When a woman who worked as an administrative assistant for the College of Southern Nevada stole a check for $1,000 and cashed it, it did not take long for authorities to figure out what had happened and track down the person who had committed the crime using surveillance footage at the bank where the check was cashed.
At 50 years old, gainfully employed, and married to a police lieutenant, the woman who was arrested initially may have seemed like an unlikely person to be arrested for burglary, forgery, fraud, and theft – but when she described a gripping addiction to pills and an ongoing addiction disorder, the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place.
The woman who was arrested in Henderson is far from alone when it comes to committing crimes in an effort to get more drugs to maintain an ongoing addiction disorder. In fact, it is a common problem and, for many people, the first concrete and undeniable sign that drug use has crossed from “use” to “abuse” and possibly “addiction.”
Criminal behavior in the service of addiction can be devastating to families who must work to manage the physical issues related to the crime (e.g., hefty fines, community service, and/or incarceration), but it can also be a much needed and lifesaving wakeup call that immediate treatment is needed.
Stabilizing in Crisis
Whether the wakeup call that demonstrates the need for treatment is a medical emergency like overdose, an arrest for criminal behavior, or another significant and devastating event that lays out clearly that drug use is so significant it has the potential to take one’s life or freedom, the first order of business is to stabilize.
In the case of arrest, it is important to pay attention and know what is expected. For example, following the directions of police officers, knowing when to show up to court and what behaviors are expected up until the court date, and following those directives to the letter can help to stop the situation from getting any worse.
Similarly, if a drug overdose occurs or if the individual has an accident or experiences a medical emergency under the influence, accessing medical treatment and remaining under medical supervision until stable are essential first steps.
Once stable and physically safe, it can be tempting for both the individual who experienced the issue and for family members alike to feel the urge to lay blame for the situation. Family members may grow angry with their loved one struggling with addiction for scaring or embarrassing them; the individual who suffered through the event may blame the person who gave them the drugs, the arresting officers, or other individuals involved – or even their family members.
The important thing to remember is that there is no one to blame when an addiction disorder – a medical issue that impacts the brain as well as the body – occurs. There are negative consequences and effects of that disorder that are unavoidable unless the individual can connect with treatment and go into remission. The most recent events are symptomatic of the problem, and the best choice is to look forward to what can be done to stop this from happening again rather than looking back.
It can be helpful to use the emotional momentum of a deeply devastating moment to not only broach the subject of treatment but to also begin the process of identifying the best possible treatment program and take action to enroll. At no other time is it more obvious to all involved that drug use and abuse have become serious threats to health and happiness; even an individual who has previously felt that they had their use of substances under control will be more likely to see that, given recent events, treatment is necessary.
Do not allow this understanding to pass without taking action. Individuals struggling with drug abuse and their family members are encouraged to:
- Start calling drug rehab programs to determine which ones will be able to provide the resources needed to heal.
- Keep in mind any medical support that is required after overdose or medical emergency, or the requirements of the court as the case unfolds and penalties are determined, when choosing the right drug rehab program.
- Contact the health insurance company to get the details on what treatment services are covered and in what amount.
- Begin the process of determining where the remainder of the funds will be found to pay copays and the rest of the bill not covered by health insurance.
- Contact employers, family members, and others who will need to know that the individual will need support and time to focus on treatment. If dependent children or older family members will need care, arrange it.
- Determine what needs to be done to enroll in the drug rehab of choice and get it done immediately.
- Do not accommodate any wait period; treatment should begin as soon as possible.
- Handle the details – arrange for someone to walk the dog, set up automatic bill pay, pack a bag, and make travel arrangements as needed.
What can you do to help your loved one struggling with substance abuse recognize that the time for treatment and recovery is now?