It’s the holidays. The time for pageants at church and school, office parties, and family responsibilities. As a person in recovery, I can remember this time of year while in active addiction. On top of the crushing TO DO list of everyday holiday tasks, there was the exhausting schedule of drinking, planning to drink, and hiding the fact I was drinking. Folks with substance use disorders (SUD) are never as good at deceiving their loved ones as they think they are. And the skeptical looks I got when I lied about where I was, who I was with, and what happened to the case of wine in the garage only added to my holiday anxiety.
“The best gift you could give your loved ones is your commitment to getting healthy during the holidays – or any time of the year.” Sanford Behavioral Health Admissions Specialists
There are No Excuses, Only Reasons
There is an old saying in my family (coined by my son when he was in trouble), “I don’t have an excuse, only a reason.” And the “reasons” are plentiful when it comes to avoiding getting help for an addiction. At this time of year, it usually has to do with tying on “one last” drinking or using spree before the new year. This is a doomed proposition, as statistics show 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail. Other times of year give birth to myriad reasons for waiting, putting off, or excusing the misuse of drugs and alcohol.
Why do individuals or their family members call treatment centers to gather information, but put off going to treatment until a future date? Because they know there is a problem, but they don’t want to impact their day-to-day activities. Especially during the holidays, summer vacation, or before a milestone event. Sadly, these events present the very triggers that have them calling us in the first place.
There is no wrong time to get help for a substance use disorder. And there are no excuses, reasons or plans that trump dealing with your SUD now.
10 Common Excuses for Avoiding Addiction Treatment
1. I can’t miss the office party, school Christmas Pageant, wedding, trip to The Bahamas, my birthday, etc.
There are obligations, especially with young children, that demand parental involvement. There might also be non-refundable tickets or corporate expectations and requirements. But, if you are concerned enough to make a call to a treatment center, you are probably already at risk of compromising your office and family relationships. You are probably already the parent who smells of telltale alcohol at the annual family breakfast at school. Or the employee who’s late or off-kilter at office events. Missing a pre-planned trip? Ask yourself how much enjoyment you are getting out of life at the moment. And whether you really need another one of those stories to tell.
2. I am the family bread winner. How can my family afford to have me go to treatment? How can I go away for a long period of time?
At Sanford, our goal is to determine a clinically appropriate placement for everyone in the least restrictive level of care. And we work with all insurance companies who generally cover the cost except for patient policy deductibles. There are also alternatives to residential treatment, or long stays away from home. The Sanford Outpatient Center, with in-person and telehealth options, allows for continuation of everyday activities while integrating effective strategies to manage real life recovery. And our Admissions Specialists are always available to discuss a variety of treatment options (and parry your excuses).
3. I will wait till the pandemic is over and it’s safe to go to rehab.
At Sanford Behavioral Health, the safety of our clients and staff has always been our number one priority. With the advent of COVID-19 and its variants, we have increased our stringent policies and response protocols to keep all of our facilities safe. We are continuously updating Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and OSHA Requirements. We take pride in providing a safe environment while continuing to offer evidence-based practices in treatment and recovery. Telehealth options are also available for those who feel uncomfortable in a group setting.
4. Thanks for the information – I’ll think about it.
When it comes to deciding about getting help for a drug/alcohol problem, we are all a little like Scarlett O’Hara. It is a convenient excuse to say, “I’ll think about this tomorrow.” But that’s the problem with procrastinating about something painful – like addressing addiction. Because thinking about change is not making change. As the Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
5. I am vital to my children’s wellbeing. I am needed at home.
This might be painful to hear, but it is sometimes a blessed relief to have a family member with an SUD out of the house. Especially if that loved one is getting help that will make the family stronger in the long run. This is the time to ask for help from a family member or friend – the relatively short stay away from home in residential treatment is an investment in a lifetime of active presence in your children’s lives. There are also options that allow for treatment while managing child rearing in a real time/real life setting.
6. With a rancorous divorce/separation happening, I don’t want anyone to know I am going away for treatment. I’m afraid it will be used against me.
Let’s talk about the specific situation and find a solution. Divorce is a tough, emotional circumstance that should be managed with a clear head. At Sanford, we take confidentiality seriously. Who you tell about what you are doing and where you are going is your business. Treatment at all levels is HIPAA-compliant, which means you specify who can contact you/be contacted while in a Sanford facility. And special arrangements can be made to allow for conversations with children, lawyers, or others who are managing legal matters.
7. I am needed at work. I have to be available by computer and phone.
Even if you are high functioning at work, a substance use disorder impacts production and decision making. A break from work to address substance use issues is almost always good for the bottom-line and company morale. The holidays are often the time when work schedules are reduced, or a significant other can contribute more to childcare – an added reason to consider holiday timing as a positive. Talk to us about specific needs to contact work by computer and phone during residential treatment.
8. I don’t want to go to treatment now. It would seem too lonely and depressing…
In this case, “now” is another word for “ever”. But residential treatment does not have to be lonely or depressing. Even during a festive time of year. The schedule at Sanford during December and January includes tree and cookie decorating; family brunches; holiday foods and an excursion to see the light displays in some of the local neighborhoods. The regional Alano Club promotes festive, sober events. And the Sanford staff and clinical therapists are empathetic to the sensitivities our clients might experience during holiday seasons. Holidays in rehab (whether Christmas or Memorial Day) are actually a good first opportunity to practice sober socializing while in the safety of treatment.
9. I do not have anyone to take care of my dog/cat/parakeet
Now is the time to get creative. Your beloved pet will be better off with a health owner. If you are planning a stay in residential treatment, pets are an issue! Seek the help of a colleague, family member or friend to watch your charge, or explore Outpatient and Virtual Options. Pets are one of the positives of telehealth!
10. I am a single working parent (most often a woman); I do not have insurance or the resources to pay for formal treatment.
In the list of common excuses, number 10 is the most heart breaking and frustrating. Addiction does not discriminate, but single parents/women or those without resources or insurance are often the “forgotten demographic” when granting addiction treatment. Fortunately, one of the silver linings of the pandemic is a rise in virtual options – many of them free. Short term disability might be an option. And the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.
“Throw us a curveball. Give us your best reason for not being able to get the help you need. We will accommodate you or find a solution. Opening up the conversation is the best way I know to get to the root of the objection and lay out the options.” Kelly Stone, Sanford Behavioral Health, Director of Admissions
Don’t Put Off the Inevitable…
In the end, we all have to face life’s difficulties. Even this author (the ultimate procrastinator) woke up one morning with the same issues to confront and decided to make a change. One of the joys of recovery from addiction is the clear, clean light of a new day. There is no “perfect time” to get help for a substance use disorder. But now is as good a time as any (and 2021 is almost over!). Pick up the phone and change your life for the better in the new year.