What are the biggest problems or most difficult aspects
For Brooklyn participants, a number of aspects of treatment were difficult,
including going through it in the first place and having others tell
you what to do.
- Some days I dont want to get out of bed and some days I do.
- The hardest part? Going through the treatment.
- The hardest part about treatment is constantly having someone tell
you what to do.
- Especially if its your first time . . . the process of going
through it. . . . Theres a lot of things you have to deal with you
dont want to deal with in treatment.
- The hardest part for me was getting over being so ashamed of myself.
- Learning how to be true.
- For me its having 20-year-olds tell me what to docause
I got kids that age.
When asked about the most common problems experienced by their drug court
peers, Las Vegas focus group participants pointed to two themes in particular:
the home environment and the difficulty in getting (and staying) clean.
Concerns about the home environment were based on not only the attitudes
and behaviors of family members, partners, or other coresidents, but also
the proximity of drugs and drug dealers to their residences (including
sometimes in their homes).
- Some of us cant go to a family or cant turn to a family
member for support. Theyre doing the same thing were doing,
you know what I mean. Thats the biggest problem. Im speaking
for myself because of my home life, you know. You cant go home because
thats where all the drugs is, and you cant go anywhere else
- Living with drug dealers. Living with drug dealers.
- Because all the people you know are about dope or doing dope or selling
it to you.
When we asked them to estimate the proportion of their peers in drug
court who have difficult problems at home, participants indicated about
- A lot. A majority. A whole lot. . . .
Only three participants reported having someone close to them in the
drug court program or another treatment program or having someone close
to them quit drugs because of their involvement in drug treatment:
- You know what I feel like, if you know the person that I live with,
okay, he wouldnt have gotten on, been in the program too with me,
I couldnt have quit either. . . . If I had to go home and he was still doing, I know I would too.
However, many participants indicated that they knew someone close to
them who they wished would join the program.
The second problem Las Vegas participants saw among their drug court
peers had to do with admitting to themselves that they had a problem,
wanting to get clean, and removing oneself from the environment where
drugs were visible and available.
- Getting clean is a problem for lots of people. . . . Staying clean,
you know theyre clean for the five times or other, then they get
to Phase II. Then they go to Phase II for the 7 or 8 weeks and then theyre
up to Phase III. Then they decide theyre going to have a beer or
smoke a joint, then theyre put right back down to Phase I. So to
me . . . but I feel that makes Choices sometimes like a waste of time
for people cause some people been in the system so long . . . like
one guy for 4 years . . . like this was our mascot. . . . I was like,
Whoa, hes still alive, but how could you take 4 years
of Judge Lehman? Id be a nervous wreck.
- Wanting to be clean first. Getting away from themselves. Changing their
- Getting away from the wrong kind of people.
Participants agreed that it is easy to identify new drug court participants
who have an I could quit if I wanted to attitude:
- Yeah, the I-could-quit-if-I-want attitude. Just recreational
- Yep, yep, yep. Straight off the bat. Yep. Right away. I think maybe
its been their lifestyle for so long . . . like Im 48 years
old and theres certain things that nothing gonna change . . . but
I can only imagine that people who have done drugs for years and years
and years, especially learned as a child growing up, its learned
behavior. I mean, how do you just automatically stop doing it?
Focus group participants were able to identify aspects of the treatment
component of their drug courts that they considered fairly unhelpful in
their own experiences. Several Las Vegas participants reported that treatment
wasnt working for them:
- It isnt working. Sometimes Ill leave, like its 50/50,
Ill leave the group or the class, leaving with a positive outlook
and feeling better, like I actually gained something.
Another Las Vegas participant said that seeing people fail along the
way was particularly disheartening:
- For me, its been, you kind of get to know through the phases
kind of the same people in the same classes all the way from beginning
to end. And when you hear the classmate, someone you get to know from class, theyve overdosed or fell off,
you know, and like a couple of weeks ago this guy died and he was in Phase
IV and just getting ready to graduate. I guess he had given a dirty UA
and was afraid to face the judge. Well the night before they said he took
a pill and drank a lot and then the day he was supposed to be in court
his mom found him dead on the couch. You know, but every month Ive
heard a sad story that somebody Ive known through drug court has
overdosed. . . .
Several Las Vegas focus group participants thought that one of the hardest
parts of treatment was starting off. When asked what was hard
about it, participants said:
- Not being high.
- If you could just go through your daily routine without coming across
somebody who you know gets high or has a pipe sticking out of their mouth,
then you would be okay. But its impossible for some of us to do
that. . . .
- A test of your, you know, whether if you be around somebody thats
doing, you know, it tells you how strong you are being. . . . A lot of
people cant do that, probably most people. . . . Its sure
hard. I think its a test of your strength.
Other Las Vegas participants stated that meeting the treatment schedule
was difficult because of transportation and employment conflicts:
- In the beginning its kind of an inconvenience with your regular
life, working and things like that, because you had for the first couple
of weeks, you have to be here every single day except Sunday.
- They kind of mess up my schedule and too, you know, Im a bus
driver. I drive, you know, the city bus and I might work graveyard this
week, you know. Next week I might work days, but if youre in one
group you cant change times.
Other participants did not view groups, drug testing, and acupuncture
as personally helpful aspects of the treatment process.
Miami participants saw a variety of problems among their peers in drug
court, ranging from alcohol, attitude, finances, and stress to bad peer
- I see people coming here looking like theyre high, looking like
- I know I have a problemyou here also? You got a problem. Youre
in drug court.
Thats it. Youre in drug court with me so you got a problem
- Money. Money problems. . . . Everyday problems.
- Depression, relationships, money, job stress, kids . . . you know,
- Being honest with yourself.
- Thats the number-one problem. You tell yourself youre not
gonna use, then you go use. Thats the big problembeing honest with yourself.
When describing the most difficult parts of treatment, Miami focus group
participants talked about the initial and final stages and how they had
to make new friends:
- The worst part is first goin in. Thats the worst part.
Because you probably was out there getting dirty before you came in and
then you didnt know whether you was clean or not.
- Thats the hardest partthe beginning.
- Starting off is, yeah, the hardest part.
- The hardest thing by starting off in the program is the accepting the
- When you graduate its a bitch.
- After you graduate, I have those friends. I mean Ive had them
all through the program and now its like they dont even know
me any more.
- Keep away from friends.
- Some of the people you not gonna see no more. . . . You wont
have no one to sit down and talk to. . . .
- I totally, like, closed the door to the people that I affiliated with.
. . .
Portland participants talked about the serious difficulties their peers
in treatment were facing:
- Most of my classmates have serious problems.
- Some of these people are serious addicts. I mean, I didnt ever
really consider myself an addict.
- I saw people with really really profound psychological issues going
on. Just the whole gambit.
- Some big things going on, theres a lot of grief going on and
a lot of real wreckage.
Among San Bernardino participants, discussion focused on a variety of
issues identified as the most difficult aspects of the treatment experience,
including, as in other sites, the initial period:
- The first part is pretty rough on people.
- I think Phase I is the hardest part.
- For me . . . Phase I, coming in, not knowing anybody, and just having
to open up.
For some, the hardest part of treatment involved personal change and
adjusting to the group process:
- The willingness to change.
- Being honest with people.
- Sharing in group.
- Talking about it. Being honest with whats going on. To open up
and talk to other people in the same situation as you.
- The hardest part for me was when I first got into the program and had
a relapse and you have to sit in front of all your classmates and your
counselor and have to go into detail of how it happened and what happened
. . . thats the hardest part.
One participant noted that adjusting to the group treatment process also
led to difficulties:
- Thats the sad part . . . is that you get attached to your peers
and your group members . . . and you see them fail like that. It hurts.
Some complained about the necessity of restructuring their lives around
the drug court and treatment appointments:
- You just have to structure your time around this program.
- Fitting my life around the schedule . . . that has to come first, stretching
your life around the drug court thing.
- When you doing that 30 and 30 [30 drug tests in 30 days], . . . getting
used to that schedule is really hard. You feel like you are on the verge
of relapsing. Im tired of this mess . . . I would like to take this
program and stick it up your butt. Cause I cant do it.
Other worst parts included drug testing, paying fees, family
problems, and holding a job:
- The worst part is drug testing.
- Sh**, man. Pay that fine. . . . I wasnt working. I even had a
temptation to go out there and rob me a m*** just to pay my fine.
- Everybodys got family problems. . . .
- Try to get a job in here.
Seattle focus group members cited difficulties similar to those of participants
in other sites. They noted that drug court participants had the same kinds
of problems as everybody else, only worse, because they were addicts:
- What kinds of problems do people around me have? Same kind as everybody
else, only its addiction and its twice as bad.
- Family, kids fighting with their parents and in-laws, and about the
bills. Its 10 times worse if you got a habit.
- The problems they had are the problems I had. Thats for sure.
- Youre an addict. . . . You are addicted to a substance. . . .
You are out of control.
- Problems living life on lifes terms.
- Everybodys got excuses for everything.
Some participants explained that the treatment process could be overwhelming:
- I find that I am asking for a lot of patience and tolerance. . . .
Cause its really overwhelming. Mine mixed in with everyones.
Sometimes its really overwhelming.
- Just getting up in the morning that early.
- The commitment. The commitment and the time.
- Learning to trust and the possibility of the counselors and times changing,
and having to work with all that. Learning how to be flexible with an
open mind. And not get that resentment. Cause who got me here? I
Others noted difficulties adjusting to the drug court regimen and having
someone else in control of their lives:
- Fear of someone having it over on me.
- Simplicity. . . . Get ready for some change. Your lifes going
Back to The Treatment Experience
Chance: Perspectives on Drug Courts