I learned something very valuable on Saturday morning during a lecture given by one of the men I most admire in the field of addiction, Kevin McCauley, MD. Kevin was talking about the safety issue of addiction and that one of the most important things we can do for people is to get them back to what they love. Over and over again he referenced the "pilot study" in which safety was the critical ingredient, that the pilots who were having substance use issues were able to ask for the help they needed because they didn't have to fear punishment. Their disease was dealt with as a human safety issue, they were kept with their "tribe", given the greatest medical, and emotional support, and a reason to get well.
It seems obvious that punishment only pushes issues deeper in darkness as people try to keep their activities, in this case their use and the things associated with it, underground. It is these very symptoms that cause the behavior that people see a "need" to punish. Kevin would say, and I agree with him, punishment is the worst thing we can do to a person as it cements their addiction.
As I listened to him I considered my work with moms, I kept thinking how can what he is saying relate to the women and children I work with. How can we keep moms and kids together in recovery since that is "their work" just like flying is a pilot's work and practicing medicine is a doctors work. What steps can we take to insure the safety of the children while addressing the work of the mom's. How can we help the mom's come to us sooner with issues of addiction rather than having them stay hidden as they fear they will lose their children. It seems like an uphill battle all around and while I don't have the answers yet, I am most definitely asking the questions and listening for them.