A kick in the pants

It’s not uncommon for folks to wonder, “Does my kid really need treatment, or does he just need a good dose of discipline?”
Voyage is in the business of providing treatment to young men struggling with addiction, so we’re always going to answer yes, your son does need treatment. This question makes sense, and it speaks to an idea many of us were raised on. Using discipline and consequences simply won’t work for someone with a diagnosed substance use disorder. Understanding this begins with understanding the mechanics of what a substance use disorder or “addiction” is.
First, let’s look at where it begins: in the brain.
Most folks associate dopamine with pleasure, but actually, our brains release dopamine in response to a variety of triggers and can signal that something is important or necessary for survival, not just that it feels good. When that dopamine is released, it creates a reward circuit, a memory of a positive outcome. Once these circuits are formed, the brain is compelled to follow these paths again and again.
Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by compulsively repeating a behavior despite adverse consequences. The compulsion comes from a reward network that recognizes substance use as a rewarding stimuli. Once that circuit is created, where use of a substance is interpreted as a rewarding situation, external stimulus no longer matters. If your brain registers something as positive or pleasurable, whether it’s a substance, food, shopping, or working, it no longer matters if there are negative consequences to that behavior. For someone with a substance use disorder, detrimental outcomes simply don’t register—that’s how powerful the reward circuit is.
Now let’s examine the idea of discipline.
There are many interpretations for ‘discipline’ like hard work, self-denial, obedience to rules, punishment and consequences. Discipline is inherently isolating and without reward. In fact, it’s often quite uncomfortable and in stark contrast to how an individual would choose to get along.
Even the staunchest regimen of discipline will not erase the reward circuits created in the brain through substance use. An individual might learn to suppress those desires, but the compulsion hasn’t gone away.
Learning to abstain from drugs and alcohol isn’t a matter of force or will-power or even desire. A person must literally transform their mind, their body and their environment to achieve sustainable remission.
At Voyage, treatment addresses recovery as a gradual process in which the reward pathways in the brain must be redirected to no longer associate “success” or “rewards” with the use of a substance. That’s why our residence and our program allows for so many daily experiences that register as important and pleasurable. Whether it’s an exploratory session in group, a challenging one-on-one session, or the intensely gratifying experience landing a sailfish.
It’s not that we don’t believe in discipline, because we do. Hard work, adherence to a code of conduct, and being accountable for one’s actions are vital to instilling a sense of structure, consistency and humility in a young man. But we don’t believe in punishing a man for an illness he had no control over.
We help him find the joy in life so that his brain is no longer compelled to reach for a substance. And we help him create a sense of community so that doesn’t feel alone.
Our treatment program consists of individual and group therapy, as well as engaging . These things take men out of their comfort zone while being closely monitored by staff, and push their minds and bodies to accomplish wonderful things and reconnect with their personal values and passions.
We’d love to tell you more about why we believe in a rich and dynamic treatment environment over go-it-alone discipline—call us anytime, we’d love to hear from you! Contact us.

What’s fishing got to do with it?

We often hear this question from parents in one form or another — How is fishing going to get my son sober? What does hiking have to do with recovery? Why does it matter that your patients go kayaking?
The answer is simple: For the pure joy of it.
There is no denying that the journey of recovery involves a lot of hard work—because it does. At Voyage the work of recovery involves countless hours spent sharing in group, or talking with a counsellor one on one, participating in a family session, and even challenging or being challenged by the other men in the house. The men are taught to face their past, to accept responsibility for their actions, and to be accountable for the ways in which they have harmed themselves and their relationships with others. They prepare themselves to meet the expectations of life in the context of their parents and family, their teachers, teammates, coaches and schools, their friends and partners, and so many more. Most importantly, the men at Voyage learn how to face these pressures and expectations without relying on an escape by using drugs or alcohol.
The time we spend outdoors, whether it’s trekking through Jonathan Dickinson Park, paddling up the Indian River, or wading flats with a spinning rod, is time the men spend reconnecting with themselves. They find beauty in the world again, savor moments of triumph over discomfort and adversity, feel a genuine sense of wonder and curiosity in their heart again.
The time we spend with our men in the beautiful wilds of Florida allows them to forget for a moment their obligations to their family or their school, to set aside worry about graduation or career, to see themselves not as a son or a brother or a student or a teammate, but as a man, an individual who has a place in a much bigger picture. In coming to know themselves in this way, the men find in living again. They come to understand the things that make life and sobriety worth fighting for.
Every outing presents our clinical staff with a new opportunity to observe and engage with patients in a setting that goes beyond traditional therapeutic environments. These activities give the men and our counselors a context in which to understand their feelings and perceptions. Each moment the men spend reconnecting with themselves and finding joy in activities that do not involve drugs or alcohol brings them another step closer to lifelong sobriety.
You can read more about our approach to Experiential Programming here, or contact our Admissions team to learn more.

Welcome to the Voyage blog

Our team travels around the country talking to respected clinicians -- therapists, psychiatrists, collegiate recovery directors, program directors, interventionists and others -- with an aim to tell more folks about our program, but also to hear about what professionals in our industry are saying.
How is our industry really serving our population of young people struggling with substance use disorders and their families, and where could we do better? What programs are helping folks find lasting and joyful recovery, and what's their secret? What do our own alumni appreciate most about their time with us, and how can we improve on that experience for future patients?
When we're at home, we're answering calls from parents -- moms and dads who are emotionally and mentally exhausted by worrying about their child, family members and loved ones who are about ready to give up on a young man who they have watched struggle for months and even years.
We're passionate about the work we do at Voyage Recovery Center, and we want to share that passion with you through the stories, the memories, the hopes and the dreams of our staff, our patients and our alumni.
Whether you're the parent of a young man struggling with a substance use disorder or a professional in the recovery industry, I hope you enjoy the words and pictures we share in the space, and I hope you call us for a no-obligation chat about how we can help you or someone in your care find lifelong remission from addiction.
Call us or email us anytime at 772-245-8345 or admissions@voyagerecovery.com.