A Good Ending to a Traditional Intervention
Jen Stowe describes the second part of an intervention on a heroin-addicted young woman.
Note: this is the second of a two-part series describing a real-life traditional intervention on a heroin-addicted young woman. Jessica is not her real name. For part one, click here.
After the intervention, where Jessica agreed to go to treatment, she and I went downstairs to her bedroom so she could pack. As she packed, she moved in and out of panicking about going to treatment. On her mirror was a picture of a beautiful girl with sun-bleached hair just giving off light. I asked her twin sister if it was her, and when she said it was Jessica I couldn’t believe it. The Jessica standing in front of me was so pale and thin. I said to Jessica, “This is the Jessica I want to meet.” And she said, “What are you talking about? That’s what I look like now.” I said, “No, it’s not. But I bet when I see you again in a month, I’ll start to see that young woman shining through.”
It’s amazing the transformation heroin addicts go through. They come into treatment underweight and gray but really start to physically recover quickly.
When we got her upstairs her family was sobbing. We said goodbyes and drove off. She slept for some of the trip but eventually really opened up to me. She’s a sweet, wounded young lady who has significant image issues, likely a diagnosable eating disorder. She told me her boyfriend hooked her on heroin. She pays their bills and buys their drugs. She’s aware she probably deserves better but she doesn’t truly believe she’s worth it.
Family’s Role in Addiction Treatment
When someone enters treatment it’s important that services are provided to the families. For parents especially, it’s important that we translate what’s going on so they know what to expect. Parents are biologically programmed and driven to protect their children. Being placed into a position that most haven’t had experience with makes them feel very helpless.
Parents struggle to understand that, in certain cases, they might not hear from their adult child for a while. During the first part of treatment, some clients are in this cocooned place, often detoxing, and they won’t be in touch. We coach parents in understanding that they have to get used to the silence. We tell them she’s going to feel loved and supported, but we have to let the treatment provider do their job.
Underlying Issues Affect Addiction
Jessica had a rough first week at treatment. In Jessica’s case, she was withdrawing from heroin, methadone and, we found out later, benzodiazepine. Methadone and opiate withdrawal is rough, really painful, but it can’t kill you. Benzo withdrawal from extended use can actually kill you. Jessica went to the hospital twice during her first week. Usually patients move into programming within 24 to 48 hours but because Jessica was so sick she didn’t get into programming for a week.
She’s finally settled in and it’s my understanding that she’s doing well. Not only is Jessica working on the chemical dependency, but also on the boyfriend issue and gaining some self-awareness around that. A good program not only addresses getting off whatever substance, but the issues contributing their use. Now it’s up to Jessica—and her family—to keep moving forward on this recovery journey. They all have work to do to continue healing.
—Jen works with individuals and families to create and implement action plans to affect dynamic and effective functional change. In addition to consulting with families, she performs mental health interventions, collaborative interventions and traditional interventions as needed.