Article by Letoo James
Alcohol and Drug Abuse is perhaps one of the biggest mental and public health problems our society faces today. The sheer statistics is just mind boggling. We all know someone close to us with this problem and usually wonder what is going on in their lives to allow such ruin. Admittedly, the numerous and ever evolving drug types, their potency, mode of administration, desired effects and reasons for drug use is complex and overwhelming for many to deal with. Living or working with and caring for persons struggling with alcoholism or drug abuse is not a walk in the park for anyone. Without professional support, victims as well as their loved ones justifiably give up.
Xi (not his real name) was a 20-year-old student who walked into my office one morning and plainly said “I’m about to give up in my battle with drugs.” Further inquiry into his complaint revealed a painful journey with alcohol and cannabis abuse. What started out as an innocent curiosity for alcohol at the age of 10 and peer influence in experimenting with cannabis while in high school had now become a full blown dependency. He narrated in tears series of losses as the habit progressively got worse. In short, he was not functioning well, was in crisis and his academic progress had taken a hiatus.
His surrender was an admission on his part that he could not win the battle alone and required empathetic and professional support. His journey towards freedom started by breaking difficult walls that addiction typically builds over time chief among them denial. His management package was not an easy quick fix but a process. It involved assessment, gaining insight, parents support and convincing him that he needed in-patient treatment in a rehabilitation facility. His school supported him by allowing deferment of studies on medical grounds.
I visited him a couple of times while he was undergoing treatment to review his progress together with his parents. One hundred days later he reported back to school to resume studies and continue with follow up. Xi was grateful for his treatment experience, for it afforded him an opportunity to learn a lot about himself, drugs and strategies to avoid a relapse. To maintain sobriety, he had to build a new supportive and healthier environment. This meant cutting off drug using peers, genuine commitment and openness to help whenever he had stressful situations or temptations to use.
His parents shared that alcohol and drug abuse is a family disease as much as it is an individual one and that they too benefited a lot from therapy sessions at the rehab. Their admission is what experts wish many people knew. When all stakeholders collaborate and participate in supporting the victim in recovery process, he or she realizes that they are not alone with the problem and recovery is achieved collectively. The victim also discovers that he/she is not the problem and that the fight is against his/her alcohol and drug abusing behavior. Despite the difficulties that alcoholism presents even when help is suggested, recovery is a dignified process and not a humiliating affair.
Two years later, Xi’s healing efforts as well as his parents’ had paid off. After his graduation he visited my office in the company of his parents who were in a celebratory and gratitude mood. The transformation and achievement could not be hidden in their faces for it was not Xi’s success alone but his parents too. His life ahead looked hopeful, bright and secure.
As I reflect on Xi and many others we treat, I am strongly persuaded that the gap between giving up hope and victims of drug abuse is professional help. Professional help from counsellors, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists can arrest the crisis individuals, families, marriages, workplaces and communities face. Providing insight, perspective, patience and management strategy of the problem gives us all the ability and space to redirect energies towards recovery and not emotional exhaustion of fighting it alone.
As we begin a new year remember that professional help is an ally in the struggle against alcoholism and drug addiction. Effective programs exist to educate, support, prevent and treat individuals, couples, groups and communities against Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Whether victims or loved ones we are not alone and we only have to reach out and trust professional help.
Happy New year to all.