Archive for Addiction
Some cool coverage for the new website. Addiction and Recovery, straight up! NY Times Article
What’s wrong with this story? Homeless guy gets sudden fame, cleans up his act, his mother goes on TV to proclaim her “prayers have been answered”. There is nothing wrong with this, everyone loves a second chance, a redemption, a transformation and it could be that’s what we are seeing. Maybe not. Williams is a self disclosed addict, to me, without knowing the man he looks like he smokes crack. There is a very distinct look that crack smokers have, and he has it. He says he has been clean for two years. Maybe. Hate to be the cynic but…a crack smoker with inaccurate reporting (lies), just wouldn’t be that weird. I am all for addicts getting a second chance and fair treatment in alignment with other chronic recurring diseases, so I am happy the guy caught a break. I guess what is wrong with this is that, if he makes some money, he is VERY vulnerable. Addicts can’t tolerate currency, crack addicts more so. It is likely he will burn this chance, pure intentions and all, the addiction, left unmonitored will win. It will beat him, beat the The Cleveland Cavs, and put more “how could he?” stories into the media. Is there a solution? You bet there is. A plan, a recovery plan, complete with expectations, mental health treatment, accountability, verification, a system of fund disbursement that gives him no more that 20 dollars at a time without a process and a good reason to get more. The solution is being honest about what he can realistically handle right now, grow what he is able to self regulate, expect set backs and imperfections and get rid of the idea that the treatment for an addict is a job and his mother crying on TV. While somewhat heartwarming to give a guy a break, I don’t think the NBA will handle this well. It could be a great underdog made good story but I kind of doubt it. Maybe he can be on the next round of “celebrity rehab”. I wish the GM of the Cleveland Cabs would call me, I’ll help them out with this, so in the unlikely event they read my blog, nobody but my mom and her bridge group does, call me, let’s make this a big win for addicts everywhere.
NYC is the only city in America, maybe the world, without an inferiority complex. Of course we think we should win the world series every year. There was no joy in the Bronx today, the Yankees were beaten, soundly, by the Texas Rangers.
A few short months ago, Texas manager, Ron Washington put his job in jeopardy by turning up positive for cocaine. Of course people were calling for Washington to be fired and for “zero tolerance” policy in sports because after all, what kind of example does this set? Children are watching and learning so what kind of example did the Texas Rangers led by Nolan Ryan set? A very good one actually.
Nolan Ryan stuck by Washington, apparently, the Texas Rangers don’t quit on people when they present with alcoholism and chemical use disorders. The series MVP was Josh Hamilton, who has very publicly struggled with his alcoholism, sometimes losing the struggle but always being forthcoming about his mistakes, not blaming anyone and getting back on the beam. Nolan Ryan and the Texas Rangers, by design or maybe default, have an excellent policy and program, they give second chances to addicts and the result, this time, was spectacular. A coke snorter and an alkie are going to the World Series, imagine that. Take this is an example of the possibility of what stable addicts can achieve.
As if this weren’t cool enough for our people, the system shows genuine understanding and support by spraying each other with ginger ale, unprecedented in the alcohol fueled sports world. I am a dedicated Yankee fan, but tonight, live from Tokyo, I am genuinely happy for the Texas Rangers and I might be the only one to see this as a victory for the recovering community but there it is. Somehow, I think Nolan Ryan knows something about all of this. He should give MLB a seminar.
For the past few days I’ve been watching all the media attention paid to Corey Haim. Yes, another tragic Hollywood tale of a young person swept up and consumed by excess, too much too soon, blah, blah, blah. We have heard it all before and the media is giving us the same “drugs are bad, fame kills” melodrama we have heard time and time again. It’s sad for sure. He seemed like a decent enough guy, based only on his presentation in the 80’s (let’s be honest, there were some very unfortunate hair choices, an indication? Foreshadowing of the tragedy to come?) And in a recent reality show, by his own admission, Haim admitted to battling addiction since adolescence – sooner or later, addicts die. There is nothing shocking here, it’s fairly common. NYC alone has roughly 800 deaths caused by overdose per year. Based on simple math, there were two other deaths in one city that were not newsworthy. Has overdose become so commonplace that we only care if the death is connected to celebrity and gossip? If Haim sold copiers for example, would anyone care about his drug problem? Does anyone care now? Or is it just tabloid fodder?
One quote on a blog asked “How many of them have to die before they wake up?” Interesting perspective. Who would “they” be exactly? Child stars? Those never-do well Hollywood brats? The hair cutter who gave him that terrible mullet? I think my issue with the media coverage is in that statement. First off that US (God-fearing law-abiding citizens) vs. THEM (filthy drug addicts) supports the position that we are at war against them. When the truth is the question is not THEY but WE. We are all impacted by addiction and the collateral damage of the drug war. Additionally, that idea of “waking up” is so insulting to anyone suffering from or in remission from addiction. Why don’t we just wake up? Crack is whack! Haven’t you heard? It’s insulting, patronizing and as long as that is the prevailing attitude, we are stuck in this mess of a drug war.
As I have said many times, I don’t think we know very much about addiction. I don’t think we know how to intervene on it, treat it – I don’t think we know how long reaching and damaging its tentacles truly are. However there are a few things we do know for certain. It’s chronic and can be arrested but not cured. Cory Haim had periods of remission but ultimately; it killed him at a young age. If there is any waking up to do it, we need to wake up and rethink how we address this health crisis. Even his buddy, the other Corey with issues of his own and equally unfortunate hair, seems to be in denial, telling Larry King that we shouldn’t “jump to any conclusions.” Maybe they will say “natural causes”, in a way I agree with that. Addiction is a disease and diseases are natural.
I am at SECAD in Nashville. It’s being held at some creepy biosphere of a hotel, an endless labyrinth of rooms and theme restaurants, all of which suck. In any event I complain about these rehab conferences but the truth is, they can offer a good opportunity to see people, many good people trying to do the best they can in what can feel like an unwinnable war, the war on addictive disease.
A few blogs back I wrote about Brad Lamm‘s book “How to change someone you love”. Again, I have not read the book, I don’t think I could get through it without vomiting but I did see Lamm speak today at the conference. Lamm seems like a well-meaning guy, clearly cares about his clients and has a light touch when handling interventions. There was nothing wrong with how he described what he does. As I have said, and say many times, my style of intervention is not for everyone. What I think about all of this is fit is critical. Playing the odds, what is going to support the individual into a life in recovery. Sometimes it’s the carrot and sometimes it’s the rod and none of us have a crystal ball so we do the best we can, one day at a time.
The issue I have with Lamm is the title of his book. “How to change someone you love”. I was hoping to hear something profound, something revolutionary about how to change someone you love. That would seem to be a pretty big deal if he actually developed a system to change people, but nothing came. The presentation was unresearched and unsubstantiated platitudes about love, and more love, and the loved one and loving the other loved ones, there was a lot of love there. When not talking about love, the presentation was about media appearances and a portion of it was about his family, which was interesting, but it really escaped me as to how it was relevant to changing people. I kept waiting to hear how to change someone but nothing came. At one point he said, you may have to say “Sweetheart, lets stick with the change plan” which sounds a lot like a boundary to me and isn’t really changing anyone; it’s setting a limit to support change. Maybe it is loving, but is it changing them?
Working on this side of the dope fiend game we get that call all the time. “Please change ________ about _________”. Rarely do people want to look at the whole system, they want people changed. Which is the easy solution and frankly, a fantasy at best.
The title of the book is irresponsible. It’s selling snake oil. It would be like selling a weight loss book called “How to eat ice cream daily and lose weight”. Except that when families are seeking information about interventions and treatment options they are vulnerable. We all know you can’t lose weight eating a shitty diet but few people know what to do to handle someone impaired by addictive disease. So there you are at Barnes and Noble, worrying about your husbands drinking problem and you see “How to change someone you love” and you think “yes, yes, I want to change him!” While not as severe as Chris Prentiss, who runs an addiction “cure” center, telling people they can change someone is along those lines. It’s a slick, well not so slick, shuck and jive. It gives them what they want and not what they need and that never helps and individual or system out of a mess with an addiction. At one point during the presentation when I was questioning and commenting Lamm suggested we “agree to disagree” (an alanon standby slogan by the way), fair enough. Lamm thinks he can change people and I think we can only change ourselves, unless of course, Lamm can change me.
What’s wrong with convicting Dr. Conrad Murray of manslaughter in the Michael Jackson case? Nothing, clearly he was not practicing ethical medicine and his patient died. The drugs that were administered to Michael Jackson ultimately killed him but in a larger sense, did Dr. Murray kill him? Is he the only party culpable in Michael Jackson’s death? While Dr. Murray may have been the straw to break the camels back it brings up an interesting question when an addict overdoses. Where do we assign blame?
To read the comments of the Jackson family in the press, they seem to want to blame Dr. Murray. What culpability do they share? Are they to blame? After all they watched for years as son Michael slid further into addiction, mental illness and obscurity. Surely this must have been a problem long before Michael had hired Dr. Murray to be his personal physician. What other doctors wrote prescriptions to Michael Jackson? Did the family attempt to intervene? Maybe they did, we just don’t know. How about the sycophantic insulation of people collecting paychecks from Jackson (family seems to be included in this arena) are they listed as murderers? How about his adoring public and the people who watched him disintegrate before their very eyes?
Like so many others before him, Michael Jackson died of addictive disease. Denial will fuel the disease as will shame, secrecy, and not holding people accountable – but do we blame the drug dealer? In this case the dealer is a physician, often that is the case. What about Michael Jackson himself? Did Dr. Murray hold a gun to his head, making him ingest drugs?
All kinds of things contribute to the death of an addict and it all funnels into the disease of addiction. Family dynamics, unethical doctors, denial, shame, all symptoms of a deadly disease.
I think Dr. Murray should be held accountable for his treatment of Michael Jackson and I think he should face the full extent of the law but I don’t think he killed him. Maybe blaming Dr. Murray is part of the diseased family system and cultural belief; we even want a quick fix to understand an overdose. Are we an addicted culture?