Howard Samuels, PsyD is the author of Alive Again, an impassioned and informative book on addiction treatment. The author, the son of a famous politician and industrialist who was a Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, had his own struggle with addiction.
Welcome, Howard. Why and for whom did you write Alive Again?
Primarily, the book was written for the alcoholic and/or addict who is still struggling and the families who have loved ones who are destroying their lives with alcohol and drugs. My experience suggests that their numbers are legion.
It is astonishing how many people don’t know where to turn for real help with these matters. I felt there needed to be a book that not only outlined the problem but also offered practical advice and solutions.
As a therapist who owns a treatment facility, I wanted to provide people who needed a starting place for answers.
Addiction is sometimes thought of as a problem mainly affecting poorer families. It’s nice to see that some of your book’s message is directed at middle and upper-middle class families. There is an unfortunate trend today of parents substituting money and gifts for quality time spent with their children.
I grew up in an affluent home, but there I was at 16 years old shooting heroin. It didn’t matter that I was living the “American Dream”, I still became the “American Nightmare.”
Money does not fix the emptiness an alcoholic or an addict feels deep down in his or her soul. The only things, in my experience, that can fix that kind of malady are spirituality (which doesn’t always mean religion) and being of service to your fellow man.
And the people that have the hardest time understanding this are the parents who continue to give their kids materialistic things because they just don’t “get it”. They are robbing their children of the desire to build self-esteem; you can’t build self-esteem if you’re given a new Audi or your family is paying your rent or paying your bills.
You need to get out into the world – that’s the whole point of growing up – you need to go out and build a life for yourself and live life on life’s terms. That’s where self-esteem comes from. Dignity and honor come from the ability to make it on your own.
Parents can sometimes rob their children of that opportunity when they enable them. The family needs to be taught that they aren’t helping the alcoholic or addict; they’re destroying their chances for a healthy, fulfilling future. I say this from my own experience.
Everything I have today was born from my ability to go out and build my own life. My private practice, the home that I live in, the car that I drive… my family didn’t buy me any of it. I got sober and I did it on my own.
I never had a family member giving me thousands of dollars to “set me up”. I think that’s a key ingredient to long-term recovery. I wouldn’t be here today if my family had continued to enable me financially. And, I promise you, there is a very big difference between enabling someone and supporting them. Not every family can see the distinction between the two, and that’s where you get into trouble.
As someone who has worked in addiction and mental health for 30 years I see many positive trends in treatment. Two of which make a real impact on patients include 1. peer counseling and 2. more accurate mental health/addiction assessments and treatment for co-occurring disorders. Can you comment on these trends?
I’m a huge fan of peer counseling. I own a treatment center and several of my employees, whether they are therapists or advisors, were once clients! I must say, they add so much to the program because they went through it themselves.
Peer counseling is the backbone of what I do at The Hills because the real recovery comes from the model used by 12-step programs everywhere: one drunk helping another drunk or one addict helping another addict. There’s real healing there because there’s real empathy and connection there, and it is in that space that recovery can get the strongest foothold.
As for assessment, today many addict and alcoholics have some form of chemical imbalance. Not everyone does, but many do. Clients have depressive issues, many have obsessive/ compulsive issues, and so on. One of the things we have to do with our assessments is figure out if they do have a co-occurring disorder, what that is and how to treat it.
And the issue with that is, you can’t have a client for only 30 days if you’re going to do that kind of work. That’s why I promote clients staying 90 days to a year in treatment, so that we can really get to know the patient and help them and ensure long-term recovery.
Thanks for taking the time to visit us at Therapy Soup!
Howard C. Samuels, Psy.D, is an addiction specialist who has been clean and sober for over 28 years. His step-by-step guide to having an intervention can be found in his new book Alive Again, available for purchase at Amazon.com. He has been sober for over 28 years and is the founder and president of the prestigious The Hills Treatment Center in Los Angeles and he appears regularly on national TV news shows about the challenges of drug addiction.
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Last reviewed: 20 May 2013