It is absolutely paralyzing to learn that your child has substance abuse issues. Where do you turn for help? How do you know what steps to take? What is addiction, anyway? There are endless questions and no consolidation source of answers or support. In addition, the stigma of having an addicted child causes many parents to retract and withdraw rather than seek help. In truth, many families struggle with substance abuse issues, and the support, wisdom and guidance they need are not easily found.Parent Pathway was created for parents, by parents, to provide a place to find peace of mind at a time when their world feels like it is falling apart.
This is a guest post from David Greenspan, a writer and media specialist for Lighthouse Recovery Institute . He’s been sober since 2008 and finds no greater joy than in helping still struggling alcoholics.
I’ve been to more than my fair share of rehabs. While, in the past, you’d have been hard pressed to get me to admit that, I say it today with ease. Why? Why do I take pride in the fact that I’m a man in long-term recovery? Simple – it gives me the opportunity to help others. Helping others takes the form of, more often than not, working with men who want to get sober. I share my experience, strength, and hope with in the hopes that, in the future, they’ll do the same for someone else.
Today, though, I’d like to share some of my experience with the parents of addicts and alcoholics out there. I know my parents were at their wit’s end for years. I managed to find every possible way to manipulate and hurt them.Thankfully, I’ve been able to make up for that behavior over the past seven years. Our relationship is wonderful today. I count my mother and father as two of my best friends. So, with helping parents in mind, I figured I’d give you all a breakdown of what a day in rehab looks like. Remember, though, there are many different types of rehab. I’ve only experienced the “Florida Model” ones. So, your child’s experience may be different. It’s a scary to think about sending your kid off to a treatment center. Hopefully this will make things just a little bit more manageable!
The BHTs would wake us up around 6:30 each morning. Immediately, before eating or brushing our teeth, the community would have a morning meditation. We were usually segmented by gender. Males would meet in one apartment and females in another. One patient would read from a twelve-step focused meditation book. Something like “Daily Reflections” or “As Bill Sees It.” After the reading, we’d go around and say our goal for the day. We’d then end with a prayer. This was a great way to affect a positive start to an otherwise challenging day!
The Clinical Day
We’d arrive at the clinical offices around 8am and immediately have our “caseload” group. This is a group led by your primary therapist. It’s made up of their entire caseload, usually between five and ten patients. After caseload, there’d be a smoke break. Speaking for myself, these smoke breaks were invaluable! They gave me a way to decompress after an hour or longer of intense therapy. We’d then have two more groups for the day. The topics and make up of each group varied. There were large groups where the entire community attended. There were small groups made up of only two or three patients at a time.Regardless of the size, these groups would cover recovery oriented topics like relapse prevention, gender-specific issues, co-occurring disorders, family therapy, life skills training, and the like. After these groups, we’d usually be taken to the gym or a park. Much like those smoke breaks, these outings were crucial. They let me feel “normal” again, if only for an hour at a time.
Twelve-Step Meetings at Night
At night, we’d attend in-house or off property twelve-step meetings. These ranged from Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to groups like Overeaters Anonymous and Codependency Anonymous. I loved the twelve-step meetings. They gave me a view of what sobriety and recovery looked like after treatment. They gave me a view of what long-term, sustained sobriety looked like. You were usually required to get a sponsor and sober supports at these meetings. While it’s a bit strange to me that a rehab would require twelve-step participation, reaching out to other alcoholics and addicts was incredibly vital to my recovery. In fact, I credit my recovery more to the work I did on myself in a twelve-step fellowship than to rehab and therapy. Don’t get me wrong, the clinical groups were lifesaving and gave me great insight in why I drank and drugged in the first place. Still, treatment only lasts for so long. Afterwards, it’s the connections I made in the rooms of recovery that kept me sober.
After the meetings, we’d return back to “campus” and have some downtime. Around 11pm, we’d have to return to our apartments and call it a night. During this time, shooting the breeze with my roommates, I made some amazing friendships.
Bonus: Unbreakable Friendships
While these friendships aren’t part of any schedule in treatment, they’re important. The men and women I met while in rehab understood me in a way no one else ever had. There was always someone to talk to. If you couldn’t sleep, you could wake up your roommate and talk about the struggles of early-recovery. If a particular group was too intense, you could go outside and find a peer to talk to. It’s amazing what a friendly face and word or two of understanding can do for your mood. It’s funny, I went to my last treatment center over seven years ago. We had a small community, probably around thirty men and women. Of those thirty, I’m still in contact with around twenty of them. Not all of them are sober. Some are able to manage controlled drinking. Some are back in the depths of addiction. We stay in contact though. We help each other when no one else is available. We survived treatment together and that engenders a lifelong bond. I went to the wedding of one of my treatment peers last year. It was a surreal experience. Years ago, I watched as he crumbled and cried in front of the rehab community. That day, I watched as he stood in front of his family, friends, and God and took his marriage vows.
It’s amazing what recovery does for a person!
There was a time I used the siblings to debrief my anguish and worry about the other “one” – the child whose absence or drama was taking center stage and getting my full attention. Unaware of how damaging this would be to the remaining family members, I did this for a long time. The realization that my actions might have contributed to a form of suffering on them was a hard nut to swallow. I had to learn it the hard way; it seems to be a recurring theme for me. I first pondered the notion when listening to Alateens share their hurt, abandonment and other issues they kept to themselves while watching mom or dad get progressively worse in their futile attempts to straighten up the “affected” one’s life. I’d hear how some would become overly protective and sometimes take the role of caretaker, worried about the troubled sibling. Some would get resentful about all the attention given to the other. The entanglement of the family disease is cunning, baffling and powerful. To the “normal” sibling, the desire for mom and dad to get happy again would become their focus. So, in a sense, young co-dependents were forming as the family disease reached epidemic proportions. I wondered which role my children fell into.
Becoming aware didn’t actually help me with how to do better…the Al-Anon Family Group and 12 step recovery program was my road map for change. I had to start over with training wheels, in a sense, beginning with me and my contributions to the family disease. It began with accepting I had problems of my own to work on. The hope for me was that I could mend broken relations with all those who mattered in my life.
Today, with guarded mouth and awareness of the family disease, I try to keep the focus and be present with those who stand before me. I no longer ask prying questions about the “other” one whose lifestyle is concerning. I consciously choose to seize those opportunities with gratitude to be allowed the accompaniment of their presence. Most critically, I get to be PRESENT with no conditions and that is my GIFT to them.