Nov 24, 2013

Recovery needs painful consequences

GREENVILLE – “The process of recovery is cumulative… it needs enough consequences causing enough pain to finally outweigh the perceived benefit of drugs or alcohol.”

Cynthia Cook, Associate Director of Darke County Recovery Services and the Darke County Mental Health Center, said she probably sees as many as half of those with a drug or alcohol addiction come through Recovery more than once.

“It’s frustrating,” she said. A six-month program doesn’t always work. People re-offend. They have to suffer the consequences…

“It’s a sickness. An illness,” she added. “It’s not a moral issue.”

Ninety percent of the center’s clients are court-ordered. How many walk through the door feeling they don’t belong there?

“Almost all of them,” Cook said. “I’m here and I’m mad because the judge made me be here…” They’re scared, defensive, not sure what’s going to happen, can’t imagine not “using,” don’t know how they’re going to be treated…

“We are not an extension of the court. We’re here to help them. We help them feel comfortable and respected.”

They usually see the benefit at the “Exit” interview, most often after six months. They know they’ve completed the judge’s orders; they feel they can talk more freely about their treatment and efforts. It’s positive but not necessarily long-lasting.

“It” will always be there… they can’t forget where they came from…

“They have to understand this is a lifetime process,” she said. “They have to be aware of the dangers of addiction… Once you are sober,” she added, “you still can’t be complacent.”

Cook talked about the triggers… “Triggers are everywhere,” she noted. “Drive past a drive-through, a bar, or maybe a dealer’s house, a song… it could even be a paycheck.”

They are different for everyone. Part of the treatment is to find the trigger and find ways around it…

“Take a different route to work. A different route home. Give your check to your wife. You have to change your behavior to get past the triggers. Come up with a new plan.”

Cook noted the support clients have: the 407 Club on So. Broadway, the 24-hour Crisis Hotline (800-351-7347), support people in AA and NA. The Recovery Center is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Cook acknowledged she’s in administration now but is reminded daily of past clients… the good and the bad.

She talked of the addict who said he wanted to come back into the program on Thursday. He was in the paper on Tuesday… dead of a drug overdose. She talked of the big, burly person who cussed her out and stormed out of the office when she told him he had an alcohol problem. She saw him years later at an annual AA dinner. He thanked her.

“You were the one who had the guts to tell me I had a drinking problem,” he said.

The Recovery Center has a multi-level approach.

The first level is someone on his or her first offense. They haven’t crossed the line to addiction. The Center works to help them understand the dangers, educate them. It takes place once a week for eight weeks.

The second level is standard outpatient… they’ve passed the line of abuse and are going into addiction. The sessions are weekly for 26 weeks.

The third level is what Cook refers to as the “Passage Program.” It meets three times a week, three hours each session. Clients must be involved in the 12-step programs of either AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous).

The Recovery Center has about 200 clients, where the Mental Health Center has about 2,500. Complete mental health services are offered, including psychiatry, outpatient, community psychiatric support treatment.

“Some are court ordered but most are self-referred,” she said. She estimated maybe 10 to 20 percent of the clients are “dual diagnosed”… they have both recovery and mental health issues.

There is one memory Cook said will always be with her. She was at the local supermarket. There was a man with his wife and child… “Cindy?” he asked. He turned to his wife…

“Honey,” he said, “that’s the lady I told you about in Recovery.”

She paused as she remembered… “That’s the lady I told you about,” she repeated.


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