I’ve spent some time ever the years worrying about the image of celebrity relapse cycles leading to great stigmatization. I worry that people see Lindsey Lohan and Charlie Sheen and deduce that addiction is a character problem and that treatment is nothing more than a place to catch your breath and be indulged.
Recently, I’ve been more concerned about the actual headlines—”[insert name] has completed treatment”.
Headlines rarely capture nuances, but this conveys a pretty dangerous and inaccurate lesson and the bodies of these stories don’t tend to correct this message.
Addiction is not an acute illness, it is a chronic illness and, like other chronic illnesses, treating it properly requires long-term treatment, monitoring and support.
At Dawn Farm, residential stays are followed by at least 6 months of aftercare and housing. Everyone who goes through Spera is welcome to continue to attend drop-in groups and talk with Recovery Support Specialists. Outpatient clients often attend groups for a year or more. Transitional housing residents can stay for up to 2 years, some receive treatment while in housing, most do not. When people relapse, our goal is to remain engaged, re-stabilize them, try to understand what went wrong and come up with a new or revised recovery plan.
Some research has indicated that recovery isn’t stable for 5 to 7 years. For this reason, we are currently trying to link clients with primary care physicians that can participate in monitoring their recovery over that period and, in the event of a problem, reconnect them with treatment immediately.
How do we correct this perception? I think that this is a problem that is specific to addiction treatment. When see headlines that “[insert name] released from the hospital”, we don’t assume that medical treatment is or should be over. Looks like an uphill battle in the context of the ethically crippled celebrity rehab and insurers that resist funding a recovery management model of treatment.