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Empowerment is a Key Tool in Treating Young People with SUDs

Empowerment is a Key Tool in Treating Young People with SUDs

I found recovery on the basic assumption that recovery would make my life better. I didn’t really know what it was or how I was going to get there, but I knew that something needed to change. I was at a point in life where my future looked like certain impending doom. I have a vivid memory of contemplating my future inside of a jail cell. I saw two roads, one was run and the other was pick up the broken pieces that my life had turned into and put them back together.

1446131517492 I did not look like this at all but have always wanted to use a picture like this in a blog post

The substances had gotten the best of me and I had a skewed perspective on life. I had a contingency plan. I studied cyber security in school. I had access to the internet black markets. I knew where to get forged documents; passports, social security cards, drivers licenses. I knew how to erase myself, how to disappear. I had spent months researching the topics, along with other nefarious areas of study centered on “substances.” I didn’t conform to the traditional curriculum of college students.

The double life that I was living was not working. I could not continue to misuse substances and lead a life of crime while still pretending to be a student who wants to make it in the technology world. It was one or the other. The fact that I published this blog post shows which path I chose. I am eternally grateful, and am certain that it was the better choice.

I write out this part of my story to make a point. I only had intangible things to lose at this time of my life. I was a young adult who did not have any children. I had no career. I had (and still have) student loans to pay off. My parents helped me out financially. I didn’t really own anything valuable besides a few computers. I loved my family and friends, but was so engulfed in substances that all of my relationships were shaky at best.

I already mentioned that I have a background in cyber security. A big part of that field is predicting human behavior. From the outside looking in, it seems as though the logical solution in this case was to find recovery. People will argue that addiction is a disease and that it causes insane thinking and that there is no logical explanation why so many people in situations similar to mine do not find recovery. I am not here to debate that, but I would like to investigate this a bit more.

The only real tangible things that I would lose were a few computers. Nothing else was mine. Logically, that seems like an okay trade off for keeping the only lifestyle I knew and avoiding having to face all the problems life had piled up on me. I was sitting in a jail cell. Feeling the cold metal toilet seat on my bare skin while another man sat three feet away from me is a pretty tangible example of facing life’s problems. For the sake of this post, ignore the intangible and assume that logically running was the right answer. There was no incentive to change. Facing life’s problems and finding recovery was tangibly worse than running from them.

Traditionally, programs for professionals have the lowest relapse rates. When doctors find themselves suffering from substance misuse and are treated with other doctors, they do better than the average treatment episode. This goes the same for lawyers, pilots, nurses, etc. Logically it makes sense. When you look at the tangible likely outcomes, it is obvious which one is more attractive.

Run: lose a high paying job, lose house, lose significant other, and lose children. Find recovery: keep high paying job, keep house, keep significant other, and keep children. We can’t write everything off to insane thinking. There is some logic involved.

So what happened in my situation? What was the other factor? Was it divine intervention? Possibly. Was it the ability to see the intangible mixed with a bit of projection? Probably.

1446131584199 Robbie Edwards (CURRENT Penn State CRC President), Jason Whitney, Barack Obama,  and myself representing the PSU CRC at the YPR booth at Unite to Face addiction

I had a phone call with Jason Whitney the day before I checked into rehab. He was in charge of the Collegiate Recovery Community at Penn State. I had checked it out before, but did not stick around. I saw students who had problems with substances in the past happy, sober, and pursing their dreams. Jason told me his story. He found recovery at 19 while in college and seemed to be living a pretty awesome life. On the call he told me that “the best days at Penn State were still ahead of me.”

I learned that it was still possible to graduate college and enjoy life in recovery. I learned that facing my legal issues now would probably play out better than running from them. I had enough foresight to see myself as a guaranteed career criminal who would eventually end up in prison for a long time if I ran. I was empowered to pick my life back up and put it back together. I was empowered to go back to school. I was empowered to start my own company. I was empowered to apply for jobs that I knew I would get denied for due to my criminal history. There was nothing tangible to logically make me find recovery, but the intangibles were quickly created. I had goals, dreams, and aspirations.

I was told so many times that projections are bad. I was told that going back to school would not be a good idea. I was told to not make any life changes for one year. Sure that might have made sense for some cases, specifically middle-aged adults, but I had almost nothing tangible to motivate me to find recovery. The motivation was in the projections. It was in the schoolwork. It was an idea that I could build a life worth living if I continued on the path of recovery.

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I don’t accept the idea that you have to lose everything to find recovery. I simply see it as logic. Recovery has to be a more attractive lifestyle that active substance use. Sure there may be some insane thinking at play, but we tend to over complicate things. People don’t understand that getting high and getting drunk all of the time is the most attractive thing in life when it is the only thing that someone knows. When the consequences of losing everything are essentially losing nothing, there is no motivation to find recovery. I challenge society to approach things differently and for young people to empower each other. Set goals, dream big, and put in the daily grind to achieve it. If the reason to find recovery is because mom said so, the risk for failure is high. If the reasons to find recovery is because it is the only way that an individual can achieve their academic goals and accomplish their dreams, that risk is a bit lower. Traditionally, we tell people to look at where addiction took them. For young people, an emphasis on where addiction prevented them from going can often times be more effective, especially if we intend the raise the bottom.

 

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James Hatzell
Director of Technology

Life of Purpose Treatment
3848 FAU Boulevard, Suite 100
Boca Raton, FL 33431
Admissions: 1.888.PURPOSE

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