Pirate Springs

Recovery from Addiction or Abuse – Finding the Buried Treasure Within Yourself

Category: Newsletter

Recovery Community Organization

In the last segment, back in December, I talked a lot about the Certified Recovery Community and what that could look like. I want to step back for a minute and reinforce an understanding of the need.

I  was able to watch the film Generation Found a couple of weeks ago. This film captures the need for, and the obvious success of, Recovery High Schools. While there are only 54 of them in the United States, according to the film, this is something that should be available to every student that finds themselves involved in a drug and/or alcohol problem that cannot escape without help, and chooses the path of recovery.

Listening to the teens in the film discuss the inability to stay clean after being returned from rehab to the same school environment they were in before rehab, makes it all too clear that changing friends, places, and things related to using includes school. The fact is, the students all said that not only were they around other kids high there, but that is where they got their drugs.

It is the drug free and recovery based environment provided by the Recovery High School, a non-judging, caring, understanding environment that not only allowed the teens to succeed in class work, but empowered them to excel beyond what many believed they could.

It is the community aspect, the closeness of identification, and empathy, that enables these addicts to experience recovery and maintain recovery for the long term.

I believe that adults need that sense of community and identification as much as teens and young adults.  In virtually all of the fellowships (AA, NA, CR, etc.) those with longer sustained recovery have closed their social circle to include only those they know in their fellowship.  This is part of the key to their success.

In one study known as “Rat Park” a rat was given access to drugs while in a solitary social environment in its cage and used the drugs over and over, but when moved into a social setting of several rats, no longer used the drugs.

This may be an over simplification of the experiment, but then Rats are over simple compared to humans and the human life experience, but it makes a point.  Community makes a difference.

That may lead to the question, “Why, then, do people start using at school or elsewhere when they are in a social setting of a community of peers?”

The answer is in the individual.  One of the big recurring statements you will hear from almost all recovering addicts is that prior to their beginning of active addiction, they felt different, alone in a room full of people, not good enough.

This understanding points us to a few of potential conclusions:

  1. Early identification of salient personality traits can offer a pathway to more effective prevention efforts.
  2. Helping those stuck in the grips of active addition feel that they may not be as alone as they feel can attract more addicts into recovery.
  3. Creating environments for those in recovery to gather and maintain a sense of community and belonging can promote more successful long term recovery for those who utilize the resource.

Early Identification

I referred to an article in my newsletter of October 26, 2016.

In a New York Times article, written September 29, 2016, Maia Szalavitz discusses Preventure, a new approach to identifying youth that are at risk of addiction, which has not only resulted in dramatic reductions in addiction and substance abuse, but lowered the incidence of depression and reported anxiety in schools in Europe, Australia, and Canada.

That article, “The 4 Traits That Put Kids at Risk for Addiction” is a worthwhile read and gives a deeper insight into this discussion. This is a project with proven results and we need to take out lead from it.

Those in Active Addiction

One the sayings heard often in the rooms of 12 step programs is, “We will love you until you can love yourself”.  This is an important fact.  It is love that ultimately draws those in addiction to a successful attempt at recovery.  Love doesn’t judge, but welcomes, gives hope, and helps break down the barrier of isolation that keeps most addicts stuck in a cycle they don’t understand.  Hearing success stories from people who have had the same feeling they have (Identification), is the beginning.

Creating Environments of Community

Like the Recovery High Schools that are now finding success, maintaining a Recovery Community Center, could have a huge impact on those who begin a journey of recovery and have to change “people, places, and things” in their life.

It is one of our goals, to open one or more of these in our region.  An old motel, defunct school, or abandoned factory that could be revitalized and repurposed with a large TV room, a game room with pool tables, ping pong, card tables; a meeting room or two that could rented to the various fellowships for 12 step meetings, counselling offices for peer recovery support specialists to meet people in, an outdoor barbeque area.  You get the idea by now I’m sure.  There could even be a coffee counter, literature sales area, and a recovery activities planner.  A computer room for study, job application filing, and more would be helpful too.

Our Efforts

While there is still much that can be added to the discussion of a Recovery Community (the community at large being supportive to an environment of recovery), and definitions of what it should all look like and how it could all function, we can only do our share and hope that we touch enough with our ideas, our message, and our goals to gain the help we need to make it all happen.

We do already have many willing partnerships; organizations and agencies willing to roll up their sleeves and lift along with us.

Today we are working with Health Departments, Rehab facilities, State and Local Agencies, Coalitions, and other Non-Profit organizations to change from a running dialogue to running a race.  The missing ingredient is community involvement and community action.

My next installment will be my presentation of a plan that could help turn the tide, along with a description of a current effort that supports this plan.

Today I will leave you with another article I just read written by a County Sheriff, that runs parallel to my position.

I’m the Chesterfield County Sheriff And I’m Done Talking About Drug Addiction. It’s Time To Act.

Please take the time to read this one, and I will remain excited to present some steps that can make a difference in my next installment.

As always, feel free to email me with your comments or concerns.




A Community Solution

The name of this series, “Addiction is a Global Problem”, is no joke or laughing matter.  Although the problem exists all over the world, we are going to focus on our country, the United States.

I have a philosophy regarding Substance Abuse, and Addiction, and I have been espousing it for years.  Yes, it has matured, but the foundation hasn’t been replaced.  What I can tell you is that we are in dire circumstances, but all is not lost and the situation is far from hopeless.  I see the potential dawn on the horizon and I see it in recovery movements and in realizations in the medical community at the highest levels.

I believe that education is the key to a fundamental shift in the statistics.  The paradigm has to move away from the stigmatic assumptions that exist today for not only the active substance abuser but also for those in recovery.

What is amazing is that if you do the follow through thinking about what I am about to present, you begin to see that those in the Recovery community could be a large part of the hope of the nation and our future as a fully functional, charitable, and economically secure society.  In order to make it work Society has to get invested.

Think about it:

“Alcohol misuse, illicit drug use, misuse of medications, and substance use disorders are estimated to cost the United States more than $400 billion in lost workplace productivity (in part, due to premature mortality), health care expenses, law enforcement and other criminal justice costs (e.g., drug-related crimes), and losses from motor vehicle crashes.”(Facing Addiction in America:  The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health)


$400 billion.  What if we could halve that number over the next ten years?  That is a combined savings/productive output of Two Trillion dollars.  That doesn’t even speak to the changes in society, the increase in tax revenue, etc.

There will be a large number of people back out in the work force working, creating jobs, paying taxes and giving back to the society that has now welcomed them back from the land of lost with open arms, if we adopt a new way of thinking about the community being part of the solution.

“Nearly 21 million Americans – more than the number of people who have all cancers combined – suffer from substance use disorders.”(Executive Summary of the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health)

I mentioned this briefly in an earlier volume, but when an addict recovers, and re-integrates successfully with society, the majority of us are so grateful for the new life that we become very service oriented.  We are some the most kind, loving, and charitable people there are.  After all, when you make it out of what seems like hell and find a way to live a life of peace and joy, it is difficult to not be grateful and want to share your joy.  Many of us do this by serving the community and society at large.

21 million people.  So if we again halve that number over ten years and only half of that number are the charitable community driven people I describe, we have 5.75 million people willing to get behind needs, and give to the community that helped save their lives.  And all of these estimates are assuming a static 21 million people costing $400 billion annually.  That does not take into account the future addicts added to the situation, although that number should decline dramatically if we are successful in our paradigm shift.

So where does this shift begin and what does it look like?  Let’s begin by acknowledging the problem.  We as a society are first, scared. We are scared to be near an addict, they might hurt us or our family, or take what is ours.  Second, we have a predefined picture of what an addict is; a dirty, immoral, probably disease ridden, most likely homeless, depraved, and disgusting individual.

The truth of the matter is, there are so many people in recovery today that have gone on the become professionals, educators, entertainers, politicians, you never know who around you is, in fact, an addict.  It is highly possible that your Doctor, or your lawyer, or your congressman is an addict.

I have been clean and recovering from my addiction since 1987 and in the time since I have pastored a church for seven years, founded and built a multi-million dollar software company that managed financial transactions for banks in our network operating center; I have sponsored doctors, and other professionals and have met politicians in recovery.

Most people have also assumed that addicts were addicts by choice and that they just made, and keep making, bad decisions.  The medical community, however, and now the Surgeon General, have discovered that there are precursors and risk factors associated with addiction, and that it is not a moral failing but a disease.  That does remove a great deal, if not all, of the responsibility from the addict for being one.

So you see, the old stereotype doesn’t fit.   Maybe it’s time to shift the thinking.

A New Attitude

If we, as a society, can look upon the addict as someone that is sick and needs treatment, our internal understanding will result in a change in our external reaction to the addict and being around them.  We can become loving and accepting of the situation and hold out a hand of help that the addict so needs rather than holding up a judgmental hand of self-defense which further crushes the spirit of the addict that still suffers.

Understanding and compassion go a long way toward bringing an addict to their day of decision, their bottom, their moment of desperation which triggers the string of reactions that result in recovery.

I am not saying that addicts aren’t potentially problematic and that we should welcome them into our homes to show we care.  That is not a good idea.  They may rob you blind if they are still actively using.  I am saying that changing our understanding helps us be kind.  And if the community wants to change the direction of this problem that it needs to be kind and it also needs to be invested in the solution.

In my home state of Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse started a project a few years back called the Faith Based Coalition Initiative.  This project is designed to access the deep reach of the churches into the community to bring awareness and understanding, as well as certify churches as Recovery Churches if they will send one or more members, staff members, etc., to a training that empowers the church through the trained member to properly evaluate and provide resource guidance to anyone that may come to the church asking for help with substance abuse issues.

This is a concept that could be extended to communities, creating Certified Recovery Communities with an expanded set of certification criteria beyond what the Faith Based Initiative applies to the churches.

A Certified Recovery Community should have several outlets (Health Department, Medical Clinics, Fire Department, EMS Services, Police Department, community organizations, schools) that all understand substance abuse issues and the local resources available to those seeking help.

Local law enforcement would be trained in and follow a policy of treatment first, rather than arrest, for certain circumstances.  This would include “Safe Haven” for anyone coming forward voluntarily for help.  The concept of Safe Haven is one that should become pervasive throughout the community.  This should be part of the discussion.

A Certified Recovery Community should have events.  These events could be sponsored by:

  • Civic Groups
  • Churches
  • Businesses
  • Business Networking Groups
  • Charitable Organizations
  • Municipal Government
  • others

These events could have many forms;

  • Concerts
  • Picnics
  • Fairs or street fairs
  • Expositions
  • Symposiums

These events could be promoted on the radio, billboards, flyers, etc.  And they should all have a theme that says something to the effect that “We Care”, “We Will Help”, and “You Are Safe”.  Letting those that are sick know there is a way out and letting them see those who have done it (recovering addicts and alcoholics) is the biggest attraction.  Planting the seed may not have immediate results for many, but planting the seeds will bear fruit.

These events could be held as frequently as the community sees fit but should be put on at least annually.

A Certified Recovery Community needs to have a Recovery High School available to its youth.  This is a place that is safe for youth in recovery and also has recovery related meetings, coursework, and places to meet and talk about recovery issues.  There are Recovery Schools today that are thriving and offering youth the optimum opportunity to not only graduate, but to excel.

“The staff of recovery high schools most often includes administrative staff, teachers, substance abuse counselors, and mental health professionals that each play a critical role in supporting their students. Additionally, recovery schools provide support for families learning to how to live with, and provide support for, their teens entering into the recovery Lifestyle.” (https://recoveryschools.org/what-is-a-recovery-high-school/)

A Certified Recovery Community should have a Recovery Center.  When I was growing up communities always had a community center, where kids could go and play games like ping-pong, checkers, etc., usually run by the Parks and recreation department.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the community either through Parks and Rec, or some other group, could offer a facility like that, with meeting rooms that could be rented by the various 12 step groups for their meetings?  This center could also have computers for research and job applications, a refreshment counter, a TV room; just a place for people in recovery to hang out together.

A Certified Recovery Community should also have available resources.  It won’t do much good calling addicts and alcoholics out of the darkness if there no place for them to go.

One of the biggest problems in the world of addiction and treatment today is the availability of treatment space.

“Although 20.8 million people (7.8 percent of the population) met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder in 2015, only 2.2 million individuals (10.4 percent) received any type of treatment. Of those treated, 63.7 percent received treatment in specialty substance use disorder treatment programs.” (Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health)

This is not all from lack of treatment facilities, but a large percentage of it is.

There are probably other features a Recovery Community could have, but these are ideas that could help a community make a huge dent in the problem and investing in the solutions would wind up saving lives, saving money and making the community a nicer place to live.

It will not happen unless civic leaders, business owners, church leaders, the local government, and others put some skin in the game.  This is not an issue of throwing money at a problem that will continue indefinitely, at least not on the current order of magnitude.  It is an investment in people that can impact the community in a very positive way and contribute further to combatting the problem at the individual level, face to face, until it is scarcely seen.

We will continue next week with a discussion furthering the idea of what the community can do and what the effect should bring.

Please join me again next week and feel free to let me know if you have received anything of value so far, or in the volumes ahead.  My email address is on the website.

Also, it is near the end of the year and getting donation made for tax savings this year is running short on time.  Please consider a donation to our program, however small or large it might be.

Please Share if you enjoyed this article. If you received it as a forward from a friend you can subscribe and/or donate at www.piratesprings.org and you can read earlier newsletters at www.piratesprings.org/news.


Supporting Your Loved One in Recovery

During the time your family member was in active use of their substance or substances, chances are you suffered….a lot.  You might feel and believe that it’s your turn, that your family member owes you, and that you should get a break.  You think back to the insanity of it all…. Crazy behavior, missing money, they were gone for days on end sometimes, calls from jail, perhaps calls from the hospital.  You endured sleepless nights, developed ulcers from worry, suffered financial disasters.  You were ashamed, humiliated, and hurt.

Please get the support you need, because the journey is only beginning.

Most of the things mentioned above should be over if your loved one has detoxed and is serious about their recovery, but they are still the primary sick one.  It is their disease that drives the illness throughout the family so it only seems logical that their treatment should come first.

Let me focus on that statement for a minute because this is key.  It is their disease that drives

You must be solid in your conviction that this is not a moral failure or bad choices, this is a disease.

In a landmark report from the Surgeon General, for the first time ever “dedicated to substance misuse and related disorders” (Dr. V. Murthy, 2016), it is succinctly stated that:

“It’s time to change how we view addiction,” said Dr. Murthy. “Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness that must be treated with skill, urgency and compassion. The way we address this crisis is a test for America.”(Dr. V Murthy, 2016)

This understanding should help us become equipped mentally and emotionally to bear with the further changes in our lives by being supportive in recovery rather than requiring recompense which will ultimately just send your family member helter skelter back to the life of numbing the senses and throwing you back into the ravages of having a family member active in their addiction.

If your family member had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and came home from the hospital would you begrudge that they had to return several times for chemotherapy or radiation treatments?  Would you insist that now that they are home they need to resume their duties, whatever they might be?

I am only making a point by comparison, not stating that someone in recovery cannot do chores.  It is the shift in the way we think about the continuing recovery that the addict must be involved in that is important.  It is imperative, if we are to hope for any kind of success in recovery, that we also consider their continuing treatment as well as our own.

I touched briefly, in the last volume, on the mental condition of someone new to recovery and a short time from using substances to alter their feelings.

The Surgeon General’s report supports that fact:

The report shows that substance use disorders typically develop over time following repeated episodes of misuse that result in changes to the brain circuitry.” (Dr. V Murthy, 2016)

These changes in brain chemistry may never get to be 100% back to the way they were before substance abuse began, but we can have hope that your loved one will recover to become a caring, thoughtful, and loving person, if we invest a little bit of ourselves into understanding the disease and allowing the addict to do what they need to do in order to progress.

Carte Blanche?  Hardly.  You developed some boundaries before and they need to stay in place.  There may be some you can relax over time and some you may not.  You may create some new ones.  It is all situationally dependent.

For example, if you took away the ability to borrow your car, you may want to keep that in place for a while and let them prove responsibility.  If one of your boundaries was based on following through on commitments, keep it.  There needs to be responsibilities attached to every privilege and once again, defined consequences for violating a boundary.

An example of this would be, if you let them have car privileges back and they are gone longer than agreed they lose the car for 3 days again, or something along those lines, but something predefined.

Staying involved in your own recovery will help you know what limits are going to work and what is unrealistic.  It will also help you understand that you should not take things personally when there is a problem or disagreement.  Remember there is altered brain circuits in play here.   When your family member was using you were the enemy even though you were loved.

How does that work you ask?  Anything that could stand between your loved one and the acquisition of the substance of choice, the opportunity to use, the place to use, or any activities of using, is the enemy.  During active addition, the addict will put their use above family, friends, work, everything.   The disease is in full control.  Understanding this is part of understanding how things could have gotten so bad before they finally decided to get help.

We will talk more about that in another volume, but just knowing it to be true will help us work through situations during recovery.  That old mindset will show its ugly head from time to time.  If and when that happens it is best to take the high ground and not engage.

So what are the main things we need to know to support someone in recovery?

  • Do not hinder their meeting attendance
  • When needed and if possible, assist in getting them to meetings
  • Attend a few open meetings and listen
  • Don’t probe into their recovery with questions that start conflict
  • Don’t dig up the past
  • Allow them private time for step work, writing assignments, etc.
  • Attend a support group and share about what you’re going through
  • Hold your boundaries, but pick your battles wisely
  • Let them make their own choices
  • Be prepared to let them suffer the consequences of their choices

One of the most important things we need to learn, and the most difficult, is how to love them enough to make tough choices.   This is not a lesson I can teach, as the complexity of the principal is beyond simple teaching.  Everyone is different, every situation is different.  What I can say about it is this:

Love is the power that conquers all manner of evil, of negative energy, of indifference, of intolerance, and so much more.  But love also puts the good of another above their wants; and in doing so, eventually is felt as love.

Your loved one may reject your statements of love for quite some time.  If not verbally, perhaps still internally and privately.  This is one of the spiritual awakenings that hits us during recovery, that many of the things we took as attacks were acts of love.

In the order of step work, if the program of choice is a 12 step program, these things don’t start coming out until steps 6 and 7, and amends come in step 9.  I have seen people get to step 9 in under a year but rarely, and it can be years, literally.  Above all things remember that your family member is sick, not morally deficient, intentionally causing trouble.

Treat them as such and let the improvement you see, whether it comes quickly or seems to take forever, be your hope, your satisfaction, and your joy, because this disease can easily be fatal, and that is last thing you want for your loved one.

In our next Volume, I am going to talk about the fact that substance abuse needs a, “Community Solution”, and what that means.  So far we have skimmed across the surface of some of the aspects of addiction and recovery, the next volume will begin to get into the meat of the topic.

Please join me and feel free to let me know if you have received anything of value so far, or in the volumes ahead.  My email address is on the website.

Please Share if you enjoyed this article. If you received it as a forward from a friend you can subscribe at www.piratesprings.org and you can read earlier newsletters at www.piratesprings.org/news.


Life in Recovery

We have beaten the odds and watched our loved one enter treatment, we talked a little bit about treating the family not just the addict, and we talked about the fact that recovery is a process and should now be a way of life.

I should back up for a minute and talk about an aspect of residential treatment that is common and you may have to deal with; leaving the program before completion.

The first reaction, of course, if your loved says they are leaving or does leave before completion, is one of doom and gloom.  Nothing has changed, everything is going back to the way it was, and it’s all been a waste of time.  That is not necessarily true, but now is when you need the information from the family groups, co-dependency classes, and/or Alanon, or NarAnon.

If your family member talks about leaving and hasn’t left yet, both encourage them to stay and make sure you talk about your new boundaries.  These are set by what you learned in those groups.  If they leave anyway, stick to the boundaries.  When it comes to, “Loving Them Enough to Make Tough Choices”, this is where the rubber meets the road.  If they are willing to abide by the boundaries, don’t panic, give them a chance to do it.

Whether your family member completed the program or not, encourage them to follow standard recovery suggestions for the newcomer.  Typically they include;

  • 90 meetings in the first 90 days.
  • Getting a Sponsor
  • Getting phone numbers at the meetings and using them
  • Joining a Home Group
  • Taking a service commitment
  • Getting and reading the literature
  • New people, places, and playthings

Ninety Meetings in Ninety Days

This is talking about one of the twelve step programs mentioned last week.  This immersion into the meeting life is very successful at keeping people in recovery on track.  Although it is said that 90 in 90 (in recovery parlance) is a must for any newcomer, it is a tool used far more frequently than just when you first come into recovery.  When things get difficult, following a traumatic event, sometimes just because we feel like we need it, an addict will commit to a 90 in 90.  There are also those who seem to live forever at the pace of a meeting every day.

Getting a Sponsor

Recovery is not just a quick education in a rehab, it is a lifelong process of discovery and change.  One of the vital keys to the process is working the 12 steps.  It is a Sponsor that guides us through that process and helps us in discovery.    In the process of recovery we must discover and resolve things within ourselves that contribute to our desire to use, or find anything that will help us escape ourselves.  This is someone who had been through the process of working all 12 steps and has a working knowledge of them.  They can also be a primary lifeline when your loved one is having a problem.  If there are moments of doubt, fear, or anger; outbursts, arguments, or threats to use, calling their sponsor is the best resource.

Getting Phone Numbers

Getting phone numbers of others in recovery and using those numbers if the sponsor can’t reached, or just so they can talk is of high value to anyone in recovery.  When you’re new to recovery that phone is like a thousand pound weight and difficult to pick up and dial.  Once you start using it, however, it becomes a resource you wouldn’t want to lose.

Joining a Home Group

The twelve step programs are each a fellowship that is nationwide, or worldwide.  In your local area there are Home Groups in each fellowship that hold meetings specific to the home group.  There may be multiple meetings of each home group, in various locations.  It is important that an addict go to meetings and identify one where he feels most at home, and join that Home Group.  A home group becomes the place that an addict attends regularly, goes to the business meetings, and takes a service commitment.

Taking a Service Commitment

This is an important part of our recovery for several reasons.  At first, it helps assure our attendance.  It also provides the newcomer a sense of belonging and purpose, something they have not had in a long time, if ever.  There is also a reward that is hard to identify at first, just a good feeling.  That reward is the result of giving back.  Service.  When you serve you are fulfilling the characteristic of the twelve step programs that says, “You can’t keep what you have unless you give it away.”  This saying applies in many other aspects of recovery life and the process of recovery as well, but this is where it begins.

Getting and Reading the Literature

It is absolutely amazing when an addict sits down and reads about themselves in a book.  That is truly the experience; the addicts reads stories, facts, principals, and characteristics that they completely identify with.  It is as if the book was written about them or by them.  And in the literature are the answers for how to deal with the things that go on in the mind of the addict.  Solutions to the everyday troubles and craziness that we live with.  The literature is a lifeline and one of the cornerstones of any twelve step program.

New People, Places, and Playthings

One of the most important things someone new to recovery has to face is leaving old friends behind.  This can be very difficult and your family member may insist they need to keep contact so they can help them find recovery too.  This is not a good idea.  There must be a realization that the best help they can be is in setting an example from a distance.  You may not win the argument, but it is one worth trying to win.  Their friends that are still stuck in addiction are far more likely to suck them back in than follow them out.  Similarly, the places your loved one went and things they did are most likely connected to their use so changing everything is important.

Now let’s talk a little about what rehab did not do if your family member went to a residential program.  It did not fix the addict, it did not clear their head so they can think straight, it did not make them normal, and it did not change all the behavior so everything will be ok.  You have to face this or you are in for more misery.

In the first 30 days after detox, an addict is still in a complete fog mentally.  They may know things are changing, and they may have hope that they can find a way to live with their thinking and feeling without having to numb them.  For the most part they are hanging onto this because they see others that say things your family member can identify with but they seem to be ok.  They even seem to be happy.

Then, slowly, depending on several factors like drug of choice and how long they have been using, the addict begins to think straight and the process of recovery brings them to one level of improvement after another.  It can be 6 months to years before your loved one is at 90% of normal.  I say 90% because the process never ends, so we can never say 100%.

There are going to be rough times ahead.  You just have to know in advance that life is never going to be what you would define as normal.  There may be a relapse in the future, and maybe not.  You must realize that for an addict to not be using is not normal, this is a miracle.  Our normal is high.  There will emotional upheaval as your family member works through steps.  Opening wounds and looking at things an addict tries to cover up with drugs or alcohol can me traumatic.

Don’t try to be a confidant and learn all of the things your family member is uncovering or the things they have done in the past.  Many of them would horrify you and cause you trauma.  Just trust the process and those in recovery that have also been where your family member has been but have found a new way to live.

I know that to reveal some of the things I did while in my addiction would have caused my parents great emotional turmoil.  If you want to get a little insight into the reality of what I am telling you, go to a few open meetings of AA, NA, or CR.  There are meetings just for members, but there are also many open meetings were anyone can attend.  Listen to some of the old timers share, listen to some of the people with a little time.  You will begin to understand this disease and the process of recovery.

Be thrilled that your loved one wants to go to twelve step conventions and activities, spend time with others in recovery, and go to meetings frequently.  At least they are alive, and they are growing toward becoming someone you will probably truly enjoy.  Watch the transition from regretting being alive to loving life and loving others.  It is a gift, it is a miracle.

The next Volume will be a discussion on support.  What can you do to be the most helpful, and the least harmful, to your loved one’s recovery.

Please Share if you enjoyed this article. If you received it as a forward from a friend you can subscribe at www.piratesprings.org and you can read earlier newsletters at www.piratesprings.org/news.



Substance Abuse Treatment: It’s a Family Affair

Authors Apology:  My expertise on the Newsletter System we use is not the greatest, forgive me if you received multiple emails this cycle while I tried to get you the entire newsletter. 🙂

In this volume we are going to assume that you have done all the right things, the planets aligned and your family member has agreed to get help.  Reaching this point is not easy, and the battle from discovery of substance abuse to this point can be a long, protracted, and painful time.  But we will address this later on in the series.

There are a number of different ways to get help and types, and lengths, of treatment available.

IOP – Intensive Out Patient.  This is a daily trip to the facility providing the treatment, where the client will spend the day, or half day, depending on the assessment of the intake counsellor.  The program will consist of a variety of classes and information to help the client understand the chemistry of addiction, the social impacts, the family struggles and effects, the future implications of persistence, and other topics decided on by the treating facility.  Included will be family sessions that you simply must attend if you want to insure the greatest level of success.

Acute Detox.  This is a lock down environment designed to assist the acutely addicted person through the initial “come down” of cessation.  Symptoms vary with the substance being abused but your facility is well trained and can give you information you need to understand what will happen over the next few days.  Acute Detox can be the only residential portion of treatment or just the beginning of a residential program.  Medically assisted detox may include the use of drugs like Clonazepam, Ativan, Visteral, even Suboxone and Sebutex.  Most of these have addictive effects some of which are potentially worse than the drugs the client was using so be sure that they are only used very short term for the initial detox.

Residential Treatment.  This is typically a graduated privilege treatment methodology that can last anywhere from 28 days to 18 months.  The most common duration of stay is the shorter term 28 to 30 days.  Residential treatment includes all of the classes generally found in IOP, but also include the feature of environmental safety.  Removing the client from familiar ground to keep them from their drugs while they learn does provide an additional level of comfort that they will complete at least an initial time period of chemical cleansing.  Again, these programs will offer family sessions that you simply must attend if you want to insure the greatest level of success.

Of all of the above treatment types some may be faith based and some will be secular.  Some are physically rigorous and some are more laid back.  If you believe a faith based program is the best, I urge you to ask your family member first.  Remember, if your loved one has agreed to treatment, you need to keep them as open and willing as possible, and choosing for them when it may cause them to shut down is not a good idea.

12 Step Programs.  A large percentage of people in recovery today never went to rehab, but addicts who have gone to rehab should all end up in a 12 step program.  In other words it is possible to recover through one of the 12 step programs without the aid of a rehab, but the 12 step programs offer a path to change, a fellowship of others in recovery, and the best chance at sustained recovery.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Celebrate Recovery (CR), the latter of which is faith based, are the largest and most common of these.  Bear in mind that identification with others like ourselves (Addicts or Alcoholics) drives the success of these programs so commonly an addict should go to NA or CR, while an Alcoholic will probably find better success in AA.  For the family there is Alanon, and NarAnon, both of which provide help to families of those in recovery.  Again, it is vital these be attended as the information is transformative when applied in practice with your family.

These are some of the primary resources you need to begin to heal your broken family.  Let’s talk for a minute about not participating in the healing process.

If you believe that the problem all belongs to the person being treated for the substance abuse problem, you are almost guaranteeing yourself more misery.

“The progress an individual makes in treatment can be hindered or undermined or even reversed if family dynamics don’t change too. (David Scheff, Clean)”

Some of what is learned in the various family classes and Alanon/NarAnon is the behavioral changes we must make to be able support recovery.  Here are a just a couple of the common challenges we create if we don’t engage in treatment as family members which will impede treatment and recovery:

  • Rescuing the child from anxious situations
  • Under- or over-involvement in the treatment process
  • Denial
  • Difficulty setting limits
  • Presence of parental substance use and mental disorders

Suveg et al. (2006)

These are indicative of Co-dependency and enabling behaviors.  This is where we take the risk discussed earlier in the series of “Loving them to Death” versus “Loving Them Enough to Make Tough Decisions”.

Studies have long since proven that the family dynamics that have contributed to, or been present during a period of substance abuse need to change in order to foster a sustained recovery for the addict.

  • Family interventions can help modify the maladaptive family relationship patterns that can contribute to, or result from, a family members’ drug abuse
  • Family members are key to helping with co-occurring disorders
  • Family members are needed as change agents in the family members’ environment
  • Family interventions can result in beneficial effects long after the “treatment” phase is over
  • Family interventions can be used to bring a family member to treatment for the first time or can help to retain the family member in treatment

Santisteban, D.A. (2008)

This is a war and an important one.  Losing a battle is a painful possibility but you don’t have to put yourself in the position of being assured a loss.  Muster the whole family, arm yourselves to the teeth with the weapons of wisdom, and understanding.  Participate in every skirmish.

Co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis are terms you should be prepared to hear.  There is a large percentage of addicts that have mental health issues beyond addiction.  These disorders can sometimes be causative of the addiction or at least contributory.

Remember that “not feeling comfortable in our own skin” is one of the primary things you hear from addicts and these mental health issues can cause that feeling.  It is not uncommon that the addict started the substance abuse as “self-medicating” their discomfort.  It may be necessary for your family member to take some kind of medicine, at least temporarily, for this disorder.  I am not a physician or psychiatrist so I cannot tell what you should or should not do about psych meds only that you need to always be involved and vigilant.  If medicine is truly what they need then they should have it.

What the goal is with treatment is starting the addict down the path to a whole new life.  Old things have to go.  Old patterns, old playmates, playthings and playgrounds.  In other words, everything must change.

Life in recovery does not have to be boring which is what many addicts fear before they go to treatment.  What they don’t consider is that the millions of people that are in recovery today did not have lobotomies so they have no desire to have fun.  In fact, people in recovery are some of the most fun people on the planet.  Not only do they seek fun, but they have reason to enjoy more fully due to the gratitude they have for being clean.  After all, when you are doing fun things while you are under the influence you always have a cloud hanging over your head.  Guilt, shame, fear of arrest, and so on.  In recovery there is freedom.

You should have picked up in the language by now when I say “life in recovery”, that we are not talking about your loved one coming out of rehab cured.  If your loved one is an addict recovery should be become a way of life.  In fact, one of the things I have said in meetings over the years is that I do not live my life and add some recovery to it to keep me clean;  I live my recovery clean and build a life around it.  That is because relapse at any stage of recovery is possible, and this disease is progressive, which means that you won’t pick up where you left off, it will be as though you never stopped.

My Son, Joshua, stayed clean for a year and a half before he relapsed, and a one-time celebration because he got his son back from Child Protective Services lead to a 5 year run and ultimately his death.

Do not begrudge or resent your loved one spending time at meetings, be glad they have the time to spend there.

Next issue will pick up here as we talk about Life in Recovery.

Please Share if you enjoyed this article. If you received it as a forward from a friend you can subscribe at www.piratesprings.org and you can read earlier newsletters at www.piratesprings.org/news.


Celebrate Recovery (CR) http://www.celebraterecovery.com
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) http://www.na.org
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) http://www.aa.org

Parents and Families Part 2: Signs of Trouble

If nothing else, I hope that the last newsletter made it clear that this is a matter of life and death.  I have not only lost a Son to the disease of addiction, but many friends, and many acquaintances, and the numbers are just continuing to climb.  The incidence of drug related death is statistically becoming a nightmare.

It is time to reassess how we deal with the problem and take a more holistic approach to the solution.

In this volume we will talk about Family Risk Factors, Individual Risk Factors, Social Risk Factors, and signs of trouble and methodologies for dealing with them.  I can’t say that any of the signs are 100% reliable or that the methodologies are foolproof, but I can tell you with a fair amount of certainty that most of the time they will hold true and effective.

Children as young as Junior High, or Middle School as it is called in some areas, are being exposed to the whole gamut of substances and in some cases Marijuana, pills, even alcohol, are found at the grade school level.

Here are couple of alarming facts:

“Every day an average of 8,120 people age 12 and over try drugs for the first time and 12,800 try alcohol – more than 20,000 people (Sheff, 2013).”


“50% of all lifetime cases of mental and substance use disorders begin by age 14, and 75% by age 24 (Kessler et al., 2005)”

Remembering what we discussed in the previous volume, we cannot guarantee our kids won’t try drugs and/or alcohol by being good parents and offering a model family and upbringing, however, the higher risk demographics do include deficiencies in these areas.

Family Risk Factors:

  • Poverty
  • Single Parent Families/Divorce
  • Lack of Strong Family Bond/Connection
  • Poor Family Management Practices
  • Family’s History of Addiction – Genetic Cycle
  • Family Trauma
  • Relocations

Individual Risk Factors:

  • Risk Taking and Sensation Seeking
  • Poor Impulse Control
  • Inability to Understand Behavior and Consequences
  • Peer Associations
  • Learning Difficulties (ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia)
  • Behavioral Disorders
  • Trauma
  • Stress
  • Academic Failure
  • Inconsistent Norms

Social Risk Factors

  • Targeted for Bullying/Hazing
  • Subject of Ridicule by Peers
  • Slow Physiological Development (Puberty)
  • Spurned by Boyfriend/Girlfriend
  • Peer Pressure

In looking at most of these Risk Factors we are examining external influencers and uncontrollable behavioral characteristics.  These are the various parts of the adolescent life that can cause the adolescent enough discomfort within themselves to break down barriers of entry into the activity of altering the conscious mind.

As you can see by the lists some of the factors can be controlled while others cannot.  For example, in the family trauma heading, trauma can come in manifold ways from auto accidents, to loss of employment, to having a previously unknown violent or sexually abusive relative, and so on.  Any unforeseen event that traumatizes a child can be the catalyst for a substance abuse problem.

Much risk can be mitigated by parenting but they cannot be eliminated so being informed remains the best defense against the incursion of the effects of the disease.  Another part of being informed is understanding tell-tale signs of substance abuse.

You know your children or other family members better than anyone so watch for changes.  Changes in:

  • Friends
  • Hygiene
  • Sleeping Habits
  • Eating Habits
  • Attitude
  • Relationship Skills
  • Activities
  • Interests
  • Grades
  • School Work

Some of these areas show natural changes with age and hormone changes.  This is the time when we need to be closest with our children and know what is truly going on with them.   Then there are the other changes we may notice.

  • Missing Money
  • Less gas in the car than we remember
  • Missing jewelry or other sellable or pawn able goods.
  • Stories not making sense
  • Stories changing
  • Questionable honesty
  • Depression
  • Isolation

Again this is not an exhaustive and complete list but intended to spark the mind toward the reality of things that begin to creep into the home when substance abuse begins.  We have listed risk factors and warning signs.  We haven’ yet talked about response.  How do we respond to any of these things if it becomes suspect that there is a problem?

As a parent, remember that, you are the parent.  Parenting is more important at this point than being your child’s friend.  Straight talk is going to get you responses you are not going to like if there is anything going on, but is the best approach.  If we try to dance around or avoid hurting feelings we begin setting ourselves up for the path to co-dependency.

A direct question may illicit lies, anger, self-condemning statements, acts of hurt feelings or other manipulative attitudes.  Remember, if your child has gotten involved with drugs or alcohol that is what is talking, the drugs and the alcohol.

“There is a discrepancy between the development of adolescents’ reward systems and impulse control, so the reward system is overactive.  Kids have a double whammy.  The go system rages, the foot’s on the gas pedal and the stop system has a hard time keeping up. “(Joseph Frascella, Director of the Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. NIDA, 2011)

Once your child is in the grip of mind altering substances, you are no longer dealing with the same person you have raised all these years.  Their actions and responses are altered.  The longer they are actively using the more unrecognizable their personalities become and more your feelings will get hurt.

Trying to negotiate, appealing to them morally or logically, or trying to reach them emotionally will generally result in your disappointment.

This is where we have to stick to what’s allowed and what the consequences are and you have to only offer consequences you are willing to enforce.  If you have proven that substance abuse is occurring and the family member is a minor, get professional help.  Treatment, rehab, whatever is recommended should be your course of action.  If you have just reached that moment of discovery and don’t want to make any first steps, get professional help for yourself.  It is better than trying to manage an unfamiliar situation and making a huge error.  Don’t hesitate or be embarrassed, remember this is life or death.

Next week’s title is “Substance Abuse Treatment: a Family Affair”.

Please Share if you enjoyed this article. If you received it as a forward from a friend you can subscribe at www.piratesprings.org and you can read earlier newsletters at www.piratesprings.org/news.

Parents, and Families, and Drugs, Oh My!

Having one or more people in the family that are abusing substances creates all manner of chaos and heartache.  The bigger problem is that we only see the using family member as the one having a problem.  No matter how we view them we are missing the bigger picture.  Addiction is a disease, and it is contagious!

Oh, did I catch your attention?  No, I don’t mean that if you have a family member that is an addict it makes you one too.  What I am saying is that this disease makes the whole family sick.  An illness creeps in and changes the way we act and think, and feel.  Most of the time we don’t even notice until it has gone so far that we have damaged relationships, lost jobs, and done crazy things we would normally not have thought we would do.

It’s in the name of love and caring for our family member, so we justify and rationalize at first.  But… we may in fact be feeding a fire not keeping the damage under control.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though.  Let’s talk prevention.  Much like what is needed in schools parents must be watchful and in communication.  Communication is not limited to talking and listening although maintaining that open line of dialogue with our children and other family members is vital.  Here is a definition of Communication I really like;

“Any act by which one person gives to or receives from another person information about that person’s needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge, or affective states. Communication may be intentional or unintentional, may involve conventional or unconventional signals, may take linguistic or nonlinguistic forms, and may occur through spoken or other modes.”

So we can extrapolate from that definition that we need to be mindful of our loved one’s habits, behaviors, attitudes, moods and mood swings, friends, activities, hygiene, and so much more, noticing any changes, and beginning dialogue when we spot anything of concern.

Remembering the examples of “who is at high risk”;

“Those who suffer learning disabilities like ADD and ADHD, victims of abuse, children that are withdrawn or over boisterous, kids dealing with guilt or shame, kids who feel like their parents don’t have time for them, adrenaline seekers, just to name a few.  These are the kids that are feeling different, and want to not feel that way.”

Reminding our children that they are an important part of the family and that talking about what they are experiencing as they grow is important to your role as parent so you can help advise and steer them through difficulties, being available to them when they need you, and being firm, asking questions when you must.  And when and if your child admits they don’t feel like they belong we just let them know that’s ok.  A lot of people feel uncomfortable in their own skin and do ok.  We don’t have to fix it, it will pass.

Now the painful truth.  Being the greatest parent in the world, and having the healthiest home life on the planet does not exempt your child from getting involved with mind altering substances.  Dealing with the problem once it happens is the next challenge.

You may have not noticed anything unusual about the change in your child’s behavior and attitudes and all of a sudden get a call that they were arrested for possession of some pills.  You ask yourself why they would have these pills.  You ask your child.  Your child says, “I was holding them for someone, I’m sorry, I was so stupid”, and you believe them.  You get a lawyer, and the lawyer gets them off.

A couple of months later your child goes off with friends on a Friday night.  You get a phone call at 9:00 PM that your child has been arrested and this time a drug test reveals there are opiates in their system.  You argue with yourself that it couldn’t be right, your child tells you that someone must have slipped pills into something they drank.

You just hit a very important cross road. 

Your next step could mean life or death for your child.  Every ounce of you wants to defend them keep them out of trouble.  Give them a chance to not have a police record and prove they are telling the truth. If this is the decision you make, you are probably headed down a long road of enabling and codependency, and misery.

I learned too late in life that children learn faster if they have the opportunity to experience the full force of consequences from their choices.  What choice you ask?  If my child was slipped a drug he didn’t make that choice.

Your child did make the choice to be around people that would do that, if that is even the truth.  The consequence may prevent that kind of choice in the future.  Creating a soft landing will certainly not.

Enabling, and codependency go hand in hand in a self-feeding fire of progressive sickness and destruction. And like the addict doesn’t know they are an addict until things have gotten so out of control that they have to stop and take a look, so goes codependency.

What then?  What do we do?  Is this where tough love comes in?  Actually, I don’t like the term tough love, I think it makes it too difficult to weed through the quagmire of right things to do.  It makes it sound like you need to be tough on someone to love them.

The way I phrase it is close, but more direct to me.  We have to Love them enough to make tough choices!  Do you see and feel the difference?  Tough choices means I will do things, and not do things, that are not the popular choice.

I will think through my choices and if I believe an action or inaction will do more harm than good, then I will make the choice against that.

Soft landings, helping a child to suffer the least possible consequences, paying for lawyers when they were busted for something they did.  Giving them money, lying for them, covering for them, and so much more.  These behaviors are trademark enabling and signs of codependency, which runs much deeper than just in relationship to the addict.   It is a personal mental illness that will manifest itself in all areas of your life.  This is why I say that Addiction is a family disease that is contagious.

“Generally speaking, codependency can be defined as a set of compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to adapt in a setting where there is addiction, neglect, physical or emotional abuse, chronic illness or a dysfunction that creates an environment of significant emotional pain and stress”

If we are going to have any hope of having a healthy family when there is addiction involved it has to start somewhere.  It only makes sense that those with best presence of mind should stop and look at the whole situation and determine if maybe they need some help to get healthy before they can help anyone else.

Even a few visits to Alanon or Naranon, can be huge step toward making this happen.  Listening to others’ successes and failures is what you get there, and it can be a help in the right direction.

I am a recovering addict and have been since 1987.  I was a champion enabler and codependent.  It took me 10 years to quit trying to get my ex-wife into recovery.  I enabled my children in their own addictions.  I paid for lawyers, I paid impounds, and Bail.  I provided jobs and housing.  Then one day it all changed.  I quit giving my kids the things they were used to and one at a time they went into recovery themselves.

I won’t try to paint it all to be a rosy picture either.  Even after going through all of the pain of being the bad guy and them finding recovery, my oldest went back into his addiction.  After losing his daughter in a custody battle with his mother in law he had a son that was born addicted and spent 2 ½ months in NICU being medically detoxed.  My wife and I took him to raise until my son got his act together and ended up moving from California to Tennessee.

Over the next 4 years my son would call asking help from time to time and I was always willing to give him the help he needed; a bed in a rehab, or halfway house, a connection with a friend that could get him to meetings, but I had to refuse the help he wanted.  Money, a car, and things he could use to sell or trade for drugs.  I did get him food a few times.

On December 23rd of 2015 I received the call that no parent wants to get.  He was in the hospital on life support.  Using needles had caused infection to attach to his heart and then other organs.  I flew 2,000 miles to see him for the last 9 hours of his life.  No parent should have to bury their child from a stupid disease like addiction.

I have to reject the feelings of guilt and tell myself that if I had done what he asked those, oh so many, times his death would have just come faster.  I have to remind myself that I gave him the best possible chance I could in the things I had any influence over.  I got him beds in rehabs he chose not to go to.  I offered to bring him to Tennessee if he would get back into recovery.  He just couldn’t break free from the things that held him captive, and then it was too late.

At least I didn’t love him to death, which would have been a guilt I wouldn’t want to deal with.  Instead I loved him enough to make the tough choices.

A year before he died He had another son born addicted which he lost to the system, and I was unable to get custody of.

So I say that not all endings are happy, but we have to do our best to make the best possible conditions for recovery to be attractive.  Always loving, never hurting, willing to do what will help and rejecting what won’t.   And always being willing to learn.  If your family is sick from a family member’s disease, treat the whole family.

The next Newsletter in this series will be “Parents and Families Part 2, Signs of Trouble”.

Please Share if you enjoyed this article. If you received it as a forward from a friend you can subscribe at www.piratesprings.org and you can read earlier newsletters at www.piratesprings.org/news

Definition of Communication from: http://www.unm.edu/~devalenz/handouts/defcomm.html

Definition of Codependency from: https://www.allaboutcounseling.com/codependency.htm

The Role of Schools in Prevention and Treatment

Addiction and Abstinence in today’s America and the battle against substance abuse are at a critical cross roads.  What follows is not a comprehensive plan, but a high level look at the shift in focus that is needed in our Schools’ approach to the problem of substance abuse.

After decades of “Just Say No” to drugs while the substance abuse counterculture increases; the jails are full of those convicted of possession and use charges, not to mention all of the crimes related to being under the influence or supporting a substance abuse habit after hearing that message.  There is no improvement in statistics, in fact they are worse; it’s time for a change.

I recently got my hands on a current copy (copyright 2015) of a Children’s Educational Coloring & Activity Book and the front page says, “SMART KIDS SAY NO TO DRUGS”.  Inside there is a page that says, “So why would anyone be dumb enough to take drugs, drink alcohol, or smoke, which mess absolutely everything up?”

I have a couple of issues with this.

  1. I went off the charts as far as IQ when I was in elementary school. I scored the highest the Los Angeles Armed Forces Enlistment and Entry Station (AFEES) had seen in 20 years when I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17.  I was offered, in Boot Camp, a chance to go to Quantico, VA to Preparatory School and then Annapolis Naval Academy because my scores were so high.  I turned that down and was assigned directly to Aerial Navigation School (the only time in the history of the Marine Corps) from Boot Camp.  I was a seventh grade dropout and started getting high at the age of 10. Smart Kids don’t do drugs didn’t apply.
  2. If you tell kids that, and they do drugs, drink or smoke, they are labeled stupid and carry that reinforcement of a good reason to have no self-esteem into addiction making recovery that much harder.  That message just isn’t right.

For me it had nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with not feeling like I thought I should.  I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere, I didn’t feel accepted for who I was, I felt like I was different.  I felt like I had to do all manner of crazy things to fit in and the things I did weren’t me they were driven by some misguided need.  It doesn’t matter why I felt the way I did for the purpose of this discussion, only that a combination of factors made me feel uncomfortable with being me.  Once I was introduced to drugs, and being able to numb that feeling and feeling like I now had something in common with other people, I felt at home.  For a while.

On top of my discomfort with being myself I grew up in an era (the 1960s) where one group of people (hippies) were glorifying drug use and another (the establishment) ran adds that showed that smoking Marijuana would make you go crazy and kill people.  After smoking a joint I knew that was a lie so I had an immediate distrust of authority.  Those that are in authority must be honest and have a message that can be trusted.

I don’t believe that telling our youth of any age to say no to drugs has a positive impact on more than a few, if any.  And I believe that there are precursors and signs we can watch for to know in advance who is at risk for drug abuse and addiction.

Those who suffer learning disabilities like ADD and ADHD, victims of abuse, children that are withdrawn or over boisterous, kids dealing with guilt or shame, kids who feel like their parents don’t have time for them, adrenaline seekers, just to name a few.  These are the kids that are feeling different, and want to not feel that way.

The approach must change and come away from just say no to drugs and become “Just Say Yes to You!”  Just because you feel different or out of place doesn’t mean you don’t belong.  There are others who feel just like you do and there is a way out.  You are important.  You are loved. Identifying these individuals early and addressing their troubles and their needs is key.

The message should be that there may be some temporary relief or fun in altering the way you feel but the risk is too great.  There is probably a great feeling jumping out of an airplane with no parachute, but the end of the ride is disastrous.

A school assembly or even smaller focused presentations by someone in recovery, that has taken a wrong turn but found their way back can be invaluable as the youth may hear something in the presentation that they relate to that happened before the problems started and hear that getting themselves refocused before their trouble begins may be easier than they thought.   This approach is more easily accepted by youth than the Just Say No campaign.

Another component that needs to be introduced is aimed at the youth that are already headed down that path.  Safe Harbor.

While Zero Tolerance must be enforced as far as drugs on campus, or youth determined to be under the influence, there can also be a Safe Harbor provision and approach to students that says, “If you come forward and admit you have a problem, we are not going to judge you, jail you, or expel you; we are going to help you find your way back.”  It is in most cases, after all, that acceptance is what these youth need and want, so to shun and punish is counterproductive to the problem.  To let them know they can safely come forward and be received and helped in an attitude of care and love changes the game.

In a New York Times article, written September 29, 2016, Maia Szalavitz discusses Preventure, a new approach to identifying youth that are at risk of addiction, which has not only resulted in dramatic reductions in addiction and substance abuse, but lowered the incidence of depression and reported anxiety in schools in Europe, Australia, and Canada.

“Early trials show that personality testing can identify 90 percent of the highest risk children, targeting risky traits before they cause problems”.

This approach requires new teacher training and personality testing at early ages, as well as follow up planning and treatment for those who are identified as “at highest risk”.

We need to be honest about the actual effect and progression of what drug use and abuse will do.  Our youth need to hear, and hear it again and again, that no one retires after a life of drug use, and has good stories to tell or talks about how good their life has been, but the world is full of people who either bemoan how bad life has been because they have been unable to get clean, or how much better life has become since they did get clean.

We must also identify the dangers found in all mind altering agents not limiting our presentations to the chemical of the moment.  It doesn’t matter whether the big problem is currently opiates, meth, crack, or alcohol.  If we do that we are just playing Whack-a-mole.

If we want to bring down the numbers of addicts, alcoholics, and criminal record holders in our population in the coming generation we need to have a better understanding of what will keep them from starting, and what will help them come back quickly if they do start down that dark and destructive road.   Being vigilant, observant, and engaged with our youth is where we must begin and understanding the dynamics of addiction are a must if we want change.

Parenting and familial involvement will be covered in the next installment of this series.  Topics will include enabling, co-dependency, and tough love.  Comments are appreciated.  Please share if you enjoyed the article.

If you received this newsletter as a forward from a friend you can subscribe at www.piratesprings.org and you can read earlier newsletters at www.piratesprings.org/news

Pirate Springs Newsletter – Addiction is a Global Problem

Addiction is a global problem and it needs a community solution. What part of the community needs to be involved? All of it.

It isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse and the cost is phenomenally high. In terms of dollars, human capital, relationships, innocents injured and damaged and on and on, the cost is more than we know.

We are weakened as a society and drained of resources that could be used to fuel growth, advancement, and the reestablishment of our national heritage as the world leader in virtually every area of living.

If the research is correct 1 in 3 people in the United States is negatively impacted by addiction. For the purpose of this discussion I include alcoholism as an addiction because it is. The 1 in 3 number is probably higher. From what I have seen it is more like 3 in 5.

Imagine a United States free from this blight, or at least the problem becoming minimal. It can happen but it requires a huge undertaking. A societal readjustment in thinking. Addicts aren’t hopeless, they can be not only helped, but can flourish to become some of the kindest and most helpful people just from gratitude for their freedom from addiction.

The community solution must include how to relate to these people, but it must also include a change in prevention understanding and education and a fundamental change in how we view both the active addict and the recovering addict.

In this series I am going to address my view of the changes that are needed. What are my qualifications? I have no degree in the field, but I think I have enough practical experience to merit an ear. With 22 years of active drug use beginning at the age of 10, 7 years as a pastor and counselor, and in recovery from addiction since 1987, and working with addicts wanting recovery; I have been an enabler, a codependent, husband of an addict stuck in the disease, father to addict children, and recovering children; I lost my oldest child who died at the age of 37 from his addiction and am raising his son, who was born addicted.

I have experienced pretty much every facet of addiction and live today in the serenity of my recovery and knowing that I have much I can give to those who care about how to treat this epidemic.

Since a community solution begins with our youth, I will begin this newsletter series with the first installment being focused on the prevention aspects of the solution.

I am not going to try to fit in all of the nuances required of this paradigm shift, although most are worthy of discussion, but I am going to seek to address the foundational changes that could result in dramatically changing the landscape of our present drug and alcohol blight if we can reach a critical mass of population that wants to have real and lasting change regarding this issue.

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