Is it frustrating trying to get addicts clean?

Sometimes people ask me things like, “Isn’t it frustrating to try and get people off of drugs and alcohol? Seems like people want to keep doing whatever they want….”

The short answer to that question is, “Yes. And No.” But even as a short answer, there’s a lot of room for further discussion. Over the years, I’ve had clients die as a result of their addiction to drugs and/or alcohol and I’ve had clients find a healthy sobriety. And I’ve had clients stay in the same rut in which they’ve seemed to be stuck in for years, neither getting better or worse. So, yes, when I’ve attended funerals for people who die – I get angry and wonder if there was more that I could’ve done. When clients find sobriety, I don’t feel anything but satisfaction. And when I’ve worked with people who simply don’t change, I do get frustrated.

But regardless of treatment outcome, I do have to remind myself that life, in general, isn’t about outcome, it’s about “fighting the good fight” regardless of how that fight makes a person feel. For me, talking with people about Addiction and substance abuse is my fight and as long as I approach the work with a sense of hope and from a perspective that I am doing what I believe is in the best interests of building a healthier life, then the fight itself is worthwhile.

There are times that I wonder why I bother maintaining my licensure; it can sometimes seem like I’m building a dam using balsa wood to contain waves in the Atlantic. And there are times when I’m certain that I couldn’t conceive of NOT fighting. Either way though, my fight is about providing the best information I can such that knowledge results in better and healthier actions. It’s not for me to own the outcome of what I teach; it’s only important that I do the best I can and keep myself as informed as I can be and teach and write to the best of my ability. It’s up to others to use the information I provide.

I know people who enter clinical professions who become disillusioned because they don’t ever see their actions resulting in positive outcomes. Again, though, it’s not up to clinicians to live someone else’s life. Each of us walks our path and we have to live with our choices (even if we don’t understand that we have choices to make). What is crucial for clinicians to remember is that we are ethically bound to provide the best possible treatment we can provide. That’s our duty and our mission.

Though I do like to think that I impact this world in a positive way, I do have to remind myself that my fight is the means of that impact. Sadly, people die from untreated Addiction. But as long as I maintain the perspective that I approach my fight from the best of my ability, then any frustration is tempered. I had a football coach who always said that if we were going to tiptoe through the tulips, then we better not even bother suiting up. Well, when it comes to treatment, my hope and goal is that I never tiptoe through the tulips of Addiction.


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