The $64,000 Question

By DSelden 11/30/17
$64,000 Question

I was speaking with a colleague yesterday about the needs of families of addicts. He is a father of a grown daughter in recovery and is very active with some of the family groups that have developed to support families in recovery. He was telling me that there are experienced and well-meaning people, most of them in recovery themselves who offer their services for an intervention for $4000.
I then mentioned the many conversations I have had with beleaguered family members who usually ask something like: “We spent $4000 on the intervention* and then $60,000 for the 30 day program (in Arizona, Florida, California, etc.) and then he /she came home and relapsed. What else does it take?”

That is the $64,000 question of addiction: What does it take to gain and maintain recovery? The real answer is: No one knows. Recovery is an idiosyncratic experience that is different for each person. What works for one person might not work at all for another. You have no way of knowing until you try. But we do know that it takes a very long time. Most specialists in the field will tell you to plan at least a year or two just to get stabilized and dialed in to treatment and self-help resources. Then, you need to keep working at it. My clients know I repeat myself regularly: “If you are not working on your recovery, you are working on your next relapse”. (I stole that from someone else)

If you have unlimited funds the very expensive treatment centers in exotic places will take very good care of you and can help prepare you for the recovery work you will need to do for the rest of your life. However, unless you live in Malibu, Phoenix or Antigua, you will need to return home after your 30 days are up. Home to your dealers, your drinking buddies, your job in a field that is engorged with drinking and drug use. Home to risky people, risky places and risky things, everything you need to remove from your life in order to obtain and maintain recovery.

For everyone else, the rest of us middle class grunts trying to support a family, I advise holding on to your money and investing time and effort into local treatment centers, a knowledgeable and skilled therapist and self help groups. And that last one is for the addict and family members.
Addiction is a chronic disease. It cannot be treated in 30 days, no matter how much money you spend. The disease is insidious: it waits for you to let up just for a moment, and then begins the relapse process. Only lifelong commitment and effort will succeed. And that is a whole lot more than $64,000.

* The 2016 Surgeon General’s Report “Facing Addiction in America” states: “Planned surprise confrontations…a model developed in the 1960’s, sometimes called the ‘Johnson Intervention’-have not been demonstrated to be an effective way to engage people in treatment.”

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