Guest Blog: The Process of Recovery

When Midwestern Mama’s son first went to treatment in 2011, she found online news articles about a young man who had attended the same program and had recently published a memoir about his experience. She emailed him and was pleasantly surprised to get a response. In the long years ahead, Midwestern Mama and Chad Hepler stayed in contact – ever grateful for his insights, support and encouragement all from a young man’s perspective. Today, Chad Hepler is a certified addiction counselor serving adolescents and their parents. Read what he has to say about the process of recovery.

Addiction and recovery is a process. A person does not become a rock bottom drug user overnight. It takes time. Just like the process of recovery.

This “process” is best explained by Prochaska & DiClemente’s five stages of change. In this article, I will examine the first two stages, precontemplation and contemplation, and how they relate to the teenage drug user. I will also discuss how parents survive this “process” of recovery.

The precontemplation stage is essentially denial. During this stage, the user does not believe there is a problem.

They are not considering change and generally do not care what you have to say in regards to their substance use.

A large percentage of users fall into this stage even when their life seems to be crumbling around them. This is the reason, insanity, is paired with addiction.

From an outsider’s perspective, it is painfully obvious the drug use is the problem, but the user just keeps on pushing.

There is no logical answer as to why a person continues to use, it’s simply insane. It’s doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Or as one of my patients said, “It’s doing the same thing over and over, knowing damn well, nothing will change.”

As an adolescent addiction counselor, I am faced everyday with the teenage drug user in the precontemplation stage. My goal is to move them from precontemplation to contemplation.

If I can help the teen reconsider their drug use, then I have succeeded. Nothing will mess up a good buzz more than a mindset of ambivalence.

Like they say in the rooms of AA, there’s nothing worse than a stomach full of booze and a mind full of AA. Sure, I would love to say my goal is long term recovery without a relapse, but quite frankly, that would be insane.

So how do the non-users maintain their sanity, while the drug user goes through this “process?” They work on themselves. They attend a self-help group, such as Alanon, Alateen, Naranon, and Families Anonymous. They get a sponsor, they work the steps, and they love and support their user’s recovery, not their addiction.

Chad Hepler is a Certified Addiction Counselor, working with adolescents for the last five years in a psychiatric hospital setting. He is also the author of two memoirs of his own addiction and recovery, Intervention: Anything But My Own Skin and Beyond Intervention: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery.

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Denial Leads to Enabling Young Addicts

Friendships among neighbors often go awry when kids are using drugs and alcohol, and especially when there is denial and enabling behavior. Midwestern Mama respectfully and sadly shakes her head at the continuing chaos down the street.

Just a few houses down the street from us lives a young addict. At 24-years old, he’s been using, and abusing, drugs and alcohol since sophomore or junior year of high school.

When my son was curious and wanted to try marijuana, this was the kid he sought out. Although they had been acquaintances, it wasn’t until they started using together that they became friends, if you can even call it friendship. From there, a tumultuous relationship ensued, and our relationship with the parents went awry.

At first we tried to engage with the parents. They had become our friends over the years. We were open about our son’s situation and our concerns. Interestingly, they would share this with their son, who would share it with our son, and just like the game of telephone, the message was always messed up. This became detrimental to our relationship with our son and toward efforts to encourage him to get help.

We never blamed our neighbor’s son or passed judgment on him or on them. We realized he had his own challenges and consequences just as our son had his.

From time to time, the other parents would tell us of the horrors happening in their house, including overdoses and violent threats toward their family members. Each time they would say, “Whatcha gonna do?”

What are you going to do? Stop denying the problem! Stop enabling the situation!

It sounds so simple, but admittedly it’s far from easy … until the day when parents realize that we have to do something. That moment came early for us, and it was not easy nor was it always clear how to distinguish loving support from enabling. The more we worked at it, however, the clearer it became.

Yesterday, I was reminded of the dangers of denial and enabling young addicts.

The neighbor’s future daughter in-law (she’s with their younger son) said the user had threatened her and the parents did nothing. She moved out saying enough is enough, enough of the enabling.

In time, our son – after many, many consequences and heart-wrenching experiences including relapse – did successfully complete a treatment program. Today, he is almost 10 months sober, is back in college part time, has a part-time job. He is living at home, continues to see an addiction counselor and a mental health therapist.

We are so grateful for our son’s efforts and recovery. We are healing, too.

Meanwhile, the chaos and dysfunction of addiction continues down the street, and I only hope it ends before it’s too late.