After months or years of battling substance abuse or alcoholism with your loved one, that joyous day has finally arrived. Your family member has agreed to get treatment. They are terrified. You are terrified. Both of you have high hopes. For right now, it’s all about helping your loved one survive the move from addiction to treatment.
There is no denying that life as an active addict or alcoholic is exhausting, even dangerous. When you have watched a loved one in the throes of active addiction, functioning in what is called “survival mode,” you have likely been terrified for them. Every thought, every action has been focused on the availability and means of getting “the next one.” Through it all, the person you loved became unrecognizable, a shell of their former selves, often with a strong physical and psychological dependence on their substance of choice.
When that is the case, surviving the move from addiction to treatment can be frightening. With certain substances, including alcohol and benzodiazepines, it can be life-threatening. However, with proper planning, even the most strongly addicted person can remove themselves from a life of addiction and achieve a life of freedom.
You May Have to Travel to Get Treatment
While sometimes the option to go to residential treatment close to home is available, it may not be a good idea for many people. Often, there are too many temptations surrounding local rehabs and treatment centers: the ubiquitous people, places, and things. There is even a possibility (especially if you live in a small town) that your loved one will find themselves sharing a room or a uni with someone they know and have used with.
The reality is, your loved one may have to travel, often some distance, to get to a treatment facility. In doing so, there will be some hurdles:
- physical withdrawal symptoms
- carrying medications
- airport or bus station bars
- layovers and other travel delays
These and other things will need to be addressed before you or your loved one leaves for treatment. The entire trip should be planned from start to finish, making provisions for every eventuality.
How to Arrange for Safe Travel
While it may sound obvious, it must be stated that an addicted person traveling to a treatment facility should never be unaccompanied. Someone you both know and trust could make the trip with them, but that is not ideal, as emotions are apt to be running high. Some agencies provide “safe passage” to treatment. Gender-specific Personal Recovery Assistants provide support and assistance to the addicted person and their family, ensuring that the addicted person arrives at treatment. Emotions involved with family members or other loved ones are not at play, removing the risk for manipulation or arguments.
The following are some of the reasons you should engage a sober chaperon for your loved one before travel:
- Managing fear and anxiety. Anyone can get frazzled by the annoyances inherent in traveling. When someone is leaving everything familiar to them and stepping into an entirely new world, even the smallest irritant can send them into a tailspin. Having someone with them to assist with checking in at the airport, finding the right line, even locating the restrooms takes most of the pressure off and allows the addicted person to relax a little.
- Managing withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines is dangerous and can be life-threatening; withdrawal from opiates and other substances may not be as damaging, but it is painful. How withdrawal will be handled in transit must be discussed with the addicted person and their loved ones before travel. When a person is on their way to treatment, the last thing anyone wants is for them to go on a bender. Having someone with them to assess the level of withdrawal objectively is essential to the addicted person’s safe arrival at the treatment facility.
- Managing boredom and temptation. Layovers and delays are notoriously dull. Airports have limited entertainment, aside from the bars, which is true of bus terminals and train stations. Considering that the person is already anxious, the bar will probably seem appealing. Having a sober chaperon will make suggesting “grabbing a quick one” seem awkward.
When a person you love takes a step as huge as getting treatment for a life-threatening addiction, the very best thing you can do is to make sure they arrive safely. Sending them with a sober companion who is not emotionally invested, yet is compassionate and professional, might be the best going-away present you could give them.
How to Choose a Sober Chaperon
Once you have decided to use a sober companion or chaperon for “safe passage” to treatment for your loved one, there are several criteria they should meet:
- Gender. Generally, the person escorting your loved one should be of the same gender, unless there is a reason that would be uncomfortable. Discuss gender preference with your loved one; do not make assumptions about this important matter.
- Experience. The chaperon you choose should have expertise escorting others to treatment and must be capable of handling any difficulties that may occur during the trip.
- Physical strength and confidence. Suppose your loved one becomes violent during transport. In that case, the chaperon may have to use some physical force and inner confidence to manage the situation and maintain order, as well as to protect your loved one from harming themselves or someone else.
- Kindness and understanding. Sometimes, a sober chaperon or escort is a recovering addict or alcoholic themselves, giving them insight and experience that can help your loved one as they start their epic adventure.
Do your homework. Make phone calls. Write down a list of questions, ask them, and find someone who answers them to your satisfaction. Remember, you are placing your loved one’s safety in this person’s hands.
Your loved one is about to embark on a fantastic journey but remember: they are still very sick and scared. Just as you wouldn’t expect someone to go to the doctor alone if they had the flu, it doesn’t make sense to send them to addiction treatment alone, either. Sober chaperons have experience keeping your loved one safe on their way to treatment. Ensuring that you choose the right sober escort to travel with them to treatment is the best gift you can give them as they embark on this new chapter of their life. Make sure that the chaperon you choose has the knowledge and skills necessary for the job. A great place to start is calling Hired Power in Orange County. With years of experience, they can help you choose the perfect chaperon for your loved one’s unique needs. You can reach Hired Power today at (800) 910-9299.