QUESTIONS ABOUT ADDICTION
How do I know if someone I love is addicted to alcohol or another drug?
Why doesn't she SEE the problem? Is it denial?
- First, drugs change our senses, so we take in altered information. When someone has used alcohol or another drug, they see differently, have an altered sense of touch and even hear things differently. Then drugs impair brain function, so we think differently about the information we take in through our senses.
- Drugs also distort memory and sometimes even wipe out memories entirely. (This may prevent you from remembering the problems that come up because of the drug use.)
- When people have erroneous beliefs about addiction, these can interfere with seeing the truth. For instance, if someone believes they cannot be addicted to prescription drugs, they will have a harder time seeing a growing addiction.
- And finally, there is the phenomenon of denial – that normal human capacity to distort the truth when it scares us. We all practice forms of denial to make ourselves feel better. It’s just human and normal. But when you add the impairment of senses and thinking, blackouts and beliefs based on misinformation, denial can be deadly.
Chemically dependent people must work through these distortions to get to the truth, because if they don’t see the problem, they can’t do what they need to do to get well.
If he really wanted to stop, why doesn't he just stop?
- The fact is that many addicted people really do want to stop – they just don’t know how to. They’ve tried before, but without the right information and support, they felt overwhelmed and gave into the addiction again.
- First, the physical withdrawal from drugs (including alcohol) can be very uncomfortable and makes the person want to use. Even after withdrawal is over, there can still be physical cravings. Besides, the person is not just addicted to a specific drug, but also becomes addicted to the experience of changing how he feels. It’s likely that the addicted person has gotten used to taking care of any uncomfortable feelings by taking a drug. It takes time and effort to find good alternatives.
- Once addiction takes over, it is incredibly powerful. Getting beyond it requires extraordinary effort and the right help. Even people who really want to stop need specific information and strong support to recover.
How could this happen to me? I swore I'd never drink like my Dad did!
- The fact is that if Dad was alcoholic, or Mom or even your grandparents, your risk of developing addiction is much higher than normal.
- It is incredibly painful for children of alcoholics to realize that they, themselves, have become addicted to alcohol or other drugs. So often, they were so sure it would never happen to them. They may suffer, in part, because they may have judged their parent harshly for being addicted. With the addiction comes a terrible judgment of themselves.
- They did not realize that their genetic link created a vulnerability that set them up to become addicted more easily. This helps keep the vicious addiction cycle going through multiple generations in the same family.
- The good news is that people can stop the cycle in their generation and inoculate their children with information that will help them avoid problems in the future.
Why am I so depressed?
- Depression and addiction just seem to go together. This happens for various reasons.
- For many people, the drugs they use are actually called “depressants.” The chemical effect of these drugs depresses and slows down the body and mind. These drugs include alcohol; tranquilizers (such as benzodiazepines), muscle relaxants and sleeping pills. Use of these types of drugs for too long may actually create depression because of the effects on the body. The good news for these people is that when the drug use stops, this depressant effect also stops.
- Some people are depressed because addiction itself brings about depressing effects – arguments, health problems, legal issues, financial problems, social isolation, etc. Again, when people are able to stop the drug use, these depressing effects begin to disappear.
- Some people, however, were depressed before they began using. In fact, they may have begun using drugs (including alcohol) because they found temporary relief from the depression. For these people, it may be that psychotherapy (and medical help) will be important in recovery to help them deal with the additional problem of depression.
- Whatever the reason for the depression, if someone has become addicted to a drug, recovery from the dependency is absolutely vital to the recovery from depression.
What's a 'functioning alcoholic?' or 'functioning addict.'
- We often hear people say, he’s a “functioning” alcoholic or addict, usually meaning that the person obviously has a problem with alcohol or other drugs, but is still employed. The term is based on the misconception that anyone who is addicted has fallen apart completely and couldn’t possibly still be functioning at work or at home.
- The truth is that most addicted people are able to continue working for a long time after the addiction takes hold. They are usually successful at hiding the problem from their employers and coworkers until it becomes very far advanced.
- Besides, many addicted people will do anything they can to hang on to their source of money, since they need the money to pay for their drug of choice. They often will drag themselves to work even when they feel awful from their drug use.
- The fact is that people need to get help long before their addiction affects their employment because is it usually doing damage in several other areas of their lives first.
- For some of the indicators of addiction in employees or coworkers, please see the “Red Flags” section.
Why do you call alcohol a 'drug?' It's not really a drug, is it?
- Alcohol is a very powerful psychoactive drug that continues to cause more people to seek treatment than any other drug. The fact that you can buy it in your local grocery store does not mean it is safe.
- Psychoactive drugs affect the functioning of the central nervous system, changing perceptions, thoughts, feelings and behavior. Alcohol is very powerful in this regard.
- Alcohol is also a highly addictive drug. The addiction may develop quickly or over a long period of time, slowly taking over the person’s life.
- People are often surprised to learn that detoxification from alcohol can be a more serious medical problem than detoxification from heroin. While detoxification from heroin is very uncomfortable and dramatic, many more people die from untreated withdrawal from alcohol.
Can you be addicted if you only take medicines that are prescribed by your physician?
- There are many wonderful medicines today available by prescription that have been a real boon to us. Just think how much better doctors are able to control post-surgical pain now than 50 years ago. The Hospice movement has helped medical professionals improve symptom management for terminally-ill patients, so that the end of life can be more comfortable and less frightening
- However, many of these drugs also carry a dangerous side effect – the potential for addiction. Many people have become addicted over the years to drugs that should have been used only temporarily to treat a medical condition. Taken too long or in larger amounts than prescribed, many drugs can become a problem.
- Medical professionals are becoming more knowledgeable about addiction and are often able to spot a growing problem, but patients who become addicted may not be truthful and may manipulate for more drugs or even go to multiple doctors to get prescriptions. If you think there may be a problem with a prescription drug, please talk very frankly and honestly with your doctor about it.
If I had a problem, wouldn't someone have said something to me about it?
- Not necessarily. For one thing, this is a very difficult topic to bring up to anyone, no matter how close you are. It’s terribly uncomfortable to say anything about this sensitive topic.
- Often the people around someone who is drinking or using too much are also concerned about their own use, so they are afraid to say anything because they might hear, “Well, you use as much as I do!”
- Sometimes, friends and family have tried to say something already – maybe even more than once – but the person who is addicted screens it out because they don’t want to hear it. They may react angrily or even blame the person who tries to bring the problem to their attention.
- Finally, someone who loves you may have their own denial of the problem, because they are frightened about it. They don’t want you to be sick! They hope it’s not really true, so they may distort the truth themselves.
- If you wonder what others think about your drinking or drug use, ask them. Be sure to do that in a way that the person knows you really do want to hear their true perceptions and that you won’t punish them or blame them for telling the truth.
I know an older person who drinks and uses pills too much. What's the point in trying to stop them?
- The point is that older people who abuse alcohol or other drugs tend to be unhappier, sicker and more socially isolated. Being actively addicted is a miserable way to live, no matter what your age.
- Many times, it’s the mixture of alcohol with prescription drugs that gets older people into trouble. They may not realize that their tolerance for alcohol drops as they get older. If they take alcohol along with mood-altering prescriptions, they can have problems quickly.
- People who hold back from getting help for older alcoholics or prescription addicts often say, “I don’t want to take away the little pleasure they still have.” The truth is that addiction interferes with the pleasures that could be a part of their lives. It makes them sick.
- Getting beyond the addiction or abuse makes them happier. Contrary to what people imagine, recovery rates for older people are just as good as for younger people. Older people tend to respond well to treatment and have improved lives because of it.
QUESTIONS ABOUT TREATMENT
How do I get into Mountain Vista Farm?
How do I pay for treatment?
For clients who may need to borrow funds to assist with treatment costs, we are able to refer clients or their families to an insurance brokerage specializing in loans for healthcare. (The brokerage is a completely separate organization and has no formal connection with Mountain Vista Farm.) For more information about this option, call Mountain Vista Farm at 800 300-6716.
Do you give drugs for detoxification?
Will I be locked up?
- Mountain Vista Farm is a completely voluntary program. Clients must choose to be here. We would never hold anyone against his or her will.
- We do acknowledge that our clients are often ambivalent about coming into treatment. They might be conflicted – they want to stop having the problems associated with their addiction, but may still feel very attached to the drugs and wish they could keep on using. That’s normal.
- It also may be that some clients feel forced to take action by their families, by their employer or even by the legal system. Nevertheless, our program is completely voluntary and each client must be willing to enter treatment and to follow the guidelines while they are with us.
What is the schedule like?
- We will engage you in rehabilitation as soon as possible, often even on the first day. The schedule includes a variety of activities: an educational series, group and individual counseling, relapse prevention training and participation in 12 Step support groups.
- The four-week therapeutic program is balanced with recreation and wellness classes. The program at Mountain Vista Farm is designed to support your recovery – body, mind and spirit.
How long do I have to be there?
Successful completion of the residential program takes 30 days.
Are there any special activities for women in treatment?
- When support groups for alcoholics began, they seemed to be just for men. When professional treatment for addictions was being developed, it was designed for men. The assumption was that women alcoholics were rare and unusual. We know now that there are many women alcoholics and many women with addictions to other drugs. (About 40% of our clients are women.) These women have some special needs in treatment and, while addiction is addiction, addiction in women really is different in some ways.
- First, alcohol and drugs affect women differently. There is also a different degree of stigma in our society for alcoholic women and addicted women – the societal judgment seems to be harsher than for men. Finally, there are some issues that women are simply more comfortable discussing with other women in a safe place. At Mountain Vista Farm, we include groups that are just for women, including two process groups per week and a “Women Only” support group. Our staff is composed of both women and men, so there are always caring, sturdy, dedicated women on our treatment team to assist with these special issues of women and addiction.
Can my family be involved?
Your family is included in treatment because they also need information, support and healing. Sunday is “Family Day,” when your significant others are invited (with your permission) to participate in educational and support groups. Your counselor will also schedule a family counseling session during your treatment.
Is the program licensed?
- Mountain Vista Farm is licensed and certified by the State of California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.
- The residential program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
What happens after treatment?
Recovery takes time. Our continuing care (Aftercare) groups offer support for your first two years of recovery. Groups are held weekly at Mountain Vista Farm and in three other locations in the Bay Area.
I already tried rehab and it didn't work! Why should I try again?
- Recovering from addiction is not an easy task. As with any chronic disease, sometimes more than one treatment is necessary.
- Why doesn’t treatment always “take” the first time? Sometimes people are not ready to acknowledge the problem when they first go to treatment. They just don’t believe it.
- Sometimes they don’t accept what they need to do to stay sober. Maybe there’s just too much to deal with the first time or there are complicating problems that were not addressed.
- Mountain Vista Farm works with a number of clients who have had treatment in the past. Some have had significant periods of abstinence and relapsed, so we have relapse materials to focus their work on the key issues.
- The likelihood is that additional treatment will build on previous efforts and the person can come to a new understanding. We encourage people to keep trying until they achieve the happiness and contentment that comes with recovery.