Archive for October, 2014

Be Not AfraidA mother called very upset that her son had not been approved for admission to St. Joseph Institute. I explained that he wasn’t ready for treatment. He wasn’t ready to stop using his drugs. He had no motivation to get clean beyond the desire to “get his parents off his back.” “What can I do to get him ready?” she asked.

I suggested that her son needed to discover the motivation on his own. He needed to feel the consequences of his choices and want to change. She could long for this, she could pray for this, but he had to reach this conclusion – she could not do it for him.

“However,” I explained, “that does not mean you are powerless to help. For years you have let him live in your house and use drugs. You have given him money that he has used to buy drugs. You have financed his car. In short, you have made it easy for him to be an addict… and his addiction thanks you for it. You are enabling his bad behaviors, and that has made it much easier for him to avoid tough decisions.”

While the mother acknowledged the truth of my statements, she was conflicted. “If I make him leave home, he’ll have nowhere to live. If I don’t give him money, he’ll be unable to eat. I can’t do that to my son.” She paused, and then stated: “I’m too afraid to say no.”

This conversation reflects a constant theme in addiction treatment: enabling. Enabling is behavior that tries to resolve a specific problem but often perpetuates or exacerbates the issue. An “enabler” might take responsibility for the addict’s problems or make accommodations for a person’s harmful conduct. For example, a wife may not demand change for fear that her husband will leave her. A father who does not want to “rock the boat” will avoid the tough discussion with his son about the out-of-control drinking. A family will accept their loved one’s promise that “this time will be different,” even though they have yet to see any evidence of change.

At St. Joseph Institute, we know that despite our professional attention, treatment, and support, an addict has dismal chances of recovery if his or her family engages in enabling behavior. We know that an addict must want to change before change is possible. Recovery happens when the addict or alcoholic accepts that they have a disease and wants life to be different. Our clinical staff is trained to evaluate an addicted person’s stage of readiness for treatment. People in the “pre-contemplation stage” are not thinking about changing their behavior and may not see their behavior as a problem. These individuals are often labeled as “resistant” or “in denial.” Enabling by the family, significant others, and friends allows the addict or alcoholic to remain in the pre-contemplation stage.

We know an addicted person is ready for treatment when he or she has entered the “stage of contemplation,” which is a measure of a person’s readiness to make the necessary changes for sobriety. Contemplation signals an acknowledgment that there is a problem and an “awakening” that change is needed.

There can be no guarantees that stopping all enabling will motivate the addicted person to seek help. The addict may keep using; the alcoholic may drink even more. The addiction may still result in jail or even death. Battling this disease is not easy, and there are no perfect answers.

What we do know, and what research confirms, is that if the addicted person is allowed to keep using without consequences, there is far greater likelihood that the addictive behavior will continue or become worse. Denial has so much more power when it goes unchecked. Enabling fosters denial, and while it may look and feel like love, it often has a selfish motive. Love is based on compassion; enabling is based on fear of consequences. Love encourages personal growth and the courage to make important decisions; enabling accepts the status quo. Love pushes the addicted person into the stage of contemplation and thus into the beginning of recovery.

Every person in successful recovery knows this phrase: “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Change is the foundation of sobriety, and enabling prevents change. For the mothers, fathers, spouses, and friends hoping to see the person they love break free of addiction, I offer a simple prayer: “Be not afraid.” Use the power of love to demand change, and stand strong when the addict rebels against your actions. When enabling stops, the true face of addiction is often seen in all its ugliness. Addiction fights to stay alive. Stare it down, and don’t let it win. When no one is helping addicts stay addicted, they often decide it is time to change.


lettersOne of the great joys in addiction treatment is hearing from our graduates.  While recovery is not easy, and life has many challenges, there are victories that lift us up and help us all move forward.  The following e-mails arrived today and have put a huge smile on my face and energy in my step.

On October 18th I will celebrate three years of sobriety from a severe drug and alcohol addiction that I battled for 15 years.  Today I celebrate the fact that I have been redeemed, and have found my true purpose in life.  Jesus Christ is the reason I am still here on this earth, but St. Joseph Institute is the place where He met me for the first time.  You see… when I was a resident there I was having serious thoughts about ending my life because I thought I would NEVER be able to beat my alcohol and drug addictions.  I never told my counselor of my suicidal thoughts, but on October 29th, 2011 I prayed to a God that I wasn’t sure existed.  I knelt at the foot of my bed feeling hopeless, and worthless, and ready to take my own life when something indescribable occurred.  God entered the room that night, and He met me with Love, Comfort, and Grace.  I felt His hand on my shoulder and heard the words “Chris, you do not have to worry about this anymore. Everything is going to be OK”.  Since that night… I have not had the desire to drink or use; NOT ONE SINGLE TIME!!!  God is REAL!!!  He pulled me out of turmoil, and has blessed me in so many ways.  I have a written testimony that I share all over the state of West Virginia, but to sum up the blessings: God led me to my beautiful wife, and we are expecting a baby this December, I have been able to restore the damage I inflicted on my past relationships, 5 of my family members have accepted Christ into their lives because they simply saw a change in me, and last but not least… I get to help others find healing when they are in a time of need just like I was.

So I just want to say THANK YOU!!! St. Joseph will always have a special place in my heart, and I really appreciate all the love and support I found during my short 30 day stay there. Chris W.


I felt compelled to write you and give you an update about me.

I went to live in the recovery house in Asheville after my stay at St. Joseph’s.  I did three months there and was able to move out and had a job in the banking sector.  While my time there was not “perfect”, it was helpful.  I decided to move home to Idaho to my parent’s home to focus on getting into graduate school again.  I was accepted into a school in Boston for library science / archives management / rare book preservation. After getting an amazing job as a hospital administrator and decided to defer a year and continue working.  I took a deep, hard look at myself and decided that I was just not ready for big city living again – I’m just not strong enough.  I see an addictions therapist quite often, but don’t really do meetings – I found them helpful for a time, but generally found that they remind me too much of my usage and sometimes are a bit too negative for me (I don’t think it is helpful to be called ‘crazy’ the way that word is thrown about with reckless abandon).

Health-wise, I am doing extremely well.  I work out nearly every day and weigh nearly 200 pounds – most of it muscle.

I remain active in the Church, and sometimes even think about a return to religious life.  Time will answer that question as it unfolds.  The time you first gave me Holy Communion at St. Joseph’s remains for me one of the most spiritually impacting moments of my life – it might have been the moment where I decided to let God help me, although none of us ever completely “lets” Him do that, which is why we keep trying, no?

Thank you for all you did for me.  Please feel free to share this with anyone, in the hopes that it might provide some succor to another seeking soul. Michael P.


Most addiction treatment centers in America have used the same program for decades – without great results.  St. Joseph Institute has developed a new approach that is far more personal and strives to help the whole person heal.  Founder Jenny Sheetz explains why “not all rehabs are equal.”