ever did was let 12 steppers convince me that I couldn’t take certain medications. It is downright dangerous that laymen have taken to giving addicts advice on mental health, but it happens every day. Find a good doctor and remember they can’t help you if you aren’t honest about what’s really going on.
Consult the Europeans.
Like most things, are neighbors to the east are far more advanced in addiction treatment. Some of the cutting-edge stuff isn’t even legal in the states, like ibogaine therapy for opiate addicts, but there are others you can access with a knowledgeable doctor. One of these is Baclofen, a medication that acts on your GabaB receptors. A doctor in France wrote a whole book on how he cured his alcoholism with the drug. There are even Baclofen evangelists! This medication has cut my cravings in half. The problem is that the drug has been off patent for decades, and no one’s going to make any real money off it. You’ll never see it in the states, where treatment has become a profit driven machine much like privatized prisons.
Give them space.
For most people this will be impossible. Having dated a drug addict or two, I know what it’s like to be on the opposite end of things. It’s scary, and it fucking sucks. The reality is that an addict won’t stop using until they’ve had enough. I listened to a podcast that stated the purpose of rehab is not getting people to stop using (since all you have to do is stop buying drugs/alcohol) but rather getting people to want to stop using. The speaker admitted that this was almost impossible to accomplish. I wasted a lot of time in rehabs, especially when I was younger, going through the motions to reach a goal I didn’t even want. Don’t force someone into recovery because you will just be wasting a lot of money and energy.
Everyone is different.
This is the most important one, and probably the biggest issue with current addiction treatment. All rehabs and most therapists preach that “every addict is the same”. If you graduated from middle school, you’ll know that this is bullshit. People are different and different things work for them at different times. There were times that Suboxone really worked for me, and other times complete abstinence was the best path to take. Remain open to anything that’s going to improve the addict’s quality of life, and never shut something down just because you have anecdotal evidence that ‘it doesn’t work’.
There is no cure.
When I was first prescribed Suboxone, I was convinced it was the cure for addiction. When I was heavily involved in 12-step recovery, I also thought it was the cure. After reading an article in National Geographic, I was briefly convinced that electromagnetic waves were the cure. Sadly, there is no one pill or treatment that will cure addiction. At least not yet, but I’m confident that we will get there before I die.
Just try not to focus all your energy on ‘being in recovery’. There are a lot of things you are going to wish you did before your kids unplug you at the nursing home. Sitting in more church basements or rehabs probably won’t make the list.