Thoughts from the Recovery Clinic
By Tina Stec, MD, MPH
and Bizhiki Wellness Center
There have been a number of overdose deaths in the area lately, in addition to other deaths that were related to substance use. This is all very tragic and these deaths overwhelmingly occur in young adults.
I started working at LCO at the Recovery Clinic in July 2020. In this short time I have witnessed the loss of a number of community members. I have caught only a glimpse of what this community has gone through over the years, with so many young and tragic deaths. It is heartbreaking and should not be normal in any community.
Opioid addiction is often to blame for these overdose deaths. We all have heard how opioid addiction has grown throughout the country, and it has gotten even worse with COVID. Alcohol use has also increased with COVID. Alcohol accounts for more deaths per year in the country than opioid deaths, but these deaths are often seen as car accidents or liver failure when the true culprit is alcohol.
It is hard for family and friends of those with addiction at times to understand why a person with addiction continues to use despite all the consequences of drug or alcohol use, including the risk of death. Families see their loved ones tell them lies, not show up for events, show up high, end up in jail, lose their kids, among other things. Family can see their loved one seemingly become a different person through addiction.
Addiction is a brain disease. Drugs or alcohol can hijack the brain and cause people to do things they would never otherwise do. The part of the brain that makes decisions and judgements does not work when the addiction is strong because a person may feel as though they will literally die without the drug. Or, they may feel there is no other way to cope with stress. Imagine the things you might do if you really thought your life was at stake. If you were starving and would otherwise die, do you think you might steal some food if you had the chance? This is the sort of mindset that those with drug or alcohol addiction can be in.
Those with addictions still have their values, the addiction just takes over. How many people have heard someone say “I am not going to use anymore” and then later that day they are using? Many times, the person really meant what they said, then something triggers them and they impulsively make a different decision.
Drug use gets attached to memory and unfortunately those memories are strong. So seeing a person, a certain place, a smell, even a color can trigger a memory of using. These triggers can happen unexpectedly and almost instantly cause cravings. Studies have shown that these triggers can cause the brain to release dopamine (the pleasure chemical) in the brain, in anticipation of the drug. The release of this makes your brain want more of it. And most people at this point find it very hard to say no.
Addiction is a disease of delusion. A person with the addiction will constantly tell themselves, “I will quit tomorrow”, or “This is the last time” or “I will just have a little” or even “Well, I have had a really bad day so it is ok” or “I had a really good day so it is ok.” The delusions and excuses will never end with addiction.
No one wants to be addicted. No one ever thinks it will happen to them.
Not all addictions are the same. There is a spectrum of severity of addiction. Some people are coming in earlier in their addiction and it will be easier for them to stop. Others have a more severe addiction and they will have a harder time as the drug or alcohol has a stronger hold on the brain.
The sober support a person has in their lives makes a huge difference in their chance of success of staying sober. If a person is trying to stop using and is living with others who use, it will be almost impossible for them to stop using. There has to be a strong sober environment and support of others who can help them stay sober. This is why going to treatment is helpful as it can give the person a ton of support and get them out of their usual habits and environment. Coming back home can be the hardest part of going away to treatment. When a person comes back home, habits and patterns of thinking have to change to not use. Most importantly, people cannot hang out with the friends they used to use with. They will need continued support by going to groups, seeing their counselor or therapist and taking their medications, among others. This all takes a lot of work.
Sobriety is not about willpower at all. You can have the strongest will of anyone but will likely still use if someone comes up to you and offers the drug of choice. You have to be set up for success by being in a sober environment and by having the skills to make the right choice. These skills have to be learned and your thinking as to change from old habits to better, new habits.
At Bizhiki we offer outpatient groups, therapy, drug counseling and CCS to support sobriety and mental health. The Recovery Clinic offers medications for addictions that can help with cravings and help a person feel more stable so they can then engage in these other services. The medications can be a vital piece to getting a person stable, but the real long lasting recovery happens when learning coping skills, taking care of the mental health, learning to say no to others and setting boundaries, and changing the old habits to new and healthier ways of dealing with life.
I have had patients who have just come to me for medication and have not wanted to engage in other services. Usually this does not work for very long. These patient may just take medications and do fine for months, and then when something bad happens in life they resort to their old way of coping, which is using a substance to feel better. Recovery involves finding better and healthier ways to deal with life and stress and how you feel.
There is always hope for ANYONE. No one is “too far gone”. The common denominator in who does well is the people who engage in other services in their recovery. Those who go to treatment, come to groups, learn relapse prevention skills, coping skills, deal with some of their trauma, and have sober support always do better. Eventually those who get a job also do better. We all need a schedule and to feel as though we are doing something positive with our talents and our lives. We all need to have connection to other people and to the community.
At Bizhiki Wellness Center and the Recovery Clinic we can offer these medications, skills and support that can result in long term sobriety, which can result in better relationships and a more fulfilling life.
Call The Recovery Clinic at 715-558-7899 if you want to see the doctor and discuss what medications might help you with an addiction. Mood, anxiety and sleep issues can also be addressed in those who also have an issue with substance use. The Recovery Clinic is in the Bizhiki Wellness Center.
To make an appointment with AODA (alcohol and drug counselor) or therapy please call the Bizhiki Wellness Center main number at 715-558-7883.
Bizhiki Wellness Center is located at 13447 W County Road B Hayward, WI.
Bizhiki Wellness Center
By Marie Basty, Administrator and Dorothy Crust, CSAC
Available now! Bizhiki Wellness Center offers Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling appointments at the LCO School and the Hayward School for students. Please contact our front desk at 715-558-7883 to initiate paperwork as parental consent is needed.
On December 20, 2021 please join us for a virtual discussion on support systems for families with loved ones in addiction. Zoom meeting ID 955 619 7302 Pass code is kYTXu8. Call 715-558-7893 for more information.
Wednesday December 22, 2021 at 11:00 AM we will have a NARCAN training. This training includes how to use the rescue medicine for an Opioid overdose, where to find available services for recovery, an overview of how medication works, and current community trends. It usually takes ½ hour and with time for questions up to an hour. Please call our front desk at 715-558-7883 to sign up for this class as we will be limited on space to abide by COVID distancing.