Archive for the ‘Alanon’ Category

Things You Can Do to Reduce the Impact of Addiction in Your Community

adont usedrugs

Sometimes it’s frustrating to hear repeatedly on the news that opioid addiction is such a problem. It’s easy to feel helpless about the situation, and doubtful about how you can help. In this blog entry, I’m going to describe some very specific things you can do to reduce the impact of addiction on our society.

 If you are an addict, get help immediately. Many people have so much shame about becoming addicted that they’re mortified to seek help, fearing the stigma attached to addiction and to an admitted addict, so it takes tremendous courage to admit you have this problem. If you are getting medications from your doctor, tell her the truth. Tell her you are misusing the medicine and need help. She should be able to guide you to an appropriate addiction treatment center, to get an evaluation. At a good treatment center, you should be informed of all of your treatment options. This should include information on both medication-free treatment and medication-assisted treatment.

 If you are doctor shopping for prescriptions, stop it now. As more and more doctors use their states’ prescription monitoring database, sooner or later you will be discovered by one of your doctors. In my state of North Carolina, doctor shopping is a felony, because it’s considered using false pretenses to get a controlled substance. Instead, get treatment. If you’re selling these medications, stop it before you go to jail or kill someone.

 Get rid of all old medication in your cabinets, especially if they are controlled substances like opioid pain pills, sedatives, sleeping pills, or stimulants. According to a recent survey, most young people got their first opioid drug from friends or family. Many times, they took what they found in their parents’ medicine cabinets, or in their friends’ parents’ medicine cabinets. Some communities have regular “drug take back” days, where people bring unused medication for disposal. If you don’t have these in your community, you can wet the pills and mix them with coffee grounds or cat litter, and then throw them in the garbage. The coffee grounds and cat litter will deter addicts looking for medication. Don’t flush pills in the toilet, because there are fears the medication can enter our water supply.

 Don’t share your medication, with anyone, even family. In this country, sharing medication is so common people don’t realize it’s a crime. Some people feel that if it’s their medicine, and they bought it, they have the right to do with it what they want. This isn’t true. Giving controlled substances to another person is a crime, and dangerous as well. Selling a controlled substance is even worse. Speak up to friends and family, letting them know you don’t think it’s OK for Aunt Bea to give Jimmy one of her Xanax pill because his nerves are bad today. Jimmy needs to see his own doctor.

 Give your children clear and consistent anti-drug messages. Don’t glamorize your own past drug use, including alcohol, by telling war stories. It should go without saying, though I’m going to say it: don’t use drugs with your kids, including alcohol and marijuana. Also, don’t err in the opposite direction, and exaggerate the harms of drug use, because you’ll lose credibility with your kids. Some may remember how the film “Reefer Madness” was mocked. Talk to your kids in an age-appropriate way about drugs and alcohol, even if they don’t appear to be listening.

 If you have a family member addicted to prescription medication, call their doctor to describe what you see. The doctor probably can’t discuss your relative’s treatment, unless given permission, but your doctor can accept information. Write a letter, and be specific with what you’ve witnessed. If your loved one runs out of medication early and then buys off the street, let the doctor know.

 If you feel your addicted loved one is seeing an unscrupulous doctor, report what you know to your state’s medical board. These professional organizations are the best equipped to review a doctor’s pattern of care, to decide if the doctor is prescribing inappropriately. Charts are often reviewed by other doctors who decide if the standard of care is being met.

 Underage drinking is serious. For each year you can postpone your child’s first experimental drug use, including alcohol, you reduce his risk of addiction by around five percent. (1) Don’t involve your kids in your own alcohol consumption; for example, don’t send you kids to the refrigerator to get you a beer. Don’t allow adolescents to drink in your house, fooling yourself with the idea of, “At least I know where they are.” Not only is it illegal, but it’s harmful.

 Don’t use drugs or alcohol to treat minor emotional discomfort, unless you have discussed it with your doctor. For example, don’t use pain pills to help you sleep. Don’t use the Xanax your doctor prescribed for your fear of flying to treat the sadness you feel from breaking up with a boyfriend. Try to get out of the mindset that there’s a pill for every bad feeling, and try to help your friends and family see this, too.

 See a doctor for the treatment of serious mental illness. Some mental disorders are so severe that they require medication. There are many non-addicting medications that treat depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. Getting the appropriate treatment has been shown to decrease your risk of developing an addiction to alcohol and other drugs.

 Monitor your adolescent’s friends. Youngsters with friends who use drugs are more likely to begin using drugs. Of course, most youngsters who experiment with drugs and alcohol won’t develop addiction, but the younger experimentation begins, the more likely it is that addiction will develop. Older siblings can be a good or harmful influence.

1. Richard K. Ries, David A. Fiellin, Shannon C. Miller, and Richard Saitz, Principles of Addiction Medicine, 4th ed. (Philadelphia, Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins, 2009) ch.99, pp1383-1389.

Bibliotherapy for Families Affected By Addiction

It’s never just the addict (or alcoholic) who suffers.

Anyone who cares about or depends upon the addict suffers. Living with active addiction is too much for most people. Thank God there are more resources now than ever before for the families afflicted by addiction. Treatment centers have family groups and family days, and many therapists are skilled at helping family members. There are 12-step groups devoted to helping family and friends of alcoholics (Alanon) and addiction (Naranon) in nearly every area of the country. Alanon does make a distinction between alcohol and other drugs, while Naranon is for families of people addicted to any drug including alcohol. However, in practice, many people attending Alanon do so because their loved ones use drugs in addition to alcohol.

Well-written books for families of addicts can help initiate the process of understanding and healing. These books can give a starting point to desperate family members, literally worried sick about the addict in their lives.

Popularized by the TV show “Intervention,” some families hold these interventions for the addicted family member. An intervention usually contains certain elements: the addicted person’s friends and family gather together in the presence of the addict, they tell the addict how much they love him or her, they tell the addict how much their addiction hurts them, and what they want the addict to do about his/her problem. Usually this means going to an addiction treatment center. Families usually also tell the addict there will be definite consequences for non-compliance with their requests.

Other people deal with addiction in less directive ways. For example, in Alanon, the focus is kept not on the addict, but on the distressed family member or friend who is affected by the addiction. Alanon helps people deal with the dilemmas that appear with addiction, whether the addict is in or out of the home. Some people go to Alanon years after the addict is dead, because of the long-lasting emotional effects addiction can have. More about Alanon’s approach to dealing with the distress of addiction can be found at their website: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org   Alateen is not for alcoholic teens, but for teenagers who have been affected by the alcoholism of a parent or other close relative, or friend.

I’ve compiled a list of books I’ve found to be useful for family members. These books range widely in their approaches, and at times may contradict each other.

When Enough is Enough, by Candy and Sean Finnegan

            This great book clearly explains the mechanics of holding an intervention, as well as the risks and possible pitfalls. It’s 208 pages long and the paperback version is quite affordable. The authors cover much ground. They discuss all of the factors that must be considered, like financial concerns, physical and mental health issues, and legal issues. Candy is sometimes the interventionist on A&E’s “Intervention,” and has worked for treatment centers with stellar reputations. This is a top choice if you are considering holding an intervention.

Getting Them Sober, Volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4, by Toby Rice Drews

            Don’t let the title mislead you. These books aren’t all about forcing someone to get sober. These slender volumes, written in the 1980’s, have short chapters, written clearly and simply, and are packed with wisdom. I like that these books don’t give absolutes but rather suggestions. I don’t think there’s only one correct solution for every problem. Some people criticize the book, and say the best answer if you are married to an addict is to leave. And that might be the best answer for some people, but not all. It’s rarely so simple. Sometimes there are children involved. Sometimes the addict is your adult child, so there’s no “just leave” solution. The last volume, #4, is subtitled “Separations and Healings”

How Alanon Works For Friends and Families, by Alanon Family Groups

            This book gives a great description of what Alanon is all about. It tells about the common behaviors seen in the alcoholic and the family, and gives hope that even if the alcoholic never quits drinking, you can still have a happy life. It contains stories from other people who’ve lived with addiction, and much can be learned from their experiences. Alanon has several other great books: Paths of Recovery: Alanon’s Steps, Traditions, and Concepts; Alanon’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions; From Survival to Recovery: Growing Up in an Alcoholic Home; The Dilemma of an Alcoholic Marriage. They also publish three small books containing daily meditations, or readings, on some topic connected to Alanon: One Day at a Time, Courage to Change (a bit old-fashioned, assumes the wife is the alanon member) and Hope for Healing (to me it seems this last one has more material for people who had alcoholic parents than the other two)

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, by Melody Beattie

            This is a classic. Written in the 1980’s, it still contains useful information that isn’t necessarily specific to addiction and the family, but most families with addiction of any sort do have codependent behaviors. The examples are helpful, and her writing is clear. I’m not sure anyone has come up with a great definition of codependency, but if you read this book to the end, you’ll know it when you see it. Also consider reading her daily meditation book, The Language of Letting Go.

Terry: My Daughter’s Life-and-Death Struggle with Alcoholism, by George McGovern

            This is a sad book, written by the father of an alcoholic, who died of exposure outside while drunk. The author is a famous politician, and his writing reveals how addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer. I got the feeling after reading this book that Mr. McGovern regretted not having done things differently. Though Terry went to treatment centers, she wasn’t successful at remaining sober. It sounds like the family detached with love, but now the author regrets detaching to the degree that he did.

 I think each family decides differently how much they can do for the addicted one. Should you provide free room and board to keep the addict off the street? Is that harm reduction… or enabling? Is it, “loving them to death?” Often, addicts say it was only when they had to face the unpleasant consequences of addiction, like sleeping outside in the cold, or going to jail, that they turned towards recovery. But then you read a story like this one, where Terry froze to death in a snow bank.

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through his Son’s Addiction, by David Sheff

            This book was on one of my other lists. The book is poignant. In places it is heart-breaking. Over and over, I would think, “Ah, the kid’s finally in good recovery.” And the next sentence contained the next relapse. This author caught exactly the rollercoaster ride of emotions felt by someone who loves a person in active addicition.

From Binge to Blackout, by Toren and Chris Volkmann

            This is an unusual book because it contains the viewpoints of both the alcoholic and the mother of the alcoholic. This book hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. Both authors are eloquent when describing their thoughts and feelings about what is happening with the son’s alcohol addiction. I believe this book would be interesting to any parent, particularly those with adolescents. From a doctor’s point of view, I was pleased to see Chris Volkmann quoted accurate information when she writes of the science of addiction to alcohol. I was impressed with her ability to convey these scientific concepts lucidly. You should get this book. Really.

Last Call, by Jack Hedblom

            This book is about alcohol addiction, but I don’t recall that it talked about other drugs. It contained a great description of why addiction is classified as a disease. The author, a psychotherapist with a PhD, goes into some detail about recovery from alcohol addiction from mostly a 12-step perspective. It’s a great book, covering all the necessary topics in a straightforward way but without “talking down” to the reader. I like that the book has end notes and references, and also an index. It’s recent – published in 2007, but kind of pricey – new book is $40 on Amazon but used copies are available &  much cheaper.

 This is barely scratching the surface. I have many more recent books that are still in my ever-towering “to read” pile.

 Please tell me about your favorites.