Let’s say you or a family member has a drug problem, and you want to deal with it.
Where do you begin? Do you need to call a treatment facility? How much will it cost? What other options do you have? After you spend your money on recovery, will it work?
Let me tell you first what I did without going to a treatment facility and then, in much more detail, what my old friend, Ron, did at the BridgeWay hospital in Little Rock many years ago.
In 1979 I was seeing a psychiatrist for what I had self-diagnosed as an anxiety and depression problem. He agreed with my diagnosis, and he added, referring to my slurred speech and the smell on my breath, that I also had a drinking problem.
He insisted that I go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that night, and he would address the mental health problems as needed later on.
And that’s what I did. I went to a meeting that night, got a sponsor, worked the program and on the 91st day, I got drunk and had a two week blackout. I ended op on the floor of my condominium where my AA buddies found me. After that, I never drank again. A few years later, I was briefly hospitalized for depression and was given non addictive pills to treat it.
It has now been more than 35 years since I have had a drink or a pill.
So what should you or a family member do if there is an addiction problem in your home?
I would begin with a complete physical and mental assessment of the family member to find out precisely what is going on. Is there a mental health issue such as anxiety or depression? Is there an addiction to alcohol or other drug.
With the help of my physician, Alcoholics Anonymous and Fellowship Bible Church I was able to sober up and get off of those highly addictive tranquilizers without going into treatment.
We are in the process of building a list of treatment providers. So far we have identified ten that we could recommend, and will post the list on this website. Hazelden and Betty Ford are among those at the top of the list, and there is Little Rock’s Bridgeway that we can recommend without hesitation.
The advantage of a treatment facility is that it gets you away from the temptations of the world. The downside is that you are not learning how to live in the real world where are there are temptations you must ultimately come to terms with.
There are also arguments for treatment where you are removed from the temptations of the outside world and can regroup and get yourself pointed in the right direction with companions who share your feelings and give you support. The early days of getting sober are difficult and painful.
As an example of someone who benefited enormously from a 30 day treatment program, let me tell you about the experience of my old friend, Ron T. who got better at The BridgeWay. After his recovery, Ron became an airline pilot, flew for a major commercial airline and eventually retired to a ski resort in Colorado. This is his account of his recovery at BridgeWay in Little Rock.
The circumstances that led to my last rehab were similar to those of previous attempts, Ron begins. I was broke, in bad health, and facing some legal charges.
I remember spending my last five dollars on beer. It was a six pack of ice-cold Miller.
When my friend, Lew, arrived to take me to rehab, I was a sight. I came stumbling out of my cheap hotel room with my beer in one hand and a plastic garbage bag in the other. The bag contained all of my worldly possessions.
Lew didn’t seem shocked by my appearance. He smiled and said ‘Hey, R. T., hop in.’ I really don’t remember the details, but somehow with the combined efforts of Lew, my attorney, and my family, I entered rehab for the last time that day.
The BridgeWay is a beautiful complex on several acres just outside of Little Rock.
They have a nice dining room with a salad bar, and the food is very good as rehabs go. I am an expert on rehab food. This was my ninth.
I knew my detox would be ugly. The doctors said they would help me the best way they could without giving me any narcotics. I was coming off of Dilaudid, a narcotic painkiller, and alcohol. They used Clonidine and Librium to help me stay comfortable during the detoxification process.
I don’t recall sleeping, but I don’t remember being completely awake either. This lasted for several days. I had been through much more painful drug withdrawal.
I kicked morphine once in my mom’s house using vodka. I stayed intoxicated on alcohol every waking moment for four days. This is not easy. It is difficult to drink vodka when you are deathly ill from morphine withdrawal.
The BridgeWay’s staff was great. They were not just one alcoholic helping another. They were highly trained professionals. Some of them were recovering addicts and alcoholics, but they were all extraordinary. They knew not to put up with my crap. They knew not to make me too comfortable. They knew I had been through this process many times, and they knew I had always failed to remain sober.
The group therapy was similar to previous rehabs, but somehow they were able to reach me in a new way. Perhaps I was just more willing to participate in the process. I was growing weary of my plight. I had been drinking for twenty-four years, daily for fifteen. I had been injecting narcotics for fifteen years, daily for ten. I was tired. I was physically unable to continue my life. At thirty-nine, my life was pretty much over.
I had no job, no money, no car, and serious legal problems. I was homeless and my family was furious. They had changed the locks on my mom’s house so that I couldn’t steal from her any more. I had been here before. I had gone to treatment before for these same reasons. I had always relapsed.
In AA, they always say, “Keep coming back.” In families, they don’t. I had worn out my welcome with my family and all of my friends.
Being a junkie is an extremely physical job. It’s not for wimps. You have to get up early, stay up late, and be a junkie all day long. I was tired. I was also very old for a junkie.
On day five at The BridgeWay, they guided me gently into group therapy. The group thought I was flaky and seemed to distrust me. I was flaky. My thoughts and moods changed rapidly. My words did not make sentences. It was as if my mind was not connected to my mouth. When I would try to communicate a thought, it would be gone before I could complete it out loud. It was frustrating. I began to get angry. Actually, I had been angry for twenty years, but now I knew I was angry.
The group became more distant. I became more resentful, and this cycle would have continued, but two things happened. My words began to make complete sentences. The sentences were not quite complete paragraphs yet, but I was communicating. The second thing was that the group lightened up on me a little. I think the counselors had intervened and asked them to give me a break.
Kim, a nice looking, blonde lady in her forties, befriended me. She was married with four kids. She would talk about her family frequently. Kim began to treat me as if I was part of her family. When they would come to visit, I would be included. She invited me to eat with them and to go on walks around the grounds with them. This melted some of the ice that had made me so cold for so long.
The counselors thought I might have some grief problems associated with my father’s death. They asked me to write a letter to him. I had done this before in another rehab center, so I was skeptical.
That night, I began writing the letter. I am not sure exactly what my feelings were, but I wept for at least an hour. The effect was so profound that I slept peacefully for the first time in many years.
Gladys, the chief counselor, asked me to read the letter to the group. As I began to read it, the tears began to flow down my cheeks. I looked up to see how the other addicts and alcoholics were responding. What I saw was a room full of some really hard-core, cynical alcoholics weeping without any shame at all.
This experience changed the course of my treatment. I felt like part of a group for the first time in years. I will never forget them.
There were the railroad employees who had flunked drug tests and were sentenced to The BridgeWay by their boss.
There was the old lady, Hailey, who had begun to drink after her husband died. There was a young man named Ben who had been the golden boy of his family but was busted for selling drugs at his college.
A very large country boy named John from the Ouachita Mountains of West Arkansas was there with the rest of them, crying like a baby. Kim was sobbing the loudest, and placed her hand on my trembling arm as I tried to hold the letter steady as I read.
When I finished reading the letter, everyone came up and hugged me, including the counselors—who had one by one entered the room as the situation unfolded. I was no longer alone. I was with a group of people struggling with the same problem.
We is a powerful word, and it is used many times in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book. The concept of one alcoholic helping another is part of the magic that entered my life that day.