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The Truth of Addiction

The Truth of Addiction - Shining a light for those that are suffering from addiction or from the addiction of a loved one.

Conundrum: Part 1 of an Ongoing Series.

By Ben Nesin, Life/Recovery Coach Harvard PostDoctoral CE Pain Management and Addiction Program

As a society we have finally begun to recognize and acknowledge addiction as an epidemic. It's hard not to see the headlines that highlight the magnitude of this problem. This issue demands, and deserves, our urgent attention. People are starting to come out of hiding, moving past the shame that surrounds addiction. This growing awareness shines a light for us to reach out our hands to those who are still in need. For the sake of all those who are still hiding in the shadows, still trapped in shame, we need to work together. We have so much to learn from one another as we seek ways to address the daily tragedies of this epidemic.

Herein lies the conundrum. Where do we best direct resources to help those in need of treatment? There are more and more resources available now. How can we make the best use of them?

There are so many services offered to address addiction. There are detox and treatment centers, IOP programs, halfway and 3/4 way houses. There are sober living programs, AA and NA meetings, Smart recoveries, Harm reductions, and TA programs. Prisons and jails even provide treatment options to various degrees. But in my experience, some of these services leave a lot to be desired. Sometimes success rates fall into the single digits. Massive amounts of money currently funds programs that aren't all unsuccessful. Clearly we have room for improvement here.

What are we to do? I can honestly tell you my family has spent nearly a million dollars on the countless steps in my recovery. I have been through every single different kind of program available. From Ibogaine to Acupuncture, AA to NA; through multiple stints in jail and two decades on probation I continued to use. Throughout these processes I have learned more and more about myself, my brain and why I did the things I've done. But the truth is that there was not a single recovery program, bout of incarceration or modality which provided the answer to helping me stay clean for good.

Most powerful for me was the moment when I was able to love myself more than I wanted to (unconsciously) hurt myself. Loving myself, and the need to find meaning and purpose in my life, continue to be the drive in my recovery.

Reflecting on all the opportunities I have been given, I can see value in each of the steps along the way. I can honestly say that I am a far better person for all the different levels of care I received. Most of us will never get the opportunity to spend as much time and money working on ourselves as I have.

I have experienced such a vast range of programs and treatments. I know firsthand about the mountains of challenges faced. To anyone struggling with addiction, I can definitely say that advocacy is essential.

Initially (and repeatedly) that advocacy may have to come from a family member. But ultimately, the person afflicted has to learn to advocate for themselves as well. When looking for a rehab or a treatment center, don't let them sell you on a miracle cure with an 80-90% success rate. If you hear such outrageous claims, run in the opposite direction! Education and experience so often contain the solutions to life's problems. Ask questions instead of listening to the hard sell.

We must face new realities about treating addiction. As awareness has grown, available funds have been increasing. And the epidemic of addiction has now become quite a profitable business. So when seeking treatment, we must sort through a host of claims. We hear of miracle cures and astronomical success rates. But in a depleted and vulnerable state, how can we know what will work?

I have been through more programs than I can count, and I certainly have found some programs to be far superior than others.

The programs that worked best for me were programs that took the time to heal the body as well as the mind. I experienced the most benefits through yoga, meditation and exercise. The modalities that embrace physical well-being have great healing potential. Support with exercise, nutrition and diet, and social interaction made a huge difference. I have even tried Float Tank Therapy and Cryotherapy, both of which were extremely effective.

Another significant difference was when programs incorporated an educational component. When they took the time to help me understand my own brain, it was so illuminating! This allowed me to really start to see behind the scenes in the processes of my own decision making. I started to see why I had made choices to continue to harm myself through using, even when I knew it was hurting myself and my loved ones.

Historically I was always considered a rehab all-star. When in treatment I did everything I was supposed to - and then some. It was when treatment ceased and I returned to normal life that I encountered failure time and time again. This piece gets overlooked far too often. The importance of having something meaningful to return to is sadly under-emphasized.

Programs that are committed to helping reintegrate participants back into society really set themselves apart from the rest. Those working through addictions truly need support in becoming productive members of society, returning back to their families and rejoining their loved ones. Far too many times, intake coordinators promised job assistance or resume building workshops. But in the end, few programs actually delivered on these promises. This was always a disappointment. But reintegration is so clearly an essential part of recovery.

For some individuals, the current practices may provide all that they need. For so many though, a more forward-thinking approach is necessary. Programs that encompass a range of approaches as I’ve touched on here will make such a difference.

In my recent steps towards establishing a career, I have chosen to become a life coach and recovery coach. This choice allows me to meet individuals where they are at, and work with them to find a path to where they want to be. I leave counseling to the licensed professionals. In my work, I can focus on helping to make a space for clients to envision the changes they want. In this role, I can act as a sounding board, and serve as an educated and experienced advocate.

I am 500 supervised hours away from receiving my Massachusetts Certification as a Recovery Coach (CARC). I look forward to some day opening my own aftercare facility. This facility would concentrate on taking the time to help people truly reintegrate back into society. It would provide the comprehensive support that people in recovery need to get their lives back on solid ground. Clients would receive help finding employment, adhering to legal obligations, registering for school, and getting involved in their community. They would receive meaningful support through group efforts and activities, helping to find housing and securing professional psychological help, all in a sober living environment. What I envision is somewhat like an enhanced sober house - more like structured sober living.

In my upcoming posts, I look forward to talking about many ways to support those who struggle with addiction. I will look at how to help these people - and their loved ones - find their paths to where they want to be in life. I will share insights into the daily struggles endured by those who are suffering. I will talk about important warning signs for suicide, and some of the realities that lead one to go down this path.

I also want to help people understand more about what leads someone to substance abuse. Why does this abuse sometimes feel the best solution to what is going on in a person’​s life at a given time? The truth is that sometimes drugs and alcohol feel like they are "working." It's when they stop working and take over our lives that the devastation sets in. What do we do next when this happens? I will speak to this as well. I have upcoming posts planned, and I’m also open to hearing your comments and requests. If you would like me talk about a specific topic or issue, I would love to hear from you.

It means a lot for me to share my experience with this community. I know that together, we can learn how to build stronger support networks for those in need.

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