Every day I talk to parents of heavy substance users. I hear a range of emotions from fear to anger to concern to intense love. Many parents don’t entirely buy into the idea that their adult child is suffering from a disease that makes them use substances, but many of these same parents also feel hopeless, fearing their child will never change. Some parents have already sent their kid to rehabs and therapy. There they may have been placed on medication-assisted treatment, aka MAT which seems to help for a short time until it doesn’t and their loved one returns to heavy drug use.
Make no mistake, the dangers of illicit substance use and heavy alcohol use are real. People die every day as a result of these activities, but this is also true for driving or riding in a car, and most of us do that every single day, so it’s important to keep this in its proper perspective. Like riding in a car, the vast majority of heavy substances users survive these experiences; and in fact, most stop their use as they mature. And perhaps you know this to be true, because when you look back at your own life you once liked to drink or use drugs heavily, or you knew others who did and don’t any longer. Maybe now you enjoy an occasional night of heavy use but your preference for heavy use changed as you matured.
The truth is alcohol and drug “addiction” is nothing more than a strong preference for intoxication. People develop strong preferences for substance use based on what they believe substances can do for them. And in all cases they use them in the pursuit of some level of personal happiness, even if you cannot see it. This may sound like an over-simplification, but based on the past 50 years of research, and on my 30 years of helping people to stop their addictions, it turns out to be right. This is a case of Occam’s Razor; the simplest explanation turns out to be the most accurate.
I know firsthand how scary it is to love someone who is using substances heavily. You wish there was some way you could force them to stop. You’ve tried to convince them how much better their life will be if they make a change, and you just can’t understand why they keep using in spite of the negative consequences. They seem to be making their life so damn hard. Addiction treatment professionals and have over-complicated addiction to such an extent that there are now 3 generations of people who believe they cross a line with certain activities where they lose control and their use becomes involuntary. And then everyone begins the completely impossible endeavor of trying to control what is believed to be completely out of control.
There is an immutable truth to this and that is, only an individual can change his or her own thoughts and behaviors. There is no person or entity outside themselves that can do that. I can’t fix you. I can’t change what my 23 year old son likes or doesn’t like. I can’t change what he believes or doesn’t believe and I definitely can’t force him to act differently than he wants to act. All treatment programs, all addiction counseling, all support group meetings, all addiction theory is precisely designed to do the impossible: to force people to stop doing what they want to do. And in the process of trying to do this, they use lies and myths: (i.e. addiction is a progressive, incurable brain disease, drugs and alcohol enslave people, people become addicted and are powerless over their usage, etc.) The problem is, those who come to believe in this mythology truly do become enslaved, and those are the very people who are dying.
Even if you’ve already sent your son or daughter to rehab. Even if they’ve been exposed to the mythology and even if they seem to believe in it, but are still struggling, there is a solution and it is in providing the truth. I encourage you to check out The Freedom Model for the Family. It will give you a completely different perspective on the problem as a whole and it will show you exactly how people change. It will provide you with the actual data showing that more than 90% of people who were once addicted are no longer addicted, and it will show you that most solved their problem without ever going to rehab, support group meetings or addiction treatment.
Your son or daughter can change — and they can do it happily and easily by getting the right information. The Freedom Model for the Family will also address the most common problems that parents face. It will help you to deal with the fear, guilt and shame that may be negatively impacting your life. It will set the record straight on the myths of family disease, denial, co-dependence and enabling. And it will finally put to rest the tough love debate once and for all.
The truth that treatment providers won’t tell you is that most people change, and the vast majority do it without treatment. Your child is no different.
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