When many picture groups like AA or NA, they picture middle-aged men and women who have reached the end of their ropes. They picture people who have been beaten down by life for decades, losings jobs and families along the way. Sadly, however, there is no shortage of young people among our ranks. There are people who have lost scholarships and have been all but disowned by their parents. They have been beaten down just as badly as any other addict or alcoholic. The only difference is that for them, it happened before their life truly got started.
The existence of young people in recovery could be lamented, but it can just as easily be celebrated. Due to the nature of addiction as a disease, many of these young people would likely have encountered similar struggles later on in life. Their hardships are now accompanied by a silver lining in that they can learn the proper tools to remain sober before the disease has had a chance to take hold at a later date, when they may have had more to lose. There is a future for everyone who enters recovery. For our youths, that future shines even brighter with the promise of hope that they have not lost too much.
Even so, it can be hard for many young people in recovery to adjust. Some are in their teens and early 20s, and they cannot help but feel cheated out of a 21st birthday party or the string of graduation parties that would have greeted them had they not become sober. If they resent their own sobriety because of these perceived losses, it is almost a certainty that their relapse will be right around the corner. This is why Amethyst pays close attention to the needs of young people in recovery, so that we may offer them the personalized treatment that younger addicts and alcoholics need if they are to achieve long-term sobriety.
The Needs of Young People in Recovery
Younger addicts and alcoholics have certain needs that may not be as vital to those who are more experienced in life. First and foremost is social support, whether from family, friends, or even other patients. As we get older, we can often get by with fewer friends and acquaintances. Even the loss of family may not be as traumatic to an older addict as it will be to a teenager or a person in their early 20s. Young people in recovery cannot feel as if they are going it alone.
Don’t forget that this is about more than just family and friends. Young people do not just need social interaction—they need true peers. In other words, they must be able to feel as if they truly belong somewhere. If they cannot say this about recovery, they have no reason to stick around. While they are in treatment, many patients will naturally support them as peers. But they need to continue receiving peer support well after they leave treatment, and this can be tricky for young people in recovery who feel as if everyone else their age is partying while they have been left behind.
While young people in recovery require the support of family and peers, they need to receive this support while remaining free from overbearing judgment. This is not to say that their past should not be met with honesty. If patients are treated with kid gloves, they will never embrace the Second Promise in the proper way. They will not accept the past, because they will remain in denial that there was ever anything wrong with it. But while young addicts and alcoholics must be handled honestly, they should not be berated or made to feel as if they are bad people. This is not good counseling, and it is not the proper pathway to recovery.
Life skills are also near the top of the list. Addicts and alcoholics in general sometimes find themselves in a state of arrested development, and they will have difficulty taking responsibility for themselves. This is especially true if they have people enabling them and solving their problems for them. What many enablers fail to realize is that learning to solve their own problems and face their own consequences will actually be highly beneficial to the young addict’s recovery. It will give them a sense of purpose, and show them just how sheltered they were while in active addiction. And while every parent has a part of them that never wants to see this happen to their children…it will help them grow up.
The Challenges That They Will Face
Each of the needs we’ve mentioned above will pose its own unique challenge. Enabling is one of the biggest. Many parents will struggle to break themselves of this habit. They will rationalize this by convincing themselves that the young people in their lives cannot do certain things on their own. They will continue to offer their twenty-something child free money without requiring them to get a job. Or if their child does get a job, the parent will be understanding when they start to slip on their recovery by skipping meetings or neglecting to call their sponsors. This happens with more than young people—we have seen parents do it with patients in their 30s, and even all the way up to their 50s.
This is obviously not what we mean when we say that young people in recovery require family support. This support should be purely emotional. But on the opposite side of the spectrum from the enablers, there are families who simply find it all too difficult to forgive the addict or alcoholic in their lives. This will be met with yet more anger in kind, until the addict feels that the rift between them and their family has become irreparable. This doesn’t happen quite as often as issues regarding enabling, but it does happen quite frequently.
As far as peer support, we have already touched on this a bit. Even when young people in recovery receive support from sober friends and fellow addicts, they will still feel deprived of everything their youth might have held if they were not afflicted with this disease. Those who face their disease in college will always struggle with this, as drinking and smoking cannabis appear to be fundamental components of the college social experience. In truth, they really aren’t. You will find no shortage of people at college parties who do not drink, or even students who do not attend parties at all. Young people in recovery should try to make similar friends when socializing outside of their recovery circle.
The challenge facing young people as far as a judgment-free environment is concerned will be somewhat related to the family and peer issues noted above. There are horrible people out there who will make them feel less than human for not drinking. Peer pressure isn’t as common as it appears in the movies, but it does exist. It usually isn’t nefarious—it generally occurs among people who do not believe that addiction is a disease. When they pressure a friend to take a shot or smoke a joint, they truly do not know the risk that their friend will be taking. Young people have to be prepared for this. A big part of their relapse prevention plan is knowing what they will say if they are offered drugs and alcohol. Because if they don’t know what they are going to do in such instances, there’s a good chance that they will wind up doing the wrong thing.
How Amethyst Recovery Treats Youth Patients
Here at Amethyst Recovery, we take our youth patients seriously. We understand the gravity in treating a patient whose very future may depend upon the length of their sobriety. As such, we try to hit all of the major points that have been addressed above. For instance, we do our best to encourage family support by offering services such as our parent alumni program and A Mother’s Hope, a Facebook group for the parents of addicts and alcoholics. Not only is this good for our young people in recovery, but it can also be quite healing for the parents themselves.
As far as peer support is concerned, we most definitely encourage our patients to care about one another. This means calling each other out on issues with which they are struggling in their recovery, but also supporting each other when they are doing well. This atmosphere of friendship and teamwork is extended beyond our primary treatment facility and into our sober living facilities. Young or old, our patients realize the importance of fellowship in recovery. And to be honest, it makes us rather proud to see them embrace this unity with such enthusiasm.
When it comes to life skills training, this is something you will find at most treatment centers. Amethyst is no exception. As we note on our website, we believe very strongly in the need for personalized care. Our patients are expected to maintain a sober routine and to take care of certain responsibilities (such as hygiene) on their own. That said, we also work to identify the areas in which they need the most assistance so that we can help them learn to embrace certain responsibilities more fully.
Finally, it is very important to us that Amethyst never make a patient feel unnecessarily judged. We will not skirt the important issues, and we will not allow them to take no accountability for their actions. Still, addiction is a troubling disease, and it is very hard for young people in recovery to accept that it has afflicted them. They need help. They need guidance. They do not need scorn and derision. There are some treatment centers that fail to recognize the difference. Amethyst Recovery is not one of them.
If there is a young person in your life who is struggling with alcoholism or addiction, contact us today. We will make sure that their unique needs are met. If young people are our future, it is only fair that they be treated with the care and respect that they deserve.