It’s mind-boggling to me that families often try to treat the medical disease of addiction at home. If your teenager broke his arm, would you set the bone at the kitchen table? If he had an asthma attack, would you lecture him about getting his act together?
Of course not.
Still, families grapple with addiction at home for two reasons: First, addiction can look an awful lot like bad behavior, especially at the outset. And second, parents feel embarrassed that addiction has found it’s way into their family, so they try solving the problem behind closed doors. There is a lot of shame related to this disease— parents feel as if they have failed.
In my 30 years as an interventionist, I’ve come to understand that addiction is one of the most complicated medical diseases to date. Few addicts recover on their own. And when they do, the hidden components of the disease have often gone untreated. An incomplete treatment leaves the entire family vulnerable to relapse. It can fracture families, which is counterproductive to your loved one finding and remaining in recovery.
Addiction treatment is never as straightforward as, say, cutting out a tumor or setting a broken bone. This disease is confusing and crazy-making. In the beginning, addiction looks a lot like a behavior problem. The manipulative behavior and the stealing feels like such a personal assault when in fact, it’s part of the disease process and there is an appropriate way to react to these behaviors that is not what you’d think.
We pull out our parenting tools and crack down with strict limits and consequences. Our intentions are good but, as the disease progresses, families don’t have the tools to deal with it on their own.
That’s why it’s important to seek help from a qualified addiction counselor, preferably one with experience in intervention, so that you make educated decisions and utilize your funds in the best way possible. Sure, I’m biased since that’s what I do.
But consider this. While a specialist costs money, just like a doctor costs money, they can direct your loved one to the best treatment for that individual and also save you money in the end– money that may have been wasted on the wrong treatment option for your child.
At the very least, find support for yourself.