Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
Does Every Person Struggling With Addiction Need Treatment?
— *Names have been changed to protect anonymity *Cheryl’s 19-year-old son,*Dylan, was only 14 when he first started smoking marijuana. Cheryl worried that smoking weed at such a young age might cause brain damage. She also worried marijuana could lead Dylan to use harsher drugs. She addressed her concerns with Dylan many times, but he always dismissed them. Dylan insists that marijuana is like medicine. He thinks it’s beneficial for you. Dylan claims smoking pot relaxes him and helps him chill. Cheryl noted that Dylan did seem more laid back when smoking weed and wondered if she was just an overly cautious parent. She acknowledges her son has always been challenging. He resists authority and does not like being told what to do. However, in the past year, Dylan has changed a lot. Cheryl says he’s up all night, he never eats and has begun picking at his face. Dylan has lost weight and is always jumping at shadows. [lorelie-callout] The tension in Cheryl’s home has escalated due to Dylan’s odd behavior. After one terrible argument between the two, Dylan admitted he was using crystal meth. Dylan justified his use by saying that all his friends were doing it and he is just having fun. Despite what he says, Cheryl is nervous about Dylan’s drug habits and can’t understand why he uses crystal meth at all. Cheryl asked Dylan to quit, but Dylan swears drugs are not a problem. He says if his Mom would just stop nagging him, everything would be fine. Cheryl feels torn and confused. She wonders if she’s blowing things way out of proportion. She knows it’s normal for teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol- Cheryl experimented with them, too. She still remembers smoking a joint in the school bathroom with her best friend. However, Cheryl says being stoned was awful. She hated the way it made her feel, and this is where Cheryl and her son differ. Those who do not suffer from addiction feel out of control and abnormal when they are drunk or high. They don’t like the feeling. On the other hand, those with the disease of addiction feel in control when they are drunk or high. They love the feeling. Cheryl’s husband, *Dan, thinks their son should go to treatment, but Cheryl believes treatment is a little harsh. Cheryl says her son is not an addict; he just likes using drugs. She wonders: does everyone abusing drugs and alcohol need treatment? To answer Cheryl’s question: No, not everyone will need treatment. Some people who use drugs or alcohol will be able to stop using on their own. Others seek help through their church, a counselor, 12-step groups or other recovery programs. Some will attend outpatient programs, while others will need 24-hour support. Simply put, treatment works when everything else has failed. Right now, Dylan has a roof over his head, and all his parents fulfill all his needs. In his mind, Dylan is having fun. For Dylan to want change, consequences must occur. The negative results that arise from Dylan’s using must be greater than the reward he gets from being high. Cheryl and her husband will need to create boundaries with their son. They must require more from him. Dylan has taken the adult role in their household, convincing his Mom that his abnormal and dangerous crystal meth habit is okay. Dylan calls the shots in their home, and his mood dictates the emotional background. To keep the peace, Cheryl has learned to give in to her son. She says it’s easier to agree with Dylan than to go against him. Cheryl says when Dylan is angry, he’s scary. When Cheryl asks too many questions, Dylan blows up. Dylan has trained his mother to walk on eggshells and not confront him. Cheryl feels frustrated, guilty and angry. She is sick to her stomach when her son is mad at her. What Cheryl doesn’t realize is that she gives in to Dylan to make herself feel better. When Dylan’s happy, she’s at peace. For things to improve in Cheryl’s home, a lot has to change. Cheryl and her husband will need to get on the same page regarding Dylan. This will require them both to look at the role they play. Dan feels disappointed with his son and in response, lets his wife handle everything with Dylan. When Dan confronts Dylan, it doesn’t end well. Dan gets angry and says things he wished he hadn’t. In Dan’s mind, he is helping by not getting involved. Dan feels caught in the middle, satisfying his wife while distancing himself from his son. However, Dan can’t remain passive if he’s going to help his son and improve the health of the family. Dylan needs Dan to play a loving, but firm, role in his life. If Cheryl and Dan reach out for support, they will learn – in the language of recovery, ‘no’ means ‘I love you.’ They will receive advice on how to create a plan that works for the entire family. They will be encouraged to establish house rules and set healthy boundaries. If Dylan violates those rules, consequences will need to be enforced – go to treatment or move out. The excellent news is that addiction is a highly treatable illness. If you love someone struggling, reach out. Your sick loved one has a much better chance of succeeding when you’re healthy and in recovery too. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 888-601-8693.