Dr. Stephen Dansiger has provided training, education, leadership, coaching and therapy for a diverse population for many years. Holding a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, he has created and run groups at several top treatment facilities, as well as serving as a Primary Therapist. In his private practice, he specializes in all substance and behavioral addictions, as well as working with PTSD, Complex PTSD, depression, anxiety and other disorders. Dr. Dansiger is a fully EMDRIA Certified EMDR therapist and uses it extensively in his private practice as well as with clients at ONE80CENTER.
Please bookmark our YouTube Channel and keep checking back here often. Many innovative minds in the recovery world were interviewed at this year’s event and footage is being rolled out gradually over the coming weeks to the greater community.
Transcripts and links to the remainder of Dr. Dansiger’s interview are available below:
QUESTION 01 – Tell us a bit about what you do. (link to video)
My name is Steve Dansiger. I am executive director at one80center. I also have a private practice in Beverly Hills. I am the overseer of the wellness program at One80. I also work director with the clinical director Berni Fried directing the clinical operations here
QUESTION 02 – How did you get in to the recovery world? (link to video)
I got in to the recovery world through the door that many people do, my own recovery. What happened was I was drinking too much and taking too many drugs and when I was 26 years old I had a bottom. I also had many other bottoms. My other bottoms were more devastating and physical. This bottom was more spiritual and emotional, like “I cant do this anymore .I surrender” kind of deal and so that brought me in to the world of recovery as a recovery person and I didn’t get in to it professionally for many years. I was a high school teacher and I was a musician and a writer and then I got in to a form of education that really put me in contact with people’s problems. I was a diversity trainer and managed conflict resolution. All those kind of things and so I always felt like I was a therapist. And then I had an experience where I was working with a small group of young people and I realized they all had substance abuse problems and that moment was kind of life changing and I wondered ‘I wonder what it would be like to help them and if that would help them get out of some of the problems they were getting in to”. So that’s how I got in to it and the way it went. I went back in to school. Ever since I became a therapist I’ve always had one foot in the recovery world
QUESTION 03 – What do you think are the of the more important innovations or new knowledge in the field of treatment? (link to video)
I think the reason it’s exciting to be in the field is because there’s a ton of them. Some it has to do with the neuroscience, which is not my forte – but something that I’m really interested in. We’re literally starting to know enough about the brain to be able to actually say things about it – whereas before it was really all conjecture. We’re starting to know more about the plasticity of the brain, the healing potential of the brain – which opens up a whole world. One of the worlds it really opens up is trauma-focused therapy and all of the theoretical orientation behind that. I specialize in EMDR therapy, which is heavily predicated on the idea of the brain having plasticity, being able to heal itself – and us as therapists being able to give clients the opportunity to have those things engage. So there’s a whole shift in a paradigm towards trauma focus and looking at trauma… it’s taken us a lot of years to get here… to look at trauma not just as a precursor to addiction, but to look at it as it’s own separate thing that allows us to heal the addiction and the trauma. The person is then less prone to relapse. So for me, personally – and professionally as a therapist – that’s the biggest innovation. EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, other therapies that address those issues and see addiction through that prism.
QUESTION 04 – What, if any – wellness activities do you incorporate into the treatment of your clients / patients? (link to video)
I’ll answer that in two ways. One in my private practice: I’ve been meditating in the Zen tradition for over 20-years now. Meditation and Mindfulness and those kind of constructs are brought in all the time. I think as a person and a therapist who has done that practice for as long as I have, it becomes part of the way that I relate to the client. I think it’s almost automatic. Also in my private practice I have a great spirit of curiosity about all of the different aspects of wellness in a person’s life. I am listening for keywords, I’m listening to what kind of resources we can bring in. At ONE80CENTER, it’s our primary focus. A big part of my job is to work with our Wellness Director to find every single resource that’s out there that can potentially help the client. We had a speaker today, I think it was Dr. Timothy Fong – who was talking about medications, but also talked about using all modalities… looking for the thing that will help that particular person. What can be a cure for one, can be poison for another. So it’s really trying to understand what each particular person is bringing to the table and what might represent an increase in wellness for them. Basically, we bring the kitchen sink – but not throw it at them. We, as a staff – listen to the client and try and help to guide them… from spirituality and nutrition to exercise. Mind, body, spirit.
QUESTION 05 – If you are in recovery how do you think that impacts the way you approach your work? (link to video)
I think is that there is a positive side to the fact that I have gone through a lot of the experiences. There could be a negative side to that too because that could lead me to project my own experience on to someone else but because I realized that a long time ago and had many mentors beat that out of me, of course I could slip in to it always have to track myself. But I think that I have become pretty good at utilizing the fact that I have been there on the clients behalf, without it being sponsorship in AA. It’s a clinical relationship where because I have that experience and I have had that exposure to and worked with all these wellness modalities I feel like it definitely feeds my perspective and helps me better understand what a person is going through and heal them .I am very careful not to think “they are going through this and this is what I did when I went through this. “ I think my clinical training helped me to see that this is not clinical. I am also very careful not to think of my clinical work as my recovery. My recovery is my recovery. Before I got my doctorate I got my masters and my first semester the only thing I learned was ‘you are going to need to take care of yourself in this profession.’ That was it. That was the only thing I learned the whole semester. So I am really aware that I need to be very vigilant about my own recovery and recovery and working as a clinician in recovery.
QUESTION 06 – What do you believe are some holistic ways that can beneficially supplement more traditional means of treatment for addiction towards a positive outcome? (link to video)
Just in thinking of the word holistic, our speakers today were a very eclectic mix of perspectives. But the one unifying theme I heard today was that each different perspective is actually part of one holistic approach. I think of the traditional approach as being part of the holistic approach. It’s more about how the different modalities might interlock with each other and provide the best outcomes. The ones that are near and dear to me are trauma focused therapy, somatic experiencing. It’s strange with all this new data to support it, that it’s still looked at as cutting-edge or labeled with an undeserved cache as alternative treatment. It’s actually just really, really good therapy. So EMDR and Yoga are treatments in addition to all the other things that it is. It really changes the brain and the mind, body, spirit connection. Any and all other practices like that, I come from a Zen background – so sitting meditation, focusing on breathing… and then there’s some things that people think of traditionally, but forget to really individualize like exercise. It’s not one size fits all. Finding ways to bring treatment teams together, all talking to each other – to find ways to bring meaningful activities to people in recovery.
QUESTION 07 – What do you think about the role of nutrition in early recovery? (link to video)
I think that it is utterly crucial and a couple of our speaker addressed it today. And I addressed it today wit an anecdote about a friend who remarked that if he were in a bad mood he would think he had to get a new therapist or a new AA group , or break up with his girlfriend or get new friends but what he really needed was a cheeseburger. People just getting hungry or people not eating right can sabotage anything and everything else they try. I have had eating issues around me in the past and I have seen many types of diets. I tried a vegan diet for a couple of years, vegetarian, and a pescatarian, I have gone all over the block and then there was a point where I was just chasing cattle down the street. So I have been through all these phases and I really have noticed the difference. Regardless of which of those diets I was on, there is a way of doing each one of those correctly. Then the other piece of it is nutrition. Like anything else there is a lot that we know that is general knowledge that works for most people but again it is not cookie cutter either. What we talked about today with assessments and seeing MDs and holistic healers and other people who do tests and blood work etc and work together and get a sense of what is going on with one person nutritionally that can be adjusted to provide them with more energy, a better mood, and more ability to deal with their general recovery.
QUESTION 08 – What are your thoughts about incorporating a better understanding of wellness as it relates to the treatment of addiction within the field of treatment professionals? (link to video)
I think that a large part of that is what we are doing here at one80center by inviting the local community to be a part of our community and by that I mean the local community of treatment professions. One of our goals is to create a better understanding of all these modalities and all of these ways of looking at treatment. There are times that we have outside therapists and they will join our treatment team and be part of the person’s treatment. And they may be looking through a different prism and we get to learn from them what’s working for them and they get to learn from us all these pieces of wellness we are so concerned with. There is a reason why we have chosen wellness day to be a theme of our major event every year. The idea is that if we can spread an understanding, I wont call it message, of what seems to be a remarkable truth that has been around a couple thousand years or so. That in addition to the scientific knowledge that we have acquired over time, that the more treatment professionals see this as a pathway to peoples healing the more people will get the healing. So I think it is radically important.
QUESTION 09 – What do you think are the most important wellness related components for a clients recovery and why? (link to video)
Again I think again it’s going to be very individual. I think this was a theme here today. I think that the real wellness or the core of it, is going to come from the feeling of safety. And it’s going to come from a feeling of interconnectedness and community and being heard. I think that there are many pieces to wellness and I think those ones that I just listed are the ones that open the gateway to the others. If a person feels safe and heard then they can then hear themselves or people on the outside saying ‘hey there’s a yoga class’ ‘hey have you thought about eating this.?’ There are the gateway drugs and theses are the gateways to wellness.
I’ve been writing about the tough spots during the Holidays, partly because I personally find freedom by talking about what I am going through, and partly because I know others are also fragile during the holidays, more so than at other times. I have gotten some feedback about how some people don’t like it when people keep hoolding the Holidays as a hard time for us alcoholic/addicts. Their argument is that we shouldn’t be more careful at the holidays, that we should be that careful at all times. I for one think of the holidays like a potentially icy road- it might not be icy, but best to drive with extra caution in the event that you hit a patch of ice. You wouldn’t need to drive like that on a summer day, but you still have to drive mindfully no matter what. Mostly, though, I speak to the newly sober when I talk about the potential mine field the holidays can be- the first Christmas can be a difficult time.
As much as I relate to the Holidays being a tricky time, I also love the Holidays. My kids and I put up the tree right after Thanksgiving, and Christmas movies are played on rotation until the New Year. I love holiday movies and the theme of redemption best of all. Even if you don’t recognize Christmas, this is a theme that is appealing no matter what you celebrate.
Dr. Reef Karim:
How you guys doing? Can you hear me okay? Are we good? Yeah, so I’m Reef Karim and I’m very happy to be here and I thank you for inviting me. I’ve had a long history with the One80 folk. Um, from previous rehabs, patients that we’ve shared in common…
Uh, I run a treatment center called The Control Center and we refer patients here and we really believe in the One80 model. And there’s a very similar philosophy of integrating medicine with spiritual healing. Very often in the academic world, if you go to UCLA, if you go to Harvard, if you go to John Hopkins, and you go inside the medical area, cause we all hang out in a little area. If you see the psychiatrist, and the internees, and the people that deal with addiction there, it’s very much about the medications, it’s about the pharmacology. It’s about, “Hey, great job with the Abilify!” it’s about, you know “That Zyprexa was awesome!” You know, and we pat each other on the back, and that’s what we do. It’s about the pharmacology.
And then if you go out into the real world, and you go out into the community and you look at how many people got sober through 12 step philosophy. And how many people got sober through spiritual healing, without meds. You see that there’s a large number of people who have done it with, and a large number of people who have done it without. And really the best way of dealing with this kind of disease is the integration of both. The integration of, uh…Tim, is that you? See, let me explain one thing. When I talk about academic medicine it’s very competitive. So, you may have somebody trying to sabotage your lecture, who works with you, who does it in a not so subtle way. But that’s Tim Fong for ya.
So, the integration of spiritual healing and academic medicine and evidence based medicine is really the way to go and really the way of the future. So, thank you for inviting me here.
I think–am I the only Indian speaker? I dunno, am I? I really love being Indian. First off, because we’re in which is great. Slumdog Millionaire, Kama Sutra, Yoga, I mean, I could go on. And we more or less present with instant spiritual street craft, right? And the coolest thing about being Indian is that no matter what I say, it can come across and be interpreted spiritually. It’s really cool! I’ll be like in a car, passenger seat, green light, and I’ll be like, (pointing) “Uh, the um, the light just turned green.”
“No way! Oh my God! I get it! I get it! The metaphoric symbolism of the light green manifests the representation of me detoxifying through my poor existence and moving on with my life!”
“Yeah, something like that.”
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve worked with patients and I’ve said something that is just like a throw away, and all of the sudden they were like, “Oh my God I get it! That makes so much sense!”
And I don’t know if it has to do with being a psychiatrist or being Indian.
I was meditating when I was five. In an Indian family spirituality is looked at at a very young age and nurtured. I mean one second I was playing with Legos, cause they’re cool, and the next second it was,
“Okay, today we are going to learn to meditate. Lotus position, ready, steady, go, do it!”
And uh, that’s more or less how I learned to meditate. And I’ve been meditating from then until now. I had a time with a patient where, I don’t ever really discuss my philosophy in regards to spiritual healing, or religion or…I was raised Sufi…Eastern background. And I never discussed it, I just didn’t. And one day I was with a patient and I was doing all my Psycho-Pharmacology talk, and then, we were just like, okay, let’s just talk for real. And he was like, “How do you deal with stressors in your life?” Because anxiety was a huge trigger for him. And, and I was like, “Well, I follow kinda like the journey of how I was raised, what I was raised to do with anxiety, mood states, sleep, all of that kind of stuff. And he was like, “Well, what do you do?” And I said, “Well, I have something called an ‘Ismaasim’ which is a word for, almost like a mantra based, a Buddhist mantra practice. And this is what I do. I meditate this number of times a day, for this kind of time period and this is how I try to stay centered, I don’t always succeed at it, but you know, I do the best that I can.”
And that to him was more fascinating than Zyprexa, Abilify, and Risperdal combined! It was like…that just blew his mind. And from then on I go, “Wow! That was kind of cool” and then I attended some AA groups and I looked at the spiritual element of that, I looked at some Buddhist groups that deal with AA practice, I looked at Molatti which is a Muslim version of that, I looked at some Hindu practices in India and I thought it was fascinating! I was like, “Wow! This is a spiritual disease. It’s got, it fully has neuro-biological correlates to it but this is underlying, this is a spiritual disease!”
So then I started looking up…trying to get as much worldly experience as I could as a physician. So I joined a world health organization program where I lived in central Turkey and I worked with Sufi mystic leaders. Then I worked with the Indian Health Service for 6 months and I lived on the Navajo and Hopi reservations and grew my hair really long and lived in a trailer. And then I went to Peru, to see how they detoxed people in Peru and then I went to India. And did a whole…it was during the tsunami and it was a whole PTSD thing but I got to really learn how especially dual diagnosis was treated in India.
And one of the experiences I had when I was living on the reservations was um, I want to share that with you… I had a, I was working at a hospital and I was just finishing up medical school. And in medical school, you know, you’re super eager. When you’re in med student you have that little white coat, this determines how cool a doctor is: the longer the white coat, the cooler the doctor, and the more experienced the doctor. So when you’re a med student, you get this little short coat, and it’s stuffed with all this—cause you don’t know anything, and you can’t memorize all that stuff and you have to put it in your pockets and you have all these books in your pockets and they’re huge, and all these pens and you write all over your coat accidentally and it’s interesting…
So I’m a med student in this hospital, and it’s a very small hospital in the middle of Kayenta, Arizona and uh, and they don’t have any doctors on staff at night except one guy. So this one guy runs the ER, and he runs the hospital more or less, and they can call in a surgeon here or there. And so I go in and I’m this eager med student with my pockets full and I’m like, “Let’s go, let’s do it, what are we doing? Is there anything going on?” And he’s like, “No it’s pretty…it’s dead today, nothing’s going on.” “Okay.”
And then all of the sudden a cardiac arrest comes in. So, this doctor and the nurses are all over the cardiac arrest—that’s their thing. And so, I’m just kinda sitting around and I’m like, watching, and I’m trying to see what they’re doing. And can I stick a needle in somebody’s heart? What can I do? Somebody tell me what’s going on…
And while that happens, a little kid comes in with his family. And this little kid is like, pushing on his stomach, he’s like, he’s hurting, he’s like, “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts!”
And so, we wanna get some labs, we wanna check him out, do a physical exam.
And it was diffuse abdominal tenderness and it was acute, and acute, so, he had a fever. …So what are you thinking? Appendicitis. And I’m like, “Ooooh, that’s right!” And I look at my book and there’s something called McBurney’s point.
Yeah, good job Alex (aside to Alex). There’s something called…
See—you get supportive friends and you’ve got sabotage friends (motioning towards Alex and Dr. Fong) sitting right next to each other. This is the Yin and the Yang of life right here.
So, when we looked at this patient, it moved over to the right side, McBurney’s point, and I’m like, “Appendicitis. Yes!” Cause when you’re a med student you just wanna see everything so I’m like, “Cool, I get to see this.”
So, they brought in a surgeon, I assisted on the surgery, I talked to the family before hand. And I’m like, “Okay, here’s the deal: Your son has appendicitis. It’s ruptured, we’re gonna take it out. We’re gonna excise it (that’s the word we use) we’re gonna remove it and your son will be all better.” And they were like,
“Okay, thank you.” They had their entire huge family there. So, we go into surgery, we do it, I come out, and I’m like, in hero mode, and I’m like, “Okay, so it was successful, we did it, all is good, and your son’s better, and you’re gonna see him tomorrow we’re just gonna keep him over night, and all is good.”
You know, and I was literally waiting for applause, I don’t know what I was waiting for because as a med student, you don’t see that much. And they just looked at me, the entire family and the grandfather who spoke broken English was like, “Thank you for your part of all of this.” And I was like, “Alright…my part of all of this” And I go, “He’s better, he’s better!” And he’s like, “Thank you. We’ll take over the rest of the healing from here.” And I was like, “Okay, what are you talking about?”
And their belief was, that, what happened was that the son got in a huge fight with the grandfather and during a time of kind of, family prayer, so to speak, he wished the grandfather was dead. And it was a really heated exchange, the son couldn’t control his anger, couldn’t contain his emotions, and they feel that the only way that that son was going to understand what happened and how this was wrong was a somatic representation of the inner disharmony going on in him. And the somatic representation became the appendicitis.
So the way to treat that is, the Western version is, hey, fix that end result problem but we’re gonna deal with the underlying healing process and the underlying disharmony of the spirit.
And, when I look at medicine and I look at healing in regards to addiction I use that similar metaphor. Sure, there’s the outside, there’s the, “Okay, how much coke have you been using and how much alcohol have you been drinking and what has this done to your glutamate receptor site and what’s going on here with GABA and what’s happening with dopamine, yeah. And there is a great interaction between science and spiritual healing. But if you just tackle the end result and you don’t tackle the subtext of what brought about or facilitated the end result, what are you doing? You’re making that patient come back, cause they’re gonna relapse, and they’re gonna keep coming back to you over and over and over. So, I really applaud the Wellness Day because it really mixes this concept of spirituality with addiction treatment.
I wanted to share a little bit of how that science is applied. So an example is, there’s a lot of good research on meditation specifically. There’s some on acupuncture, there’s some on yoga, there’s some on different elements of trauma in regards to somatic experiencing and EMDR. But I want to specifically just kinda stay on the functional neuro-imaging.
And, they did a lot of research on monks. They’ve done some on other people but for what ever reason the theory is monks can reach enlightenment and if they can, cause they’re good at it, then we’ll get more data from that group of people. So, they’ve done research with spec scans, functional MRIs and other things.
With a lot of these studies, what comes about more than anything else, is a left frontal lobe activation. That’s the primary thing, and if you follow positive psychology you know there’s a left frontal application in regards to that. So, also with attentional deficits, and problems with distractibility and attention, you see problems with specifically, frontal lobe activation it’s hyper activated. So, in regards to that, when you’re doing meditation the easy thing is, well, okay, you can practice attentional states, you can increase your ability to pay attention, to not be distracted, we all know that, that’s the obvious one. Right? So you get that moralis for free.
But what we don’t know as much about until this last research let’s say in the last 5-10 years is the concept of empathy. We’re all familiar with empathy, right? Being able to understand what somebody else is going to, being able to relate in regards to human connectedness being able to recognize facial features, even if you look at Autistic patients or Aspergers patients one of their biggest things is face recognition and their inability to…it’s interesting, there’s this area of the brain called the fusiform gyrus which is, when I look at Deborah and I see that bored look on her face, it makes me feel like, “Oh…jeeze…” and I have a response to it. So, there’s this facial recognition that’s processed in my brain when someone has Aspergers or Autism, they look at Deborah, the area of the brain is the inferior temporal gyrus that lights up, I look at her in a way very similar to looking at a chair. They way I would look at a chair is, I would look at this chair and I would be like, “It’s a chair. Okay, cool.” I don’t have a emotional response to a chair, it’s a chair. So, if I look at Deborah and I see her like a chair, I don’t have an emotional response.
In addicts, you see some element of that. That concept of…you know those people that you see and they’re just numbed out? They’re just kind of zoned out. They just don’t have that brightness about them. Some of it is that. And there’s brain correlates that go along with it. So, there’s an area of the brain that lights up called the right anterior insula. And that area of the brain is anterior receptive. It’s that gut feeling about, “Uhhhhh…I don’t think this is a good idea.” or, “I really respond well to that person.” or, “I get that person.” or, “I feel the way that person’s feeling…I feel for that person, or with that person.” It’s the concept of human connectedness. That area of the brian lights up significantly with meditation. So the ability to connect with other people is greatly enhanced if you can be a really strong progressive meditator that does it on a regular basis.
Another area of the brain that lights up is your right hippocampus. And the way we process memories is really through our amygdala, our hippocampus, and a couple other areas within the circuitry. The right hippocampus when it’s activated, it’s easier to process memories. How many addicts do we have that when they’re either high, or they’re withdrawing or they’re even sober, cannot process what we’re saying? From a frontal lobe activation let alone their experiences? Part of that is their inability to activate this part of the brain. And then, probably some of us have heard of the amygdala, the amygdala is an area of the brain, it’s kind of almond shaped, that deals with fear. Primarily, a bunch of other things too, but the big one, in regards to this research, is fear.
So, if you’ve got an over-active amygdala it’s like a car alarm that is continuously that’s going on and on and on and on. There’s this hyper arousal over-stimulated state that you’re constantly in all the time. And meditation will really help to kind of quiet that area of the brain to cause a little more stress reduction and a little more calming.
So, that’s just an example…am I losing you? (baby cooing in the background) I’ve lost out to a baby (laughter), it’s okay she’s cute!
So, um, I just wanted to end with a quote here. But the main thing I want to say is that spirituality does not have to be a non-medical practice. It has medical correlates in the brain. And the more we study it, the more we understand it, and the more evidence we have for it, from a neuro-biological perspective, I think the more acceptable it’ll be.
And hopefully we’ll get to the point, because in animal studies we’ve seen generational transfer. Which means, if you take a rat, that’s super stressed out and rats that are not stressed out and you actually get them…they put them in more self soothing states with music and other things. It’s not exactly like you get a rat to meditate. But you can do things that are more…that’d be cool though, wouldn’t it? But if you can put them in calming states, they actually have done reproductive studies where they look at generational transfer amongst rats. And those that were less anxious, that started out anxious, carried the genes of less anxiety along the way, they didn’t carry the genes that they started with, which were potentially the anxious genes. So we’re not just meditating for us, we’re meditating for our offspring as well.
So, this is kind of a Sufi quote that I just want to end with:
“If you attend to the negative aspects of life, if you choose to focus your attention on the weakness of others, on their faults and shortcomings. You draw to yourself the lower frequency energy currents of disdain, arrogance, anger, and hatred. You put distance between yourself and others, you create obstacle to your loving self and away from your soul. If you direct your energy into criticism of others with the intention to disable them, you create a negative karma. And that negative karma can be passed on and on and on.”
So, uh, I hope none of us do that. Thank you.
Co-Occurring Disorders In The New York Times: After Drugs and The Dark Times, Antonio Lambert Helps Others to Stand Back Up
Below is a powerful excerpted article about co-occurring disorders that appeared at the end of December in the New York Times and is written by Benedict Carey. Focusing on how the co-occurring disorders of substance abuse and mental problems can ravage the life of a human being, leaving almost nothing but prison and a trail of damage behind. What’s incredible in the tale of Antonio Lambert is how he manages through faith, medication and companionship to come back and create a positive and constructive life, learning the same “peer specialist” skills he teaches. Antonio Lambert’s story is an inspiration for us all in this holiday season.
At ONE80CENTER, our experienced staff and clinical team believe that co-occurring disorders do not have to be a life sentence of disaster, destruction and death. Instead, we believe wholeheartedly during this holiday season that the road of recovery is open to everyone who is willing and ready to make that change. Remember: You don’t have to do it alone! We can help lead you not only through detoxification and onto the path of initial sobriety, but down the long-term road that leads to true recovery and the freedom, happiness and serenity you deserve.
The Dark Legacy Of Co-Occurring Disorders
SMYRNA, Del. — The taste of cocaine and the slow-motion sensation of breaking the law were all too familiar, but the thrill was long gone. Antonio Lambert was not a young hoodlum anymore but a family man with a career, and here he was last fall, high as any street user, sneaking into his workplace at 9 o’clock at night, looking for — what, exactly? He didn’t really know.
He left the building with a few cellphones (which he threw away) and a feeling that he was slipping, falling back down into a hole. He walked in the darkness, walked with no place to go, and then he began to do what he has taught others in similar circumstances to do: turn, face the problem, and stand back up. “I started talking to myself, out loud; that’s one of my coping strategies, and one reason I relapsed is I had forgotten to use those,” said Mr. Lambert, 41, a mental health educator who has a combined diagnosis — mood disorder with drug addiction — that is among the scariest in psychiatry. Mr. Lambert, a self-taught ex-convict who is becoming a prominent peer trainer, gives classes in Delaware and across the country. He is one of a small number of people who have chosen to describe publicly how difficult it is to manage such a severe dual diagnosis, including the sudden setbacks that often come with it.
Handling Co-Occurring Disorders Through Passion And Commitment
“He is an extreme example of how much difference passion and commitment can make, given where he’s come from,” said Steve Harrington, the chief executive of the National Association of Peer Specialists, a group devoted to promoting peer support in mental health care. Mr. Lambert, who has climbed out of a deep hole with the help of religious faith, medication and his own forms of self-expression, puts it this way: “There are a lot of people dealing with mental illness, drugs, abandonment, abuse, and they don’t think there’s a way out. I didn’t. I didn’t.”
Bean Bean in Spider City
His grandmother was the first person to call him Bean Bean, and the boy was so skinny that he couldn’t shake it. He couldn’t avoid the older toughs in the Brighton section of Portsmouth, Va., either, and he spent some of his school-age years taking beatings. That was Brighton back in the day, and at least those fights taught survival skills. Not everything did: He remembers being sexually abused at age 6, by an older boy in the neighborhood — brutally.
Later, he began to stand his ground on the street, earning a name as an up-and-coming gangster by age 12, a regular presence at Palmer’s Corner, home base for the heavies, the alpha males of Brighton — Spider City, as they called it. He was soon into drugs, first as a courier and then as local muscle, armed and very dangerous. He began using more and more cocaine, crack usually. The skinny boy grew big, strong and crazy enough that he would ride around on his bike with a sawed-off shotgun on the handlebars, pull up to a group of dealers and throw an empty bag on the ground in front of them, with these instructions: Fill it up. Now.
“I would shoot the gun off in the air to show I was serious, then just take the drugs and move on to the next pack of dealers, and lay them all down,” he said. He was a junior in high school. It couldn’t last, and it didn’t. He survived several gunfights, taking a bullet behind the ear in one (it is still lodged there), and in another being ambushed from behind and hit in the legs, arms and pelvis; those bullets were all removed without lasting damage, except for prominent scars. But the police were onto him now, and by 1991, at the age of 21, he was in prison, sentenced to 22 years for malicious wounding with a firearm and other charges, according to Portsmouth court records.
He was not a model prisoner at first. He incited a protest at one institution, after which guards confined him to a “segregation” cell, away from other prisoners, for nearly two years. He began to read in there, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, then Robert Ludlum, James Clavell, Sun Tzu, anything he could find. That curiosity nourished a deepening ambition that one day in 2002 turned to conviction. “This young thug I knew from the neighborhood comes in, first day of a life sentence, and he puts his hands up and says, ‘Hey, man, I’m here!’ — like he’s coming into a house party,” Mr. Lambert said. “That did it. I knew I had to get out and find a life, something. I didn’t know what, or how.”
Later, Antonio Lambert got a lifeline, is how, and it came just in time and from an unexpected source. Feeling lost, moody and desperate for his medication of choice, he was in trouble. The gunmetal taste of cocaine was irresistible, and at least it broke the fall. But his mood would return darker, and he would have to get high again. That is how it almost always goes with a dual diagnosis of addiction and a mood disorder, doctors say: Each problem inflames the other, in a cycle that is extremely difficult to break.
He found himself drifting toward the George Washington Highway, feeling in some ways more hopeless than he had behind bars — when his cellphone buzzed. It was his mother now living in California, and she had just seen something on late-night television: an advertisement for Teen Challenge USA, a Christian-based recovery program.
She gave him a phone number. He wrote it down, sat on the stoop of a boarded-up house and thought about it for a long time, and then dialed. The man on the other end listened and offered to waive the fee if the young man pledged himself to God. He completed the program, in Greensboro, N.C., and soon found a job. He was living clean, the family was intact and according to his medical records, a local therapist put him on lithium, a standard treatment for severe mood swings.
In 2007, he attended a training talk by Mr. Harrington, the chief executive and founder of the national peer association. “He was asking all these questions that reflected a lot of thought,” Dr. Harrington, now a postdoctoral fellow at Boston University, said in an interview. “When I heard more of his story, I told him, ‘Look, you can do what I do.’ ” They stayed in touch, and soon Mr. Harrington called to say he had scheduled Mr. Lambert to give a keynote speech at an event in Michigan. He boarded a plane in Greensboro, unsure of what he was getting into. “I didn’t even know what ‘keynote’ meant,” he said. “I thought I might have to sing.”
The story told itself, and people in the audience who feared for a loved one with similar problems wanted to hear more. Parents from all walks of life, doctors, clergy members and co-workers have pulled him aside to see if he could talk to a wayward son, or a daughter into drugs. He joined Dr. Harrington to form a company, Recover Resources, which sells peer support manuals, DVDs and other educational materials. A training session in June, hosted by the Delaware Psychiatric Center and run by Mr. Lambert, was life-changing for at least one attendee.
The Navy veteran had also struggled with substance abuse and a psychiatric diagnosis. “I knew from the first smoke break that this was someone important for me,” said the veteran, Justin Thompson, 28, who has since completed his peer certification under Mr. Lambert and now works as a peer specialist. The two have become close friends. “I just related to him right away, his passion, his story, the positive energy he brings — all of it.”
“You got to understand, for me, right now, what I been through, it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s all real,” Mr. Lambert said. “But I know my own mental illness and my addiction are real; I feel like they’re out there right now, doing push-ups, getting ready to take me down again. That’s why I got to have my own system for staying strong.”
When Mr. Lambert feels his mind capsizing fast, he feels he needs a peer himself, someone with a history who knows what it looks like — from the inside — to be struggling mentally, deep in trouble, and feeling dead out of options. Someone who can be an advocate, a companion, who can share his or her own story: who can simply be there, if that’s what it takes.
On a recent Saturday morning, Mr. Lambert was home alone, watching college football, when he felt a pulse of that same darkness and exhaustion that led to his last relapse. “I call it the monster,” he said. “I was lying there on the couch, and after a while, the college football was watching me.” He called Mr. Thompson, who hurried over with a pair of fishing poles. The two of them fished that afternoon. They fished and had a smoke and talked about nothing much, and neither could say exactly when it happened but it did. The monster was gone.
And the monster can be gone for you as well. ONE80CENTER understands that the road to long-term recovery is difficult and filled with potential pitfalls and problems. As a result, we have created a long-term community and support system for our clients that continues after treatment and never truly ends. We know how tough it is to deal with co-occurring disorders, and we are there to help you find recovery.
I was thinking the other day of something I heard about years ago. It was a story about how important it is for a baby chick to fight its way out of the egg. It is quite a struggle, and the impulse for any kind hearted person would be to help the little guy out. So someone did that, and the baby chick died shortly thereafter. Apparently, the struggle to emerge activated necessary muscles that the chick would need for survival outside the egg. It needed to strengthen its neck muscles with the pecking and squirming, its little legs with the kicking and scratching.
It is the same for us. We develop muscles and skills in our emerging process in recovery that are critical to our survival in sobriety. That is why they say to carry the message, and not the alcoholic- if we carry the alcoholic, they may not gain the musculature they need for the future. It isn’t always easy to know the dividing line between being of service, and being an enabler for other negative behaviors.
When I was first in recovery, I certainly didn’t know the difference. I found myself running after women who had gone out on a run, banging on doors where they were holed up with their junky boyfriends, running to hotel rooms to drag drunk women into a detox (more than once for the same woman), I’ve been thrown up on by women and once was peed on, I’ve held their hair while they threw up in the toilet, trying to count the number of pills that were undigested. I’ve carried women who weigh more than me up stairs. I could keep going here, but you get the idea.
I will say this- my heart was in the right place. It was. But errantly so; these things did not ultimately help any of these women. I remember calling the sponsor of some of these women who said- “I don’t run after wet ones,” or, “I don’t get involved in the madness.” I couldn’t understand it. My own sponsor, in one of these situations, got really angry with me. She said they were not willing, they were drunk, and when they sobered up and got willing they could give a call. I remember thinking this sounded wrong; weren’t we supposed to do everything in our power to help?
I really don’t know where that line is. But I do understand that no human power can relieve us of our alcoholism, and also I do understand that after many of these scenarios, I am not in a hurry to go running after someone who is out there using. I have seen that it isn’t effective. I have seen how ugly and crazy it is, and that talking to the disease is fruitless. It lies and lies and says what you want to hear. It’ll realize that the only way out is to act sorry and clean up a little and get me off their back so they can go use again.
One friend I used to always go running after would feign an utter lack of being able to do anything. She made herself seem so incompetent, as if left to her own devices she would crumple into a wad of discarded paper, like a small child. I would make calls to get her into treatment, to find people to help her move, donate money to the storage, take care of her dogs, you name it- and every time she would get a couple of months and disappear again. After one run, she picked up the phone and made some calls herself, and got herself from the crack den she was living in to a sober living, all on her own. She was literally the baby chick pecking her own way out of the shell. What I had done was tried to take the shell off for her, robbing her of the struggle that is so vital to her ability to stay sober.
There are no hard and fast rules to it; we are here to help another alcoholic achieve sobriety. Some people put newcomers up in their homes, some give rides to them, some take their phone calls or escort them to court to offer support. Keeping the metaphor of the baby chick in mind, we can listen to the newcomer and try to discern where we can really offer support, without doing the work for them. I knew a woman once who I met at a 9 am meeting. She was a little wobbly, and she was stressing about the time in between meetings at that location. There were meetings all day, but about 1 or 2 hours in between. She wanted someone to take her home and bring her back to the meetings instead of sitting there in between and waiting, if need be. I did that; that same meeting, I just sat there in between and talked to whoever was also hanging around. It was awful for me as a newcomer, I felt lame and like everyone had somewhere important to go to except me. I was the one loser hanging around the church waiting for the next meeting. But for me, it was incredibly humbling exactly because it was so uncomfortable. I conveyed this to her, and she ended up doing the same. I saw her over this past weekend at a brunch spot and she came up to hug me, and thanked me for suggesting she hang around in between meetings, that she had met some of her strongest support team members in the lull.
After presenting at this year’s Wellness Day 2011, the WTF with Marc Maron podcast host took some time for a one-on-one interview. Always insightful, candid and very perceptive – Marc answers some very personal and revealing questions.
For over fifteen years, Marc Maron has been writing and performing raw, honest and thought-provoking comedy for print, stage, radio and television. A legend in the stand-up community, he has appeared on HBO, Conan, Letterman, Craig Ferguson, Real Time, The Green Room, two Comedy Central Presents specials and almost every show that allows comics to perform. He has appeared on Conan O’Brien more than any other comedian (a record 46 times and counting).
His podcast WTF with Marc Maron, featuring compelling monologues and in-depth interviews with comedy icons like Conan O’Brien, Louis CK, Robin Williams and Ben Stiller – premiered in September 2009 and is a complete phenomenon. The show hits #1 on the iTunes comedy charts regularly, boasts over 24 million downloads to date and has been called a “must-listen” by Vanity Fair and New York Times, among many others. Select WTF episodes began airing on public radio stations across the US in June.
Please bookmark our YouTube Channel and keep checking back here often. Many innovative minds in the recovery world were interviewed at this year’s event and footage is being rolled out gradually over the coming weeks to the greater community.
Transcripts and links to the remainder of Marc’s interview are available below:
QUESTION 01 – Please tell us a bit about what you do and why? (link to video)
I’m Marc Maron. I host the WTF podcast, which is a monologue, followed by a one on one interview with a comedian for an hour, where we talk about everything. It usually gets pretty dark and deep. Sometimes not, but generally. Everything is talked about: Addiction. Sex, parents, gender issues, race issues, jokes. The good stuff. I started the podcast because I was at the bottom of my life and my career. I was broke and divorced but sober and I didn’t know what else to do. This medium afforded some sort of freedom and control and we just started doing it twice a week and I reached out to my community and really focused on having authentic conversations with people who I think are innate philosophers and psychologists and cultural critics whether they know it or not.
QUESTION 02 – How did you come to your field of work? (link to video)
I always wanted to be comedian since I was a little kid and then at some point I realized that it was possible. I don’t think I had a plan b. Not even sure I had a plan A. I was just compelled and once I started doing it I never stopped doing it. It’s got a lot of different waves and it ended up with me in my garage talking to people.
QUESTION 03 – How do you approach addiction directly or indirectly in your field of work? (link to video)
Well I have 12 years sober. Many of the people I talk to have addiction issues. Some more than others. Some not at all. But the way I approach it is straight up recovery, 12-step program. But when I talk about that with other people who are still active or not I don’t judge. I try to offer my help to them or my experience at least. But its sort of interesting talking to people about anything that has some emotional heft to it or any sort of problem or any sort of trauma. That’s especially talking to people who are used to talking and getting laughs or won’t let anything sit too far deeply in a conversation where it becomes bleak. I think there is a lot of strength in that. So talking to my peers about something heavy whether its addiction or not there’s a certain levity to it. There is a processing of it in the immediate moment that I think provides some people with relief.
QUESTION 04 – What role do you think creativity has in achieving wellness? (link to video)
Well depending on whether or not your creativity comes from your wellness or not is something everyone has to decide for themselves. I think that transcending the struggles of life or at least interpreting them through any individual’s creativity is really what creates proactive movement towards resolution, relief, and overcoming. I think my field, humor can be an incredible tool for keeping darkness at check and for creating a worldview that affords some levity.
QUESTION 05 – How do you think your contribution to healing people intersects with some of the other things that are going on today? (link to video)
Well I think that all I do, is have authentic conversations or I try to, in as open a way as possible. with a certain amount of instinct and trust. I think that because we have become so distant from each other even though we are among each other, whether its technology or fear, there is a lot of obstacles between the simple connections between 2 people having a conversation. And to stay in that and be an active listener is incredibly rewarding. I think its become lost and I think in a therapeutic environment a lot of times we talk about the problem and we’re addressing the problem and we all have the same problem but sometimes being just open enough to have a genuine conversation about anything, is frightening for some people because they think “what if I’m not cool? What if I don’t know what they are talking about,? What if I have a different opinion than them?” So there’s a lot of manufacturing of shields that people go through ,but I think we are all innately equipped and capable and want to have comfortable conversations and its very rewarding. It’s the core and basis of community.
QUESTION 06 – How do you think your own sobriety impacts what you do and the way you see things? (link to video)
It stops me from destroying myself. That struggle alone has fueled a lot of my perception and my stand up. And also allowing things to be what they are without hating what they are, because I think they could be something else. My brain manufactures the worst possible scenarios all the time and I react to it as if it’s real. I don’t think I would have been able to stifle that without sobriety. So I think the self-acceptance possible through being sober has changed everything because it means that at least some of the fear goes away.
In An In-Depth Analysis, A British Panel Of Addiction Experts Ranks Alcohol As The United Kingdom’s Most Harmful And Dangerous Drug
The Clinical Team at ONE80CENTER were not surprised when an in-depth study by a panel of British Experts concluded that alcohol is the world’s most dangerous drug when you consider the harm it does to drinkers, their friends and families and to society in general. The damage that alcohol does exceeds the dangers of any other drug category examined, including, methamphetamine, heroin and crack cocaine. When the overall danger to both the drinker and to others is taken into account, alcohol clearly presents the greatest ongoing societal problem.
True Danger Of Alcohol Revealed Is No Surprise
Are you surprised that this is the conclusion of a panel of British experts that assessed and ranked the harm caused by 17 different drugs, both legal and illegal? Members of Britain’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) and two specialists from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) carefully assessed the harm caused by each drug in 16 separate categories. The scientists ranked each drug on a scale of 0 to 100 in nine areas related to the harm that the drugs do to the individual and seven categories of harm they do to others.
In the comprehensive study, the British panel looked at the physical, psychological and social harm the drugs do to life expectancy, health risks, dependence, mental functioning, loss of tangibles and property, loss of relationships, crime, costs to society, family adversities and other factors. By applying a multi-criteria analysis to each drugs included, then weighing the priority of the harms and the relative dangers, the scientists were able to give each drug a score that could be compared and combined across all 16 criteria. Alcohol easily came out on top.
What is so impressive about the study is how comprehensive the examination of the harm done by substance abuse to both the individual abuser, his family and social circle, and society as a whole. The criteria went well beyond drug-specific mortality and drug-related mortality to examine the economic cost of the substance abuse and the overall damage to the community as a whole. Such criteria are invaluable to seeing the whole picture of the cost of substance abuse and addiction that the staff at ONE80CENTER experience with our clients on a daily basis.
Although the panel’s analysis showed that heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine were the most harmful drugs to the individual using the relative substance; alcohol, heroin and crack were the most harmful to others. When the two harms were combined, the overall most harmful drugs were alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine. Without question, in American society, the clinical experts at ONE80CENTER would point out that prescription painkillers and methamphetamine now most likely should be categorized at the top as well.
With A 72 Out Of A Scale Of 100, Alcohol Ranks The Highest
Here are the scores each drug received for overall harm caused on a scale of 0 to 100 since they are hard to read in the above chart. This is in descending order:
- Alcohol 72
- Heroin 55
- Crack Cocaine 54
- Methamphetamine 33
- Cocaine 27
- Tobacco 26
- Amphetamine 23
- Marijuana 20
- GHB 19
- Benzodiazepines 15
- Ketamine 15
- Methadone 14
- Mephedrone 13
- Butane 11
- Anabolic Steroids 10
- Ecstasy 9
- Khat 9
- LSD 7
- Buprenorphine 7
- Mushrooms 6
The ISCD panel, chaired by Professor David Nutt, concluded that the current drug classification systems do not take into account the actual harms done by various drugs and have little relation to that harm caused. “It is intriguing to note that the two legal drugs assessed — alcohol and tobacco — score in the upper segment of the ranking scale, indicating that legal drugs cause at least as much harm as do illegal substances,” Professor Nutt told reporters. Nutt believes public health strategies need to be adjusted to aggressively target the harm that alcohol does. If not, the damage will only continue to increase.
In recent experience, ONE80CENTER has found that co-occurring substance abuse is becoming the normative reality among our clients and addicts in general. When a prescription or illegal drug is being abused, alcohol seems to go hand-in-hand with this abuse. Alcohol often is used either as a starter substance in the beginning to get the party going or as a way to come down and take the edge off at the end of the night or in the bright glare of early morning.
In addition, since alcohol is so readily available in public venues and private homes. It becomes natural for the drug user to drink alcohol in multiple forms whenever the opportunity arises. Whether it is a beer with buddies, a bottle of wine over dinner, or mixed drinks and shots at a bar, alcohol’s presence is ubiquitous and the damage extreme. If you have a problem with alcohol or any substance or drug that you believe you or a loved one is abusing, contact ONE80CENTER and begin the path of long-term recovery.
After speaking at this years Wellness Day 2011, Dr. Reef Karim made himself available for some additional interview questions. Dr. Karim is a board certified psychiatrist, board certified addiction medicine specialist and a certified relationship therapist. He is a senior attending physician and an Assistant Clinical Professor at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience as well as being a published research scientist in the field of behavioral and chemical addictions with articles in the International Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Addiction Medicine and other prestigious journals.
Please bookmark our YouTube Channel and keep checking back here often. Many innovative minds in the recovery world were interviewed at this year’s event and footage is being rolled out gradually over the coming weeks to the greater community.
Transcripts and links to the remainder of Dr. Karim’s interview are available below:
QUESTION 01 – Please tell us your name and a bit about what you do. (link to video)
My name is Reef Karim and I am a board certified psychiatrist, and a board certified addiction medicine specialist. I run a treatment center called The Control Center, which is an intensive outpatient program in Beverly Hills and I speak and I try to help as many people as I can.
QUESTION 02 – How did you get into the recovery world? (link to video)
I used to play in band and everyone was loaded except me. I was the innocent sweet Indian kid in this band. There was an alcoholic, there was a cocaine junkie, there was a heroin junkie, there was a guy that did every club drug on the planet that he could find and then there was me. And then I dated an alcoholic and that was kind of the exclamation point and sealed the deal.
QUESTION 03 – What do you think are some of the more important innovations or new knowledge in the field of treatment? (link to video)
The world of addiction medicine is so new really when you think about it. Yeah there ha been AA and the 12 step philosophy that has been around for quite a while, but just in regards to the field in itself, when it comes to money for research, the National Institute of Drub Abuse, SAMSA, it is really in its infancy so its exciting because there is a lot of cutting edge neuroscience on the horizon. Just a couple of basic things are, the science of spirituality in itself, just the science of wellness, how practical meditation, mindfulness, yoga, Chinese medicine and how that impacts the brain is all new stuff and epigenetics is new. How we can actually transfer different emotional states and get an understanding of what our gene mapping is so we know which medications to target or which therapies to target or who could be vulnerable to different disease states when they get older, based on their current genetics. It is interesting stuff.
QUESTION 04 – What, if any – wellness activities do you incorporate in to the treatment of your clients / patients? (link to video)
So in our treatment center we use acupuncture, we use Chinese medicine, we use spiritual psychotherapy, and we use trauma work with EMDR and somatic experiencing. We use yoga; we use wellness in regards to physical work and physical therapy. We use service. Its really important for people to look beyond themselves and a great way to do that is doing service projects. There are many things we can use. And it is important for us that the spiritual application of a person is just as emphasized as the medical, psychological or social.
QUESTION 05 – What do you believe are some holistic ways that can beneficially supplement more traditional means of treatment for addiction towards a positive outcome? (link to video)
A basic way of utilizing spiritual healing in regards to outcome and its application to traditional therapies. When you look at traditional therapies what do you think about? You think about 12-step philosophy, you think about psychopharmacology medications, you look at cognitive behavioral therapy and individual therapy. So if you have someone with a co-morbidity, meaning a dual diagnosis, lets say they have ADHD and an alcohol problem and they are drinking to deal with unmedicated or untreated ADHD. Utilizing meditation, just specific mantra based meditation on a regular basis, over and over and over again can access the left and right front lobe area where attentional work is enhanced. So am I going to treat ADHD with meditation? Probably not. Am I going to utilize meditation in combination with medications or cognitive behavioral therapies? Yes. And I may be able to lower the meds or maybe even diminish the meds over time by utilizing a meditation practice.
QUESTION 06 – What do you think about the role of nutrition in early recovery? (link to video)
I think nutrition is extremely important and not just in early recovery, in the longevity of recovery. We know about how different neurotransmitter systems, we know about how different emotional states are greatly affected by diet, by our nutrition. It’s a world we are slowly moving towards in regards to research. We know about Omega 3 fatty acids, we know about the sleep aids that are herbal based. We have seen more and more of an indoctrination of Chinese medicine in to our field. The concept of nutrition, and holistic nutrition are more talked about than ever before. I think nutrition is a very valuable part of treatment.
QUESTION 07 – What are your thoughts about incorporating a better understanding of wellness as it relates to the treatment of addiction within the field of treatment professionals? (link to video)
I don’t know that all treatment professionals or a majority of treatment professionals really understand the concept of wellness. Wellness itself, just the term, its about being well but to a lot of people, they are like ‘eh that stuff wellness what is that? That’s a generic term for nothing. What does that mean.” But I think the more evidence based and the more practical applications of whatever you want to call it: holistic treatment, spiritual treatment whatever words you want to use, especially employed in conjunction, not instead of, but in conjunction with traditional methods of healing, I am hoping that everybody starts riding that wave because it really is the way to go and the combination treatment utilizing holistic is far superior to not utilizing holistic and it empowers somebody to get to the core of who they are without the use of numbing out a little bit using medications. I think medications are really valuable but I think you get to the real core of a person thought spiritual healing.
QUESTION 08 – What do you think are the more important wellness related components for a client’s recovery and why? (link to video)
The most important aspect of someone’s recovery is really moving that arrow, shifting hat arrow towards other people instead of having it drive everything towards oneself. The diminishing of an ego is extremely important. For me wellness is just the concept of self-care. Its self care mentally and its self care physically and the integration of that mind body phenomenon. Hopefully people will realize the mind/ body integration is wellness and that by promoting more techniques you are just promoting more self-care and mind/body healing.
Enough Is Enough: Prescription Drug Substance Abuse Disorders Co-Occurring With Alcoholism Doing Too Much Damage Today
At ONECENTER, the dedicated staff and clinical team are tired of seeing so many good people destroy their lives and die tragic deaths on account of co-occurring disorders like mixing alcoholism with prescription drugs, particularly benzodiazepines like Valium, Xanax, and Ativan and painkillers like OxyContin and Oxycodone. When will we finally learn from experience that mixing prescription drugs and alcohol is a fatal combination? How many people do we have to lose to this deadly cocktail before we realize that enough is enough?
Co-Occurring Disorders And Combined Drug Intoxication (CDI)
Officially it is called Combined drug intoxication (CDI), also known as multiple drug intake (MDI) or lethal polydrug/polypharmacy intoxication. Traditionally, co-occurring disorders refer to a mental disorder side-by-side with prescription drug addiction and/or alcoholism. Since both alcoholism and drug addiction have been classified as diseases, co-addiction is now a co-occurring disorder as well. Whatever you want to designate the problem, ONE80CENTER are experts at providing the best in treatment services and effective care.
To this combination of alcoholism and drug addiction that is seen every day in rehabs and treatment centers, the world has lost so many celebrities and cultural giants. Such a deadly mixture killed rock icons like Jimi Hendrix (alcohol and barbiturates) and Elvis Presley (ten prescription drugs and alcohol) as well as contemporary legends like Anna Nicole Smith (vodka and four benzodiazepines: Klonopin, Ativan, Sera, and Valium), and Heath Ledger (oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, alprazolam, doxylamine and mixed drinks).
None of the above information is some great mystery or revelation. ONE80CENTER always protects the privacy and anonymity of our clients and community. All of these statistics can be found in Wikipedia. The relevant point is the list literally could go on and on. Since the human body so quickly processes alcohol, it rarely turns up in the toxicology reports of autopsies. But drinking is almost always a factor. In addition, both the drug addiction and the drinking tend to be used as a form of self-medication to address underlying co-occurring mental problems and psychological disorders
Co-occurring as disorders, often used as a form of alternative medication for a mental problem or emotional issue like anxiety, depression and borderline tendencies, alcoholism and substance abuse tend to go hand-in-hand. In the past, the substance abuse disorders tended to deal primarily with illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine. Although ONE80CENTER still treats its fare share of patients with illegal drug addictions, it is no longer the dominant archetype. Since so many of the substance abuse disorders now involve prescription medication, it all seems terribly legal. This is what we are most likely to hear in the process of an addict’s rationalization.
The Warped Perception Of Prescription Drug Addicted Alcoholics
“Yeah, I’m taking a bunch of pills but I have prescriptions for them. What’s the big deal if I am having a drink here and there as well? I think everyone should just get off my back. It’s not like I’m doing anything wrong or breaking the law. I know my limits, I just screwed-up a couple of times. Of course, I like to drink to take the edge off. Who doesn’t need a little help to deal with all the financial stress these days? With all the tabloid crap and bullshit out there, who wouldn’t want to have a few drinks with the boys before going home or maybe a bottle of wine at dinner? And, okay, sure I use something in the morning to get the day off with a pop, and maybe I take a pill or two at the office to keep things cool and collected, and a few at night to help me get to sleep. But, come on now, I’m not an addict or an alcoholic. I don’t have a serious problem. Isn’t that the way things are? Isn’t that what everyone does to get by?”
Okay, the little speech above is filled with a thousand and one clichés, but we literally experience them all the time. And we really want to get our point across and help you realize what is going on out there. We will deliver you in the coming months a series of articles and blogs that show the medical establishment’s perspective on this problem and how close it is to all the cutting edge addiction research of the day. To begin with, we took the gloves off and got down to the proverbial brass tacks. Alcoholism and addiction are cunning, baffling and powerful diseases. We are tired of going to funerals and watching parents bury their children and beautiful lives being wasted.
The Plague Of Co-Occurring Substance Abuse Disorders Worsening
Today we make the choice to put our foot down and say enough is enough. This is no longer a minor problem to push into the back of the newspapers or to be discussed only in obscure online forums, which, of course, we naturally do support and value. However, it should not take the death of a celebrity from co-occurring prescription drug and alcohol abuse to place this problem on the front page of our lives. Our country literally is experiencing a modern plague of co-occurring addictive disorders, and it is going to get worse before it gets better. That’s why it must be dealt with now. At ONE80CENTER, our clinical team and staff are experts when it comes to treating co-occurring alcohol and substance abuse disorders while making sure that any underlying mental problems and psychological issues are fully addressed.
Recently I had a dream about someone I know. In my dream, I was in a store, and I was suddenly aware of someone next to me that I could tell, without looking, was a homeless person. I immediately felt compassion for this person standing beside me, who smelled like desperation and having gone too long without creature comforts, like a bed and a shower. I looked up to give him a warm smile when I saw it was not a nameless person but a significant person in my life who I have had a great deal of difficulty with- I’d even go out on a limb and say he has been THE single most disruptive person in the span of my life. Suddenly, the smile I was about to offer was gone, and so was the compassion that fueled it. I watched him go score 3 bags of heroin, and my loathing grew. My usual state of caring for addicts did not apply to him, simply because he is who he is. Holding them in contempt never works.
When I woke up, I realized something critical. I had not been offering the same to him, in my mind and heart, as I do for complete strangers. This is someone with whom I have a lot of history, significant family connections, and who I will always be connected to as a result of family, and yet I haven’t been able to see through our turbulent history to the human being that he is. Mind you, I thought I had been holding him in that place, but really it was only intellectually, the shift had not taken place in my heart, where true perception lives.
So, I made the shift. It did not require a lot of work, or fanfare, or talking, or soul searching. It was as simple as calling a spade a spade (me, I’m the spade, I’m the and owning my part. What happened was this- he started to show up differently in his actions. He went from hostility and aggression to calm interactions. He started doing things differently in regards to our mutual family members, when previously I had held him in contempt and incapable of showing up for said family. And his wife, with whom I have also had many unpleasant interactions has also shown up in a different way. We, who have not spoken in over two years, are now communicating daily about important matters that need to be discussed.
In my first couple of years of sobriety, it was important for me to not expect people to be other than what they are. If their behavior is consistently hurtful, then to expect anything different would be silly and cause more pain for me. I can’t tell you how many times I would continue to try different angles or to people please to try to appease negative people, or limp away, again, because they reacted the way they usually do and for some reason I was surprised. Its like the story of the frog and the scorpion- A scorpion needed a ride across a river. He asked a frog if he could go across on his back. The frog said, “What? No way, you’re a scorpion, you’ll sting me to death.” The scorpion assured him he wouldn’t, pointing out that if he did, he would die too. So the frog consented, and halfway across, the scorpion stings him. As he starts to drown, the frog cries, “Why? Why?” And the scorpion, also drowning, replies, “What did you expect? I’m a scorpion. Its my nature.” This story helped me understand, people just are as they are. We get in trouble if we don’t recognize this and accept them for it and act accordingly. I was able to accept this person in my life for being who and what he was; I stopped being surprised by his behavior, I stopped expecting anything different, and I stopped taking it all personally. That was a big step, and it helped immensely. It was a thorough acceptance of him as who he is, but I hadn’t gotten to the deeper work of understanding what my part in it truly is in all of it.
Now, coming up on my 5th sober birthday, the new lesson is going beyond mere acceptance to a heart shift into a pure place. In this space, the person goes from being held in contempt by me-in the place where I held this particular individual, he would never do the right thing and if there was a terrible thing to say or do, he would say it, or do it. In my perception I held him captive there, and he complied to this view of him. Once I had this dream, and experienced a shift, he was no longer held into place by my negative view of him, by the labels I placed on him as a tormentor and controller. That view also kept me in my place, which is on the receiving end of it all. By releasing him, I released myself, and the playing field is cleared of all the debris that made it impossible for any smooth or civil interaction. This was one of the most significant lessons in my life, and it was so subtle, it just unfolded right into my lap and I was thankfully aware and awake enough to see the opportunity present itself.