Buster and Bob Family

Bob (a pseudonym) dropped by the other day. He is the father of Buster (also a pseudonym), who is now 18 years old and on his way to start college down south; he also called the day before. They both wanted to thank us. In Bob’s estimation, our program saved their lives. Like many families, Bob came to see us for an intervention for Buster. In the beginning of the preparation process we supported Bob in realizing that a traditional intervention was inappropriate and potentially harmful to his son. Wanting to try anything to save his son’s life, Bob welcomed alternatives.

In Buster’s first 17 years, he had suffered a long lifetime of abuse and neglect from a father’s opiate addiction, a step-father’s physical abuse, and an erratic and indifferent mother. A confrontational approach would unnecessarily risk further victimizing this angry and vulnerable kid who was so disgusted and dejected he had left both divorced parents’ homes to live on the streets. At the cynical and sarcastic suggestion of his high school principal, Buster left school during his sophomore year; soon followed by his living on the streets for nearly two years. Smoking tons of marijuana daily, he had no driver’s license, GED or diploma, no loving home. A traditional family intervention likely would have tipped him over the edge of despair.

Through the Family Recovery Program, Bob and Buster made it. It took four sessions of careful counseling with Bob before Buster even came to his first session. But, even in that first session Buster was so full of hope, he tactfully corrected his dad’s early fumbling with some of the new skills. Over four sessions they worked, cried, laughed, and hugged. Buster’s drug use began to drop and he moved back in to his father’s house. They were healthy enough to drive the other drug users out. Within seven more sessions, Buster finished his GED and was crying and wailing in the frustration of again not passing his driver’s license exam. He was dealing with life; crying instead of drugging. The emerging bond between dad and son supported Buster in working his rear-end off to try, and try. In less than seven months total, Buster had gone from the streets to working at a fast food joint. With skills, they built the capacity to grow and grieve the losses of real life. Bob was nearly finished tapering off of his opiate pain medication. He knew he was addicted but now could support his son’s growth while dealing with his own pain of real life; without medication.

Though the program is available both in family group (including individual family sessions) and only individual family formats, the skills are the same. Reported results are usually immediate. We do not use videos or long lectures as this is not a family education program. Family education helps families only to the degree addiction-education alone helps addicts recover. This is a potent skill-building recovery program for addicts with families and those struggling with co-dependency. In an affirming and enjoyable atmosphere, we explicitly model and guide acquisition of healthy skills while adjusting structural family problems. The skills are also consistent with findings and recommendations from drug prevention research for children. This is a perfect aftercare program for addicts with families. Many addicts arrest their relapse by bringing their families into recovery with us. Both UA and 12-Step are fundamental components.

What many addicts in relapse need is not more treatment, but family recovery addressing the issues fueling relapse. Due to demand, in the last year we have increased our discrete offerings serving CD and mental health counselors with their personal family recoveries.