There’s a story I share with my clients that comes from Robert Bly, an author and poet who wrote a book called “A Little Book About the Human Shadow”. He says we’re all born as beautiful, loving golden globes of light and energy. As we grow up in our families, go to school and develop friends, we feel loved or not, to varying degrees. In response, we often give up parts of ourselves to please our parents, our teachers, churches, friends, etc.
My cousin Kim was up in July for my sister Lane's memorial. My smart, sweet, difficult sister who died at 56 from alcoholism. Kim and I were lamenting about Lane's death and Cory Monteith's. Sad, very sad. Cory's death touched a national chord and Lane's our personal one because we have a family riddled with addiction. I’ve also worked as an addiction counselor with clients struggling with alcohol and drug recovery for 25 years.
Tragedy strikes every day with thousands of other alcohol or drug related deaths a year. The National Council on Alcohol & Drug Addiction states 2.5 million a year die from alcohol. Three hundred and twenty thousand young people age 15-29 die each year worldwide.
Addiction is not just a deadly disease but an expensive one. It costs Americans more than $500 billion a year in lost earnings, accidents and crime. The state and federal governments spending $15 billion a year.* That's not including all the emotional devastation to families and friends.
The long-term sobriety failure rate is estimated at 70% according to Dr. Harold Urschel, author of Healing the Addicted Brain. I am very sad to say that statistic hasn’t budged much since 1985 when I was training as an addiction intern.
What has this addiction counselor learned in the last 25 years? That the old model of in-patient and out-patient treatment, for those that can afford it or who have insurance that will cover it, is a very small part of the solution. What happens after a 30 day stay is essential to long term recovery.
The standard treatment recommendations are basically: In-patient or out-patient program for 30 days, after release attend 90 AA or NA meetings in 90 days, get an AA/NA sponsor, don’t drink or use, keep stress to a minimum, get therapy if you can, work the 12 steps with a sponsor and consider that relapse is part of recovery. My sister went through 3 treatment programs and was sober 5 years at one point.
The new standard of care needs to include longer stays at inpatient facilities or sober recovery homes depending on the length of the addiction, the substances used and family support. I recently had a long term heroin addict come to see me. I recommended a long-term (90 days – 6 months) sober living program because he’d already been through a 30-day treatment program. I also recommended he be on one of the anti-addiction medications such as Suboxone or Subutex to help prevent cravings and begin to repair the brain. If this young man follows these and the basic recommendations of his program he has a much better chance of staying sober.
We collectively need to do a better job treating alcohol and drug addiction. We took smoking addiction from 50% of the male population in the 50s to only 20% today. We did that with early childhood prevention and education, Public Service Announcements, warning labels, and smoking cessation programs funded by the Federal Government and physicans talking to their patients. We can do better with addiction treatment and we must!
(*Source: article: Healing the Addicted Brain from Advances in Addiction & Recovery – Official Publication of NAADAC- Summer 2013 Vol 1, No 2, Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom
Losing my sister Lane to addiction - there isn't a tougher subject I could write about. Both as a sister and as an addiction counselor for nearly 30 years. Addiction is a a killer. It's a disease that touches nearly every family so I write this for myself, but also for those of you that know what it's like to be in the trenches - no matter which side of the ditch you're on.
Usually I write from a safer professional distance about helpful addiction tools and topics but today I write from a deeper personal place. My sister died from alcoholism May 17th 2013 at the age of 56. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one or fear losing a family member, you'll understand from the inside out what I'm talking about when I say there was a mixture of emotions when we got the call that she was gone. I felt relieved, anguished, sick, sad, angry, resentful - because once again there was a mess she was leaving someone else - often me - to deal with from her illness and the choices or lack thereof.
Lane was artistic, bright, bold and so beautiful. One time she placed a personals ad saying she was "drop dead gorgeous" a phrase I wouldn't have had the brashness to say about myself even if it was true - believing that it's better to under promise and over deliver. But that was Lane.
When I was 4 our parents brought her home from the hospital and placed her in my arms. It was an incredible moment to look into her face and be filled with wonder about having a sister and what that would mean. By the time she was 2 and had moved into my room the glow had begun to fade. Though we had our moments of joy and closeness, there was a wall of depression and angst that followed Lane throughout her childhood and right into adulthood. Her gifts were many but she had trouble connecting with others and with herself. No doubt her troubles came partly because of parental addiction and due to divorce and being shipped around to relatives.
By her thirties Lane was struggling with alcohol and then began her attempts at sobriety - 3 treatment programs, but not much AA or therapy to bind the learning. Diagnosed as bi-polar disorder she eventually went on disability and lived a financially marginal life. But for many years she was fulfilled by the simplicity of her life and the challenge of her art. I knew her art would be her legacy. As I've shared about her passing, I've heard story after story about others losses - a daughter to heroin at 30, a brother at 41, a sister at 38.
I'll end on this note - I don't believe the addiction profession has done a good enough job with treatment. It's complicated and I have more to say about that subject. Also, society has been too slow to release the judgment that addiction is a moral problem rather than a true disease. To Lane and all those that have died too soon, and struggled too long and to us who are on the journey with them - Blessings.....and may the light that shines brightly in our loved ones, find peace. (Free Mp3 20 minute overview Intentional JOY & Stress Busting Guided Imagery for Peace http://www.addictionmodesto.com/
Americans are addicted to legal drugs and by drugs I mean pharmaceutical drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are the most profitable industry in the world. Marcia Angell, M.D. first woman editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine reports that in 2002 the $35.9 billion the top drug companies earned were greater than the profits of the other 490 Fortune 500 companies combined.
In my city of Modesto, California, (and two other small cities close by) there are 31 Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid pharmacies. This doesn’t count all the pharmacies within grocery stores, Target or Walmart. Many of these have been build in the last few years.
In 1997 the FDA reversed it’s policy on direct-to-consumer advertising. At that time, 220 million a year was spent by pharmaceutical companies on advertising. In 2002, the amount was 2.8 billion. Big pharma spends twice as much on advertising as research and development and it’s working.
Perhaps we’re buying so many more prescription drugs because we’re being brainwashed to believe we need what they’re selling. “Tv advertising, works by mobilizing the appeal of group morale. "By showing you pictures of beautiful, happy people, they persuade you that everyone else in the world is having a terrific time, only you are left out. Want to stop being a lonely loser? Join them -- just tune into this, or buy that,” says Bill Manville, ex advertising copywriter for Grey Advertising and now NY Daily News columnist.
Pharmaceutical ads subtly increase fear and worry about medical conditions. For example, statins were first prescribed only to those with heart problems. Now, they’re routinely prescribed for anyone with high cholesterol. (Click here for a guided imagery stress/anxiety relieving free download)
As an addiction specialist for more than 25 years I understand and support the benefits of medications for the right reasons. I’ve seen suicidal clients survive because of the anti-depressant they were taking. I’ve also seen clients so over-medicated they were zombies. Somewhere there’s a healthy meeting place between personal responsibility, the medicine now available and all the seductive advertising. The good news is that many of us are looking for ways to combine traditional with non-traditional medicine. The National Center for Complimentary & Alternative Medicine states that consumers spend 33.9 billion out of pocket on complimentary and alternative therapies.
Often people with real pain slip into addiction over time. I have a cousin, he's a professional, he has good family support. A few years ago he developed residual pain in his face from a medical condition. He just went into treatment for a big problem with vicidin and oxycontin. I know how severe this problem can be.
If you're struggling with an addiction or dependence to oxycontin, vicidin or other drugs of this type, there is help available. Check out AA or NA groups. Try 6 before you decide you don't "like" them - after all, in order for something to change you will have to do things differently. There's also plenty of online support these days.
Look for 1 thing each meeting that you can take and use for yourself. The tendency for the mind is to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but a focus on 1 positive thing you can take for yourself is good. Also, see a physician, or a treatment program in your area, and get help for withdrawal symptoms. It can be very dangerous to stop taking these types of medications cold turkey. One step a a time.