The family experience of addiction

voyagerecovery
The family experience of addiction

What’s the last thing you think before you fall asleep? What’s the first thing you think in the morning?
“Is he okay?”
The young man in your life might be stealing; being dishonest; getting in trouble at work, school, or with the law; he might be taking risks with his life that result in hospitalization or worse.
As a family member, as someone who loves someone who’s struggling with a substance use disorder, you’ve likely been forced to adapt your behavior to a person who isn’t honest about where they are, who they’re with and what they’re doing.
Perhaps you’ve found yourself playing detective, using technology or social media to track him down. Parents often admit to tracking their loved one’s iPhone twenty or thirty times a day; to combing through his social media looking for all kinds of clues, hints, any indication of where he is and what he’s doing.
Families are stuck in an unending pattern of chaos, forced to respond to life-or-death scenarios in real-time. Hardest of all is that they develop a false sense of happiness in the moments of calm that occasionally punctuate the chaos. When families build an entire code of behaviors around someone they love not dying, not getting arrested, or coming home only an hour late instead of two days late as being cause for celebration, this illustrates a major degradation of where they’re finding happiness.
One of the goals of our work with families is to help them re-adjust their expectations around sanity and happiness; to refuse to tolerate old destructive behaviors and look for real joy and success.
Perspective is one of the biggest challenges families face. Because they have grown so accustomed to accepting pain and chaos as part of daily life, parents especially struggle to see what’s really going on. We help them take a closer look.
It’s real: you really did spend six full hours last week researching where your kid was through a variety of apps; you really spent three hours combing through social media to learn about his friends; you really spent twelve or fifteen hours talking about it with the few people who are still willing to hear you; and yes, you really spent at least three hours fighting about it all with someone you care about.
And on top of all that time you spent searching, fighting, and fearing the worst, you still had to be a parent to your other kids, still had to be a partner to your spouse, still had to show up at work and do your job, still had to grocery shop, still had to walk the dog, still had to show up for your friends.
How present are you for your own life? How much do you have leftover for yourself after exhausting all that time and energy on your son? How kind were you, how patient were you, how resilient were you in all the other areas of your life that deserve your attention too?
In the NA Basic Text there’s a passage about isolation I always share with families. It says “We did not choose to become addicts. We suffer from a disease that expresses itself in ways that are anti-social and that makes detection, diagnosis and treatment difficult. Our disease isolated us from people except when we were getting, using and finding ways and means to get more. Hostile, resentful self-centered and self-seeking, we cut ourselves off from the outside world Anything not completely familiar became alien and dangerous. Our world shrank and isolation became our life. We used in order to survive. It was the only way of life that we knew.”
That’s what isolation looks like for an addict or alcoholic, how might that differ from the isolation experienced by a family member?
When we talk about control and unmanageability, we have to talk about typical patterns of behavior in family members. In adapting to a seemingly endless cycle of chaos, they often create an environment that sustains the addict or alcoholic’s destructive behavior. Even in trying to be ‘nice’—trying to accept a young man’s behavior, give him a break, let him off the hook once in a while—there is an attempt to control in there. There is the unspoken hope that if you can give them what they want, they’ll give you what you want.
We help families see that old patterns don’t inspire new behaviors—that tolerating, accepting, and adapting your life to an addict or alcoholic doesn’t help them, rather it hurts you and the rest of your family.
The goal of treatment is the same for patients as it is for families: to find freedom from the chaos of addiction and build a life that is worth living.
We ask parents to imagine themselves before they had children, before they got married, before they started their career, before they went to college.
Who were you before addiction came into your life?
In that lifetime before now, when you thought about having kids, is this what you imagined?
What would you tell that person now? What would they tell you?
What would you change in your life now to get back to the ideals that you had then?
You’ll never be able to return to who you were before addiction, but for most people living in recovery that’s a good thing. Living in recovery means knowing what you are powerless over, what you cannot control, what makes your life unmanageable, and that there is something greater than you that you can reach out to for help.
Our goal by providing an , and weekly family support for the duration of a patient’s stay with us, is to help families in the same way we help patients: freedom from the chaos and destructive of active addiction, and a chance at a life worth living.
Contact us to learn more about how you can rebuild yourself and your family and give everyone a second chance at a happy, healthy life, call us at 772-245-8345 or email us at admissions@voyagerecovery.com.

Must-have elements of a continuing care plan

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Must-have elements of a continuing care plan

Good clinicians know that good treatment followed by good continuing care has good outcomes.
That seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?
One of the most important services a treatment center can provide is a rock-solid continuing care plan. Continuing care is the plan devised by your treatment center’s clinical team that addresses each patient’s specific needs, his relationship with his family, and his post-treatment environment.
At Voyage, a continuing care plan might include a recommendation for sober housing, a collegiate recovery community, or get very specific about contingencies for returning home. We consider his access to a Twelve Step community, familial or financial support he’ll have, and if the environment will suit his academic or vocational needs.
We want to ensure that his recovery environment is supportive of his long-term remission.
Once our clinical team has developed a continuing care plan for a patient, and we’ve got him and his family on board, we plan a visit with him and a family member to the locale that he’s going to stay in after treatment—whether he stays in Martin County, returns to his hometown, or goes to a new place.
Our plan for the day includes seeing some of the area, meeting with folks from the intensive outpatient program or sober house we’re recommending, and then checking out a meeting so our patient has a sense of the local Twelve Step community he’s joining.
It’s a great way of diffusing tension and nerves everyone has surrounding what comes after treatment, because together we get to develop a snapshot, a sense of the look and feel of what this young man’s next chapter will be.
What makes these outings even more special is the opportunity our patient’s family member has to see how far he’s come. Gone are the days of reacting to crisis—now their loved one is making good, healthy decisions for himself. It’s a profound moment for everyone.
What makes for a good continuing care plan? Look for these five elements:
1. Holistic clinical collaboration
Our entire comes together weekly to address the most effective ways of ensuring long-term remission which includes treatment and continuing care. At Voyage our clinical team includes our CEO, Chief Clinical Officer, Psychiatrist, Director of Nursing, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, and Primary Counselor.
As a team, we address a variety of factors affecting a patient’s needs such as any co-occurring mental health issues, his academic and vocational goals, his family relationship, his recovery environment, and what he likes to do for fun.
The plan we devise must be aggressive in ensuring remission, with equal emphasis on being a plan he’ll want to follow through on. A healthy balance must include challenges as well as joy and fun.
2. Opportunities to practice the plan
During the , we use the first month to get a young man stable in his new routine of healthy attention to self-care. In the second month, we address a young man’s relationship with his family, and host his family at a week-long onsite . In the third month we practice coping strategies and life skills that will support a young man’s stability, wherever his continuing care plan takes him.
This practice in the third month is crucial. With two months of continuous sobriety under his belt, and a newfound sense of community, accountability, and responsibility for self, we give a young man the opportunity to carve out the life he wishes to have. This life should include community and fellowship, achievement and satisfaction at work or school, and consistent sobriety. Our clinical team and counselors facilitate this engaged practice through scenarios in group, weekly family sessions, and experiential outings.
3. Family involvement from the beginning
Parents and other close family members are often the ones most profoundly affected by a young man’s struggle with substance abuse. It is so important that each family is involved with their loved one’s treatment and continuing care plan from the very start.
In weekly family conferences we’ll review our clinical team’s recommendations for a continuing care plan with the family to ensure he has the support he needs and to circumvent any obstacles to the plan.
During Family Program week, many families find that after a month or more of separation from their loved one, they can clearly see changes that have taken place in their young man. We have a chance to come together—patient, family, and clinical team—to discuss and practice coping strategies for the post-recovery environment.
This is especially effective if a family has been attending Al Anon or has sought out therapy to help them along their own journey of recovery. It is much easier to feel hopeful, or to at least be willing to let go of expectations, surrounding a young man’s recovery when the whole family is engaged with recovery.
4. Authentic engagement with the patient
We get very specific and concrete with each patient about our recommendations for continuing care. We devote substantial time to addressing his concerns or objections to the plan—we want the patient to articulate his discomfort with the plan so we can address that discomfort immediately with actionable insights we can practice together.
Sometimes the post-recovery environment looks drastically different from the pre-treatment environment, and that can be jarring. We have found that when there are areas that were causing our patient a significant amount of stress—a work, school or family situation that the patient used as the basis for their identity or self-worth to the detriment of his own health—we’ll give him a bit more time to practice his program of recovery in a controlled environment like a halfway house. Likewise, if a patient came from a situation where he had not done the work he was supposed to do, we feel it’s vital to immerse him in an environment where he must immediately become responsible and accountable.
5. Excellent, clinically-sound treatment
It is so important to consider continuing care as an extension of treatment—not an add-on. Good treatment and a good continuing care plan go hand-in-hand and, along with a patient’s dedication and commitment to his sobriety, can ensure the best outcome possible.
At Voyage, we believe good treatment includes addressing a young man’s sense of self, his family relationships, and his environment. We encourage our patients to rely on each other for strength and support, which prepares them to build vital relationships within their own Twelve Step fellowships once they leave us.
Good treatment disrupts old cycles and helps young men build healthy new ones. It addresses destructive or crippling feelings of fear, anger, guilt and shame by bringing them out into the light, and helping patients learn positive coping strategies. Good treatment also builds upon a regimen of trust, honesty, accountability and integrity, which can help prevent a young man from slipping back into old behaviors. By allowing young men to identify where their vulnerabilities are, they own their awareness of triggers and can make better choices.
Talk to us about where you want to take your recovery by calling us at 772-245-8345 or emailing us at admissions@voyagerecovery.com.

Who can I talk to?

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Who can I talk to?

When you’re the family member of a young person struggling with a substance use disorder, life takes on a very different look and feel.
We call addiction the “family disease” because everyone in the family is affected. Do you feel sad, angry, worried, frustrated, disappointed? Do you feel responsible for the pain your child is in, or guilty about the effect this might have on your other children? Do you feel ashamed, embarrassed, or alone?
These are all normal and natural things to feel, and you may feel all of these things at any given time. You and other members of your family might even have radically different feelings. There are no rules here.
When your son begins treatment at Voyage, he’ll immediately have access to a team of skilled and intuitive professionals.
As the person who has been the most profoundly affected by his substance use disorder, what sort of support can you, his family member, count on when he begins treatment?
Who can you talk to?
As your teammates down this rocky road, the various members of your family all want the same thing: a healthy, happy young man who lives up to his potential. However, the feelings that each of you manifest could be as different as night and day. One of you might feel angry while another feels sad; one may feel hopeless while another feels guilty and resentful. This is an important time to go easy on one another, and might be a great time to find someone other than members of your immediate family to process and talk about what’s been going on with your son.
Our family members and friends want the best for us, certainly. They have likely noticed your irritability, depression, or distance and want to help you be yourself again. Again, there are no rules, but people find that even their closest friends and relatives struggle with how to react or respond the information you choose to confide in them. This is totally normal, but it can be frustrating or disappointing when someone can’t provide the support and compassionate feedback you need at this tumultuous time.
Many family members of someone struggling with addiction find a lot of relief attending Al Anon, Nar Anon, or CODA — anonymous fellowships for the friends and family of alcoholics and addicts. Twelve Step groups can be helpful resources for finding support from other adults who have watched someone they love struggle with substance abuse. Members are invited to share their experiences, their strength and their hope, and you’ll be welcome to share at the very first meeting you attend if you like. These groups cannot, however, provide guidance or analysis of your situation.
If you would feel more comfortable with a personalized, hands-on approach to address your needs and your own recovery, an experienced therapist or counselor might really benefit you. Here you can look forward to professional guidance and personalized support. You’ll be able to share anything you choose with your therapist and they’ll help you analyze it, understand it, and grow from it.
At Voyage, we see the entire family as our patient. We know that addiction touches every member of the family. At the same time that your loved one begins treatment at Voyage, you, as his family, will have the support of our team of counselors. We begin with weekly calls, assignments, and assessments where we can address the particular circumstances and obstacles you’ve been facing.
In the second month, we’ll spend an intensive week together as we complete the at our treatment center in Hobe Sound, FL. This is an opportunity for you to address what has happened in your family, and to learn how to recover from it.
The nature of the clinical work we do with you and your loved one is protected by privilege. We don’t discuss with you the exact nature of our work with your family member and likewise won’t discuss with him the exact nature of our work with you. We’ll allow each of you to heal and recover and grow on your own, and to test the mettle of that growth during the latter part of your son’s stay with us.
Who you talk to and what you talk to them about is entirely up to you. You deserve support. Our team is here for you, your family, and your loved one seeking treatment from day one. If you’re not sure who to talk to or where to turn, we can help you find the right place.
Contact us with your questions or concerns at 772-245-8345 or email us at admissions@voyagerecovery.com.

A kick in the pants

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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?

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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

voyagerecovery
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.

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