Updated: Aug 2
Addiction. It is all over the news and in the hearts and minds of many. Where did it start? How do we stop it? What causes it? Over the past ten years, I have worked in various settings that have dealt with individuals living with addiction. I started my career as a therapist for the Georgia State Parole Board counseling former inmates who had substance abuse problems. Later, I worked in a Suboxone/Methadone clinic as a therapist. I ran Intensive Outpatient substance abuse programs for community services boards in Georgia, worked as a Partial Hospitalization Program therapist at a psychiatric hospital, developed a substance abuse program for a prison in Georgia and I also served as the CEO of an outpatient program for addiction for a time. I have worked in the Detox, Residential, Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Out Patient, and Outpatient levels of care for various treatment centers.
Through my experience, I have noticed that we are treating the wrong thing. Addiction is such a huge and destructive beast that we often focus too much attention on just stopping a person from using again instead of understanding why a person would use in the first place. As I listen to peoples’ stories, they usually make sense. For most individuals, the act of using drugs, alcohol or any other addictive substance is based on them trying to meet a need. I hear the same story over and over: the individual is using in order to deal with the emotional or physical pain, to numb or to escape from it.
Instead of focusing on the addiction (which I see as a person’s maladaptive attempt to cope with their issues) let’s treat the underlying issues. So many families and individuals need to understand that to treat addiction we must drive deep into their core issues. There must be a willingness for the individual to understand who they are, accept who they are, and change the things that cause them pain and discomfort. This is, by no means, simple work.
As I work with people today, I strive to help them push past the surface issues and problems to understand what emotional needs are not being met. I push them to gain insight into their lives, their feelings and their actions, to better understand their needs. For most people with addiction, this will be a life long process. Whenever you think the work is done, there is yet another level to uncover. We must educate individuals about the necessary work it will take to stay clean and live a life of recovery. Though it can be hard and seem impossible at times, we must support them and provide them with the hope they need to push through to the next level.
It is possible to live a life where you are truly happy and not dependent on any substances to be okay. I encourage all of you that may suffer from addiction, or know someone who suffers, to continue the work and not give up. It is worth it. It will pay off. I believe in you.
-Daniel Rubin, M.S. LPC, LMHC