First experience with addiction treatment
I've only been actively involved in the addiction treatment industry for a relatively short amount of time. My first knowledge that it even existed was when my daughter, Alison, came to me with a concern that she had a problem with marijuana (and alcohol, as I later found out). She had recently turned 18 and decided to seek help through a local addiction treatment facility. She completed the 30 day program with ease. I thought she was "cured" - nobody had explained to me that addiction is a disease and that her battle would be a lifelong process.
From smoking pot to shooting heroin
Shortly after she left the facility and came back home, she reconnected with a boy that she had met while she was there. She knew that it was probably not a good idea to pursue a friendship with him, but she did it anyway. She was smitten by his charm and the relationship advanced quickly from there. He was not a bad person... however, he was a heroin addict. She did not share much about what happened over those next several months... I found out more details years later, though. She had basically gone from smoking pot and drinking beer to shooting heroin within a matter of a few months.
Getting back on track
I remember knowing that something didn’t seem right; however, I didn’t know the extent of what was happening. At that point, I didn’t really even understand what “addiction” was or how it could consume a person’s mind. I thought this was just another case of my daughter “hanging out with the wrong crowd” and that if I helped her “get her life on track” then she would be fine. My belief was that all she needed was to come home early every night to stay out of trouble, get a job to gain some self-worth, remain single to prevent unhealthy relationships, maybe get a new haircut and clothes to boost her self-esteem, and everything would work out in the end! Little did I know that I was encouraging her to avoid her underlying issues and mask the symptoms of her disease.
The moral of the story is this:
1. Addiction is a disease that will not magically disappear, and masking the symptoms will only make the situation worse.
2. There is no quick fix to treat addiction, and recovery is a lifelong process.
3. Parents or family members cannot threaten or bribe the disease away from the person, no matter how hard they try or how sincere their intentions are.
4. And most importantly, those of us who have gone through this hell are OBLIGATED to share what we have learned from our experience with others so as to prevent another person’s life from being destroyed, or worse yet, LOST!
So, I will tell you this in response to the initial question, “Who should you trust for resources?” You should trust people who have been in your shoes and have information that can help you understand what you and your loved one are going through. You should trust mothers who have lost their child and wish they knew then what they know now. You should trust people who have overcome their addiction to live a life of long-term recovery who want to share what worked for them.
There is no “right” answer to what you should do or how you should feel. But please don’t be afraid to reach out for help just because you don’t know who to trust. We are all in this together, and once you start speaking with others about your struggle, you will begin to notice a pattern in responses from those of us who have been there. You will learn to recognize when a person offering assistance or support is sincere. There are red flags to alert you when someone may be attempting to mislead you... there are bad people in the world, we know this. However, there are SO MANY good people in the world too! Find us! We are here to help you!
Full transparency: I have a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization called Alison Cares Foundation, which I started in my daughter Alison’s memory two years after her death. I raise funds to help families whose lives have been affected by addiction, overdose or suicide. From groceries for a person just starting out in sober living to funeral support for a parent who has lost their child, it is my mission to help ease the burden of those struggling financially and to provide love and support to those suffering emotionally.
In addition, I have a network of AMAZING people throughout the U.S. who are dedicated to helping others in their own unique ways. From treatment resources to family support meetings to advocacy and prevention, and everything in between. I LOVE to connect people - it’s what I do! If you need any further information or resources OR if you would like references from people I have helped or connected, please don’t hesitate to ask!