The Basic Manual for Addiction and Recovery
Every year on our planet, there is a grim harvest. Millions of lives are lost, cut short by addiction. Millions of more lives are shackled to misery and ill-health, both of addicts, alcoholics, and their loved ones. The costs in terms of crime, lost productivity, and community safety are so large and so global, they are largely incalculable. And yet we know from decades worth of experience, that there are reliable and effective paths out of active addiction that lead into brighter, happier, more purposeful futures that are based on the principles of recovery. This is Life The Basic Manuals course on addiction and recovery.
While watching this course is not a substitute for active participation in a program of recovery, it will give you important information on how to deal with you or your family member’s addiction, how to find the resources available to you, crucially, how to find a new way to live.
Addiction and Recovery
Every year on our planet, there is a grim harvest. Millions of lives are lost, cut short by addiction. Millions of more lives are shackled to misery and ill-health, both of addicts, alcoholics, and their loved ones.
The costs in terms of crime, lost productivity, and community safety are so large and so global, they are largely incalculable.
And yet we know from decades worth of experience, that there are reliable and effective paths out of active addiction that lead into brighter, happier, more purposeful futures that are based on the principles of recovery.
In this video, Dave introduces LTBM’s playlist on addiction and recovery. LTBM has always held true to a vision in which knowledge and wisdom are freely shared.
While watching this playlist is not a substitute for active participation in a program of recovery, it will give you important information on how to deal with you or your family member’s addiction, how to find the resources available to you, crucially, how to find a new way to live.
LTBM has striven to demystify some of the myths and fears around recovery programs, while doing its best to honour the principle of anonymity. Anonymity is not the same as secrecy.
And we’re tired of watching people die without knowing there was another way for their story to end.
The nature of addiction is a huge topic, and one which many commentators choose to avoid.
Not David James, he shares with us a compelling but straightforward interpretation of the nature of addiction.
He uses two fundamental aspects of the phenomenon to characterise it - obsession and compulsion.
Obsession is the repetitive pattern of thinking and feeling that many people fall into when they become dependent. In this paradigm, everything is defined by its importance to the drug or drugs desired. The individual is possessed by desire for the addicting substance or behaviour, and they are prey to its constant calling.
Telling an addict to stop brooding about their drugs is unlikely to work, because when they are caught in the cycle of addiction, they quite simply can’t do that.
Dave goes on to describe the outcome of this obsession - the compulsion to obtain and use drugs, including alcohol. This model can also be applied to behavioural addictions around food, sex or self-harm, or a variety of other behaviours. Compulsion can also be understood as the physical manifestation of their obsession.
One of the hardest things for anyone to understand - the addict included - is why they keep on repeating self-destructive and defeating actions that harm them and those around them. But as Dave shares, the addicted person is in the grip of a condition - or ‘dis-ease’ that means they have lost the basic freedom to make their own decisions.
Many people suffering from addiction may die before they find the right help. Dave urges anyone who is suffering in this way to keep an open mind, and to know that it is possible for you to overcome your addiction.
Dave offers us a straightforward, but informed, perspective on what addiction looks and feels like. Many people inhabit a limbo zone for years or even decades, fearing they may have a problem with drugs or alcohol. But the uncertainty itself means that they can become the prisoner of their own doubt, not knowing whether they really are addicted to their substance or behaviour of choice.
Even if its clear that a problem exists, deciding what to do next can be very hard indeed.
So if you’re worried you have a problem with drugs or alcohol watch this clip - it may just help save your life.
Alvin is a person in long-term recovery, who has not used any mind-altering chemicals for over thirty years, and he believes that the recovery process itself is one of the great underlying gifts of his life. Recovery has enabled him to face the profound challenges that life on life’s terms have brought and to do that in ways that have allowed him to respond with dignity and self-respect.
Alvin came from an army family and was raised in Washington DC. One of seven children, nothing in his upbringing could have prepared him for the degradation of his active addiction. But it was that very suffering itself that propelled Alvin into seeking help and finding a program of recovery which transformed his life. He reached out to others who had overcome the same problem.
In doing so, Alvin discovered that what or how he’d used wasn’t important - what did matter was finding a relationship with something greater than himself. This offered a mental, emotional, physical and spiritual solution to the conundrum of how to live - clean.
He regards this as a process of renewal, and one that has given him the opportunity to be of help to those who are seeking recovery.
After a long career in the postal service, Alvin is now Residential Services Manager for Las Vegas Recovery Centre - a highly-regarded nexus of clinical excellence that offers residential treatment to those struggling with addiction in all its manifestations.
One of the greatest challenges that Alvin has faced in his recovery was when his youngest son, Shadrach, was murdered at the age of twenty-one. Alvin touches on how deeply this loss changed his life, which he discusses further in the clip that follows this one.
Alvin now works with people who are vulnerable - often young people like his son. One of the gifts in the wound that surviving the wrenching grief has been an even more finely-honed ability to be of service to others.
He closes on the topic of what it takes to reach thirty years in recovery. For Alvin, the answer is clear - willingness, and staying in the process of recovery on a daily basis.
He suggests that if you are seeking recovery, the work is before you - it begins with a simple decision to change your life.
When does a problem become a problem? How do you go about assessing your drug/alcohol issues?
In this lesson, Dave runs through some of the basics of dealing with this situation. He refers to the often illusory nature of dependence - you may not really understand the depth of your problem until you actually try to stop. Often this is a key turning point in an individual’s journey toward acceptance of the fact they have an addiction - because it can be much harder to stop taking drugs and drinking, or stay stopped, than you would imagine.
Of course, for many people, their difficulties arise from binging, or sheer preoccupation with the thought of a substance or behaviour. The classic stereotype of a street-level addict using heroin with a needle hides the complex realities of modern addictions.
So Dave urges us to keep things as simple as we can. If you’re not sure if you have a problem - try stopping. And if you are only using drugs intermittently, take a long, hard look at the impact of your drug use on yourself and those around you.
He emphasises that you don’t have to wait until you are in crisis, or physically or mentally ill, in order to stop. You can get off the merry-go-round anytime you choose - but that process begins by asking for the help you need. It is very very difficult indeed to defeat addiction alone.
So be brave. Take a long, hard look at your drug use or drinking, and be honest with yourself about the truth of your situation.
And if you think you have a problem, be brave - ask for help, get out of your comfort zone, reach out, and find the right resource to make sure you can begin to tackle the problem you are facing.
Earlier in this course Dave’s discussed what addiction is, and how many people experience its symptoms. In this piece, he’s looking at how best to find help with your addiction.
He suggests you look online or via a directory, and find your nearest self-help group for people who think that they may have a problem with drugs. You may have reservations about this - asking for help doesn’t come naturally to most addicts. But the ability to overcome your reluctance may help save your life.
If there’s a helpline number listed for the organisation, ring it, and talk to the person on the other end about getting to your first self-help group meeting. If possible, ask if someone can meet you outside the meeting location, and guide you to the right place. Most meetings won’t require you to identify yourself, say anything, or donate.
Try and keep an open mind, and remember everyone else attending was once in the position you are now, of reaching out for the first time.
Addiction, however you choose to characterise it, is a ruthless condition, that has the power to destroy, and to kill. But where there’s life there’s hope.
If you feel you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, get the help you need.
If you’re trying to get help with a drug or alcohol problem, you may well feel a little overwhelmed by the choices ahead of you. Similarly, if you’re trying to get effective treatment for a loved one with an issue with dependance, it can feel like you are entering into a confusing and poorly-signposted maze. That’s why Ann Premazon, a consultant who specialises in addiction and behavioural health, has recorded this short video for you.
Ann suggests that whatever it is you’re dealing with, if you bear three simple categories in mind, it will be easier to make wise choices.
Firstly, she suggests you think through the finances of what is involved. In the US, this will involve finding out what your insurance will cover in this situation, and which facilities they will approve. Elsewhere in the world, the situation may be differently configured, but wherever you are, there are likely to be some state programs you can access.
So find out what your insurance will cover, or failing that, find out what publicly-assisted programs your city or state or area offer. The third option is simply to pay out of pocket for the program or treatment facility you enter. As Ann points out, being clear on what is financially doable for you, or what you can access for free, will shape the next two aspects of your search for help.
The second question to consider is where you, or your loved one, will do best in treatment. Some people may do best if they are in reach of their families for support or visiting, but equally many people find that they need some geographical separation between themselves and the environment in which they have been drinking or using.
Finally, think about what type of program is most likely to be of assistance to you. It may be that your addiction issues are comorbid with mental health problems or trauma. If this is the case, be clear what kind of help you think is most critical to your efforts to find recovery.
Sadly, as Ann points out, the options facing those who pregnant or have young children, may well be more limited by a lack of suitable facilities, but do not despair - help will be available in one form or another.
Considering these three questions as primary, financial considerations, geographical setting and what kind of program will be most suited to the situation you are facing, can help you steer choices at this very important juncture.
Alvin Elliott is a person in long-term recovery. For the past thirty-one years, he’s worked an active program of recovery, and has remained abstinent from all mind-altering substances, including alcohol. He is also a professional working in the field of addiction, at the flagship facility, Las Vegas Recovery Centre (LVRC).
Alvin has found over the years that a common anxiety among patients that are contemplating entering residential rehabilitation is what the actual entry process will entail. In this short film, he describes what kind of physical exam a male client might expect when entering LVRC.
When the paperwork is completed, the client should anticipate a physical examination. For this, they will need to undress fully. This allows for injuries to be checked, and for the presence of patches that are delivering medications.
People entering treatment are often poor historians, with a poor recall of what is in their system. It is crucial that the physical examination is carried out, ensuring that their entry in the treatment facility will be a fruitful and safe one. The examination does not include a cavity search, and it is done as dignified manner as possible.
Thinking of joining a group? There are all sorts of reasons why you might be - so much of what is useful to us is accessed via a group setting, whether that’s a self-help group, a therapy group, hobby club or new team at work. But anxiety about the group setting prevents many people from going ahead and attending their first group.
In this clip, Sian looks at some of the tactics you can use to side-step these anxieties. People may be nervous because they fear they will be singled out, have ‘no mates’, or be forced to over-expose themselves emotionally. Sian’s top tips? Try and be in the here and now - don't let the past dictate your perception of the present. Prepare yourself - be in the right place at the right time and take someone with you if you can.
Nearly everyone feels odd the first time they go to a new group. Importantly, try and keep an open mind - let those in the group to be themselves, and above all, be kind and courteous to those present. Joining the right self-help group may help you save your life - so face your fear, and get the help you need.
If you ever wondered what attitudes can be useful if you are entering a recovery home, watch this lesson.
Alvin Elliott is an expert by both professional and personal experience on this topic, and he shares some insider tips on what you need to think about before you enter a recovery house.
Firstly, and importantly, while a recovery house can be a life-saving chance for people in early recovery, it’s not a prison or a high dependency unit. You need to be willing to make this work. Most recovery homes work on the basis that you’re willing to put in the footwork if you want to stay drug or alcohol-free, or halt your destructive behaviour of choice.
Alvin manages the recovery houses operated by the highly-regarded Las Vegas Recovery Center, and he and his staff strive to ensure that the homes under their supervision are safe, structured and compassionate environments.
Often people in recovery who’ve managed to detoxify or who have undertaken in-patient treatments, require a ‘stepped-down’ level of intensity in terms of their support as they transition back into their communities.
A recovery home can be the place that keeps on you on course as you rebuild your life. Many of the clients who enter Alvin’s door are scared of the magnitude of the changes they need to make to stay clean, and some think they can bargain with, or deny their addiction. Alvin suggests you take a hard and realistic look at where your life has brought you so far, and ask yourself what you can do to take responsibility for what happens next.
For anyone who is considering finding a recovery home, Alvin has some wise words to share - bring a sense of urgency with you. The work you undertake may well save your life. Be prepared to be open-minded, willing and honest.
Everyone has their own path into addiction and behavioural problems - and each individual finds their own way out. The Central Recovery Press has developed a series of excellent recovery resources and books that reflect both that individuality and the uniting principles of positive change and health. In this lesson, Stuart Smith introduces us these invaluable aids in achieving balance in our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual lives.
The origin of the material began with the development of tools that addiction professionals could use in treatment settings. But it quickly became apparent that these books and pamphlets were of enormous help to a wide variety of people in many different situations. That might be someone in early recovery trying to find their feet in supported accommodation; it might be their mother or father, or a person in long-term recovery who’d hit the potential roadblocks of mental illness or trauma.
Sian teaches how to cope if a loved one is using too many drugs, or drinking too much alcohol. She encourages you start dealing with the situation by prioritising your own welfare. She makes a comparison between this and the safety advice most airlines convey to their passengers at the start of a flight - which is that if the plane depressurises, you make sure you put your own oxygen mask on first.
This is not, she emphasises, a selfish action - it is in fact a key part of being able to effectively help your loved one in the long term.
It can seem highly counterintuitive that you can help someone by helping yourself. And it’s easy to fall into the pattern of reactively following the pattern of the one you love. If they are dependant on drugs or alcohol, there may repeated crisis that magnetise your attention on their actions, not your response.
But the reality is that you will be more able to rationally assess their situation and yours, and above all, more able to survive intact, if you get independent support for yourself.
Sian signposts a variety of resources for this kind of help. There may an unaffected friend or family member who you talk to. There may also be professional organisations that offer advice and help in your community.
One of the most useful and accessible sources of help may well be self-help organisations that are run by and for members who’ve had a loved one who has become addicted, and who have designed programs of recovery for concerned others.
She encourages you to begin planning ahead for the journey ahead - getting as much strength into your support network as possible. One of the most destructive aspects of having a family member or partner with a drug problem is the isolating nature of the suffering for those that witness their descent. But it doesn’t have to be like that - there will be others in your community, or online, who can share their experience of what worked for them, and how they coped.
So put your own oxygen mask on first. It’s not a selfish act - its one that benefits everyone in the situation.
Addiction and Chronic Pain
Alvin Elliott is a person in long-term recovery. For the past thirty-one years, he’s worked an active program of recovery and has remained abstinent from all mind-altering substances, including alcohol. He is also a professional working in the field of addiction.
In this lesson, Alvin shares with us some of the skills he’s learnt from having a family member who has issues with long-term pain. For a recovering addict to deal with pain, or to cope with a loved one who needs to take pain medication, there are real challenges involved.
Alvin is speaking from a personal perspective and suggests that the viewer does their own research on the risks, and potential effectiveness or otherwise, of any regime designed to deal with pain. He reminds us that pain is an intensely personal and subjective phenomenon and that we quite literally cannot know another person’s level of pain.
For Alvin, the starting point must always be compassion. He brings to bear the spiritual principles of acceptance, and he brings an open mind to the situation. He regards the situation that he is involved with as a collaborative one. He finds that discussion, being present to witness and share his loved one’s struggle, and above all, a realistic and informed point of view, are critical coping skills.
Alvin also reminds us that while healthcare professionals can help us and our loved ones, ultimate responsibility for our own health rests with each individual. Managing pain with potentially addictive substances has a greater level of risk involved for the recovering person than it does for a person who has never been dependant on drugs. Over and over again, recovering addicts have faced the dilemma presented by acute and chronic pain, and there is now a body of research and experience to call upon in making our decisions.
Do the work, Alvin urges. Educate yourself on the conditions you or your loved one face, and make informed, realistic choices that can balance the management of pain with the maintenance of recovery.
Alvin also makes the point that he recognises that ultimately, he cannot control the destiny of another human being. Understanding this helps him find a place of acceptance within the support he offers his loved one.
This section features potentially life-saving information and wisdom presented by Dan Mager, MSW. Dan has been a psychotherapist, clinical supervisor, and clinical director in a wide range of behavioural health and substance abuse treatment settings.
If you are experiencing chronic pain in your recovery from addiction, trying to find recovery from addiction and/or chronic pain, or someone you love is struggling with either or both these issues, Dan has recorded this material with you in mind. It offers a succinct overview of the information and skills described in his book, Some Assembly Required: A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain
Part memoir, part self-help volume, and part clinical exploration, this book looks at the complex and difficult phenomenon that can arise when chronic pain meets addiction. It offers information, guidance, and support that can be extremely helpful for anyone struggling with these incredibly challenging issues.
Dan has been the senior staff writer at the highly-regarded Central Recovery Press since November 2008. He has over 10 years in in recovery from both addiction and chronic pain.
The lethal combination of these two phenomenon is a very topical subject, given the steeply rising figures for death by overdose on prescribed medication, particularly in the United States.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, and so have sales of these prescription drugs. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids. In 2014 alone, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids.
Addiction is a chronic, progressive, and life-threatening disorder that becomes all the more difficult to overcome when it’s reinforced by the need to alleviate chronic physical pain. Unfortunately, there is a surprisingly small amount of literature available to those who are dealing with these complicated and increasingly prevalent co-occurring conditions—professionally or personally.
In this lesson, Dan describes the insidious and complex co-occurring disorders of addiction and chronic pain.
He has extensive knowledge of this topic—having worked for twenty years as a therapist, clinical supervisor, and clinical director in a variety of behavioural health and addiction treatment settings. He is also a person in long-term recovery from both addiction and chronic pain. His highly-regarded book, “Some Assembly Required: A Balanced Approach to Recovery From Addiction and Chronic Pain” is unique in addressing the twin challenges of addiction and chronic pain from both a personal and professional perspective.
Dan starts by describing what is usually meant by the term ‘chronic pain’. Chronic pain is physical discomfort/pain that endures for at least three months, but often for many years. It is very different from the acute pain that follows an injury such as broken limb and is time-limited. Sometimes chronic pain is linked to degenerative disorders such as arthritis, but equally, it can follow on from nerve damage or skeletal injury for many years, even after the apparent cause has been resolved. Dan memorably likens this to a fire alarm that continues to sound long after the fire has been extinguished.
While some of the mechanisms underlying chronic pain have yet to be illuminated, what is absolutely clear is that living with chronic pain is deeply and profoundly wearying. Since the 1990s, the most common medical response to chronic pain is to prescribe highly addictive opioid painkilling medications.
Some people in chronic pain become addicted to their medication. Physical dependence and tolerance can be drivers for more frequent and every higher doses, along with psychological reliance on medication. For those already addicted who subsequently experience chronic pain, the two conditions will invariably exacerbate each other.
Another group of people who are especially vulnerable to becoming addicted to their pain medication are those in recovery from addiction who experience chronic pain. Often, recovering addicts enter recovery having experienced physical trauma or with co-morbid physical illnesses. As they age and undergo degenerative processes, they face the challenge of dealing with ongoing pain while maintaining their equilibrium as recovering addicts.
If you, or someone you love, is dealing with these issues, please keep watching—the rest of this playlist is recorded for you. It shares some of Dan’s most effective ways to deal with chronic pain without falling into the trap of addiction.
In this lesson, part 3 of this section dealing with addiction and chronic pain, Dan Mager, an expert in this field academically, professionally and personally, offers us the overview of his paradigm for recovery from addiction and chronic pain.
He emphases that those who have these chronic and progressive conditions, even in combination, can go on to live whole, healthy, and healed lives. There are no quick fixes or magic bullet for chronic pain, and no one-stop solutions for addiction, but through the building of awareness and the learning and practising of particular skills, people can and do, recover.
By themselves, addiction and chronic pain can be debilitating. When brought together, they comprise extremely complicated co-occurring disorders that have a tendency to reinforce each other. Dan speaks eloquently of how recovery from both requires a fundamental acceptance of the reality of what is, rather than how we think it “should” be or wish it was.
For those suffering from chronic pain, this includes letting go of the hope of a pain-free life, based on the realistic expectation that there will often be at least some pain. For those who are addicted, it involves an acceptance of the reality of one’s addiction. Because addiction and chronic pain each have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual effects, recovery must include measures that address all four of those major life areas.
Dan suggests that the process of making peace with “what is” is what frees us from the stress-inducing and fruitless need to try and control people and situations. Acceptance of our capacities and limitations is key to identifying and developing the strategies and techniques that facilitate learning, growth, and healing. Those afflicted with addiction and/or chronic pain can learn how to peacefully co-exist with these challenges with grace, dignity, and spiritual connection.
Dan Mager, author of the highly regarded book, Some Assembly Required: A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain, and leading expert and thinker in this field, continues this section on how to cope with these profoundly difficult and distressing issues.
In this lesson, he describes how the four primary aspects of our lives—the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual are all affected by chronic pain—often in ways that make influence us toward the abuse of and addiction to opioid pain medications.
Dan eloquently describes how the human tendency to treat our subjective thoughts as objective reality severely limits our perspective and our perceived options. The human mind automatically and unconsciously generates a continuous stream of thoughts and images, many of which to have a real basis in reality. Even when we are in full health, and not experiencing physical pain, our minds often drag us into fearful thinking or restless dissatisfaction.
In the case of long-term pain, this is even more acute. Thoughts such as “this will never end”, ‘the pain means I can’t live my life the way I want to,” and above all, “this isn’t fair; why me!” create a vicious circle wherein distorted, catastrophizing thinking lead to deeply distressing emotions—fear, anxiety, sadness, depression, irritability, frustration, anger, and a sense of being victimized—and, in turn, higher levels of pain, as well as a greater need for opioids to numb, escape from, and otherwise try to avoid that pain.
In this lesson, Dan Mager continues his exploration of the ways in which chronic pain and addiction affect us, and how developing conscious awareness of our distressing, painful emotions and building the ability to tolerate them, can help free us from their grip.
As a person in long-term recovery from both chronic pain and addiction with two decades worth of post-Masters clinical experience, Dan is an expert in this field.
Following on from his discussion of how habitual patterns of negative thinking can be a significant factor in chronic pain and addiction, he further unfolds the importance of the mind-body connection.
Over the course of the last thirty years, empirical research has increasing demonstrated the direct relationship between mind and body—how our emotions affect our physical health, and how physical discomfort impacts our feeling states. It’s now clear that to speak of mind and body as two separate entities is a dualistic perspective that fails to recognize the integral unity of both.
As Dan so eloquently explains, emotional distress in the forms of anxiety, depression, anger, fear, and shame can have somatic results. Equally, physical illness or pain can have a wide variety of effects on our thinking and emotions. This complex, and as yet imperfectly understood, set of relationships can provide a self-reinforcing mechanism that ultimately worsens underlying conditions.
One of the most common reactions to emotional or physical pain is the desire to escape, numb, or avoid it. Mood- and mind-altering substances (including opioid pain medications) can achieve this result on a short-term basis, but their effects are explicitly temporary and after they wear off the pain returns with greater vengeance. This dynamic, in combination with the brain and body development of increasing tolerance for the substance, means that successively greater doses are required to generate the same effects, and this leads to abuse and addiction.
Once addiction is established, micro and macro withdrawal become the norm—the former being the discomfort felt as soon as the current dose begins to wear off, and the latter the broader experience of withdrawal as a whole.
Dan suggests that one of the most important ways that we can free ourselves from the vicious cycle in which distressing thoughts and painful feelings exacerbate each other and drive higher levels of physical pain, is to bring our conscious awareness to our thinking and feeling so that these no longer automatically and reflexively drive our internal experience, as well as our actions. The next clip addresses further how to facilitate this awareness.
The natural tendency of many of us when we experience pain is to become sedentary. After all, it hurts to move. This may be a useful strategy in terms of acute injury, but in chronic pain conditions, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy—we avoid physical movement because it hurts, but the more we remain sedentary, the more stiff and inflexible our body becomes, and the more difficult and painful it is to move.
But our body requires movement in order to retain function. In fact, movement is the body’s internal lubricant. It’s essential and healthy to push ourselves to move—to get up, to stretch, to walk—even when we don’t want to or feel like it. There is large-scale research that makes a causal link between how much we move, and exercise, and our relative health and mortality.
Dan emphases that if we are dealing with long-term pain or injury, our movement needs to be within our capacity, and requires some discrimination, particularly if we are at the start of a movement program for the first time. Equally, it may be that we need to learn and practice tolerating some discomfort in order to gently push against our perceived limitations.
For those who are bed-bound, with conditions such as ME, and those whose mobility is limited by paralysis of varying degrees, do not despair. Even apparently very minor movements of the hands, or even eyes can all help. There is in fact some research that suggests that simply visualising a specific movement may initiate some of our body’s mechanisms related to movement.
Dan closes by describing mindful walking—a conscious and gentle form of walking meditation—quoting the much-loved Buddist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who suggested that we “walk as if we kissing the Earth”.
In this beautiful and eloquent lesson, Dan Mager completes this playlist on dealing with addiction and chronic pain.
Dan has been a psychotherapist, clinical supervisor, and clinical director in a wide range of behavioural health and substance abuse treatment settings. He has over twenty years worth of post-masters experience of helping others overcome a variety of challenges, and is also a person in long-term recovery from both chronic pain and addiction.
He is now the senior staff writer at Central Recovery Press, a highly-regarded publishing house with a specialist interest in recovery in all of its forms.
Dan is the author of Some Assembly Required: A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain. Part of his motivation for writing this unique piece of literature, which is part memoir, part self-help manual, and part clinical exploration, was to pass on his experience of how to achieve and maintain recovery from pain and addiction.
Pain is a ubiquitous human experience; it brings more people into contact with medical professionals than any other issue. Now as never before, the most common treatment for chronic pain is that of highly addictive opioid pain medications. The rate of abuse, addiction, and overdose deaths attributed to these medications in the United States is epidemic, having risen steeply over the fifteen years.
It is against this background that Dan has chosen to end this playlist with a discussion about how finding recovery from chronic pain and addiction requires a spiritual solution, alongside the physical, mental, and emotional work we undertake.
He stresses that he is not using the word ‘spirituality’ in connection with any particular religion or set of beliefs. Any activity we engage in, far beyond prayer and meditation—reading, walking, house cleaning, eating—can become a spiritual experience if we approach it with present-moment conscious awareness. A common feature of spiritual experience tends to be a sense of connection to something greater than our ego or thought process; something beyond ourselves. Dan uses the word ‘spirituality’ as did E.M. Forster in his famous dictum “Only connect . . . ”
The river of life, as Dan memorably describes it, is sure to tumble us against a few rocks on our journey. While those jolts and scrapes may be beyond our control, our response is not. We can accept the flow of the river of life and make a conscious effort to flow with it, or we can fight against it, and in the process, create more suffering for ourselves and those closest to us.
Addiction and the compulsion it drives are inherently self-centered; chronic pain also orients our attention inward to the source of our discomfort—over time both of these conditions make our world smaller and smaller and smaller. But a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves, the regular application of the practice of meditation, the acceptance of things as they are rather than demanding that they be how we want them to be or think they ‘should’ help us transcend this self-centredness and to understand at depth that while pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
Peer Services for Addiction
John Newell is a hopeful man, and a patient one.
John knows from his own experience what’s it’s like to need the kind of help he now offers. So whether you’re sleeping in a dumpster, or under a rose bush, he’s determined to make sure you have what you need to succeed.
He explains in this lesson that part of his role is to make people welcome, to settle them down, and get the necessary forms filled in. He will then pair them with a peer recovery supporter who can partner up with the client to help guide them through whatever it is they need to in order to rebuild their lives.
It’s impossible to convey just how lonely, how demoralising and how frightening it is when you fall through the cracks, and the streets are your only home. Picture it, and then imagine the contrast when you walk into a place where you welcomed, cared for, and given the tools you need to find a new way to live.
And that’s why John comes to work in the morning with a head full of hope. He made that huge transition back to living life as a productive member of society, and he knows you can too.
John Newell is a Peer Recovery Specialist who works at the ground-breaking Foundation For Recovery in Las Vegas, Nevada. In this lesson, he describes what peer services are, and what they can do to help those in need. The power of peer services to transform the lives of those who access it is something he regards as one of the best-kept secrets in his ‘big little city’.
Vegas can notoriously be a place where people discover their addictive tendencies, and it a very tough place indeed if you find yourself on the street, unemployed or without a way to address your problems. Part of John’s role is to help those in this situation make the transition from despair and desperation to living healthy, productive lives.
This is a vocation he feels a real passion for, and his empathy and understanding for his clients is strengthened by the fact he knows from his own experience what dereliction and hopelessness feel like. John is a person in long-term recovery, and one of the miracles he is most grateful for in recovery is the opportunity to turn his past pain into useful, usable experience for those seeking recovery.
People walk through the door of Foundation For Recovery with a myriad of issues, such as drug addiction, gambling addiction, past trauma, mental health problems, physical health problems, homelessness and poverty. As anyone who’s ever been in this position will tell you, and as John describes, this is a self-reinforcing spiral that heads inexorably downward. Without a roof over your head, the means to stay clean, to make a phone call or access help, the world is a very bleak place indeed.
But because Foundation For Recovery is a Recovery Community Organisation (RCO), hope, and the knowledge that recovery is a reality in the lives of millions of people, is at the heart of John’s role.
John describes how when someone walks through the door of FFR, he or another peer specialist can help triage the needs of that person, and help them find their way forward. This means developing a plan for each individual that gives them the means to address their problems and find a new way to live.
In this final lesson on peer recovery support services, John reflects on a simple, and quite beautiful fact. If you are in trouble in Las Vegas, if you’ve lost your way back to what was once your old life, if you’re homeless, addicted, struggling with your health, unemployed, don’t despair. There are people who were just like you, who’ve found a new way to live. They want to help you to do the same. And they’re waiting at the Foundation For Recovery for a chance to do just that.
Almost the first step in any process of recovery, healing or dealing with difficulty is to admit there’s a problem. If you’re at that stage, and all that is clear is the problems, not their solutions, don’t despair. Get the help you to save your life, from people who’ve been where’ve you’ve been, and can retrace their steps back over the minefield to guide you to safety.
Addiction Recovery Advocacy
Stuart Smith makes a persuasive case that those in recovery need to start finding their voices to demand change - now.
Stuart argues that when we remain silent, we allow others to define us. Addiction commentators and experts are plentiful, but what is often missing from the debates on addiction is the voices of those who’ve survived the hell of using and found a new way to live.
Those of us who have found long-term recovery have just as much, if not more, to add to the debate on how to deal with addiction as the many media commentators and experts. Our experience is hard-won, and it deserves to be heard.
Perhaps finding our voices and showing our faces as people in recovery means that those seeking recovery will see us and be inspired, or at least feel less alone. We also hold the precious knowledge of what’s worked for each of us.
Knowledge is power. Let’s share it.
The global mortality toll of addiction yearly is impossible to calculate accurately. Many countries simply don’t count addiction deaths; it is a topic viewed as too shameful or contemptible to measure. But the USA does count addiction deaths, and in 2018, there were 350 deaths daily from overdose. This stark, terrible toll is at least part of what makes recovery advocacy such an urgent task. In this important and inspiring lesson, Stuart Smith makes a persuasive case that those in recovery need to start finding their voices to demand change - now.
Stuart argues that when we remain silent, we allow others to define us. Addiction commentators and experts are plentiful, but what is often missing from the debates on addiction is the voices of those who’ve survived the hell of using and found a new way to live. There is no doubt that people in recovery are ‘expert by experience’ - they don’t just have an opinion on what works, they themselves are living proof that people can, and do, recover. From the early ‘wellness circles’ among Native Americans to the Oxford movement and onward to AA, NA and many other self-help organisations, there is ample evidence that those in recovery are uniquely well-placed to help those still in active addiction.
Anonymity is a core principle of most 12 Step groups, but it is also much misunderstood. Anonymous is not the same as secret. The founder of AA, Bill Wilson, was clear on this and encouraged ‘AAers’ as he called them to be active in their communities and wider society in getting the recovery perspective heard. It is completely possible to be a recovery advocate and to be anonymous about what means you choose to recover.
If you’re asking yourself what you can do to be a recovery advocate, Stuart urges you to get involved with recovery organisations at any level you can - local, regional, national, and start demanding you are heard. Begin to organise with other recovering people, communicate with the emergent network of recovery advocacy organisations, and make sure you take your opportunity to be a part of the solution. Chances are, if you survived your active addiction and are alive to read this, someone made the effort necessary to ensure there was a solution waiting for you when you were ready for recovery.
And if not now, then when? And if not you, then who?
In this incisive and eloquent lesson, Stuart Smith founder member of the Foundation For Recovery (FFR), describes how people in recovery can participate in advocating for recovery. He believes that in 2018, to criminalise and stigmatise those suffering from health conditions such as addiction and mental health is deeply misguided. Neither condition is a moral deficiency or a choice. The time has come for a profound change in how we view and treat both phenomena. The time has come for the recovery community to make its voice heard.
One of the challenges that stops some people in recovery joining the advocacy movement is their fear that they will be seen as breaking the anonymity of their recovery path. But by finding our voices as people in recovery, we can maintain a discrete silence on just what path or tradition has been our way, and speak out on the desperate need to reduce the stigma around addiction and mental health issues.
On a national level, Faces And Voices Of Recovery offers excellent training tools and tips for those seeking to advocate for recovery. Reporters tend to want to hear our war stories about the horrors of addiction. By sharing about the positives that blossom in our lives in recovery, we change the tone of the discourse. Alongside this are a number of local Recovery Community Organisations which can usually be found via an internet search. They offer a great path in into recovery advocacy, often with training and fellow advocates. And if there isn’t an RCO in your locality, why not try and start one?
Many recovery organisations will also engage with political candidates at presentations and in a variety of forums to question them on the candidate’s commitment to supporting recovery. This offers an effective way to raise the profile of treating addicting and mental health and engaging with the recovery community.
If your primary area is mental health, an excellent national organisation is the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). NIMH is an organisation dedicated to research and education focused o the understanding, treatment and advocacy for those suffering from mental health issues.
September in the USA is recovery month, and looking at recoverymonth.gov will clue you up on the schedules and rallies happening, and offer tips on how to start your own event.
Support for recovery saves lives. Let’s make our voices heard.
Stuart Smith is a person in long-term sustained recovery and is an engaged member of a community-based recovery fellowship that has been his recovery pathway since 1983. He is a passionate recovery advocate and a respected treatment professional. He is CEO of the parent company that owns the Las Vegas Recovery Center (LVRC) and Central Recovery Press (CRP). Stuart also is active in the community and serves on numerous boards and committees including Foundation For Recovery a statewide Recovery Community Organisation and Nevada’s RecoveryPAC (a political action committee). In this short film, he offers us an overview of the process of recovery that is informed by both his extensive personal and professional experience.
Stuart places addiction within its widest context - our human search for meaning and purpose. Our species longs for connection and growth but also has a tendency to seek relief from the challenges of our existence. Addiction is a ubiquitous phenomenon, found in all known eras of our history. Part of both the hope and the horror of modern manifestations of addiction is the way in which it reaches into millions of lives worldwide. Addiction mortality continues to spiral upward, but alongside it has come the birth of a mass movement. While this movement contains many differing elements, an underlying theme is the lived knowledge that addiction does not have to be a death sentence.
Just as there are many pathways into addiction, there are many roads out of it. Stuart gives us an insight into some of the main traditions that delineate a process that those seeking recovery can follow. He emphasises that each individual can assemble their own toolkit, taking what is useful for them, and discarding elements that do not resonate with their particular situation.
While YouTube videos, books or online materials can be helpful signposts Stuart tells us, they are not a substitute for active participation in a program of recovery. Nevertheless, they do offer an opportunity to grasp lifesaving information - whatever form of dependence you are struggling with, someone else will have survived it, and found recovery from it.
You are not alone.
If you’re approaching the topic of recovery for the first time, whether on your own account, or to find help for a loved one, it can seem like a very bewildering field indeed. How can you make the best choices for yourself, when there seem to be so many paths you could follow? In this lesson, Stuart Smith elucidates some of the underlying principles of recovery in order to help anyone who’s trying to make sense of what’s on offer.
Stuart begins by referring back to the US government’s working definition of recovery as a process of change and growth, that enables an individual to improve their health and well-being, and to live a self-directed life in which they are capable of reaching their full potential. Using this as a broad brush stroke portrait of recovery, he suggests that there are many paths to, and through, recovery. These include using the 12 Steps in a self-help setting, such as offered by AA and NA, drawing support from a faith group, or a secular group, and professional approaches offered by a variety of treatment organisations. He makes the telling point that a rigid, didactic paradigm of recovery can prevent people from thinking in a creative, and open-minded way about all the sources of potential help open to them.
Stuart does have an important caution for those in early recovery though. Just because something feels uncomfortable or unfamiliar doesn’t mean that you’re on the wrong path. Early recovery is inherently laden with difficult emotions and situations as we come to terms with the damage of the past and the challenge of the present. Very often, a strong recovery is built on being able to face those hurts and home truths, and learning to come to terms with who we really are.
If you’re thinking about attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, this is the lesson for you. In it, Dave briefly describes who can attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and how to find a meeting near you.
Anyone who has a problem with drugs, or is an addict, can attend an NA meeting. It can be hard to get through the door the first time, but Dave reminds us that no one has to say or do anything at a meeting. There is no obligation on you to speak or talk about yourself. A good way to find a meeting near you is to ring the national helpline (UK helpline is below, please see na.org for international information). Speaking to someone from the helpline can often mean you connect with a local contact, who may be able to meet you at the meeting place so you don’t have to walk in alone.
There are many different varieties of NA meeting, and if you want to find a meeting that is particularly relevant to your gender or sexuality, in most areas that is possible. NA is a self-help organisation, and as such its meetings are run by recovering addicts, not treatment professionals. The principle of anonymity is important in NA because it means that any addict can attend a meeting without fearing repercussions in other spheres of their life.
NA meetings are usually designated on meeting lists as ‘open’ or ‘closed’. Open meetings can be attended by anyone with an interest in recovery, such as family members. Closed meetings are for those who think they may have a problem with drugs, or identity as addicts. If you want to take a family member or friend to a closed meeting, arrive prior to the starting time and ask the person taking the meeting if it can be opened on request. They will then ask the group members attending if that’s OK, and it nearly always is.
It takes courage to get to your first meeting, but its worth. As a wise man once said, addiction is a ruthless disease, and it requires a ruthless remedy. That remedy is walking through the door of an NA meeting, sitting down, and staying until the end.
Many thousands of apparently hopeless addicts have found a new way to live exactly in this way.
In this fascinating lesson, Dave gives us an insight into the process that Narcotics Anonymous went through to develop its’ recovery literature, with a particular focus on the central piece of that canon, the Basic Text. This was first published in 1982.
Narcotics Anonymous, the largest self-help organisation in the world dealing with addiction, offers a highly-effective program of recovery, and is an unusual phenomenon. From its humble beginnings in Sun Valley, California, in 1953, it now has 63000 recorded meetings worldwide in 132 countries, and its literature has been published in 45 languages. The program of Narcotics Anonymous has proven itself capable of transcending cultural, religious, class, gender, racial and language divisions. Somehow, it has managed this remarkable period of growth while maintaining a cohesive worldwide service structure. The group, the fundamental element common to all NA meetings worldwide, exists as a democratically- run entity which is autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or NA as a whole.
Many believe that critical to NA’s success has been its adherence to the spiritual principles embodied in the 12 Steps and 12 traditions. Amongst many other aspects, these core elements of the NA fellowship and the NA program, emphasis personal responsibility, accountability, and the need to strive for loving, mutually respectful, consensus among NA members.
NA’s growth as a worldwide fellowship closely correlates with the publication of the Basic Text. The story of how this book came to be, the personal sacrifices and effort made by those members who succeeding in making the dream of the book a reality, is an inspirational one. It is also a controversial one. While refraining from personal opinion, Dave shows us the actual drafts and books as they succeeded one another. The current edition of the Basic Text has been subject to a process of scrutiny and approval at the World Service Conference a number of times, but still, there are those who hanker after the perceived purity of tone of earlier editions.
Many of the arguments that have proved divisive within NA focus on Traditions 4 and 9, which respectively deal with autonomy and the relation of NA as a whole to its service structure. NA literature as approved by its worldwide fellowship, is clear that NA service committees are an integral part of NA, and often where the finest and most dedicated attempts to carry a message of recovery are seen. The most recent NA book on its Traditions, Guiding Principles, puts these discussions in context. But the ideal that there was an earlier, purer message and form has proved to be seductive, especially for those
who are attracted to the idea that their way is the true way. In a sense, this adherence to a rigid set of ideas is the complete antithesis to the of a broad, inclusive, and above all, loving acceptance of NA as a viable program of recovery, offering hope to all who seek it.
Friends and Family
Sian discusses whether or not our coping styles can help an addicted loved one.
There is some evidence to suggest that this is the case - as from the UKATT trial (the United Kingdom Alcohol Treatment Trial). This trial compared the efficacy of a therapy called Social Behavioural Network Therapy as against Motivational Enhancement Therapy. Neither therapy ‘won’ - both led to reductions in the patient’s use of alcohol. But the trial did signpost the crucial impact that family, friends and networks supportive of recovery can have on a person with a problem with drugs or alcohol.
Sian unfolds three coping styles the therapy describes - withdrawn, tolerant, engaged.
Withdrawn refers to a complete rejection of involvement with the situation and the person with the problem. Many people find themselves adopting this stance as a protective measure.
Tolerant coping represents the other end of the spectrum - giving time, money and support to the person with the drug problem without conditions.
Engaged coping refers to the ability to remain present for the person affected in a useful and supportive way, while removing any supports for the addicted behaviour itself.
It can be an aspirational ideal, but engaged coping can offer concerned others a useful paradigm that allows them to care for themselves while remaining in the lives of their addicted loved one.
There is no one-size-fits-all guideline for dealing with this situation, but at the very least, having thought your strategy through in terms of coping style means that you have the chance to choose your response, rather than just react.
Hortensia DeJesus, CADC, NCAC II, SAP, is passionate about helping people who have a loved one that is suffering from addiction. In this short video, she offers some invaluable advice to anyone facing this difficult situation.
Hortensia plays a key managerial role in the highly-regarded treatment facility, Las Vegas Recovery Center (LVRC). She is a certified addictions and alcohol counsellor at both the state and national level. She has many years of experience in providing services that give family members of those who are addicted the support and guidance they need for themselves, and their loved ones.
If someone in your family is using drugs or alcohol dependently, her first suggestion is that you stop giving them money to feed their habit. Maybe they are already over-stepping the boundaries you’ve sent down, maybe they are flunking school or unable to function professionally. It’s quite likely you’ve already driven them to meetings, arranged for professional help, or tried to help them at home. You may already be exhausted by the seeming failure of your efforts to get them back on the path to recovery and health.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t be effective in helping them. That efficacy starts by helping yourself and getting the support and information you need to move forward.
In this lesson, Sian looks at that limbo period when you are dealing with suspicions of drug use by a loved one, but you don’t have any firm evidence.
One of the most undermining phases that many ‘concerned others’ report back on is this time when you feel intuitively that something is wrong with your loved one, and signs and symptoms may be mounting up that this is so, but they deny or dismiss your fears.
She refers back to the previous clip in this playlist - if you’ve put your own oxygen mask on first, and you've got a support network in place, you will be in a much better position to deal with this phase. Having someone outside the situation to talk to, and to help you put your thoughts in context, is invaluable. After all - your fears may be unfounded, or your loved one may vehemently reject your analysis of their situation.
A common response to this ambiguous situation on the part of the concerned other may be to search the belongings of the person they’re worried about, check their phone, or follow them to see what they’re actually doing. While this may provide the concrete proof you want, it may also increase the lengths to which the dependent person may go to hide their use of drugs or alcohol.
As the fears evoked by the potential loss of, or harm to, someone we love are so visceral, Sian suggests that at this point, you emotionally and mentally take a step back from the situation, rather than trying to reach into it and alter the outcome that you dread. Having a little more metaphorical space between you and the situation will help you to rationally evaluate it, and some of the signs and symptoms she discusses in this next clip - 'Signs and Symptoms of Addiction'.
If you’ve ever had a loved one go into rehab with a drug or alcohol problem, or you’re about to, watch this lesson for ten of the most important things you can do to help them - and you. The suggestions are made by an expert from the highly-regarded Las Vegas Recovery Center, who manages their inpatient and family support programs.
Don’t give your kid money, unless specifically directed to by a counsellor. Money provides a way out of the door, and the funds for more drug-taking. A parent always wants to take care of their kid's needs; but in this case, resist their pleas.
Expect their phone contact with the outside world to be restricted, and don’t constantly try and ring them to check on their progress. Your loved one needs to be able to keep their head in the program, and you may need to let go of the need to try and control their experience of it.
Be prepared to work with the treatment center, and be prepared to work on your own stuff. They may want to know more about family dynamics to help them treat your loved one. While that can feel like a betrayal, if it helps your kid get real about their addiction, it’s important to open about the reality of their behaviour, and yours.
Listen to the counsellor’s advice on what can and cannot be brought into the treatment center. That apparently innocent request for a certain item of clothing or a book may actually be concealing another agenda.
Stick to the visiting hours recommended. The treatment centre is seeking to create a structured regime, and re-stabilise your loved one’s experience of the world. It can be hard to let go, but it's crucial to allow your kid to be a part of the treatment process.
Only let those who are approved to visit, visit. Early recovery is a fragile time, and the sudden appearance of a family member with whom your loved has a complicated history, or an ex-partner can literally take them out of the door.
Look for your own support group at home. One of the very best things you can do for your kid when they are in treatment is find your own recovery path, and strength it. In the long run, this is one of the most loving and effective actions you can take to help both them and you and your family.
Hortensia DeJesus, BA CDAC, Family Services Manager at the flagship treatment facility, Las Vegas Recovery, is an expert in helping those who have a family member affected by addiction. In this lesson, she offers some suggestions to anyone who finds themselves in this difficult and often demoralising situation.
She begins by emphasising that although this situation can feel overwhelming, you as a family member can have a real impact on how it progresses.
Hortense emphasises that you have nothing to gain by prevaricating. Pick up the phone as soon as you can and find out what resources are available for your loved one, and importantly, for you. Reaching out for help is a critical factor in getting the support you both need.
There are a number of programs and self-help groups whose focus is on those affected by a loved one’s addiction. These offer you the opportunity to find identification, benefit from the experience of others who’ve faced the same challenge as you are now. Hortense suggests that you get this kind of help for yourself as swiftly as possible. Picking up the phone means you don’t have to face this alone.
Hortense suggests that the same holds true for your loved one as well. She urges that you find the courage to seek out the help they may need to move forward in dealing with their addiction.
Above all, don’t despair. There will be a way forward.
Sian introduces the topic of how to cope if a loved one is using too many drugs, or drinking too much alcohol.
As anyone who has been in this position can tell you, when someone you love has a problem with drugs, your life can be wrenched out of shape, and your physical, mental and emotional life can all suffer.
But you’re not alone. Because this is such a common phenomenon, there is a good body of knowledge to call on to find tactics that will help you cope - and may help the person you’re concerned for.
Sian has both personal and professional experience of this subject, and in this playlist she’s going to cover how best to care for yourself when you’re dealing with this, how to assess the situation, communicating with your loved one, and how different coping styles may affect the ultimate outcome.
She encourages you to begin this process by watching the playlist as a whole, and prioritising caring for your own welfare as your first action point.
One of the most stressful and difficult experiences many people encounter is coping with a loved one’s addiction. When that person is a family member, it can feel overwhelming. If you are in this position, this lesson is for you.
Alvin Elliott is a person in long-term recovery. For the past thirty-one years, he’s worked an active program of recovery and has remained abstinent from all mind-altering substances, including alcohol. He is also a professional working in the field of addiction, at the flagship facility, Las Vegas Recovery Centre.
Alvin draws on his personal and professional experience to make five initial suggestions to anyone facing the challenges of an addicted loved one or friend.
Firstly, try and couch discussion of the problem in health, not moral, terms. The addicted person is highly likely to already be feeling the shame and stigma of their condition. Blame and admonishment are unlikely to do more than create resistance or provoke a defensive response. There’s good science underlying the paradigm of addiction as a health, not moral, issue. So when you initiate discussion of the situation, adopting this perspective can be enormously helpful.
Secondly, whatever plan of action you come with, bear in mind that your addicted loved one may be much more impaired than they seem. They may not be able to follow through on an intention to get to a self-help meeting or find a treatment facility. Be as proactive as you can in both helping them plan, and carry out that plan.
Related to that point, however, is Alvin’s third suggestion. Don’t work harder than them. You cannot force someone to recover, and the process requires their active participation to match yours.
Alvin’s fourth insight is that it is very important you get help and support for yourself. Many parents or spouses or children of addicts feel like they must always be the strong one, the one that doesn't break under pressure. But the fact is, recognising that this situation has harmed you too, and getting what you need to deal with that, actually means you are in a better position to help your addicted loved one.
Finally, Alvin counsels that you try your best to avoid self-blame. Addiction can be a terrible disease and one that kills. Adding to your already high levels of anxiety and emotional pain the unbearable weight of responsibility for an outcome you cannot command will not help you, or them. Recognise that you can be part of the solution, but you cannot dictate what happens next.
In this lesson, Sian discusses some of the signs and symptoms of addiction. She emphasises that accurately assessing someone’s problem with drugs and alcohol is actually a complex, multifactorial process, for a professional or a concerned other.
This is partly because different drugs, including alcohol, have a different ‘footprint’ in terms of their symptoms. Stimulants, for example, may make a person more talkative and active, but they may also make them withdrawn and morose. Sedative drugs may make a person seem sleepy, but if they are addicted to them, they need them just to seem normal. Disinhibiting drugs such as alcohol may produce obvious behavioural changes, but a dependent person may still learn how to disguise their use so they are apparently functioning in their lives and careers.
Added to this, a person’s problem with drugs or alcohol may change over time, intensifying and becoming harder to conceal.
All of the above leads Sian back to her original insight - your best move at this point is to put your own oxygen mask on first (https://goo.gl/nwgPKk), and get professional and personal help to assess the situation.
She also makes the point that it is inherently problematic to trust your loved one’s ‘self-report’ on their use of drugs, including alcohol. Your own gut instincts, taken in the context of your loved one’s life and history, may be the best guide you have available until you have a professional overview of the situation.
Every parent’s nightmare is that they discover their teenage child is using drugs. In this lesson, Bryan Spircu, a staff member at Las Vegas Recovery Center, shares some tips to help anyone who finds themselves in this position.
He suggests that you get the professional support you need to deal with this difficult and often confusing situation. A parent’s first instinct is often to shelter their child from the consequences of their actions, but in terms of addiction, this can be actively unhelpful. Responding to repeated requests for money by acceding, for instance, can simply be a means for your teenager to step up the number of drugs they are using. In the treatment industry, this is often known as ‘enabling behaviour’, and contrasted with tough love and engaged coping. These latter strategies mean that you stop supporting the problematic behaviour while continuing to seek effective strategies to help your loved one find recovery.