Each year, I receive thousands of emails seeking recovery support. Most of these emails are sent on behalf of the addicted person. And this emphasizes an important concept, namely that friends and family of an addicted individual tend to take action against addiction long before the addicted person is willing to do something.
How, then, do the loved ones of a substance abuser bring him/her in line with their own understanding? Is there something that can be done to coax the addicted person into action against their illness?
The answer is yes – that’s the good news. The bad news? Your ability to bring about a change in perception with regards to addiction in the individual is limited. To be sure, there are actions you can take. But whether it produces the desired effect is entirely another story.
“You are no longer in the ‘results’ business.” That’s a quote my sponsor drilled home in me. It applies equally to family and friends of an alcoholic or drug dependent person.
Once you identify a friend or family member with a substance abuse problem, however, where do you turn for help? And if your assistance is severely limited in this situation, what should you do? Many people turn to the healthcare industry for answers first, consulting with a doctor, nurse or friend with ties to the industry. Physicians are the most popular, with nurses and other healthcare workers a distant second.
Here’s the problem – most doctors possess little to no training in the area of addiction. If you take nothing away from this article aside from this point, I’ll consider my writing a success. Even specialists like those practicing addiction medicine leave a lot to be desired. I know because I’ve personally seen these ‘experts.’ Now I’m not going to use my experience to apply blanket conclusions on the entire field of medicine. I know there are many worthy practitioners operating in our world today. But many lack the personal experience with addiction recovery necessary to extract the truth from patients, the truth that the patient is hopelessly addicted to a substance and needs help beyond what modern healthcare offers.
If the answers to my problems could be resolved in a medication, I would have been cured long ago. I finally came to a place where I knew modern medicine could not fix what was inside me.
That’s why, if you are seeking guidance with a substance abuse situation, I recommend turning to individuals living a sober life. Why turn to someone else? These people demonstrate through their day-to-day lives that living happily sober after addiction is possible. They speak the ‘lingo,’ which simply means they’re able to communicate with addicted persons in a way no one else can. And their lives align with what they say – that if a happy, drug-free life is available to me, it’s available to you too. Where do you find a resource like this if you don’t already know someone living sober? First, talk to your friends and see if they might know a recovering person. Even if they “know someone who knows someone,” there’s an excellent chance you can get in touch with this valuable resource quickly. Your friends can also validate the quality of life this person lives. If someone reaches out to me, for example, I will put them in touch with someone living extremely high quality recovery, assuming I exclude myself for whatever reason.
You can also visit a recovery support group meeting, like Alcoholics Anonymous, and try to find a resource there. Listen for an individual who shares (speaks openly) at the meeting. This person will introduce himself/herself by first name, and in some cases include his/her last name, followed by, “…I’m an alcoholic.” Pick someone who might identify with your situation, or someone who is well-spoken with regards to recovery. If you exhaust those two options without finding an appropriate person, search online for recovery support hotlines. There’s the national hotline run by government agency SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). They can be reached at 1-800-662-4357 (HELP).
There’s also Discovery Place’s recovery hotline. They can be reached at 1-800-725-0922. Discovery Place operates this website and is a nonprofit organization seeking to offer recovery support services to people nationwide. Despite the fact we only admit men into our programs, we can help women find placement in suitable programs. Many addiction recovery centers also offer workshops on recovery-related topics. These workshops are an excellent place to find a sober resource. Simply go to a particular recovery centers website, add your name to their mailing list and wait for a message detailing a date and time for an upcoming workshop.
Finally, you can also research recovery on the internet. But fair warning, not all sobriety articles online contain truths about recovery, though the previous link takes you straight to SAMHSA’s website (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration). Some are slanted towards a particular viewpoint which may or may not be supported by the latest research. You, for example, might find an article that slams sober-living houses, despite the fact that recent research states recovery housing assists individuals in the maintenance of sobriety.
Once you find a recovering person, you’ll want to ask a battery of questions. Be sure to take notes when answers are supplied. Here are a few important questions you may want to ask your asset:
- How long have you been sober?
- What was you drug(s) of choice?
- Did you get sober through a recovery support group, or did you go through residential treatment?
- If you went to residential treatment, what was your experience like?
- Do you currently work for, or have any ties to, an addiction treatment center?
- Are there any residential treatment centers you recommend?
- What’s the most important thing I should know when dealing with an addicted or recovering person?
- How do you recommend I speak with an individual in active addiction?
These are just a few questions you can ask a recovering person. Of course, you’re free to craft your own questions or tailor these to suit your situation.
Because many of those in sobriety choose to remain “anonymous,” you may already know someone in recovery without even knowing it. That’s why it’s important to reach out to your network of friends first.
How many people in the United States report being in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction? Prepare to be baffled – nearly 10% of American adults claim they are recovering from addiction. That’s over 23 million people! So if you know 10 or more people, there’s an excellent chance a recovering resource already exists in your social network. All you have to do, just as they did, is reach out for help.