Category: Substance Abuse Treatment

Three substance abuse myths

Our society is full of myths and the internet and social media seems to those at a faster rate than ever before. The same is true of substance abuse – there are many myths about this disease. has a list of 10 common myths. Today we’ll look at three.

1 – Addiction is a moral failure 
We cannot deny that the use of an illicit drug is a poor decision. The expression “curiosity killed the cat” somewhat applies – for many, the curiosity of what it feels like to drink or experience the high of a drug is very tempting. Many will try a drug once and never again, their curiosity has been satisfied. Others will use again, but opt not to make it part of their lifestyle. Finally, there will be a group that becomes hooked on the drug. Is this a moral failure?

Millions of individuals became dependent on and addicted to the medications prescribed to them by their physician. This is certainly not a moral failure.

Addiction is caused by the body’s inability to process the drug/alcohol. The body becomes dependent on the substance causing severe withdrawal when the substance is not present.

2 – Addicts are easy to identify
Stereotyping has given people a certain image of those with an addiction. Many people envision the homeless man carrying his drink in a brown paper bag, minorities and criminals as the groups of people who they associate as addicts.

In reality, substance abuse impacts all socio economic groups and races. The CDC reports that rates of use among non-Hispanic whites nearly double all other groups. While not all individuals with a substance use disorder are criminals, criminal activity is often fueled by the need to get drugs. Finally, individuals making between $20,000 and $49,000 are showing rates of use that are higher than those who make less than $20,000.

3 – Relapse is a failure
Many people believe that because a person has relapse, they have failed. In reality, relapse is often part of the recovery process – see related blog.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

Defining treatment terms

I caught up with an old friend the other day. For the most part, the encounter was much like when you see a friend for the first time after several years have lapsed. How are you, how is the family, where are you working, what is your job there…?

This particular friend had no knowledge of the substance abuse treatment system and I realized as I saw the blank look on her face that I’d lost her, as if I was speaking a foreign language. That led to an “ah-ha” moment as I thought, how many of our readers have no idea what the terms mean when we are blogging about substance abuse and recovery. That said, our September theme will define many of our treatment terms.

We’ll start with two of the basics, substance abuse and addiction. We’re also going to cheat a little and refer you back to a blog we published earlier this year entitled, “Substance abuse or addiction, which is it?” This piece goes into detail to provide a simple, but comprehensive definition of each and their distinguishing characteristics.

In short, addiction is a physical dependency to a foreign substance – this could range from tobacco to heroin and anything in between. The physical dependency means the body craves the drug and goes into withdrawal symptoms when it is not there.

Substance abuse can be a phase in the process. Many people abuse drugs, but not all become addicted to the substance. One may drink heavily over the weekend, but not drink again for weeks or months. Prescription drugs are abused when they are not used as medically intended, by the person who holds the prescription.

Next week, we’ll look at three types of treatment, detox, residential and outpatient and explain the difference between each.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.


Gracie’s Emotional Rollercoaster

Some say that nothing in life is harder than having a family member or close friend who suffers from addiction. The worry and emotional stress is exhausting. I saw its toll a few years ago in my neighborhood.

After the housing bubble and crash, many of the modest 1950’s ranch style homes in my neighborhood went into foreclosure and were sold by banks to individuals able to pay cash. Some buyers fixed them up and re-sold them; others used the houses as rental units. Today’s story is about Gracie’s family, who rented a home down the street.

With out-of-state license plates on their car, they moved into the home late one summer. They appeared to be a young couple with one child, Gracie. As I pulled into my driveway after work one day, Gracie followed me on her bright yellow bicycle. She introduced herself and asked if I had any kids her age. I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have children, just cats.” She said she had two cats of her own and pedaled down the street in search of new friends. Gracie was a frequent visitor. She’d see us outside and stop by to say hello, sell items for the school fundraiser or, I believe, simply to alleviate boredom.

I didn’t meet Gracie’s parents until Halloween. They walked around as she went trick-or-treating, introducing themselves to neighbors. Gracie’s mom said, “hello, I’m Carol and I’m in recovery.” I was surprised by this…was that her “costume” for Halloween or was this for real? I responded with, “it’s nice to meet you Carol, how long have you been clean?” Two years she responded, congratulations I said, keep it up, never revealing that I work at a substance abuse treatment center.

Carol didn’t keep it up; she relapsed. Gracie was sent to live with a grandparent and her father, whose name I never knew, attempted to work full time and care for Carol. Still, I never told Carol where I worked; I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate for me to say something or mind my own business. I left some treatment brochures in their mailbox. As time went on, I noticed he became thinner and thinner. It seems that all of the energy he had once had been sucked right out of him. He looked almost frail. I worried he was using too. For a while, things seemed quiet at the house. I didn’t see either around and hoped Carol and gotten back on track. I believe she did because Gracie returned…and pedaled down to my house to visit. We talked about how she was, where she’d been and the new school year that was just starting. Her visits became more frequent, she liked helping me with projects in my yard and doing crafts. She seemed to crave one-on-one attention. I asked about her family from time to time, but she’d get quiet. I suspected whatever was happening in her home was not good. She never had obvious signs of abuse or neglect, such as bruises, and always appeared to be clean and well dressed. I’d offer snacks during her visits, but she never accepted unless ice cream was mentioned. Still, my heart ached for this girl. I could see she was lonely and hurting and maybe afraid. I feared her life was a never-ending emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows completely out of her control.  My home provided a short respite from the things at her home.

One late November morning, my husband and I awoke to find our street filled with emergency responders, an ambulance, fire trucks, police…they were all at Gracie’s house. A few phone calls to other neighbors confirmed my worst fear; Gracie’s mother had died from an overdose, and to make matters worse, Gracie found the body. It was a few days before I saw her again. Eyes swollen and puffy from crying, Gracie hugged me and said she was going to her grandmother’s home for Christmas. She never returned. Her father packed their things and in January, a new “for rent” sign appeared in front of the home.

Did Gracie’s rollercoaster ride end with her mother’s passing or does she simply have a new normal? I’ll never know. Does she receive the love and emotional support she craves from her grandmother and father? What is her new environment like? What does she comprehend about her mother’s death? I will always have these questions since I have no way of locating Gracie.

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.

How do you explain your addiction to your children?

Over and over, we say addiction affects the entire family. The statistics of what happens to the rest of the family when a parent is abusing drugs or alcohol are alarming. For example, did you know one of the primary reasons children are removed from parental custody is substance abuse?

Consider this scenario. You are married with a supportive spouse. You have a good job and young children, in elementary or middle school. However, you realize that going out for happy hour with friends/co-workers has become a problem. You continue drinking when you get home, and maybe, in the privacy of your home, you use illicit drugs as well. Many possible circumstances could happen at this point. You may be arrested for DUI, you may be sluggish about going to work, you may not be performing well at work due to the influence of the drugs/alcohol in your system. Finally, you begin to choose drugs/alcohol over your family and professional life. Friends and loved ones may see the writing on the wall and have encouraged you to seek help. But, what do you tell your kids when you’ve decided to enter a residential treatment facility?

Some families will choose to shield their children from this news and offer fictitious reasons why there is an extended absence. For those who feel their children are mature enough to understand the situation, here are some tips on how to present this information honestly.

1 – Keep your explanation simple
2 – Explain that addiction is an illness
3 – Listen to them and answer their questions
4 – Make your new life in recovery part of the family routine.

Here is an example:

At the dinner table, or while comfortable in the living room, explain that there will be some changes coming very soon. Change doesn’t mean bad things, but simply means some things will be different at home. Explain that you, or your spouse, will be away from home for a few weeks to get help with some personal issues. While this is vague, it will allow you the opportunity to say, “You know when mom/dad stops to have a drink after work and comes home late?” That is going to change because it causes other problems in life. Some people are able to drink without a problem, but others cannot. Talk about how some kids are allergic to peanuts and can’t eat candy with nuts or peanut butter. It’s not their fault, it is just how their bodies deal with the nuts. The same is true in this case, only the problem is not nuts/peanut butter. Some people are simply born this way and there is no way of knowing until it causes problems. Depending on their ages, ask them what they already know or think when they hear about addiction and steer them away from the negative stereotypes. Explain that you are getting help now so that some of those bad things don’t happen to you or your family.

Once treatment is completed and you enter a life of recovery, keep your family involved. Explain to them why you go to meetings and how it helps you and why there are certain people you may not see any more.

Finally, as you choose your treatment program, select one that offers family sessions and family visitation. This is not only helpful for your children; it will keep the entire family focused on your recovery.

Relapse can be part of the recovery process

Often, treatment facilities are asked to provide their success rates.

First of all, that is challenging because there are so many ways to measure success.  Is success the percentage of people who successfully complete their program?  Is success the number of people who stay clean for six weeks, six months or a year after treatment, or is success measured as those who maintain long-term sobriety of five years or more?

Secondly, sadly, sometimes relapse is part of the treatment process.  Using the disease model of treating substance abuse and accepting that it is a brain-based disease much like diabetes or hypertension, to a degree, relapse is part of the learning process.  However, with substance abuse the impact can be far greater and hit much faster.

For example, if you are diabetic, you have been provided with a special diet of what you can and cannot eat.  It’s your birthday and you’ve been following your diet on a regular basis, but you really want a piece of birthday cake.  What do you do?  Some, who have been diabetic for a long period of time aren’t going to rock the boat of their diet and will have that bowl of sugar-free ice cream.  Others say, one piece of cake isn’t going to kill me.

Now, let’s say you are an alcoholic.  It’s your birthday and you’ve gathered with some friends to celebrate.  They don’t know you are in recovery.  One offers to buy you a beer.  You need to make a decision, fast.  How will one drink affect you and your recovery process?

The answer depends on several factors.  Maybe you say yes, have one beer and tell your friends that you need to stop – you have an early morning.  As soon as you leave, you call your sponsor and discuss what happened.  The next day, you go speak to your sponsor again and go to an AA meeting.  You are very careful to steer clear of those who may encourage you to drink and spend more times in meetings.  Maybe this is simply a momentary lapse and you right the course quickly.

Another option is that you accept the invitation to have a beer, and have multiple drinks before the night is over.  You feel guilty and know you should call your sponsor, but you had so much fun with your friends, you realized how much you miss them.  One night of drinking leads to two, you miss meetings, ignore calls from your sponsor and in six weeks, you are back in full addiction leaving your loved ones wondering what went wrong.

Scenario three is optimal.  You went to a treatment program and did well, but relapsed after 10 months of staying clean.  You incur a traffic infraction, which sends you back to a treatment facility.  Again, you do well, but this time around, you pay much more attention to the triggers that could cause you to relapse.  Upon completing the program, you surround yourself by people who are supportive of your efforts in recovery, and when your next birthday comes around, you enjoy an alcohol-free dinner and evening cheering for your favorite sports team.  You’ve learned from your past mistakes, you’ve grown in your recovery and you understand how much there is to lose if you go back to a life of drinking.

Pathways Florida has 28-day and extended stay residential treatment programs for those challenged with alcohol and drug use.  For more information, call 855-349-5988.


Learning to Love Yourself

Many people with substance use disorders also have self-esteem issues. This can be for multiple reasons. Quite often, children who are the victims of physical, emotional or verbal abuse exhibit low self-esteem. These individuals will be at higher risk of experimenting with drugs or alcohol because they will use these substances to mask their pain and fears. Many will enter new abusive relationships as adults and will continue to self-medicate.

Related Blog: Why Investing in Addiction Treatment is Worth it- Part 1

When these individuals seek help, a common statement is that for the first time, they feel like their lives are worthwhile or that their lives and feelings matter. Learning to respect and love yourself is a crucial piece of recovery. As you develop positive feelings about yourself and raise your self-esteem, you will find you make and succeed at your goals and continue to build confidence. While in the protective setting of a treatment center, this part is not terribly challenging. However, once back into the real world, this is a phase that can send a client to relapse as goals might not fall into place as easily.

One way to protect yourself from relapse when things don’t seem to be going your way is to stay active in an aftercare group or by attending 12-Step meetings.

Pathways Florida provides residential treatment programs for adults who have substance use disorders. For more information, call 855-349-5988.