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Secrets, Addiction, Mental Illness, and The Private Family

By:  Michael Plahn

“This is a family problem and should be dealt with in private” –A concerned person referring to a family member who is struggling with active addiction or untreated mental illness.

This can be a sentiment that I encounter when speaking with families who are struggling with addiction and/or untreated mental illness.  Some families are more protective of their privacy than others.  For some, allowing anyone into the family’s issues, even confidential professionals, can be a challenge.  So, when addiction and mental illness reach a crisis point, without the right counsel, a family can choose to ignore the issue or take other unfortunate paths (such as confronting the afflicted member without objective professional guidance) to protect their privacy.  This is why LSA’s extremely confidential, single point of contact Pre-Treatment Solution can be so appealing to families who are concerned with privacy.

I know recovering individuals who are comfortable telling anyone and everyone about their recovery (and previous addiction).  I have watched celebrities speak about how they have personally recovered or someone in their family has successfully overcome addiction.  Recently, I watched a very grateful Carol Burnett on Piers Morgan Tonight speak about her daughter’s recovery from addiction.  I have listened to highly educated lecturers in the’ helping professions’ outline the importance of eliminating secrets within the family as a necessity to creating a healthy family system.  I know colleagues who have a strong belief that if family secrets are not eliminated, there is virtually no chance of lasting recovery (the addict will suffer or die, and the family will disintegrate).

Personally, I think that stories of recovery are needed and give the suffering some much needed hope.  I agree that secrecy (over the long-term and used as a defense mechanism) can be a huge impediment to positive change.  However, I appreciate and understand the very real need many families have, to be reassured that they are working with competent professionals who respect the confidentiality and privacy of their clients.  More directly put, these people do not want their family business ending up as public fodder.

Many times, what a concerned caller is trying to articulate is that they do not know where to begin or how many of these ‘confidential professionals’ (some of whom belong to the same social clubs and can be seen at the same community activities) may be involved in helping the family member in trouble .  What about the family that has celebrity status, a very prominent name, or a professional who does not want his or her career destroyed by ‘loose-lips.’  In cases like these, if the concerned family member(s) knew of a single point of contact who could be the family’s confidential advocate, with their best interest in mind, to navigate the entire process, they very well may seek help.  I have personally experienced very cautious and private individuals gratefully embrace LSA’s Pre-Treatment Solution as they were told how it worked.

The LSA Pre-Treatment Solution guides and assists families and businesses through the entire process of helping an afflicted family member or colleague.  It truly is a total solution…especially for the family or business concerned about privacy.  This program enables a family or business to have a single source of contact (the LSA Specialist), guide and assist the concerned family member, in a calm confident manner.

Immediately following formal engagement, the LSA Specialist follows a systematic process to help formulate a comprehensive picture and answer the questions needed to properly assist the family.  As discussed in a previous two-part LSA Blog feature, determining the appropriate level of treatment and potential facilities to execute the necessary treatment and therapies is a major undertaking (not recommended for a family member to tackle without objective professional help).  This responsibility would not fall directly on the shoulders of the concerned family member (a point where many individuals find themselves giving up), as the LSA Specialist is now their personal objective advocate who will assist and guide them to find realistic solutions to the numerous questions surrounding this topic.

This same LSA Specialist organizes and facilitates an open compassionate approach to intervening on the afflicted person and has all the logistical questions answered before the Family Meeting/Intervention takes place.  Amazingly, even the most defiant addicted/afflicted person willingly says yes and accepts help (mainly because the systematic process used was open, dignified, and offered options to the afflicted person, not coercion or demands).  The LSA Specialist moves into action again (ie., liaising with the treatment facility selected by the afflicted person and making sure they are expecting us, contacting the travel agent to let them know which flight we need booked, confirming the destination with the driver of a car already waiting outside, and then the very same LSA representative accompanying your loved-one on the entire journey).

"You Are Not Alone"

Your loved-one won’t be heading out to the treatment facility alone or asked to go with you or another family member.  LSA’s personalized accompaniment has proven to be such a significant part of our process that we insist on accompanying the afflicted person.  The trip to the treatment facility can be a frightening experience for most, as well as a time to build barriers to change and healing (usually without realizing it).  This is a key reason why LSA travels with them, from the Family Meeting/Intervention until they reach the intake room at the treatment facility.

If I am the LSA Specialist, this is one of the most profound aspects of the process for me.  It is real.  There are tears and laughter as I am bonding with them, breaking down walls, building up hope, telling them what it was like for me when I was in their position, and what they may encounter in the next few days and weeks.  This process instills hope, builds trust, and prepares them for a positive beginning to treatment.

Let’s say our destination is a Residential Treatment facility out of state, such as Promises, Casa Palmera, or Caron Renaissance.  Then, we will typically have plenty of travel time together (if the Family Meeting/Intervention is in Ohio or Minnesota).  However, even if the treatment facility selected is in-state and does not require a flight (ie., Rosecrance for someone residing in the Northern suburbs of Chicago), LSA hires a car service, allowing our focus to be on the client.  Remember, we are not just making sure your afflicted loved-one arrives, instead we are using techniques in a very casual manner to assist in making their entrance to treatment as positive an experience as possible.

The LSA representative will be present at the treatment facility’s intake meeting (with the patient’s permission) and even stays in town an additional day to check in with your loved-one the following day, to make sure things are still going well.  So, for those of you reading this who have unfortunately had a family member enter treatment multiple times, you already know how different this approach is than what you and your family have experienced.  This is truly a comprehensive solution…and the beginning of long-term recovery.

For the family who is concerned about privacy and confidentiality, I sincerely get it.  I hope you can clearly see that the LSA philosophy of helping our clients and their family members/colleagues have been filtered through this lens.  Realistically, there are still stigmas and judgment surrounding addiction and mental health issues.  And, for families that travel in certain circles, or may be in the spotlight, confidentiality and privacy is a legitimate concern.  Each family, like the individual, must find a path that works for them.  Different families will embrace recovery at different levels.  This is why it can be crucial to have a trusted adviser and personal advocate such as LifeSkills Authorities, who is adept at confidentially working with you and your family.  Don’t delay any longer, contact us now.

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MSNBC: Tough economy poses challenge for addicts

New article from MSNBC.com talks about how the loss of jobs and inability to find work can make it harder to stay sober. Author Eve Tahmincioglu states, “During tough economic times, it can be even harder to fight an addiction. It can also be more challenging for workers trying to clean themselves up to hold onto their jobs.”

Excerpts:

“There are more financial stressors today,” said Dr. Barbara Krantz, CEO and medical director of research at Hanley Center, an addiction recovery center in West Palm Beach, Fla., adding that such stress can contribute to alcohol and drug use, both illegal and prescription. From 2007 through 2009, Hanley Center has seen more than a 60 percent increase in the number of patients citing work-related problems as one of the top reasons they are seeking substance addiction help.

In many cases, she added, workers lose their jobs because of substance abuse, but most employers don’t fire them outright over an addiction. “People tell us they lost their jobs because of absenteeism or poor job performance,” she said.

About the alcohol / drug distinction:

Protections for a worker with a substance abuse problem under the nation’s labor laws are not as clear as those for people with disabilities such as blindness or paraplegia.

“The ADA actually treats drug and alcohol abuse somewhat differently,” Chris Kuczynski, an attorney with the EEOC said. “An alcoholic who is currently drinking can be covered, although he or she can be held to the same standards as other workers concerning use of alcohol at the worksite, can be disciplined for violating rules that say employees cannot be working under the influence of alcohol, etc.

“The distinction between drug and alcohol use can be important in some situations, particularly where treatment is concerned. Because persons engaging in the illegal use of drugs aren’t covered and aren’t therefore entitled to reasonable accommodation, an employer doesn’t have to offer them the opportunity to take leave for treatment. On the other hand, because alcoholics who are currently drinking can be individuals with disabilities, reasonable accommodation in the form of time off for treatment may be required.”

If you were a former abuser, an employer can’t hold that against you in most cases.

About getting treatment:

In cases where the employer suspects a worker is high while on the job or that the employee has an abuse problem — and the employee has not owned up to it or asked for help — and the abuse is negatively impacting his or her work duties, the employer can terminate the employee, added Anthony Oncidi, partner and head of the Los Angeles labor and employment law group for Proskauer Rose.

Oncidi’s firm had a financial services client last year with a high-level employee who was repeatedly coming to work under the influence and even going to client meetings drunk. The female employee had been with the firm for five years, but the alcohol problem had surfaced only recently.

“She even went to a conference where she clearly had too much alcohol and embarrassed herself and the company,” he said. “They talked to her about it, but she denied she had a problem. She was fired.”

On the flip side, if an employee needs to take time off to go into a treatment program, the employer typically has to reasonably accommodate the worker, Oncidi said.

Read the entire article here on MSNBC.com.

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