“My Son Did Not Die in Vain”: A Story of Addiction & Saving Lives
Working to pass 911 Good Samaritan Laws after the death of my son from an overdose has made me feel so proud to know that Greg’s life was not lived in vain.
When making a decision that dramatically impacts the life of a loved one, we sometimes act in a very irrational way. In the beginning, I was jumping without a parachute, reacting on impulse and intuition. We were frantic, looking for a quick fix, anything to get our daughter back. In hindsight, while some of my decisions and gut reactions helped save my stepdaughter Katherine’s life, others could have been handled better.
Now that I’ve gone through the process as a parent and have talked with so many people in recovery, I’d like to share some fundamental processes that may help those searching for the first time for a treatment center that works for them.
Below are my personal recommendations that may help you to navigate through the maze of in-patient treatment centers:
1. Because addiction is still somewhat considered an “unacceptable disease” we found it extremely hard to open up and reach out to friends, outside family or others for help and treatment center recommendations. Due to my experiences and the experience of others, I am making great strides to raise awareness for the disease in hopes of ridding its stigma and making it a part of our nation’s dialogue. But my mission starts with people like you. I urge you to demand information from local health professionals, to share your experiences with others facing similar afflictions — in your local communities, schools, places of worship and on this blog. Talk with community leaders and school counselors and discuss treatment centers in your area that have proven to be successful. Then approach the ones that seem to fit your needs.
2. Do your own research online but be prepared to weed through an enormous amount of material – some informative, some self-promoting. There is a wealth of information regarding various treatment modalities as well as questions for you to consider before picking up the phone to make the first call.
3. Once you have narrowed down your search, ask every conceivable question about the treatment center, questions such as:
a. What type of accreditation or licensing does the program have?
b. What credentials and licenses does the clinical staff hold?
c. What type of facilities does the program offer?
d. Do they have gender specific treatment?
e. Is there treatment program individualized for each patient?
f. What is the patient-to-counselor ration?
g. Do they have a family component, if so, what does it entail?
h. Do they offer after-care and support once the patient leaves?
i. Do they take insurance?
j. Do they offer any sort of scholarship fund?
Once you’re comfortable with the answers given, make arrangements to visit the facility in-person. Once you’re there, be sure to look around at the environment and ask yourself: is it clean? Is it functional? Is it safe? Where will my loved one live? Are patients responsible for their own daily living conditions? For example, will they be required to cook their own meals, clean their own apartment or living spaces (including the toilets)? If not, then they’re already missing a very important part of the recovery process, responsibility and accountability. It shouldn’t be a sober vacation with four-star meals and spa-like pampering. It should mimic the real-life living conditions the patient will be faced with on the outside world. For Katherine, being held responsible for such daily routines played an integral role in her recovery process. It offered her a sense of self-worth that was missing from our previous attempts.
There are many treatment centers out there – some may work, some may not. Do your own research, visit treatment centers and find the one that will help your family and loved one with his/her specific needs. Look for an atmosphere that offers the physical and emotional needs of the patient as well as the spiritual building blocks that will help him or her through a life of recovery.
Once we had left Katherine in Caron Renaissance’s capable hands we returned home, knowing we would be in contact weekly with a family therapist. Our mission was to work on our relationship, allow Katherine to work on herself, and then return a month later for an intense “Family Week” session.
In my next entry, I will explain how the lessons we learned from “Family Week” would set the stage for us as individuals and as a family to be honest, express our feelings, and to accept and regain trust while starting the process of rebuilding our family unit.