Myths in Recovery
“Scared Straight” Myths Can Do More Harm than Good for Your Loved One in Recovery
There was a tragic story in USA TODAY in early October about a young woman who died at a detox center in Arizona. According to the news piece, Madison Cross “showed escalating signs of distress [within 3 days of entering the center]. She had trouble breathing. Her pulse raced. She was wheezing, and her lungs sounded ‘crackly,’ staff members told investigators. She appeared lethargic and ill. One technician told investigators her complexion was jaundiced, and her lips were purple. Another said she went from pale to yellow to blue.”
As it turns out, the poor woman developed sepsis as a complication of heroin toxicity (also called heroin poisoning). She was never taken to the hospital, even though she asked to go, so no one realized she had become septic.
Stories like this pop up in the news a lot. We’ve worked with a lot of residents and families, and sometimes family members often talk about how many people die each year from drug or alcohol overdoses. They can rattle off statistics, or have anecdotal evidence (“My neighbor’s cousin’s sister’s best friend’s uncle died from XYZ,” and the like) of tragedies. They do a lot of research to help themselves better understand addiction, and to learn what they might be able to do to help their loved one in their battle against this disease. Some hope toscare their loved ones into sobriety, or at least into seeking treatment.
But the truth is, scare tactics don’t work. With repeated use, drugs and alcohol can change the pathways of the brain. Because of this, a person who is addicted to drugs may not respond to threats (both immediate and potential) the same way as someone else does. And most people in addiction treatment are already terrified of being alone, or of being in pain from withdrawals; a few more numbers or stories isn’t going to magically flip a switch. (Believe us, if it worked like that, almost every resident we’ve ever helped would have flipped that switch IMMEDIATELY.) You simply can’t frighten people out of addiction.
If scaring an addict doesn’t work, what does?
We know the numbers. Your loved ones know the numbers. But in the throes of addiction, those numbers and stories and statistics? They don’t seem real – and they certainly don’t seem as important as the immediate loneliness, physical pain, or day-to-day difficulties of reality.
So what does work?
Love. Empathy. Compassion. Honesty. Intimacy. Accountability. Consistency.
Fear doesn’t work, but basic human connections do. Sometimes, it takes a really long time to make those connections – but they’re worth it.
That’s one of the basic tenets of Little Creek Lodge. Our missionis to help our residents reconnect with the day-to-day, to find the beauty in the world, and to rediscover themselves in a safe environment where honest, open communication is the norm. Once your loved one has gone through a detox program to rid his body of the drugs or alcohol, our team of trained, professional counselors and specialists is there to help guide him down the path of life-long recovery.
We want your sons, your husbands, your fathers, your friends and your loved ones to get the tools they need to empower themselves to make good choices. We want to remind them that they are worthy of being loved and trusted, and help them remember what it feels like to be a person you can turn to in good times and bad.
You can’t scare someone into sobriety, but you can admit that you are scared, and be supportive of your loved one’s path toward recovery. And if you’re ready to get the help you need, and your loved one is ready to get the help he needs, then Little Creek is here to provide that helping hand. To learn more about our services, or to speak with an experienced addiction and recovery professional, please call 877-689-2644, or fill out our contact form, and schedule a time to visit us in Lake Ariel, PA.