Author: Justin Mckibben
Working in the blogging and social media sector of the world-wide web you get to see a lot of differences of opinion on a lot of topics; from the most mainstream to the most infamously controversial. In fact, pretty much anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account has exposure on a regular basis to a variety of intense debates and collective views. Of course another thing the internet does is provide us with perspective and statistics, and some of those data inventories actually make a strong impact on our own opinions. However, some figures may miss the mark when it comes to truly all-inclusive data. This is especially true when it comes to the measure of success in recovery from addiction.
Some people claim that the majority of support groups and programs don’t have very impressive or even adequate rates of success in recovery. Others will go as far as to claim that these support groups and recovery programs hurt more than they help. If you dig deep enough, there are plenty of people claiming that nothing out there works for helping addicts and alcoholics who need help.
But is that accurate? Truthfully, I have more than enough reason to doubt these claims for a very simple reason…
Who is truly capable of quantifying someone else’s “success”?
Instead of asking if drug treatment is successful, maybe we should be asking the real question… what is the real measure of success in recovery?
Talking about Treatment
Back in 2013 TIME magazine wrote that because there is no standard definition or what “rehab” is, there is no standard metric for measuring their success. The therapeutic community at one point said they could only claim a 30% success rate. However, the source also indicated that they only count ‘success’ by those who complete the entire program, and between 70% and 80% of people drop out of aftercare around 3-6 months after treatment. To sum that up, some people just stop reporting on their progress, so their ‘success’ could not be confirmed.
Other treatment providers will measure their success rates on how many patients report being completely abstinent for an extended time after leaving treatment. However, as we discuss later in the article, abstinence is not the requirement in the definition of success.
The fact is, because there are various addiction treatment models, to measure the success of recovery based on the numbers even treatment providers themselves gather is actually inappropriate and ineffective.
Focusing on the Fallen
When was the last time you saw a story on the news about an overdose victim? These days if we go 24 hours without seeing one it is surprising, right?
Well… when was the last time you saw a story on the news about a recovered addict who owns their own business, or is working a 9-5 and volunteering in their community? When was the last time you saw a breaking report about the alcoholic who went home to be an amazing parent to their newborn child or started a foundation to help the less fortunate?
I thought so. But allow me to blow your mind… because these people do exist!
This is probably one of the greatest injustices dealt to the recovery community. I’ve written about this before, and about how changing the communities views means overcoming stigma. Media outlets are always itching to give a dramatic account of every drug overdose or crime committed by an addict. Thus, that is all the rest of the world sees. It should be no surprise that people claim the recovery programs and support groups are failing, because no one pats you on the back for being a decent person. The only time people seem to applaud recovering addicts in the media is when they’re a celebrity.
It is easy to claim that drug addiction treatment doesn’t work when someone only focuses on the overdose rates in their community. It is easy to point to the individuals who have fallen, who need another chance at getting healthy, and say they are proof that the institutions are broken. Raising awareness on all those who still need help is important, but it is counterproductive to use them as indication that no progress is being made.
One conflict with measuring success is with 12 Step programs, mainly because they are anonymous programs. As a member of a 12 Step program I am definitely not trying to discredit these methods. The reality is true success rates of 12 Step programs are such a matter of contention because the standard of anonymity. Many people will simply not wish to be involved in studies based on their desire to remain anonymous.
When trying to debate the success rates of 12 Step programs we have to take any statistics with a heaping serving of salt. Out of the pieces of data available, those numbers are not an all-encompassing assessment.
Also, the only data for success in recovery from 12 Step groups is ongoing sobriety percentages, measured by years. And just about any member will tell you time does not equate sobriety. And limited data means the programs may help people to find a meaningful life, but if they do not remain members then they are not included in those success rates.
Some will only measure their success in recovery on a 24 hour basis, because they take life a day at a time.
Even 12 Step literature will point out that they have no monopoly on spirituality or recovery. 12 Step literature acknowledges that some people reach a point where their drug abuse or drinking caused great physical, personal and professional damage, but after intervention and treatment some can turn their lives around without a 12 Step program. Of course abstinence is often suggested as the best course of action for most recovering addicts and alcoholics. Once drugs or drinking create enough devastation, turmoil and helplessness many people find it is far too late to ever go back. Yet, abstinence is not necessarily the requirement for “success in recovery”.
Success in Recovery is Subjective: Speak Up
What truly transcends the debate over effective drug treatment is how we measure success in recovery in the first place. How do we decide someone is successful in life? Because isn’t that what recovery is; building a life that is happy and whole? So how do we calculate the extent of someone else’s transformation?
In essence, that is what we are talking about; discovering a fulfilled and meaningful shift that allows freedom to pursue happiness and connection. Given this description, success in recovery is definitively subjective. The meaning of recovery is more conjectural.
The measure of successful recovery should be a more fulfilled life.
Not just with material wealth, prestige or surface value but with connection, contribution and genuine gratitude. In the end, men and women who struggle with drug abuse or alcoholism recover in innumerable ways. Some turn to religious bodies, while others thrive on support groups. Some focus on physical fitness and mindfulness. There is no way to measure every success story, because they are life-long journeys through self-awareness. Each puzzle piece makes a different picture.
In order to show that there is hope, I hope more of us speak up about our experiences in recovery from alcoholism and addiction. There is so much emphasis on the bad, there is more of a need than ever to show the world something good. This means shattering the stigma that stands against us. People will never know we can succeed if we don’t try to show them how we already have. Recovery from addiction should be outspoken more often. Not because I think anonymity isn’t important; I have great respect for the traditions of 12 Step fellowships.
But… I do believe that if we don’t speak up for ourselves, stigma is going to keep speaking for us.
Every community, including yours, is filled with people who have empowering and inspiring success stories after overcoming drugs and alcohol. It all begins with a foundation. It is up to you to measure your success, but it’s also up to you to take action and make your success story possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
As hard as it is to admit, that’s the first step.
Once upon a time the forces of evil gave us this great conspiracy that we are separate; the truth is we never were. We have been lied to long enough that we are defined by our differences. We were told the borders mankind created for each other are valid reasons to hate and hurt one another. They said the shades in our skin and the climates and economic categories we live in made some of us better or worse… and the greatest tragedy is- we believed it.
The 12 Steps and the ‘anonymous fellowship’ model of recovery are actively used all over the world for those looking to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. There are even other addictions such as gambling or over-eating that people use the 12 Steps’ strategies to overcome. Anonymous support groups meet to work with one another to fight the obsessions that rule over their lives.
While some debate the effectiveness of groups like AA or NA, thousands upon thousands of people in over 150 countries all over the world have found their salvation from substance abuse through 12 Steps.
So, the question is… will it work for racism?
Some would insist that to even suggest racism is still a reality in America is to contribute to the race-baiting that drives division. However, the truth is no matter how far we like to think we have come- racism is still real. Now, Racists Anonymous (RA) aims to help those struggling with their own prejudices to overcome them.
Racism in America
While it may be hard in a politically-correct America to understand the gravity of it, racism is not extinct. No one likes to admit they are racist, especially in the modern society that preaches tolerance and acceptance. It is probably much easier for some to admit to their innermost self they’re an alcoholic or an addict than it is to admit they suffer from a serious racial bias.
Today we are still bombarded with police-related shootings involving young black men and women in the media. Meanwhile, we have the biggest protest by Native Americans in our history happening right now, and the brutality being inflicted on these people is truly deplorable.
Regardless of whether or not you believe that race is responsible for these injustices, the nature of these events leads some to think discrimination is the only explanation. The way these events are shown impacts the country, also driving a wedge between its people, inspiring even more division. Tragically, despite having an African American president, many insist this is the most racially divided we have been in decades.
One pastor in Sunnyvale, California is so concerned with the status of stigma and racial tension he is taking the unlikely step of offering a 12-step program for people who wish to heal from racism.
Pastor Ron Buford of the Congregational Community Church knows well that the first step of basically every recovery fellowship is to acknowledging the problem. He stated,
“That is something that we as Americans don’t want to do. We all swim in this culture of racism. It’s impossible to not be racist to some degree.”
Pastor Buford, who is himself an African American, makes no effort to point the finger and say this is a problem unique to one race or another. Back in 2015 Pastor Buford began to host meetings of the newly formed Racists Anonymous in what he says was a response to the police shootings all over America, exacerbated by the shooting rampage of Dylan Roof at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Slowly but surely the fellowship of Racists Anonymous did actually grow! Since its conception, at least a dozen people regularly attend the weekly Racists Anonymous meetings. The RA meetings host a majority of Caucasian members, but also various other races are adamant attendants. Seems like having members who would not normally mix is a big understatement here.
Still, the Racists Anonymous fellowship follows the path set out by the original 12 Steps. For example:
- Making a list of people they have harmed
- Making amends to those they have hurt
- Taking personal inventory
- Admitting and recognizing racist behaviors
RA meetings also include sharing experiences and feelings regarding race.
One thing very different about RA from most 12 Step fellowships is these meetings is the mediator. RA meetings have someone working to directly confront members with scenarios. The mediator, typically Pastor Buford, then challenges members to explore their attitudes and actions concerning other races. This kind of mediation is not the norm for many 12 Step meetings. What many might call “cross-talking” seems to be acceptable in the RA format.
Expanding the Fellowship
Beyond the reach of Congregational Community Church, over 30 other churches across the country are in the process of establishing Racists Anonymous groups. Buford says he hopes to make RA just as available as AA or NA all over the U.S. of A. Still there are many hurdles to overcome before this fellowship can hope to grow.
A large obstacle is that not many people are willing to admit they are racist to a group of strangers. Reverend Nathan King of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Concord, North Carolina, introduced the meetings to a mostly white congregation. Reverend King said,
“People are in different places. Some say, ‘I’m a racist.’ Or they say, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure.’”
Some would protest the comparison between alcoholics and racists. One might say that one is a choice and the other is a disease. But then again, some people still claim alcoholism or addiction is a choice, but anyone who has been there or been on the frontlines in fighting addiction knows better than that. So, is it fair to say that the idea of supporting people in recovering from racism is not a worthy task?
Stephen Mosier, a 74-year-old RA member is a retired college administrator who stated,
“We have all got some residual racism in us no matter how good we think we are at it,”
Pastor Buford believes that racism could very well be a lifelong issue one struggles with. Whether you believe people choose racism or not, the hope is to eliminate the spread of racism for future generations. Either way, this seems like as good a reason as any to try and make a change.
Racism is an Addiction
In the end if we are all as introspective as we can be, we will see that as imperfect people we have a tendency to make assumptions or misconceptions based on the ideas we were conditioned with throughout life. In a combination of our environment and the more drastic experiences we have, we can subconsciously create stereotypes or expectations, and our culture may only feed these beliefs. But it is our responsibility to fight back and grow out of these lies.
We become addicted to these stereotypes and presumptions. We may even realize we are wrong, but somehow we cannot let go of the crutch of our conditioning. The truth is, no one is born racist. Racism is taught. So love and tolerance must be learned in order to escape these archaic lessons. RA may not be the only way to teach love, but it’s an interesting take on an old way of working for an awakening.
While many are far from able to take that first step, others who have fought to overcome drugs and alcohol already know just how difficult of a step that can be. Having that clarity isn’t always easy, but once you see the problem for what it is you have a window of opportunity to get the help you truly need to change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now!
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
If you are at all interested in social media platforms, you probably know all about Reddit. It’s a website that often gains media attention for posting obscene, disgusting and offensive content. Reddit has garnered tons of attention in recent years as many celebrities participate in “AMAs” (for “Ask Me Anything”) that allow users to ask them tons of questions in one setting.
However, now Reddit is gaining attention for another purpose: pro-social engagement. Amidst Reddit’s crudity and sexism, there are actually compassionate worlds, or subreddits, that are dedicated to drug and alcohol problems. But do they work, or do they cause more harm than good?
To answer those questions, one would have to explore these popular self-help networks, which is exactly what Zachary Siegel, who recently wrote an article on Reddit, did.
Some examples of subreddits that focus on alcohol/drug addiction recovery are:
- r/OpiatesRecovery (OR)
- r/StopDrinking (SD),
- r/RedditorsInRecovery (RIR)
Siegel found Reddit to be chock-full of words and memes and very uneasy on the eyes. However, these boards seem to have good intentions. They give advice; they congratulate others and share both good and bad stories in recovery from addiction.
Of course, all this is similar to 12-step fellowships. However, the familiarity of being at home while receiving support can be useful for many in recovery. For some, especially those in active addiction, it can be a more approachable way to seek support. For the most part, the groups seem to have a relaxed atmosphere, however, they do have rules. The posting of outside links is strictly forbidden as these subgroups want to only be driven by user support.
One Redditor, who goes by BigndFan, was quoted as saying:
“Anonymity over the Internet allows people the freedom to share without shame.” Big feels a sense of community when reading the writing of his peers, and while he does go to AA meeting, he still enjoys spending a good amount of time on the Stop Drinking subgroups.
So do online groups like this work?
The concept of sharing stories is known, in a clinical sense, as narrative medicine. Narrative medicine recognizes the meaningfulness and value of other people’s narratives. Dr. Rita Charon is the director of narrative medicine at Columbia University in New York. She was quoted as saying:
“In the most general way, what we refer to as narrative medicine is a practice, a very heightened awareness of how stories work. Not a breezy awareness, it’s very disciplined.”
In her classes, Dr. Charon guides her students in narrative medicine. In these classes, Dr. Charon shifts the gaze from medicine and moves it toward meaning and storytelling. Students In the past, Dr. Sharon has said that narrative medicine is useful in jails, prisons, psychiatric hospitals and homes for those who suffer from dementia.
When it comes to Reddit, Dr. Charron said both AA and Reddit have different healing benefits:
“The absolute biggest difference between Reddit and AA, is that Reddit is written. The writing, the activity of writing, of making something with words, has the healing benefit,” Charron said.
Many choose to go to subreddits because they do not like the support groups available in the area. In some forums, users benefit from the kindness of others. In r/OpiatesRecovery, which has over 5000 subscribers, one user sends packages of naloxone, the overdose antidote for opiates, to those with limited access.
Overall, the climate of recovery is changing to focus more on treatment. Just the other week, President Obama proposed $1 billion to expand medication-assisted treatment that would make methadone and Suboxone more available. These medicines can be useful in reducing overdoses. Still, the model of recovery remains controversial, some focusing more on abstinence rather than harm reduction.
In conclusion, when it comes to Reddit, there are thousands who subscribe to these groups. Whether it is late at night or early in the day, posts are being created nonstop, 24/7. While these numbers cannot compare to the 1.2 million members who attend Alcoholic Anonymous meets, it is hard to deny the support these online groups provide. Most of all, it seems that these groups can be beneficial and not harmful to those who use them as one of the many components of a treatment program.
Recovery, like the rest of the world, is beginning to merge with online culture. Whether this is helpful in recovery or not can only be answered on an individual basis. Still, having the support of others is a known successful strategy to overcome addiction. If you need support for your addiction, seek help today. It is never too late to reach out for assistance. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
By Cheryl Steinberg
New York State is trying something new when it comes to educating people about the dangers of drug use: it’s releasing Public Service Announcements (PSAs) to be shown in movie theatres across the state.
In efforts to address the alarming rise in heroin use throughout the state, New York is releasing these PSAs with the goal of warning moviegoers about the dangers of heroin use.
Drug Dangers PSAs Shown in Movie Theaters
The new strategy in fighting the heroin scourge began last Friday and feature testimonials from recovering heroin users who tell their personal stories about how their drug use affected both their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Because of the subject of the PSAs, they will only be shown before features that are rated PG-13 and R-rated movies. The current New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo says the campaign is part of the state’s plan to “push back” against heroin and prescription drug use.
Some Statistics on Opiate Use
This year, there were 91,000 hospital admissions in which heroin and prescription opiate abuse was the cause – a drastic increase when compared to just five years ago when there were 76,000 medical admissions. Also, there were more deaths from heroin overdoses in New York City than any year since 2013, with 420 out of 782 fatal heroin overdoses. The fact is, heroin-related deaths have more than doubled in the city since 2010.
In 2000, only 5% of people admitted to drug treatment centers checked in for heroin and other opiate addictions, but last year that number soared to 23%. Local hospitals have also reported more emergency room visits related to heroin in recent years.
And it’s not just a Big Apple issue; heroin use has crept into the suburbs and smaller cities throughout the state. In the Albany area, for example, a bag of heroin costs $10, which is just half the cost than it was only a few years ago. And with reports from those on the front lines – law enforcement officers – heroin today is stronger and more concentrated than ever before, leading to a higher demand, higher rate of use, higher overdose rates, and higher number of fatalities. Basically, opiate drug users are trading in their painkiller addiction for an addition to heroin because, simply-put, it’s more bang for their buck.
Crackdown on Prescription Painkillers Leads to Heroin Resurgence
“By taking away opiate pain pills, we are not necessarily reducing the demand for them,” said Dr. Bruce Masalak an addiction specialist at St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam. “Heroin is an attractive substitute to feed that addiction.”
Some local communities have taken action to help address this problem. The Rensselaer County system, for example, has launched a venue for ongoing dialogue about substance abuse in their community, holding meetings and support groups to help address the issue.
Auerbach Lyman, who lost her son Jeremiah to drug use and attends the support group meetings shared, “He was functioning. He went to school every day. He was always out and about,” “You just want to rewind time.”
If you are struggling or you suspect that someone you love is struggling with heroin abuse, opiate addiction, or any other substance abuse disorder, you can call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist around the clock.
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Learning how to deal with an addict in the family may seem nearly impossible. An addict in the grips of their addiction is not a lovely person in the smallest sense of the word. In fact, many addicts in the grips of their addiction are scary, mean, and not the person you thought you knew and loved.
Many times when an addict goes to rehab their family is still left with the feelings of what it was like when the loved one was in active addiction. They usually don’t know how to deal with an addict in the family, whether that individual is clean and sober or not. Taking that into consideration, here are 7 reasons family therapy is important in rehab.
- Understanding Disease of Addiction
Addiction is far more than a case of bad judgment or running with the wrong crowd. Having an addict in the family means it is important realize that they will keep using drugs, no matter the consequences because of the chemical changes in their brain, not because of poor character.
Family therapy is important in rehab because it educates the family on how addiction affects the individual, so they can better understand that it is a disease, and that an addict in the family doesn’t choose to have an addiction.
- Mastering Emotions
Family Therapy is important in rehab because it teaches both the individual and the family how to communicate with their emotions in a healthy and constructive way. Being in treatment and dealing with the affects addiction has had on the family can be a difficult aspect of early recovery.
Family therapy helps to re-establish connections, while allowing the family to progress as a collective in positive coping strategies. Educating both the family and the addict in new ways to process and share their feelings with one another.
- Helping VS. Enabling
As family, we always want to help the ones we love, especially when they are struggling. Family therapy is important in rehab because it gives the family a better idea as to how to properly provide healthy support.
Enabling is not helping, and it is something anyone with an addict in the family should learn about, because many times when trying to help an addict in the family, parents or siblings end up enabling the addict’s behavior and never directly address the issue. Family therapy is important in rehab because it teaches enablers how to set better boundaries.
- Understanding Treatment Plan
Of course when you or someone you love is in treatment, you want to make sure everyone feels confident and informed as to how that treatment plan has been put in place to provide effective transformation.
Another reason that family therapy is important in rehab is to keep the family members up to speed and involved in how the time spent in rehab is being utilized. The more the family knows about the rehab their loved one is in and the way their treatment is being addressed, the more they will know what to expect in times of transition, and how to give support.
- The Role of the Family in the Healing Process
The healing process does not end once a person has left the treatment facility. Lasting and fulfilled recovery reaches far beyond the walls of any rehab or residential facility. The role of the family is essential not only during the period in rehab, but in continued recovery.
Family therapy is important in rehab because it provides more information in regards to the treatment plan, and gives a deeper look into how the family contributes to the addict’s recovery once they are outside of rehab. Knowing the importance of continuous work in recovery and how the family can help may have an addict set up for success before they ever leave treatment.
- Giving Up Codependency
One part of addiction that many families fail to notice is the problems created by co-dependency, because many family members do not realize that they are in a co-dependent relationship with their addicted loved one, and they get something out of that person’s life-style and behavior.
Sometimes family members don’t realize that an addict’s behavior and need for support can actually provide them with a feeling of being needed or being connected. Depending on someone who desperately depends on us in active addiction can be hard to acknowledge.
Sometimes we feel needed by helping a sick person or by relying on their mood to be happy. Family therapy is important in rehab because it reveals the real dangers behind co-dependency.
- Recovery Programs After Treatment
Sometimes people are able to stay clean and sober for a time after treatment without any drastic issues, but this is most common with people who suffer from physical dependence, and not addiction.
For the ‘real deal’ addicts and alcoholics out there, it is typically more than some time in rehab that supports a serious life change. One more thing that shows that family therapy is important in rehab is that it helps to highlight the different ways an individual can remain clean and sober, and helps the family to become familiar with such fellowships.
There are also fellowships in place to support the families of addicts and alcoholics, whether they are actively recovering or not. These support groups are designed to provide some level of guidance and assistance from peers and other families in the same situation.
Too many families are torn apart because of the disease of addiction, and sometimes the family has no idea how they can make an impact that drives improvement. Family therapy is important in rehab because it gives not only the individual addict, but also their loved ones, the resources to change for life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135