Families trying to help a loved one addicted to alcohol or other drugs suffer right along with the addict as they try to find a solution. When the rehab program they choose is followed by relapse — more drinking or drug abuse — their hearts break all over again. But this time their heartbreak is intensified by an inability to understand why the rehab program didn't work.
Isn't rehab supposed to enable a person to stay sober afterwards? Is it the fault of their loved one? Was he (or she) just weak? Is it even possible to recover from addiction? Some people say that it could take several treatments followed by several relapses before a person can find stable sobriety.
Each time a loved one relapses, a family must live with the daily horror of knowing someone they care for is at terrible risk. Again, they dread the phone call that tells them of a hospitalization, an arrest or worse. A drug deal that goes bad, an overdose, a contaminated drug, serious infections resulting from injected drugs, a traffic accident — any of these events can end that person's chances of rehabilitation and real recovery forever.
Helping someone make his or her way back to a sober life where one is living responsibly in-control of himself is a confusing, mystifying, expensive and stressful process.
What is seldom explained to the family is that there are specific and exact factors of addiction that must be thoroughly addressed. If these factors are not addressed, relapse and/or failure to recover is far more likely. It is only fair to a family and to the addicted person who is seeking a better life that these factors be made clear.
There is no program in the world that achieves a 100% success rate in resolving addiction. Rehab programs vary greatly and address the problems created by addiction in different ways. When a family understands what factors can undermine a person's lasting sobriety after rehab, they can make a more accurate evaluation whether a particular program meets their needs or not.
Download the Factors of Relapse booklet (PDF version)
Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) are concerned with guiding national and international efforts to return the addicted to healthy lives. Both organizations have published statements describing the 'life skills' that must be developed to prevent a person from ever being drawn into drug abuse.
Their statements also help families, the addicted and professionals understand the points that should be addressed by an effective rehabilitation program. A family can use these points to compare a rehab program they are considering to the current life of their loved one who is in trouble. Do they feel that this rehab program will result in the needed life changes and improvements? They can then judge according to their own convictions.
As noted a SAMHSA's 'Expert Panel': "In a recovery-oriented system, more ambitious and holistic goals and outcomes are sought, such as improved health and wellness and enhanced quality of life."Narconon shares these recovery goals with SAMHSA.
When life skills and abilities are boosted as an inherent and important component of drug rehab, a person can regain (or gain for the first time) the capability to achieve a quality of life satisfying enough to reduce the need for drugs or alcohol to solve life problems, which may have sucked the person into drug addiction in the first place. A recent report on positive outcomes from a Narconon program in Sweden noted: "The objective for all Narconon graduates is that they use the Narconon program tools and live not only a healthy, drug-abstinent life, but become productive and ethical members of their communities."
Statement from Joint United Nations-WHO Project
In 1998, a joint project between the United Nations and the World Health Organization compiled a profile of those life skills that could effectively empower young people to avoid experimenting with or abusing drugs. This joint venture published its results in the document Partners in Life Skills Education, Conclusions from a United Nations Inter-Agency Meeting.
The development of life skills is most often employed in drug education and the prevention of substance abuse and violence, but the approach is also often cited for its value in drug rehabilitation and treatment. Official groups noting this value include the Government of Ireland and the European Centre for Monitoring Drugs and Drug Addiction.
No matter what culture a person lives in, no matter what age he or she is, these abilities or life skills apply.
According to the WHO report mentioned above, learning to avoid drugs or overcoming a desire to use drugs should include the development or rehabilitation of the following mental and emotion skills, among others:
- Decision-making and problem-solving
- Creative thinking and critical thinking
- Communication and interpersonal skills
- Self-awareness and empathy
- Ability to cope with emotions and stress
Further, this joint meeting developed a list of descriptive terms to provide a more expansive understanding of the social skills or abilities needed to avoid alcohol and other drug abuse. A family which has had the misfortune to harbor an alcoholic or drug addict can review the following list of personal strengths or social abilities. They will recognize that they have had to look on while these positive qualities disappeared in the addict one by one, deteriorating his strength and common sense, destroyed by drug abuse.
Social skills and abilities needed: