“A family doesn’t have to be perfect; it just needs to be united.” —Anonymous
Let’s suppose you play a supportive role in the life of an incarcerated partner struggling with substance abuse. This is a role you bravely face because of your love and hope that they will become better as you serve time together.
Mark Twain said, “great people are those who make others feel that they, too, can become great.” When you listen to your partner’s challenges, obstacles, and help them make and maintain some action plan, you are being a great person. You need to hear that.
Substance Abuse in Prison
Substance abuse is a significant concern in our prison system. While the exact rates of inmates with substance abuse disorders (SUDs) are challenging to measure, some research shows that an estimated 65% percent of the United States prison population has an active SUD.
If that statistic isn’t concerning enough, consider a recent article published by Addiction Science and Clinical practice that examined why post-release opioid-related overdose mortality is the leading cause of death among people released from jails or prisons (PRJP).
We have a terrible problem, and once again, your partner having you in their life increases their chances of beating it. Many researchers are beginning to point out that Community Reinforcement and Family Training for Treatment Retention (CRAFT-T) has positive results.
Unfortunately, your partner isn’t home or in some fantastic treatment facility, and you can’t replicate or directly use the methodology discussed above.
Treatment in Prison
Treatment in prisons is sadly limited. The waiting lists are long, the doctors and volunteers are in short supply, and sometimes the chaotic system itself interrupts any progress that is being made. What that leaves are programs within the institutions themselves, sometimes created by the residents. Narcotics Anonymous groups form on the tiers and even meet in many prisons. There is also literature to read.
You once again have to communicate with your loved one and figure this out together. Of course, you are going to apply for treatment. (Future Push the Pen how to file a motion for Drug Treatment Law) You can still do other things together to help in the interim.
Ways to Help
One thing you can do is gather material, information, and knowledge. Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889. It is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and loved ones facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
This service provides referrals to support groups and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
If you consider those resources, you can see how each piece can be applied to you and your partner. If your partner is going to a support group, you can do the same. There are support groups for you either online or in-person.
You can talk to people in similar scenarios and share ideas and unwind. Use your Google skills and check it out.
SAMSA is an excellent source for free publications for you to study and send to your loved one. There are also books that you and your partner can read together and discuss.
- Beyond Addiction (How Science and Kindness Help People Change) by Jeffrey Foote
- Addict in the Family: Stories of Loss, Hope, and Recovery by Beverly Conyers
- Twelve Secular Steps: An Addiction Recovery Guide by Bill W
- The Five People You’ll Meet in Prison: A Memoir of Addiction, Mania & Hope by Brandon Stickney
Sometimes incarcerated individuals will schedule one of their phone calls with their partner as a session about substance recovery. They will go over what they have read or watched and talk about resources they may receive from their home support person.
Keep in mind you can’t cure someone of addiction. You can help get them to a place, though, where they want to be healed.