Coming Out of the Fog. On Treatment

Our son says treatment is a place where one acquires education and enlightenment as to one’s addiction and is given tools to embrace a new and different way of living apart from substances. Fog-dissolving. Whether it’s a 180 degree change of thinking, a pursuit of one’s goals and dreams or a routine of receiving and absorbing help, treatment addresses it.

As with anything requiring a change of mind, heart and habit, a longer time in treatment might be better, but 30 days residential seems to be the insurance limit. Out-patient treatment may be required first by insurance or may follow residential. Ted did 180 days in residential treatment, 90 days in a half-way house, then the summer at home working full time (part of his at-home contract he wrote and we agreed upon) and going to meetings (this too) under a sponsor’s guidance, and then to a collegiate recovery program called StepUP at Augsburg College to finish his college education.

I sat next to a man last week who was almost done with a year of treatment at the Rescue Mission. After that, they have a residential program to help those men in recovery assimilate slowly back into society. I can’t help but express love for longer treatment. To me it makes sense — practice a behavior for years (decades?) and undo that in 30 days? It is what it is in insurance world but I wish we gave people more time. The Rescue Mission and Teen Challenge are two places for zero-budget, zero-insurance folks seeking help, and for months, not days.

In my experience personally and with others I’ve helped, I would suggest asking questions of the treatment facility right off the bat.


  • About insurance coverage. This was a bit vague when I checked Ted in and in the week following. Maybe I was just mentally murky, but it took tenacity to get straight-up answers. Keep asking or ask for a questions? personal contact who will advocate for you.  See Treatment Specialist Ben Bertsch’s Just Keep Going Parents blog on navigating treatment here.
  • About a timetable for your loved one’s tenure. They may not know until they get a feel for where he or she is in his or her condition. There might be twists, turns and tweaks so you may have to take one day, week and month at a time.
  • About your personal contact/visits at the treatment center and their protocol for inquiries about your loved one.
  • About parent/child communication with the treatment center, and also with your loved one.
  • About educational programs for the family and suggested reading. Ask, attend, absorb and act.
  • About where you can get help for yourself while your loved one gets the help he or she needs. Remember, we all need to change to bring change. Or, click here on Help for the Family.

And/but please note…

As I’ve walked alongside parents whose children are in treatment, I’ve found some commonalities:

  • Most likely the treatment center will not be overly communicative with you — actually hardly at all. Expect that they won’t. I know, we’re dying to know what’s going on, but we can choose to trust the process and understand that the treatment center can’t possibly keep in regular contact with families or there would be no time to do their jobs. It’s so very hard to be hands off, but this is a good time to start letting go and letting God.  Ask questions and voice concerns when you have the opportunity.
  • We want to be all up in their business. Don’t micro-manage your child’s treatment. Visit. Ask your loved one questions about the content if they want to share what they’re learning. Otherwise, let them talk about what they want to talk about or tell them news from home.
  • Try not to have an opinion about how treatment  professionals should be doing their work. This isn’t their first rodeo.  I remember a chance meeting with the treatment center’s spiritual care coordinator off site and taking her arm to give her some advice on Ted. She gently but confidently told me that they know how to untangle addiction, but thank you. :)  Smiley face needed here because now it’s funny. She was right. I can only imagine what she was thinking when I gave her my tips on how to do her job.
  • Having said that, if you have a concern, find a place to voice it with the counselor or appropriate source. When I could, I asked if Ted and his counselor had addressed something in his life from the past that concerned me. They had not, and the counselor thought it was very important to know.
  • Don’t freak out if your child doesn’t “like” treatment and doesn’t want to be there. No one wants to be there. That’s normal. (Do we “like” being in the hospital and getting treated?) It’s a whole different context than using chemicals to live life, and it’s hard work. Take your own worries about that to Al Anon, to God and to your journal.  Call a confidant, 12-step sponsor or your own counselor if you need to vent. Ted would say he was quite a few days in treatment before he was all in. We didn’t love that wait but it was reality.
  • A treatment specialist Ben Bertsch revealed something interesting, “The motivation of the patient is the most critical piece of the treatment plan. The best place in the world can’t help people who don’t want to be helped. The other thing to point out is that we generally see clients begin to push back on care (complain, want to leave, etc.) right about the time they are approaching the thing that’s causing the pain behind the behavior.” Makes sense.
  • It’s gonna be awkward for the patient and the family at first. No one knows how to act. We’ve never done this before and we’re all walking on eggshells. So just know that and accept it as part of the package. Besides our Friends and Family Program on Saturdays (some have them all at once on consecutive days), I could take Ted to Starbucks off campus for a few hours a week. I was unsure of myself as a parent — what to say, how to encourage. I guess in the end it was just important for Ted to know we supported and loved him. Not a bad idea to come out and admit that we’re all new at this recovery thing. We’ll make mistakes and fall into old behavior once in a while, but if we are gentle with each other, honest and willing to learn new things, we’ll trudge through to a better place. Everyone is practicing how to do the new family normal.
  • Enjoy life while he or she is in treatment. You have earned it. Tomorrow has enough trouble of its own, as Jesus said, so don’t borrow it for today. Go for a get-away with your spouse or friends. See some movies. Read your stack of books or go downtown for dinner. Pay attention to your other children.
  • I remember driving down Pilgrim Road when Ted started treatment and beginning to worry (old habits die hard). Then I thought, “NO. I am going to be happy. My child is getting help and that’s the best thing that could happen and what I’ve so desperately wanted. I’m going to spend my energy thanking God for what is, celebrate the good and  enjoy the moment. And, I’m going to sleep very, very well — and a lot. For today, I will rejoice and be glad.
  • When a child is approaches the end of treatment, parents have so many questions and some fears. has this continuing care guide available: My Kid Just Completed Addiction Treatment. Now What?  Great resource. They even have a Treatment eBook you can download. Any other treatment-related questions, search treatment at