The H.O.P.E. on the “Road to Recovery”

Written By:  Laura Cole, Clinical Intern, ACS Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Program and Community Counseling Program

There are few people who enter recovery with feelings of exuberance.  Generally, pain and consequences are the catalysts for seeking help; and those experiences do not tend to generate warm and fuzzy feelings of hope.  Hence, the ‘road to recovery’ can appear daunting, perhaps insurmountable.  As defined by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “recovery from alcohol and drug problems is a process of change through which an individual achieves abstinence and improved health, wellness and quality of life.”  This is the hope we are trained to teach teens’ and families that are treated through ACS’ Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment Program.

The initial picture on the road to recovery is not so copacetic.  Recovering from drug and alcohol abuse usually looks like a tornado of confusion, anger, fear, sadness, shame, grief…(insert additional feeling[s] here). Often, addiction is described as a family “dis-ease,” impacting each person in the family unit differently.  This “dis-ease” can have a way of infiltrating the fabric of the family system on a large scale; rendering the family hopeless, scared, and uncertain as to where to turn for treatment or help. This generally typifies the initial dynamic we encounter as therapists in the Substance Abuse Treatment Program at ACS.

It can be scary and nerve-wracking as a parent or family member to pick up that phone and say “I think my teen has a problem, and I do not know what to do…can you help me/us?” This is a monumental step in the process of recovery; an acknowledgment of the problem at hand, and asking for help—constituting humility (or the state of being humbled) – this is generally half the battle!

When a family decides to confront addiction issues and reaches out to ACS, the next step is the assessment process.  The parents and teen are sitting in the waiting room, nervous and apprehensive as to what awaits them and their child…this is all very normal.  Scary, but normal.  Most individuals and families struggling with addiction do not even make it that far.  Though, families should often remember that the act of reaching out is one of hope.

Hope is a key ingredient in the process of healing ones’ self and the family at large.  This is what our Substance Abuse Treatment program embodies and instills in every family served.  The therapists know how challenging this process is, and are aware that the process of addiction did not magically appear out of the blue one day.  It had been lingering and developing for quite awhile before you made it through those doors.  Though, the beauty of taking those first steps is the traction and momentum that begins to build within that initial meeting.  Honesty and communication begin to flow out for the first time in probably a long time, and the family begins to get a glimpse of what is possible:  a new way of being, a new way of relating, a new way of perceiving, and experiencing the world.  The new family picture begins to materialize.

This new way of being, recovery, is a process.  Just like addiction did not show up overnight, recovery too, takes time to develop and strengthen.  Strengthening the “recovery muscle” requires accountability, commitment, and perseverance; no different than most goals we seek to attain.  Though, the simplest part is all that is really, REALLY needed is willingness – a willingness to give it a chance.  When the willingness is there, the other aspects will more easily fall into place.

Another very special process that tends to take shape as the result of this willingness is connection.  The human experience is deeply intertwined with our survival need to establish mutual relationships in aims to communicate, identify, and connect with one another.  More often than not, those suffering from substance abuse (and the families they exist in) can find themselves feeling isolated and alone; they could be in a room full of people and feel this loneliness on such a profound level.  This relational aspect is a great focus of the treatment process provided through the Substance Abuse Treatment program.  We know how scary this process can be.  But, we also know that there is H.O.P.E.