In 2006 an article in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment discussed the barriers that people reported when it came to getting and seeking treatment. While some of the had to do with not having the money or time, a lot of them had to do with some of the notions people had about treatment in general. With an opioid epidemic in our country as well as around 10% of the people in this country suffering unnecessarily with a very treatable disease, I wanted to take some time to address those barriers, what we are doing to help people overcome them as well as what people with addiction issues and their loved ones can do on their own to help.
1. “I don’t have a problem,” or “I can do this on my own.”- As your reading this it’s hard for me to say if you have a problem or not. I don’t know you personally, unless your one of the amazing people I get to work with who’s reading this. In that case I hope you already figured out your own answer to this. What I can tell you is that it doesn’t take long to come in and sit down with a licensed addiction professional and do an assessment to tell whether or not you might benefit from help.
In terms of being able to do it on your own, you need to ask yourself if you’ve been successful quitting on your own in the past. The majority of people who have issues with addiction have tried multiple times on their own to stop the use of drugs and alcohol on their own and have been unsuccessful. Why? Because the problem of addiction is a unique problem that often requires unique solutions, or at the very least solutions that generally aren’t used to solve other problems. Often I see people who are quite successful in life who get extremely frustrated because the solutions they use to solve and deal with other areas of their lives, don’t work for addiction. I have worked with CEO’s of corporations, professional athletes, people who manage multi-million dollar sales accounts and who are in charge of hundreds, if not thousands of people. By every measure of success, they are the people you might go to to seek advice, and yet when it comes to dealing with addiction, even they needed help. If they can do it, so can you.
Here’s the ultimate, sad irony. The number one barrier, or reason people stated they didn’t want to seek treatment was because they believed they could do it on their own. The number one reason people thought they might need treatment was because they couldn’t do it on their own.
2. People will think badly of me if I go into treatment- The stigma of addiction still exists. If I could name the single most important reason, why after the better part of a decade I continue to work in a field with a burn out rate comparable to the bomb squad and air traffic controllers, when I could be doing something else with less stress and more pay, it would be because people need help. I love helping people with addiction. I am one of them, and I HATE the stigma that comes with having a disease.
Let’s set aside for a moment what others might think of you and ask yourself what you think of you. If your afraid of what your family might think, ask yourself what they are going to think if you die. Is the temporary uncomfortability of telling people close to you that you need help worse than the pain you’ll cause them if they have to plan your funeral?!
Also, who says they have to know right now. I will almost never advocate keeping your addiction secret from people who care about you. I have heard countless times when people in treatment say things like “I can’t tell my wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner”, or whatever. They have this idea that somehow they’ll leave them. Here’s the truth. Haven’t seen it happen. Will they be mad you were lying to them. Yes. Suck it up. This person has been with you through all of it, even if they didn’t know exactly what was causing you all the distress. And here’s the great thing about us counselor types; we’ll work with you on how to have that conversation. Hell, I’ll sit in the room with you while you do it. You better tell them ahead of time why they are coming in, cause I am in no way going to sit there and be party to your loved one feeling ambushed, but I will help have the conversation about addiction and how treatment helps.
3. Fear of Treatment- I can almost guarantee you whatever fear you have surrounding treatment is blown way out of proportion. Your addiction will tell you that you don’t need it, or convince you that the whole thing is something you can’t handle. Don’t listen
Let me tell you that if you survived any amount of time in your addiction, that there is nothing that myself or anyone else in treatment is going to throw at you that’s worse. Treatment at times can be uncomfortable. Recovery is not for pansies. If it were, everyone would do it and be successful at it. However, all change, even good change is uncomfortable. That’s the way life is.While treatment and recovery may provide you moments of personal uncomfortability, you’re addiction will KILL YOU.
I’d ask you to practice something we call “courageous vulnerability.” In other words be afraid and do it anyway. In recovery meetings in the community you may hear people say “The only thing you have to lose is your misery.” That’s true. I can’t promise you recovery is easy, but I promise you it’s worthwhile.
4. Concerns for privacy- Often times, related to not wanting family to know you’re in treatment, people are afraid that others (e.g. job, co workers, others in the community) will find out and that it will have a negative impact on them. Let me state that all people who come to treatment for substance abuse are covered under a federal statute entitled Federal Confidentiality Statute CFR-42 Part 2. What that statute states is that we cannot, without your express written permission, share any information about you or your treatment with anyone outside the treatment. We can’t even confirm you are a patient with us unless there is an appropriate release of information in place. AND that release has to specifically state what we are allowed to discuss. So unless you choose to allow someone to have access to information about your treatment, they aren’t going to hear it from us.
5. I don’t really think I need therapy. I’m not crazy. OR I don’t like talking about myself and especially not in a group of other people- Dear Lord! I hear this so much, and always before people actually have a session with me or prior to their actually attending a group. Once they’ve been to group, done some counseling, they figure out that it isn’t all that bad. In fact, most of them like it, or at least find some benefit in it. Also, you’re not crazy. You have a disease. A chronic, relapsing, reoccurring, brain disease, that is absolutely treatable. Crazy has nothing to do with it.
If you’ve spent your life keeping things to yourself, not talking about how you feel or what’s going on with you. If you think that you’d be better off handling your own problems and you’re dealing with addiction issues, then I have to ask HOW’S THAT WORKING OUT FOR YA?! Probably not real well. Very rarely is group therapy going to resemble whatever it is you’ve seen on whatever movie or TV show. It’s called dramatization for a reason. You need to stop being so dramatic. Plus there’s all kinds of different types of treatment groups. Some are what we call psychoeducational where we have a specific topic we discuss. It’s more like being in a classroom. On request, I do a group on the history of recovery and addiction, which has a power point and memorabilia that is shown. Some groups are called process oriented, in which more sharing takes place, but if you don’t feel like sharing or talking, no one is going to make you.
Those are just a few of the barriers. There are more, and just when I think I’ve heard every excuse, reason, justification, or story about why people can’t or won’t seek help, I hear a new one.
At Recovery Works NW we have a staff with decades of combined experience in treating addiction. We also like to remove barriers, not put them up. If you had a chance to talk to any of our patients here, I am confident they would tell you that we worked with them to get the help they needed. No one’s case is identical, and we don’t believe in a cookie cutter approach to treatment. If you or a loved one is having issues with addiction, please call us and we will see what we can do to help you tear down some of those barriers, get you the help you need and deserve, and get you on the path to living a life you want to live.