Failure to Launch – by Dr. Judy Redman

Launch Sign Next to Winding Path

image for failure to launch by judy redman for step 12 magazineIn 2006, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey were probably hoping for overwhelming success in the release of their movie, Failure to Launch. Their wish was granted. The term became a popular way to describe individuals who were either unable or unwilling to launch their grand ideas and dreams into a series of actions that would yield success. In just a few short years since the phrase “failure to launch” gained popularity, it has evolved into a full-blown syndrome.

Even though “Failure to Launch Syndrome” may not be a formal diagnosis, it identifies young men and women who seem to be stuck and unable to engage in the natural process of maturing. Whether this is caused by past trauma, bad habits, poor coping skills or low self-confidence, the phenomenon seems to be especially high among people recovering from addiction and other self-destructive cycles of behavior.

Watching a loved one struggle with failure-to-launch syndrome can be extremely frustrating. When that loved one is also trying to kick an addiction, we often find ourselves facing an emotional dilemma. On one hand, fresh out of rehab, our son or daughter is staying clean and sober. On the other hand, they’re just sitting on the couch playing video games, watching TV, communicating through social media and complaining about being bored. It is such a relief to have some peace of mind over the drug/alcohol abstinence, the failure-to-launch is often overlooked (or ignored). However, the question is real, “Treatment complete; now what?”

According to Iris Unger, the executive director of Youth Employment Services, “More and more young people are experiencing mental health issues like stress, depression, and even suicidal thoughts as a result of their unemployment and underemployment.” Countless numbers of young people, unable to launch into a productive self-sufficient lifestyle, begin to spiral into depression, anxiety, and ill health. Often overwhelmed with the fear of applying for a job and being rejected, getting a job and hating it, or securing a job and failing to perform, keeps many young people stuck to the living room couch.

Fear of their son or daughter relapsing into active addiction, due to the emotional trauma of rejection or failure, renders the parent trapped in their own personal paralysis. The scenario is sadly epidemic. One key to breaking through this vicious cycle of failure-to-launch, mental health instability, and recurring drug/alcohol-use lies in motivation.

There are professional techniques for identifying a person’s motivation-button. Huge helpings of hope must be delivered with sensitivity, compassion, and a plan-of-action. Dictating facts, breeding fear, and instilling force are motivational tools that have been proven ineffective with todays youth. Evidence based studies show that relating to the individual, repeating new thought and behavior processes in place of old, and reframing reality to gain a fresh new perspective are motivational techniques that have proven to yield much more positive results.

Launch pads come in many shapes, sizes, colors and effectiveness. Everyone has unique motivations to be identified. The road to that launch pad begins in treatment, is supported by loved ones and professionals, and is not a recipe for failure. Today could be the day to start school, fitness training, or volunteer work. Vetting out the passion brings fuel to ignite action.

We launch in 10 – 9 – 8 …

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