What do the 12-steps mean to addicts and their loved ones?

Letting GoGuest blogger David Greenspan is 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.

The twelve-steps are an often misunderstood part of recovery from substance abuse. AA and NA in general seem to be portrayed differently every time they appear in the media and that’s just the meeting aspect. Never mind the meat and potatoes of step work and spiritual growth.With that in mind, I’d like to clear up some misconceptions about what the twelve-steps are, how they operate, and what to expect if you have a loved one who’s embarking on an “anonymous” journey.

Before we go on, though, it’s important to note that part of twelve-step fellowships is the practice of anonymity. I’m sharing my experience out of a desire to help and shed light on the often mysterious nature of these fellowships. That being said, I don’t identify as a member of any twelve-step group publically and never will. Rather, I’m simply a man who’s found a spiritual solution to the disease of addiction.

The 12-Steps & Addicts

What do the twelve-steps mean to addicts? That answer is both simple and incredibly complicated. At their most basic, the twelve-steps offer a way for addicts and alcoholics to stop abusing substance and begin to live “normal” lives. It’s important here to make the distinction between an addict/alcoholic and a heavy drinker/drugger. An addict is someone who suffers from the disease of addiction and an alcoholic is someone who suffers from the disease of alcoholism. These are three-part diseases – they affect their suffers on mental, physical, and spiritual levels.

There’s the mental obsession. This is a thought that becomes, as the name suggests, an overwhelming obsession. It crowds out all else in the addict’s mind until they succumb to it and pick up a drug.

At this point, the physical allergy kicks in. This is perhaps the least understood facet of the disease model of addiction. This allergy, also known in recovery as the physical craving, has something to do with how addicts’ bodies process drugs and alcohol. Instead of processing it normally, our bodies react differently.  The how and why aren’t important to me. What’s important are the results. Once taking a drug or drink, I am physically unable to stop. Once I start, I won’t stop until something blocks me from my “medicine.” This could be an arrest, a trip to rehab, or simply being broke and unable to obtain any drugs.

Finally, there’s the spiritual malady. This is comprised of all the crap that makes drugs and alcohol attractive in the first place. Things like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, worry, ego, anger, self-pity, and various other “character defects” (as they’re called in twelve-step fellowships).

So, someone who suffers from the disease of addiction isn’t merely a heavy partier or out of control. They’re suffering from a deadly combination of physical, mental, and spiritual symptoms. The result is around the clock drug or alcohol abuse and all the heartbreak that comes with it.

What do the twelve-steps mean? They mean freedom from this cocktail of suffering. They mean freedom from the tyranny of drugs and booze. They mean the ability to be a free man.

This is accomplished through doing the steps in order and with a sponsor who has a sponsor. It requires admitting we’re powerless over chemicals and that our lives, with our without drugs, are unmanageable. It means saying that maybe something greater than ourselves can help us. It means taking a look at our resentments, fears, sexual conduct, and people we’ve harmed.

It means sharing all the above with another human being. It means recognizing and coming to terms with our character defects. It means making amends to those people we’ve hurt (and making amends isn’t merely a mumbled apology – it’s correcting a past wrong through changed actions).

It means taking inventory of ourselves on a continual basis. It means correcting the new mistakes that are sure to pop up. It means praying, meditating, and seeking a greater and more personal spiritual connection. It means helping other addicts and alcoholics.

Most importantly, it means replacing old ideas, behaviors, and principles with new ones. It means changing everything about ourselves in order to live a life of serenity and (mostly) happiness.

Sounds hard, right? It is, but it’s 100 times better than the alternative – drinking and drugging ourselves to death and hurting everyone we come into contact with.

The 12-Steps & the Family

I don’t have as much experience on what the twelve-steps mean to the family of addicts and alcoholics. In fact, I have no experience with that part of recovery. I’ve had family members abuse drugs and alcohol, but never close enough family to warrant going to Al-Anon or another “family fellowship” and seeking their help. Call me hardheaded, but I simply haven’t found it necessary.

You know what? I pray that I never find it necessary. My heart goes out to the parents, siblings, significant others, and loved ones of addicts. I can’t imagine what we put you through. Probably the best way I can attempt to explain, and this is just that – an attempt, what the twelve-steps mean to the family is through relating an experience I had with my own mom.

After being sober for a few years, I’d regained the trust of my family. Although I lived many states away, we’d talk regularly and I was invited to all major family functions. This restored trust and communication was sacred to me. It was something I never thought would return.

Still, not everything was rosy. I noticed that whenever I was home, my mom would keep her purse close to her. When she went upstairs to go to sleep, she’d take it with her. Old habits die hard, I suppose. So, on a particular visit, I was taken aback when I wandered into the living room at night and saw her purse sitting on the floor by the table. This was the spot she kept it in when I was growing up. This was the spot I hadn’t seen it in in years.

I almost broke down and cried right there. It was a watershed moment for me. I finally knew my parents had forgiven me completely. I finally knew I was their son again. I’ve had some amazing experiences in sobriety. I’ve graduated college with honors. I’ve received awards. I’ve gotten (and kept!) good jobs. Still, none of them compare to seeing my mom’s purse that night.

What do the twelve-steps do for the family? They give them their children back. It’s as simple as that.

 

 

 

 

What really happens in rehab for addiction or alcoholism?

Photo of woman speaking to a counselor. 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!

Morning Meditation

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!

 

 

 

Should we expect Relapse when our loved ones get Rehabilitation for chemical dependency?

When my son entered a 12-Step rehabilitation program after 19 months of using, I was naively thinking 30 days and he’d be back to normal. There was just no way he would use again, it was such a waste of his young years, and surely he saw this. Well, not only did he relapse WHILE in rehab, he subsequently relapsed many times over. I heard others say that with recovery comes relapse. This helped me accept unfavorable outcomes and not be so disappointed, angry or resentful. Later someone shared that relapse expectations can be dangerous and that perhaps I should not expect it or justify it. Think about the addict who may rationalize as do I: “Craig has relapsed a bunch of times before he made it, so what if I have a drink or two.”

What is minimized is that the last time Sabrina relapsed, she went into a coma and never came back; the last time James relapsed, his drug induced high for 3 days left a trail of armed robbery and arrest. The last time Joe relapsed, he hit a pedestrian while driving under the influence, and Sally? She nearly died from insulin shock, no longer in touch with her blood sugar monitoring.

Having this brought to my attention changed my behavior and attitude towards expecting relapse.  Addiction is a deadly serious disease and any attempts to smooth things over, allow or assist the addict to justify relapse while in my sphere of influence cannot be tolerated.  I will not expect it, but I can learn to accept it.  And with love and prayer, a program of recovery from co-dependency, I have faith that a Power, greater than me, will guide us all toward a program of recovery.

Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics: Demand that insurance pay for treatment

War zone of addictionParentPathway is honored to share this information from parent Chris Fiore.  The lack of insurance coverage for the disease of addiction can be deadly, and it impacts anyone who has tried to get medical help for a chemically-dependent loved one.

My 24-year-old son, Anthony, died May 31, 2014, following a six year battle with opioid and heroin addiction that included three unsuccessful short term treatment programs, each lasting less than 30 days, which was all that insurance would pay for.

For most people, this is simply not enough time to recover from the assault addictive drugs make on the body and to restore the life skills that keep a person from relapsing.

Research tells us that effective inpatient treatment leads to long term sobriety and fewer relapses.  Ninety (90) day residential drug rehab is suggested as the minimum length of time for effective treatment.  Anecdotal evidence gathered from post discharge patient interviews suggests that long-term treatment at a drug rehab facility can decrease the risk of drug addiction relapse by up to 73%. That can mean the difference between addiction and recovery—or even life and death.

The Anthony’s Act petition at MoveOn.org will tell your U.S. Senators and representatives:
The Affordable Care Act must be amended to provide for a minimum of Ninety (90) days inpatient drug or alcohol treatment up to a maximum of One Hundred Eighty (180) days per year at a facility certified to provide such care by the Secretary of Health of the state in which it is located.

Please sign the petition now, share it on your wall, and help create visibility for the need to provide humane and effective treatment to those who are chemically dependent, which is a chronic brain disease that rarely responds to a short stint in rehab.

You can find the petition here:  http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/anthonys-act

 

 

Ten reasons that your addicted or alcoholic child will give to get out of rehab

checklist to keep our kids safe

Forewarned is forearmed.  Get ready for your beloved addict or alcoholic to tell you why they can’t stay in rehab:

 

  • The rehab just wants your money.”
  • I’ve got my drinking/drug use under control now.”
  • Everyone here is worse off than me.”
  • We don’t do anything worthwhile here.”
  • I’m all better now” or “I can get better on my own.”
  • I know better now and have figured things out.”
  • The counselors are mean and have stupid rules.”
  • The food is bad here.”
  • I don’t like going to the meetings.”
  • I need to get back to work and stop wasting my time here.”

 

So how can you respond? Here are some options:

  • Just say “Oh” or “Hmmm” or “Let me think about that.” 
  • That sounds like something you could discuss with your counselor”
  • We support your recovery here, and if you choose to leave rehab, you’ll have to find somewhere else to live.”
  • This is the right place for you to get healthy.”
  • I love you, and I know you can do this.”

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

There’s a saying that has been very helpful along my journey through my daughters struggle with addiction – ‘Say what you mean, mean what you say but don’t say it mean’. Many times the first part ‘say what you mean’ is the easiest. I can often express what I mean to say, even in the heat of the moment when I’m upset or stressed. The second part ‘mean what you say’ is where the challenge starts for me. I’ll give an example. Early in the journey when my daughter was active in her addiction she had gotten out of rehabilitation and was going into a sober living house. I said what I meant, ‘You need to have a plan if you relapse and use drugs/alcohol again because coming home is not an option’. I truly meant this and I knew it was what was best for her. ‘Mean what you say’ is where you hold your loved one accountable to the consequences of their actions. Those consequences are among the very things that can help someone struggling with addiction to seek recovery.
I remember at one point early in my daughter’s journey while she was living in a sober living house that she called me late one night. She said, “I got kicked out, I messed up, I need to come home, I have nowhere to go…’. Short of getting a call that your loved one has been hurt or worse, this was the call we parents dread when we have said coming home is not an option. This happened quite a few years ago and I have learned so much since then about how the most loving thing you can do is stick to what you said. Late that night I couldn’t bear the thought of where my daughter would go or what might happen to her and I let her come home. Five days later she drove her car while seriously intoxicated and crashed into a tree. By the grace of God, she survived. I had been gently coached by a parent who had been through this when I told him that I let her come home. He said, “Your very actions to rescue your daughter from the consequence of her action may very well kill her one day”. While this seemed harsh at the time – it was 2 days before the accident. His words haunted me, he was so right. I did not hold her accountable due to my fears. I became very resolved from that moment on to ‘Say what I mean, mean what I say and don’t say it mean’ and it has made all the difference in our respective recoveries.

Building your arsenal for the next drug or alcohol crisis

Most parents with a kid, no matter what age, who struggles with addiction, find themselves constantly investigating, thinking, consulting and planning what to do next. With every relapse or major bump in the road, you stop and take a look at what actions have been taken thus far and what you feel is the next ‘right’ thing to do.

At the beginning of the journey of my teen’s struggle with substance abuse I did not have the resources, so I discussed these things with friends and family. They had not experienced this situation with their own kids, so they had difficulty relating.

Eventually, I had an arsenal of resources: the counselors at the rehabilitation center, Al-Anon Family Support, close friends who also had kids struggling with addiction and various books and articles. I learned that it was important to draw on these resources when decisions needed to be made or when I needed insight to keep perspective on what was happening from time to time.

It is important to build these resources to have on hand.  Many times when we are under duress we do not think too clearly. I remember not being at my best when I was upset and full of fear and worry about what might befall my loved one. I often would get stuck and at a loss for what to do. Once I built my support system – going to weekly Al-Anon meetings for parents, reading daily inspiration from others who had struggled through the same path, and various counselors and professionals – I had a way to get the help I needed when I needed it to do the next ‘right’ thing to help my loved one.

Recognizing Substance Abuse in Teens

One of the biggest concerns for parents with teens is the experimentation and abuse of addictive substances. During adolescence, teens face many social and emotional obstacles as they grow and learn how to face the challenges that walk hand in hand with growing up. As they face these challenges, it is normal for teens to become more emotional and independent, but for parents it can sometimes be hard to differentiate teenage moodiness from signs of substance abuse. If left unrecognized for too long, substance abuse can worsen and the results can be deadly. It is crucial that parents and guardians quickly identify and respond to the specific factors that could be the result of drug or alcohol misuse.

 General signs to look out for:

 Evidence of drug or alcohol paraphernalia, such as empty alcohol bottles, pipes, syringes, rolling papers, lighters, etc

  • Problems at school such as: skipping school, missing classes, severe drop in grades, violent or disruptive behavior
  • Extreme efforts to restrain family members from entering their rooms
  • Amplified efforts to hide their whereabouts, new friends, activities or where they go with their friends
  • Drastic changes in behavior: lack of energy, motivation, or concentration, avoidance and distancing, uncooperative
  • Excessive use of room deodorizers or incense to hide smoke or odors
  • Increase in borrowing money without reasonable explanations, missing money or other items, or stealing
  • The signs and symptoms of substance abuse vary depending on the type of substance; you may be able to determine if a teen is abusing a specific drug by identifying the physical and behavioral symptoms associated with the specific drug

Signs of Use

Marijuana

  • Red eyes
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Paranoia
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increased appetite
  • Reduced coordination
  • Lack of concentration

Cocaine, Methamphetamine (Meth), Ritalin, and Other Amphetamines

  • Irritability
  • Euphoria
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid speech
  • Lack of sleep
  • Severe weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Damage to the mucous membrane of the nose

Opiates (pain pills, heroin)

  • Severe weight loss, loss of appetite
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Aggression and anger
  • “Nodding off” or falling asleep in the middle of a conversation
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Suppression of breathing, followed by death

Ecstasy (MDMA), Rohypnol (Roofies), GHB

  • Amplified feelings of happiness
  • Amphetamine-like symptoms
  • Poor judgment
  • Heightened senses
  • Rohypnol and GHB
    • Drowsiness
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Can result in seizures, coma and death

 Early acknowledgment and response are necessary for parents and guardians to save teens from engaging in substance abuse. Substance abuse can lead to more severe drugs, addiction, and even death if action is not taken.

A Place of Hope’s Center for Counseling and Health Resources provides help for those who seek addiction treatments for drug and alcohol dependency, depression, or issues relating to gambling, food, pornography and more. Dr. Gregory Jantz and his team of addiction medical professionals, psychologists, nutritionists and fitness trainers help  address the physical, psychological and spiritual problems that are behind the symptoms. Please visit online at A Place of Hope.

Is Suboxone a solution or simply another addiction?

What role can Suboxone play in recovery from opioids?  It’s a controversial subject. Here is the perspective of Mel Pohl, M.D., Medical Director, Las Vegas Recovery Center
Because relapse rates with opioid addiction are so high, many clients and treatment professionals have turned to medication assisted treatment (formerly called maintenance) programs that provide long-lasting opioids such as methadone (Dolophine) or buprenorphine (Suboxone and Subutex).  I am not a fan of buprenorphine for maintenance for the reasons stated below, but there are many addiction specialists who believe that it is the best available treatment for opioid dependence. I am not among them.

Buprenorphine’s unique pharmacology causes less of the same negative side effects commonly seen with morphine and methadone (e.g., respiratory depression, cognitive impairment, and euphoria more likely to be associated with craving and abuse) and has opened the way for treatment of opioid dependence in new settings. This allows treatment options to reach those who may not have previously had access or don’t feel comfortable with other treatment settings such as a methadone clinic. Buprenorphine has been touted as a safe, low risk option for treatment of opioid dependence because of its mild effects and a ceiling effect at high doses. Yet, despite the apparent advantages of buprenorphine over other opioid maintenance medications, an abuse potential remains.

Here are several key questions to consider regarding the use of buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid addiction:

  • Is the brain of the opioid addict more normal with buprenorphine than without, as many medication assistance proponents assert? At least with methadone dependent addicts, it has been shown that
    brain dopamine transport system is impaired compared to abstinent opioid addicts.
  • Is there a reasonable hope of achieving a buprenorphine-free state once it has been started? If so, when is the logical time to attempt withdrawal? After six weeks, six months, two years? If withdrawal fails, is that because of dependence on buprenorphine, which is extremely difficult to discontinue, or is relapse inevitable in the absence of some opioids? We all know that discontinuing maintenance doses of opioids is extremely difficult; but is that because of withdrawal (protracted with buprenorphine) or is it because the brain requires a medication like buprenorphine to function and feel normal.
  •  There are clinics that have sprung up in some cities that include buprenorphine treatment among a vast “service line” menu, including Botox, Restalyne, liposuction, and teeth whitening. Do we truly expect an addict to find recovery in such a setting?
  • How are you to manage these clients as an addiction professional? It is your task to help clients find quality in their lives.  Can you steer them to buprenorphine-friendly meetings? Should the      maintained addict go to mainstream meetings and hide the fact that they are on buprenorphine. It is not uncommon for addicts who disclose their status to be ostracized or encouraged to discontinue medications by nonprofessional peers. Can you help clients navigate these difficult waters and develop a supportive community to help them as they live life on life’s terms?
  • Some feel that opioid-free is simply not an achievable state; the data appears to suggest low percentages of successful abstinence. Where are all the addicts who are successful? There are     thousands of opioid addicts in recovery who have abstained through the help of the twelve-step fellowships for decades. We know it can be done, but how can we tell who is likely to be successful?
  • Do we commit everyone to maintenance for life? Is this “harm reduction” or are we actually doing harm by using medications for all without attempting to help clients achieve a drug-free state? Do we try abstinence a time or two or ten? Do we eventually accept buprenorphine-maintained recovery as a reasonable alternative? Do we try again for abstinence after a time?  If so, when? -Mel Pohl, M.D., Medical Director, Las Vegas Recovery Center

 

 

Jane’s Journal: Angels and Devils Along the Way

Baby boy socksThis is the fourth blogpost from Jane as she chronicles her own learnings and growth alongside her son in early recovery.

In the 12 chaotic weeks since we learned of our 25-year-old son’s heroin addiction, it feels like we’ve traveled to another country–a war-ravaged place where only the lucky and strong survive. We tried an at-home recovery and failed. We believed he was staying clean and were wrong. We believed we could be part of his recovery and learned that we could, but only as far as he let us.

So at the end of February, after attending one of his many NA meetings, where he’d been leading everyone there to believe (like us) that he was clean, our son called us at 10:00 pm to say he was still using and was tired of lying to everyone. His NA leader was with him and had convinced him it was time to go to detox and rehab, and our son said he was ready to go. This amazing NA leader not only talked him into detox and rehab, he also let him spend the night and drove him there the next morning. I’d asked this favor because if he’d come home that night to his irate father, things would not have gone well.

Next morning, my haggard, sleepless husband went to work and I made phone calls to our son to see what would happen next. He said his NA leader would help him purchase the things he’d need right away and get him to the facility, 45 minutes away. We could bring more of his belongings later. Then, an hour before he was to surrender his cellphone and wallet at rehab, he called to inform me there was a credit card I needed to pay and cancel. He quickly gave me all the passwords and security answers and I began the process, going online to find a $1500 balance. (So THIS was how he was getting cash.) Rushing, I paid the balance, changed the passwords and the mailing address, then– sobbing into the phone to a complete stranger—I explained that I’d paid the card off and wanted to cancel it because my son was an addict. SURPRISE! They refused to do so without his vocal approval, even after I told them I had all the passwords and security answers and he was in the process of checking himself into rehab! This major credit card company was insisting on vocal commands from an addict (read: MALE VOICE, sight unseen) even though I had all the pertinent information. In the last frantic moments before he handed over his phone at rehab, I conferenced him in so they could hear his voice.

The next day my husband and I drove to our son’s new home and hospital. It wasn’t fancy, but clean, caring and professional. We didn’t get to see him but met his counselor–his wonderful, incredible counselor– who although incredibly busy, was committed to our son’s care and willing to work with us on all issues affecting treatment. He listened to us, to our son, and wisely navigated the de-tangling of our emotions and experience. He allowed us to communicate through emails, wherein we gave details about our son, our family, the unique interpersonal dynamics, our son’s personality and experiences as we knew them. Most of these emails were relayed when our son was strong enough to read them, and they covered the gamut: there were encouraging emails, angry emails, sad emails and daily-life emails. It was our own therapy and a way of keeping in touch with him, using his counselor as conduit. Meanwhile we were also slowly revealing his addiction to trusted family members and friends, and many of these people also sent emails via his counselor.

Although we learned later there were drugs offered to him while in rehab, our son detoxed, stayed in treatment, and with one minor episode of trying to snort his sleep medication (which he said was just for the feeling of snorting it, NOT to get high), he emerged 25 days later, clean and sober. What we also learned from his counselor was that he’d been depressed for years and had considered suicide occasionally. A diagnostic session with a psychiatrist was scheduled, and in that session he confessed that although he gave the world the impression of constant optimism, he was indeed depressed. Isolation was his worst fear and enemy.

Depression runs in my family, and I’d had my own experiences, both with serious depression and the miracle of medication at the proper time. But soon we saw the effect on our son, who in less than a week on Prozac emerged from an addict’s chrysalis of anger and confusion. He was calmer, stronger, less reactive and thinking more clearly. Whereas he once balked at anything he couldn’t manage on his own, he now seemed ready to listen and think about needed life changes.

As I write I know there are those who will say such medication is not the answer, but in our son’s case the results were–and still are, 21 days later— a true miracle. He is clean 43 days and now living in a structured, safe halfway house in Florida, where he is tested regularly, required to work or go to school, and uphold the many rules of the house. The house was recommended by his angel counselor in rehab.

Our son is getting up every morning at 8:30, riding a bicycle, applying for jobs and shucking his former nocturnal self for a daytime occupant. He says he is taking life slowly and carefully, going to sometimes two NA meetings per day. He is measured and calm, thoughtful and communicative, texting daily. We make no plans past his 100-day minimum stay there. Meanwhile he and we are “cautiously optimistic.” We all know there will quite likely be more devils in wait for us, and him, as we go forward. But for now we’re all enjoying a break from the madness. For now at least, the angels are winning.