Had a terrific conversation with journalist Alison Knopf, whose case story in the latest Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly captures just how our Coaching using Harm Reduction can help Families find Recovery. This family had already tried the traditional approaches to support their son’s attempts at recovery, yet his high risk drinking continued. Thirty day residential treatment at a highly-regarded program was followed by two years of weekly psychotherapy, AA, and medications including an anti-depressant, naltrexone and then Vivitrol.
A year ago son’s counselor recommended parents get telephone support from Family Coaching, and we started working with the family. Son started daily alcohol testing, which was initially successful in decreasing the number of days drinking. However the parents and professionals (the Recovery Team) became frustrated with what they saw as failure to follow-through with treatment. Son did not want abstinence; he wanted to control his drinking. The traditional old-school 12-step approach (developed in 1935) holds that anything other than complete abstinence is failure. With so many PWUD not wanting or ready to stop, that leaves a lot out in the cold with no support.
An alternative known as Harm Reduction attempts to reduce the adverse consequences of drug use among persons who continue to use. It developed in response to the excesses of the total abstinence approach. Harm reduction emphasizes practical rather than idealized goals. Its main purpose is to lower adverse consequences of drug use while, at least in the short term, drug use continues. The introduction of a harm reduction approach to the parents is now making a difference in the recoveries of all. You see, the son is not the only one needing recovery; his family is in their own recovery, reclaiming their own lives while enjoying loving relationships with their son. While it’s not clear what the future holds, all have shown growth and transformation and describe feeling much more comfortable with the family relationships; a big improvement over a few months.
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