Five Things I Want Parents to Know About Addiction Treatment

Let’s start this one with an important disclaimer: I never went to detox or rehab. That’s right; I once smashed my dad’s truck window to steal drug money but I got clean without treatment.

So why do I help so many other people find treatment?

1 – Asking for help is NOT easy.

I’ve often referred to the three magic words: “I need help.” When drugs have hijacked your brain, it is an all-consuming vocation. Getting and staying high becomes a survival tactic. The desperation brings out the worst in us. It also means that we may only think lucidly 10 minutes out of the day. Not only can you “strike while the iron is hot” but there are steps you can take to make sure your hammer is perfectly poised.

When I asked my dad to send me to rehab, it was over a YEAR before I finally quit drugs. “I don’t have $30,000 in cash to send you and I can’t get you insurance. I’m not sure what else to do.”

My dad was willing to help me. He wanted the best for me. He took my call the night I asked for help (again) and put me in a motel where I could detox. I’ll always be grateful that he didn’t give up on me when I had given up on myself.

However… I attempted suicide twice and landed in jail multiple times in that year between those two times I asked. It’s a miracle I survived long enough to ask again.

You can’t give logic, willpower, or desire to your kids. If you want their recovery more than they do… it’s pure hell. Nevertheless, there are people who are better equipped to relate to what your child is feeling and can sometimes gauge their levels of resistance.

Lesson: If you call me because your child needs help, I know there are going to be obstacles. There are things you can do to start opening a door BEFORE your child is willing to walk through it.

2: Recovery is NOT one-size-fits-all.

When I was first approached by a treatment center as a doe-eyed goober in early recovery, I assumed that EVERYONE working in rehabs had a heart of gold.

I’m going to tread very carefully here, because I’m all about hope and I don’t want to let anger or disillusionment cloud this post.

Please remember that rehab is a business. We all have bills to pay and food, electricity, gas, water, and housing are not free for any of us. Some of my dearest friends either work at rehab facilities or own them. I love these people and they ABSOLUTELY deserve to get paid for what they do.

Nevertheless, in a multi-billion dollar industry, there will be greed and people who lie. It makes me sick. I hope that continued measures will not only protect the people who are being coaxed into these places as “clients” but also protect those who are passionate about recovery and may be too trusting to know not to work there.

Sometimes I see a post on a recovery page that says, “My son/daughter needs treatment ASAP! I need recommendations. We have XXXXXXX insurance.”

I cringe when I read these posts. It terrifies me. Pay attention to who responds to the posts that say: “I need help. I don’t have money or insurance.” Then look at how many more people respond to the post with insurance.

This isn’t exclusive to addiction. Take a look at this Google search about dentists:

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991,000 results? I know Utah has a lot of dentists to choose from, but in a state of 2.7 Million people, I doubt almost a third of them are actual dentists. What would happen if I added that I have dental insurance?

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Wait… what? You mean to tell me that because now I FINALLY have a dental insurance and I chipped my tooth that there are MORE results to choose from? How is that possible??

Well… because dentists like to get paid.

So, if you have money/insurance as a resource and want to know who to turn to when your child struggles with addiction, what then?? Should be easy, right?

I wish.

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141 Million results… and you thought you were overwhelmed before. That means that it is going to take you 4.7 years to sift through all the results (at the rate of one result per second.)

I’ve spent the last year and a half touring treatment facilities and I’ve probably seen well over 100 of them in person. I’ve also made a lot of connections and I watch for areas where the circles of trust converge.

I’ve still gotten plenty wrong and made the mistake of being TOO trusting. That’s sad, isn’t it? It is recovery, not addiction, that taught me to question people’s motives.

This is where caution enters the equation in a big way. Not only do you want your child to get the appropriate care, but you want to avoid sending them into a situation that could be potentially harmful.

If you get a call from a robot asking for your insurance information, well… I know what I do when I get a call from a robot. If you see a commercial with a fake doctor telling you to call a 1-800 number… well, even my daughters saw through that commercial and said, “they shouldn’t call that number, they should call our dad.”

You can try Facebook, but understand that there are money-making geniuses that have enlisted an army of people to scroll through recovery groups and “hunt” policies. You could even call someone who approaches you with a golden sales pitch about helping their child and not know that they were going to “sell” your insurance policy to the highest bidder (even in Utah I’ve heard of facilities that once paid up to $8,000 for a referral.)

Knowing what I know now, if it was my kid… I’d call me. Not because I am the best at what I do or because I’ve been doing it the longest. I’d call me because I’m aware of my limitations and transparent about how I make my money. I have never collected a dime in referral fees or “sold” a policy. Not only is that unethical, but fortunately people that engage in these types of practices are being phased out for patient-brokering.

Most of all, I know who to call when something is out of my league.

If I think of a place that could be perfect for your child, but it’s not a financial option, I’ll look for the place that is. If I see you struggling with your family to come up with $5,000 for an Out of Network Deductible but I know you can help find a bed that is In Network for a tenth of that… I’ll make sure you know of all options. If you have multiple people offering guidance, I will strive to work alongside them. Get options. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask about motives if you feel like you’re being “sold” something.

Don’t take anyone’s word as pure gospel–not even mine.

3. Warnings

Let’s go back to the house building example for a moment. If you wanted your house built, imagine I handed you my bid with the following promise:

“Only 9 out of the 10 houses I build fall down.”

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Your kids are hearing the same things, and the addiction makes them want to believe that “rehab is pointless.”

I started to believe this myself. An old friend even asked me, “Don’t you feel like a hypocrite helping people get into rehab when you never went to one?”

No. I don’t. In fact, I feel like it puts me in a great position. Early on, when I first started visiting rehabs, I wished I could’ve gone to ALL of them. Writing a good review is easy when all you have to find is something that looks more comfortable than a jail cell or motel.

Hiring an Amish Tour Guide in Vegas might be entertaining and his child-like wonder could be contagious, but he might miss the important questions.

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IF you are the parent who has done everything you’re supposed to (insurance, financial stability, college fund, etc.) I want to be your voice of caution. I’m only allowing myself this role because I’m very confident that I’ve walked through more of these facilities than you have. That doesn’t mean I’m the best or only person with whom to consult. The main guarantee I can offer is that when I talk to you about your child, I’m going to imagine it is one of my daughters. That is a tough line to walk for some people because obstacles in treatment are normal. I’m usually able to develop enough rapport with both parents and the struggling child that they are willing to go wherever I tell them.

Let me give you a recent example of two individuals who needed treatment. We’ll call them “Jack and Jill” for the sake of anonymity. Many people who struggle with addiction also struggle with low self-worth and codependence. Those relationships can be so difficult to navigate because no matter how much you love and care, you are approaching them from the outside. You have to be able to reach both partners AND address the addiction (which is already a daunting hurdle for one person.)

In this case, I was very fortunate to have resources to work with for both Jack and Jill. I was able to get through to both of them and they understood that they needed to go to different facilities and wanted to go at the same time. I made all of the necessary calls to facilities that would cater to their specific needs and also wanted to be very protective of her. Sadly, I’ve heard too many stories of young women in treatment being bribed with drugs for sexual favors or individuals of either gender being given drugs and cash to relapse so that they can start the insurance billing cycle over again.

Jill had an ID to fly and they both wanted to leave their home state. I helped provide transportation, drove 800 miles to get them and bring Jack back to Utah for detox after getting her on a plane to another state.

24-hours after getting into detox, we found that Jack had a septic infection and was rushed to the ER. His health continued to be a problem. It was a miracle that he got to the right care at the right time.

I stopped by the facility where Jack is this week and when someone stopped me in the kitchen saying “hey Dan!” I didn’t even recognize him. It was Jack. He looked amazing. He had light in his eyes and was smiling. I texted Jill’s mom and she was moving into Sober Living to do her Intensive Out-Patient treatment.

That’s how I wish ALL treatment stories would play out. Unfortunately, they don’t… which brings us to:

4. Treatment Horror Stories

In the example I used above (assuming that I had focused more on dollars than Jill’s needs) I could perhaps have gotten her to treatment and left him where he was to die of an infection. I could’ve “shopped” with her policy and tried to find a sketchy facility who would pad my wallet by sending her there. Remember, these policies can pay tens of thousands of dollars to the rehabs and there are LOTS of ways some places cut corners or milk the insurance money.

When that money runs out, Jill could be left walking the street with her back and Blue Cross card. Depending on where those streets are, she could have been hunted by someone who would keep her in a terrible housing facility until the day Blue Cross was willing to pay for detox again and then sent back to “treatment” again to start the cycle.

Or, she could have been placed into a prostitution ring disguised as a “Sober Living.” What does all of this do for her hope or her parents’ hope? Can you imagine her coming home feeling really good about the “help” she got?

I’ve personally spoken to individuals and families who have experienced this. I’ve seen parents literally using force to break their kids out of rehab. I’ve listened to the crying moms say, “I wish I would’ve sold my house to pay for her to go to rehab a fifth time.” I’ve called the emergency room to speak to a young man who overdosed on heroin after he was bribed with drugs to go back to detox.

Scary… right?!

5 – There IS Hope

With all the warnings listed above, I do NOT want to deter you from seeking help for your child. Please be aware that these are shark-infested waters and stay diligent in your research. However, not all treatment centers are run by soulless scumbags. Believe me, there are some genuinely wonderful people out there who want to help. There are people who have spent a great deal of time learning this industry so that you don’t have to and now I strive to find those who are willing to reject a “phenomenal” insurance policy or cash because they know your child could get more specialized care in a different treatment center. I’ve been studying these places for over a year and a half and I still feel like a beginner.

There’s 12-step, faith-based, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Refuge Recovery, Smart Recovery, Outdoor Programs, Exercise Programs, Equine Therapy, Dual-Diagnosis, Long-Term Therapeutic Communities, Work programs, Women’s only, Men’s only, LBGT, EMDR, and SO many more programs out there.

If your child has tried rehab in the past and it didn’t stick, don’t give up. Encourage them to not give up. I’ve talked to the people who have gone over 20 times and others who (like me) never had the chance or decided against it. There are many paths to recovery and many levels of care.

Do whatever you can to establish a game-plan of how you will help your struggling child BEFORE they ask for help. Don’t be afraid to call someone for guidance and then call someone else to get a second opinion. If you want to talk to me, my personal cell is 385-419-9567.

Even if they don’t say “yes” to help today, they might tomorrow and it’s so much easier to be ready when they do. If someone tells you they are the ONLY way to help your kid or try to guilt you into your insurance info or credit card number… maybe keep looking.

There is hope. Things can get better. You didn’t fail them and their addiction is not your fault. Disappointment and guilt are not catalysts to recovery (for either of you) but having support and guidance can make a world of difference.

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