Half a decade ago, I started working on a hotline to help addicts and their families find drug addiction treatment centers. Thousands of calls later, I still remember the first time I picked up the line.
I could hardly make out what the woman on the other end was saying to me. Shelly (not her real name) was sobbing. She had just arrived at her father's apartment and had found him passed out cold on the couch with a needle still sticking out of his arm. Why she called our line instead of 9-1-1 was a mystery. I called for an ambulance and waited on the phone with her until they arrived. She told me how her father had been a construction worker, though his dream was to play guitar in a band. Shelly said her parents split up when she was thirteen because of her dad's drinking. He moved away to live in another state for a couple of years and they began to lose touch. He would send the occasional card or make a call on her birthday the first couple of years, but that eventually ended. After college, Shelly decided to find her dad. It turned out that he had moved back and was living just a couple of miles from where she grew up.
Somewhere along the way, he had picked up a heroin habit. Shelly tried to talk him into going to treatment, but he always had an excuse for why he couldn't. Shelly said she visited him weekly, helped him keep his apartment up, bought his groceries and kept after him to quit. She said she they had just talked the night before and that he had, for the first time, agreed to try treatment. On my end, I could hear the ambulance approaching and then a knock on the door. Shelly hung up and I never heard from her again.
Today in America, there are 13 million people in need of alcohol or drug addiction treatment. Fortunately, according the government, there are just over 13,000 drug addiction treatment centers waiting to help these individuals. It may have been too late for Shelly's dad, I don't know, but I do know that it is not too late for anyone who is looking for a drug addiction treatment center today.
Each year millions of people across America, enter treatment centers. For many, this marks a fresh start, a rebirth. It is an opportunity to rebuild broken relationships and broken lives. Those who successfully complete rehab join a recovery community that is already millions strong.
This article, intended to be one in a three part series, is dedicated to addicts and family members of addicts who are searching for answers. Its goal the series is to help those suffering from drug abuse and/or their loved ones to make informed choices when entering drug addiction treatment.
I invite you to join me over the next couple of weeks as these articles explore the different types of treatment settings and then how to find the right treatment center for you or a loved one. In the end, I am confident that combined with careful research of what makes good treatment and by following your own intuition; you or a loved one can begin a new life.
David Westbrook is a freelance writer. He has spent several years talking to thousands of addicts and their families who are in search of drug addiction treatment centers.