How To Combat Any Form Of Addiction
(published at Helium.com)
As the author of The Other Woman at the Well, my first book about battling cocaine addiction and climbing back up the steep slope to sanity, I had no idea my life would take an abrupt turn and I would begin to use my graduate degrees and not just personal experience to help other addicts and those needing information about addiction. Just this month my team and I have filed papers with the Attorney General in Arizona to make Addiction Overcome, Inc. a local charitable organization. In other words, as I travel to bookstores in Washington or churches in Arizona or Rotary meetings across town and speak about my own experience, I have begun to add current trends and research to make my presentation not only interesting and entertaining (I hope) but also crisp and truly informative.
When I was first introduced to the 12-step programs early in my twenties, the current thought was that young people had not consumed as much as the old-timers had spilled and that stopping meant shaking it out with black coffee in smoke-filled rooms with the wrong temperature setting, no matter what the season. (See, I continued to drink like a college sorority – yes, the whole sorority) after graduation when my friends were settling into normal lives. I thought, having grown up a preacher’s kid in an alcohol-free home, that normal meant pouring a pitcher of Manhattans before dinner with a tall swivel stick and stemmy glasses was being a real grown-up.
I had taken my first drink just before starting college, and by graduation I was by all definitions a full-blown alcoholic and a pill addict. I was always a fast learner. It was only when one of my friends came over after work one day and suggested that I was the only one who continued to drink like every night was a college party that I began to think perhaps the Martini pitcher and glasses from the parents of one of my sorority sisters had not been the most helpful graduation gift I had received. Over the years, I have come to view the best and most important gift from that time as the eight hand stuffed goose down pillows my grandmother lovingly sewed for me. At the time I thought, “Yikes, what am I going to do with ALL of these?” Little did I know twenty-five years ago how many people would be passing through my life, some staying longer than others, and resting their heads upon those pillows for often years at a time. My own child asked me yesterday if she got Mammy’s pillows when she left home after college. I had to explain to her that she is not leaving FOR college for another decade, at which time she may take one with her to school. Then, when she graduates, I may gift her with one more if she has a double bed so long as no person sleeps in it with her except for me when I visit. I might provide another when she marries so they can entertain guests for a weekend or me for, oh, the winter for example.
“What about when you’re dead?” she asked.
“Then they’re yours,” I quipped.
Anyway, in my ongoing research on addiction and the dismal success rates of 12-step programs (15% over time) and the popular regiment of detox for a few days, about a month of rehab, followed by release to 5 or so meetings a week and a sponsor sporting a success rate of only about 28%, I began to truly worry about the state of our society. When the greatest hope going for me later as a cocaine addict was 2%, I began to dig in earnest to find a brighter light to shine on the situation for my readers online and for my next book designed for parents. Just what CAN and SHOULD we do as parents when we suspect and then know that our children are using alcohol and drugs? Those odds just are not good enough for this mother. First of all, I realize that by meeting her father in treatment, my child has not a honeybear jar’s chance in a grade school cafeteria of making it through life without the disease of addiction impacting her life. It already had before she was born. Her brain has a 4% chance of not being chemically altered and she is only eleven. I would like to think that if she even tried a substance, legal or not, I would spot it the second she came home. And Mama Detox would NOT be fun, nor would it wait until her problem or experimentation became so toxic that her life would be in jeopardy. She is so afraid of alcohol and drugs because of the stories she hears often about my life, and her father’s, that she hates them and is terrified of becoming addicted. She claims that we will be serving sparkling cider and orange Fanta at her wedding (we seem to talk often about her wedding and my funeral).
I just finished reading a powerful book by Dr. Richard Gracer entitled A New Prescription for Addiction and am feeling more hopeful about stopping addiction than I ever have before. There are medications now that leave Antabuse (the old remedy for alcoholics that made them so sick if they drank on top of taking it, they wanted to die and sadly, some did if they didn’t know their wives or husbands or mothers were dissolving it in their morning coffee) in the dust. I don’t want to walk in full of hope as a public speaker who says that all of us on this planet wake up one day and feel a God-sized hole in our hearts. And some of us fill it with church, others with drugs and alcohol, or sex, or shopping, gambling or investing in day trading, marriages or nose spray; and then have no hope to offer them. The thing is, that hole never fills until we fill it with God. It’s that simple and that difficult. It is very hard for a first-born, usually right Lucy-type person to turn control of her life over to another, particularly one she has not seen with her own eyes and spoken with personally. I want to open my Bible and have it say, “Hey Judith, you need to give up pharming for 60 Percodans a day before you are 25 or you will have larger problems than you can imagine in your early 30s.” And then, if I ignore that message (which I did, by the way), I want the Revised edition to say, “Okay Judith, verily we told you to listen up ten or twelve years ago. But since you haven’t and now you are completely whacked out and hopeless, you must turn what’s left of your finances over to your parents, come home and check into the hospital for many many surgeries so that you will live. I have big plans for you yet, child. So get with it. Get out of the ghetto and stop shooting needles into your arms and legs. I love you and will protect you no matter what, but it still isn’t your time to join me up here. So go home to your heartsick parents and you won’t believe the life that awaits you between coming home to me and this moment. Love, God.” It would all have been true, but I would not have believed it even then. I still can’t believe it now, and I am here to pinch myself and type these words to you when, had I been Catholic, I’d have been given last rights many times.
Anyway, for opiate addicts (pain killers, morphine, heroin, etc) there is a new drug called Suboxone or Subutex. This drug stops the craving for more opiates. It halts withdrawal symptoms which are most often the reason people relapse. Coupled with counseling and support of some sort, whether it be 12-step meetings, a church group, or a number of other organizations designed to help those trying to rebuild their lives and relationships, the success rate is over 90%.
For alcoholics we now have a prescription drug called Prometa that is painless and quick, stopping dangerous withdrawals completely and sublimating cravings with a keen desire to succeed. It can be given in pill or injection form and takes only 2 – 3 days to practically end alcoholism that may have polluted one’s life for decades. Again, the patient is not released automatically back into the world without support as mentioned above. But the success rate beats even that of Suboxone patients.
Cocaine and meth amphetamine addicts have hope in a newly discovered drug called Modafinil. Meth addicts have found help with Prometa as well as alcoholics, giving new hope to those who are cross addicted to booze and drugs. Even Nicotine addicts have found hope in a drug called Topamax.
I read these new discoveries and wipe the tears from my eyes. How many hundreds of people have I seen and known over the past twenty years who have not been able to bring a cup of coffee to their lips, they shake so badly and tremor for years if they live that long. How many addicts have I watched wretch and cry and moan in agony while a medical person tells them to drink a glass of milk and get some sleep. Sleep? That may be the worst part of all for addicts trying to quit. There have been times I thought and literally hoped I would die from lack of sleep. And the anxiety and panic that surround the inability to sleep is pitiful and terrifying in a lonely, horrible way I cannot think fast enough to describe to those of you fortunate enough to not have altered brain chemistry.
If you had a medical procedure that required prolonged use of narcotics (opiates), it was not your fault that you grew tolerant of them and required more and more to get the same effect. I don’t know anyone who walked into their high school guidance counselor and said, “Gee Mr. Davis, I think when I grow up I’ll be a drug addict.” None of us wanted this. None of us expected or sought it out. It is one of those crosses we all bear, sometimes worsened by our own stupidity or recklessness or stubbornness or denial. Sometimes made worse by the denial of those who loved us and swept up after the elephant of our disease left another mountain of dung in the living room.
But today there is hope. Find a doctor who is well-versed in the modern pharmaceuticals that aid in stopping alcoholism and addiction. If your doctor or pharmacist does not know about these medications, ask him or her to refer you to someone that very day and to attend the nearest and quickest conference available to bring his/her credentials up to date. There is no need to sweat and vomit and cry in smoke-filled rooms any longer, my friends. You don’t have to pay for your painful choices with still more pain. There is HOPE. I still believe that ultimately our hope rests in God, and that it is His remarkable answer to the millions of anguished cries He has heard from us for over a century. “God, help me to stop doing this to myself and my family. Show me a way to get my life back and be the person you intended me to be.” Yes indeed, He answers those foxhole prayers of “Just get me out of this one” and those heartbreaking ones like I prayed in my eleventh hour, some fourteen years ago now, “God, if you can still hear me, just give me a reason to live. I don’t even care what it is.” I knew in an instant when that prayer was answered. It registered as a plus on a home pregnancy test before the urine even touched the stick, I think. The evidence of His answer is asleep in her room across the house from me now. Her name is Olivia Grace. I knew her name had to be Grace so it’s a good thing she was a girl. Grace: God’s gift we don’t deserve, but we get anyway. I was granted Grace and even though I have yet to find direct instructions in my Bible, I know now the purpose and plans he had for me. I lived that I might do the work I now do, bringing light and hope to those suffering from addiction and those who love us.
To learn more about Addiction Overcome, Inc. please look online at www.addictionovercome.com and meet us there.