5700 W. Grace Street
Suite 108
Richmond, VA 23226

Being an addict in recovery gives me a unique perspective on what is effective in dealing with addicts seeking recovery.

When I was in a desperate situation seeking help for my addiction issues, every professional I spoke with told me not to worry about the pressure I was facing as a result of my addiction and work on the underlying causes of my problem. The underlying causes are certainly an important factor in the recovery process, however, when you are facing severe financial pressures, potential criminal issues, divorce, homelessness and other dire situations, the last thing you are able to do is try to address the underlying causes leading to your addiction.

We have found the use of solution focused therapy the most effective tool in dealing with addicts in the early process of therapy. Addressing the problems that are forefront in the addicts mind allows them to eventually get into the discovery process. We help our clients resolve, or at least address the issues they feel are most pressing, this is very helpful in developing a therapeutic bond.

I had a young man who came to me for help with his gambling addiction, not because he wanted to, but because his mother required him to see me before she would help him. His most pressing issue was that he owed a bookie $8000 and this bookie was pressuring him daily, suggesting that he and his family’s safety were at risk. The bookie even went as far as sending a picture of his young son getting off of a school bus, there were no threats written but they certainly were implied. The only solution that the young man could come up with was for his mother to pay the $8000 so the bookie would leave him alone and then he would be able to quit gambling. While this sounds like a logical plan, it is the same plan that the mother had implemented at least four times before and she was not willing to do it again. This young man was certainly not in the position to discuss his gambling addiction as long as this threat was held over his head. After discussing the options with my client, he agreed to allow me to call the bookie and negotiate a settlement. The bookie was reluctant to negotiate at first, but realized if he was going to get any money he was going to need to comply. We agreed that he would hold off any “collection” attempts for 45 days and we would begin a payment spread out over 12 months on a discounted amount of the original debt. Once my client had the pressure of this debt removed, he became compliant in the recovery process. This would not have been possible without the use of solution focused therapy.

The most popular suggestion from doctors, therapist, social workers and clergy for people dealing in addiction is to attend 12 step meetings. 12 step meetings have helped millions of people find a quality recovery from their addictive behaviors. Unfortunately, there are many people who have been unable to use 12 step programs to find their own personal recovery. They are told that they are not being honest with themselves or that they have not followed the steps properly, as the reason they fail to find success in the 12 step process. This may be the case for many, but when you look at the statistics somewhere between 5% and 15% of the people that attend their first 12 step meeting are able to achieve one year of abstinence or sobriety. Not many people would consider that a satisfactory success rate.

Our approach to addiction recovery is completely based on meeting the client where they are! In determining the best approach in dealing with an individual’s addiction we considered many factors in determining the best approach including what has been tried previously. It has been my experience that the 12 step approach is much less effective with a younger population. There are many possible reasons why this seems to be the case, but one factor in dealing with young addicts is the suggestion of “powerlessness”. A 21-year-old drug addict is not likely to really accept the fact he or she is powerless, in fact, they feel they are immortal. Many 12 step rooms have a tendency to use the term “powerlessness” out of context. Step one of the 12 step program states “We are powerless over our addiction, and our lives have become unmanageable”. That seems straightforward but I have heard many people in recovery suggest that we are powerless in the entire process of recovery. One of the techniques that we enlist is helping the addict find their “point of power” in the recovery process. To illustrate the point to new clients I often make the following statement "I guarantee I will not die today by falling in the Grand Canyon". I then will ask my client "how can I guarantee I will not die today by falling in the Grand Canyon?" Almost always they answer correctly "because you are not at the Grand Canyon". By not being at the Grand Canyon, I am in no danger of falling in. I have power over that situation. We work with our clients early to help them establish where their power exists, this is proven to be an extremely important point. I must point out that we completely agree that addicts are powerless over their addiction, this is not debatable.

Many people dealing with addiction report that 12 step meetings were not only ineffective, they made the cravings worse. This can happen when members of 12 step meetings tell war stories and glorify past use, intentionally or unintentionally. I often hear from many of my younger clients particularly that they had a stronger urge to use after attending a 12 step meeting.

There is another factor that is not often talked about that concerns me for young people who have drug addiction. Many attendees of Narcotics Anonymous are court ordered to be there and are not necessarily there because they want help. I have heard from many addicts that there is almost always a drug dealer in or around narcotic anonymous meetings. This is not an indictment of Narcotics Anonymous, simply stating what appears to be common knowledge among people with addiction.

We are not trying to bash 12 step programs, just point out that they are not effective for everyone. There are many methods that can be used to help people with various addictions find long-term sustained recovery; solution focused therapy and positive psychology are a couple of examples that are extremely popular and have produced incredible results. In March 2014 we began a program with six opiate addicts who had not been able to find recovery through traditional methods. Our program included intense exercise, nutritional support, group and individual sessions. In March 2015, five of the six clients had maintained their recovery and all five were either working or had returned to school. This is an example of how we are able to develop recovery plans based on each individual client.

Addiction does not negotiate, it does not discriminate and offers only one of four outcomes: prison, insanity, death or recovery. We approach addiction recovery as if our clients' lives depend on it, because it does.

Sometimes, only the broken can fix the broken.

If you or a loved one is dealing with an addiction problem, we would welcome the opportunity to see if our methods would be a good fit for your situation. Please call Joel at 804-335-4343 for a no cost evaluation.