“To thine own self be true,” Shakespeare wrote in “Hamlet.” But for patients in a substance abuse treatment program, how can they be true to themselves if they don’t know themselves?
In Cornerstone of Recovery’s Young Adult Program, we treat many individuals who have no concept of who they are, what they want to do for a living, what they want out of life or what drives them as an individual. Addiction has stunted their mental and emotional development, and they come to drug rehab with little or no idea of a future beyond the next drink or drug. While treatment can be effective in stopping the use of those substances, more is needed to provide them with the possibility of a fulfilling life on the other side their disease, and one of the tools used in the treatment process to give them that is APEX.
It stands for “Assess, Plan, Execute,” and it “seeks to encourage and guide individuals with substance use disorder in the exploration of individual skills, interests and values to create actionable goals that lead to a meaningful career and will enhance the participant’s recovery.” In other words, it accentuates the positive and helps them recognize the skills and talents they possess, even if they don’t know it.
Few Young Adults Can See A Future For Themselves While In The Grasps Of Addiction
For many Young Adults, addiction has resulted in a lack of any meaningful direction, and when they’re asked what sort of a future they envision for themselves, they’re often stumped. During a period when their peers were making plans for college or trade school or entry into the job market, they were consumed by the need to get high; their day-to-day needs to maintain their addiction pushed everything else to the side, and their work histories are often spotty or non-existent. With APEX, participants won’t leave Cornerstone and waltz into a six-figure job with a Fortune 500 company, but they’ll begin to lay the groundwork for a future that’s undeterred by the addiction that has kept them in bondage for so long.
APEX was developed by former Cornerstone staff member Dr. Ryan Johnson and current APEX coordinator Michelle Ullom, and while it’s a multi-faceted approach to rehabilitation, the ultimate goal is a simple one: the design of a fulfilling life. By utilizing three phases, patients design their own futures, ones they likely never thought possible when the grime of addiction mired any glimpse into a promising tomorrow:
- Assess: The initial process of self-discovery helps patients identify their interests, list their skills and determine their values. For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve examined these traits, and determining what they believe serves to set the groundwork for moving forward. “It really helps them recognize what they believe in, and that helps swing their moral compass in a new direction,” Michelle says. Often, they approach this phase completely stumped: What skills could they possibly have if they’ve never held a job? With the help of trained APEX administrators, they begin to see that even simple personal interactions might include a usable skill: Convincing parents to let them borrow the car, for example, or persuading siblings to do work that they were given, are examples of negotiation – a useful tool in the job market.
- Plan: The second phase of the APEX process teaches participants decision-making and goal-setting skills and allows them to set up a plan that explores their identified areas of interest. They begin to see how their interests align with their skills in order to set realistic career goals, and by the end of the Planning phase, they’ve set S.M.A.R.T. goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. The idea is to encourage specific goals; simply declaring an intention to return to school isn’t enough. Instead, they’re encouraged to, for example, identify the cost of a specific number of schools in the area in which they live that provides a course of study for their desired field, and to give themselves a deadline by which to gather that information.
- Execute: The action phase involves improving a patient’s self-efficacy: In other words, we promote positive self-affirmation, encouraging them to believe in their capacity to execute their goals. In addition, we help them pursue the training they’ll need to develop and grow their targeted skill sets, which will move them a step closer to the realization of their dreams. They learn how to put together resumes and cover letters, and they sit in on mock “interviews” with “potential employers,” learning everything from the maintenance of eye contact to researching the job and the company beforehand so that they can ask informed questions.
Is APEX Only Used In The Young Adult Program?
For many of the Young Adult patients at Cornerstone of Recovery – and even some of the clients of the Women’s Program who are changing careers or want to start one in the wake of divorce – APEX is crucial in helping them figure out who they are and what they’re capable of achieving. While lost in the fog of addiction, they’re often unable to see anything of value within themselves, and in turn feel they have no value to offer to a prospective job or career.
With APEX, that negative thought process is halted and replaced by a positive one. It transforms their old ways of thinking and becomes another tool in Cornerstone of Recovery’s therapeutic arsenal – because at Cornerstone, the drugs and alcohol are just a symptom of the problem. We believe that addiction is an internal disease of the body, mind and spirit, and only by addressing all of those components can we return patients back to their families and loved ones as free men and women, no longer in bondage. Once those chains are broken, a new landscape of potential is opened up to them, and with therapeutic devices like APEX, they’re able to build upon it a future they never thought was possible.
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