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Last Time Out

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John SFYB Admin/Outreach

There were plenty of times in my life far worse than my last time using but not quite as demoralizing as that empty lonely feeling of accepting homelessness and pulling up some dirt underneath a playground. The ironic thing was that on either side of this patch of dirt between two churches anonymous 12th step groups met each day, multiple times a day to discuss the solution to the problem that had brought there. The churches themselves were built upon faith in a power above who could restore me from this bottomless pit of despair I now lay in and yet still their message had fallen upon deaf ears as I circled the drain and plummeted towards absolute zero.

For a week prior, I had been nose diving towards the avoidable fate and was powerless to do anything about it despite being consciously aware of the end I would certainly face alone. Fully employed and living in an apartment, driving a BMW with money in my pocket and convinced of my plan to relive my early glory days of criminality, I had also been informed about the progressive nature of my disease and knew in my heart of hearts I had no control over my actions and had changed far too much to execute this plan. Robbing and stealing, scheming, and scamming, lying and cheating was the order of the day back in my youth and although the actions I perpetuated this last time weren’t exactly forgivable I was no longer the victimizer I once was.

A ruthless streak inside of me kept me hovering just above this bottom and ultimately from acceptance of a complete surrender which has turned out to be the greatest of gifts in building a life of value and meaning. If faced with hunger I would take, poverty had no bearing on me as everything and everyone were simply tools for me to use as I took. Washing checks, assuming identities and stealing cars were common place in my hell bent younger years yet the changes I had felt and made in my life through attempting to recreate who I was had barred me from these actions. Internal strife and struggle launched this mental war within my head and as I fell deeper into the emotional combat I lost sight of the cliff I was stumbling off. Knowing full well that if I didn’t look up I would surely stumble clean over the edge I couldn’t stop my feet compelled by some unseen force destined to face my final dissent. If I were to survive the fall I swore this would be the fate I would never face again.

The job was suffering as I couldn’t pull myself from the bathroom after doing a shot, blood on my sleeve and eyes pinned in the light or saucers in the shade, sweating with lips chapped and dried, the desert is no place for tweaking. Eventually it became far too great a liability to keep me on as I would argue and fight with anyone to deflect how I felt about myself, I couldn’t arrive on time and sometimes wouldn’t make it at all. On the specific day that would be my last I was hardly there at all and for the time I was likely caused more damage than not, yelling profanities at a co-worker and sneaking off the shoot up quite often. The thing was I hadn’t paid my rent and had to move out of my apartment and was staying in the very hotel I worked at and driving a vehicle the boss had been financing my purchase of so if one went so would the rest. I knew this and yet still I could not keep it together and essentially forced this man’s hand, he couldn’t possibly keep me working when clearly, I wasn’t doing anything of value and was putting him and his place of business at risk.

One day I woke up in the hotel confused at how I had fallen asleep in the first place despite the dozen or so days I had been awake living in a hotel room with half a biker club coming and going, needle’s and dope everywhere and all at the very place I worked. Stepping outside I saw the wheel had been removed from my BMW (that wasn’t really mine because I hadn’t been paying for it) along with the lug studs to thwart a speedy getaway. Stumbling over to the main office to complain about this atrocity I was met with my final check and told this would be my last night at the hotel. Bing Bang Boom, no car, no job, no place and all because I couldn’t look up long enough to avoid the cliff I stumbled directly over, I was shocked somehow and well wouldn’t you be!

What normally would have sparked an immediate return to the criminal actions that haunted every waking moment of my past, this time I had no will to victimize others left in me, I would fall alone. Reaching out for help from anyone fool enough to still listen I was crashing hard from lack of dope or will to live and my cries fell upon deaf ears as one door after the next slammed shut. A dear friend who had a sober house picked me and the last of my belongings up off the curb in front of the hotel and was somewhat hesitant but let me stay until it was clear that detoxing here wouldn’t be a good look for the other residents who were all still early in their efforts to recover.

Waking in the morning I was told I had to go and as she was my final option as it were the remaining option was the street or a crime spree which I had already accepted as non optional. Gracious enough to allow me to store my things there at her home I insisted I be dropped off where the homeless people gather and accepted my fate. No dope to mask this harsh reality of homeless in the relentless desert sun in the middle of summer I fell deeper into a state of demoralization. Backpack packed with nothing essential to survival and crashed out on some concrete in front of the local grocery store with the veterans of this street life surrounding me, I owned the fact that it was my actions that brought me here. Once again, the trickster of my selfish and self-centered thinking had left me with nothing yet something was different this time, I began to pray.

That night I followed one of the fellow men in despair to a Filipino church that we heard had free dinner and as we ate the spaghetti and salad they prepared and listened as they preached about their God. Feeling empty at the time and unable to recognize their altruism for what it was, I snickered at this message of hope and knew there must be an ulterior motive yet they asked for nothing and only hugged us and thanked us for coming. I followed this street veteran who led the way to a safe place to call home for the night, it just so happened to be underneath a playground between two churches where not only the congregation met but also various anonymous fellowships, multiple times a day on either side discussing the solution. How ironic that this would be my first night clean, how ironic that I now attend groups at both locations, in both fellowships, share and participate and find my community and a host of friends. The next morning, I pulled myself from out from underneath this playground as a pastor came and told me “You Can’t Stay Here!” I strolled back to that grocery store and plopped myself back down.

.   “God please end this suffering I continuously cause myself” was about the best prayer I could muster just as a friend from the fellowship passed by and said four very spiritual words to me, a mantra I now somewhat live by. “FUCK THAT, GET UP” he pronounced, reaching his hand down and pulling me up from despair. That moment has been the forefront of a journey I am surprised by with each passing moment. Today I am eternally grateful for the constant reminder of the pain I never wish to return to that playground represents, the bottom I never sought to reach is now the bedrock from which I build an amazing life beyond my wildest dreams.

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Why is detox beneficial?

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Most of us know that detoxing from a substance is the first step of any drug program.  In order to cleanse the body of toxicity, detoxing is a must.  It isn’t an easy task.  But easy isn’t what an addict knows anyway, right?  Being done and moving into recovery, unfortunately, isn’t something that many succeed at doing.
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Many remain trapped inside of active addiction.  These people also remain in the criminal system.  Yet still, more have lost their lives from giving in to their drug of choice.

Those that remain uneducated on addiction still have their opinions about how easy it should be to just quit if one desires to be clean.  But those that have experienced and witnessed the grasps of addiction first hand, know all too well that recovery takes strength, commitment, and support.

Even more troubling is the cost of healthcare, the cost of treatment; moreover, the financial burden that takes precedence over life saving actions.  It’s true that an addict will fight to maintain their addiction and to keep the physical dependency at bay in order to avoid pain, physical and emotional.

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It’s true that families and friends are torn apart because of addiction. But on the other side of this the reality is society still perceives these people – the junkies, the meth heads, the wastes, the worthless – as lives not worth saving, as people that refuse to help themselves, and as a focus that for some reason shouldn’t take precedence today.
Here’s the truth: People are dying.  We are losing more lives to this epidemic than any other statistic standing in the way of our own longevity.  So, as far as healthcare is concerned, let’s strip it down a bit.

Yes, the cost is high for treatment.  Yes, the cost proves to be a financial burden for many.  But when one can look past the initial cost, long term treatment is more cost efficient than many probably realize.   The savings through healthcare on a long term view, are at an estimated ratio of 12 to 1 (2016).

That’s an important fact.  Considering the options of continuing the course in active addiction as well as the likelihood of incarceration, the financial burden of treatment by way of healthcare is a positive.

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Here’s an example:  As stated by the National Drug Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the cost of incarceration, per person annually, amounts to approximately $18,400.00.

The average cost of treatment is $4,700.00 (and that’s including the cost of medicine assisted treatment). Also, when comparing the differences financially in healthcare vs. incarceration, by utilizing addiction treatment programs, many are able to increase their own socialization skills, by increasing positive results in productivity in the workplace, and by reducing work related accidents caused by substance use.

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Without treatment, those with a criminal past because of substance abuse have a recidivism rate of an upwards of 85%.  Past problems are not dealt with, and the addiction remains very active for the abuser.

It is also estimated that every dollar invested in addiction treatment programs yield a return of $4.00 – $7.00.  This then reduces theft, and keeps other drug related crimes down (NIDA).

By looking at the long term comparisons, it seems to remain an unfair bias that treatment is too costly for those in need. While the upfront costs can hinder someone seeking assistance to begin the recovery process, the long term consequences speak quite loudly.  Treatment leads to a productive and healthy lifestyle.  For the individual regaining his life, free from addiction and substance abuse, it seems asinine to believe that treatment isn’t a good investment.

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The way to break free from a life of addiction is to undergo the necessary changes to do so.  The idea of detox is fearful for those suffering from a substance use disorder and often deters someone from finding the help he needs.

However, when considering the reality that life can change and by having the desire to change it, detoxing is a rather small hurdle of time to undergo once the long term benefits are considered.

The experience, too, is one that the addict can cling to as a reminder for what will need to be felt again should he return to using a substance.  Even using MAT’s, one has to consider that these are not meant to be lifelong commitments.  Regardless of the length of time, the ultimate goal is to end the use of opiates or other substances.  

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What is detox? What happens after detox?detox 2

Detoxing is the physical action of removing any one or more toxic substances from the body.  In order to do so correctly this process involves complete abstinence from the abused substance(s).  
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Robert Henslee SFYB Founder

This process is also the first part of one’s recovery from substance use.  As the first step, this means that regardless of the type of treatment, intensive outpatient or inpatient therapy, detoxing from any abused substance will happen for the addict as he begins his recovery journey.

However, because of the abrupt changes the body undergoes during this period of time, it is a safer environment for the individual to undergo a detox at a treatment facility.  Trained medical staff are kept on-hand throughout the entire process.  This ensures proper supervision of withdrawal symptoms.  Not only is the extra supervision ideal for the discomfort experienced throughout, but it will also keep one from giving in to cravings to the alcohol or drug of choice (DOC).

Typically, treatment programs offer 30-90 day options.  Depending on the abused substance(s), detox lengths will vary.  Because some drugs take longer than others to leave a person’s body, having around the clock care is beneficial to someone undergoing the detox process.  Heroin is an opiate and takes the better part of one week to be completely removed from the body of an addict.  But there are some substances that do not induce physical withdrawals when stopped.  Even so, these conditions still require the one in recovery to utilize and maintain personal counseling and/or group therapy for treatment.

It is not until a person feels he is in control of himself, both mentally and physically, that he will be approved and deemed fit to safely leave a treatment facility.  The detox and rehabilitation programs improve the likelihood of one’s success.  Not allowing any chance of railroading the necessary time lapse of healing before the option to return to his home and daily life, is a huge factor in remaining free of bad judgment and risking a relapse.

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As an addict, using the DOC is the norm to avoid facing his own emotions.  As the body is removing these toxins, the emotions will then become real and unavoidable.  This experience can be hard and is trying for the beginning stages of recovery.  Typically, while in the first 24-48 hours, the individual will experience immense and difficult emotions.  Trying to work through these alone, are often what causes a relapse to happen.

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As an option, many transitioning into recovery are given the opportunity to begin medical assisted treatments (MAT’s) to aid in the relief of the symptoms one undergoes in detox.  As a result, in choosing this, one opiate is being replaced with another, which in turn prolongs the process of a complete detox.  Regardless of the available MAT’s, any one of them will result in this delay.  It could be suggested then that undergoing the first step of a complete detox will save the individual from similar situations in the future.

Not only this, but denying one’s self the opportunity for ongoing therapy at the end of the 30-90 treatment could result in the inability of correctly coping with the emotions that will be surfacing after, with their having been avoided for a duration of time, whether long or short in length.  Additionally, if outpatient treatment is desired to be maintained, referrals for a local treatment facility can be made for an individual.  It is important to know that detox alone is not enough to ensure success in long-term abstinence and recovery.  Therapy, whether individual or group focused, is a strong positive factor for one’s recovery.

While detoxing from a substance will rid it from the body, the individual also needs to learn how to cope with major issues that he may not be used to while being sober.  Learning to self-motivate, how to be constructive, to develop socialization skills, and to function actively within the community and society, means a foundation needs to be built.  The goal for the recovering addict once the detox has been completed is to maintain his productivity in his daily living.

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Lessons from Intensive Care: AKA Detox

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Whenever a person is brought into any emergency room on Earth the same general procedure is followed. The person seeking help is usually a complete stranger to the healthcare providers working there.
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SFYB Certified Coach

That being said, an initial assessment is required to rule out immediate life threats. If one of these conditions is discovered, the patient is brought right back and treated according to their individual circumstances. If the stars are aligned and this person survives their ordeal, many times they are brought to intensive care to begin the recovery process.

The process of getting into recovery form the fastest growing killer, addiction, is practically the same. However, there is one small difference, someone entering into treatment is in a life threatening condition versus a rather benign condition such as a bunion or the common cold.

Lessons from Intensive Care: AKA Detox Click to Tweet

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When someone has made the decision to seek treatment, the first step is finding a center. Unfortunately, treatment centers and detox units are not as prevalent as emergency rooms, but that is another conversation entirely.

My focus is to address what happens when a facility is located and the sick person first walks in. Based on the assessment performed by facility staff as to what substances the patient is using and their own unique needs, placement takes place. It is generally assumed that the person is in a life or death condition and the shoe could drop at any moment.

They are brought in just as one who is having a heart attack or stroke with the understanding that the end result without stabilization is death or disability. Notice I said the word stabilization, not cure. Curing any life threat isn’t en overnight process with most any disease process, but especially with addiction. As it was once posed to me, if you walk 8 miles into the deep forest, there are no shortcuts out.

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Detox is the first step in the recovery from substance abuse addiction treatment. Some substances require intensive monitoring if one is now deciding to stop putting them into their body. Speaking from my personal experience, opiate withdrawal is excruciating and I felt like I was gonna die, but it won’t kill you.

That is, unless there are other underlying conditions. Alcohol and Benzodiazepine withdrawal can definitely kill a person if not done under medical supervision. Some examples of a “Benzo” would be Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, or Ativan. These drugs are prescribed many times for anxiety but also can treat certain seizure disorders making them have dangerous effects if stopping abruptly.

The initial assessment performed would help to make the safest and necessary detox care decisions. Once a bed is assigned and the patient is brought into the facility, the detox begins. Addressing the issues or reasons one has chosen to use drugs or alcohol cannot begin to happen until stabilization in detox. That onion has many layers and in most cases will take the rest of a persons life to peel.

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Detox can last one day to as many as several weeks. Again, this varies from patient to patient. In most cases they are given medications to help with symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, restless legs, and vomiting to name a few.

For most people entering detox, a hot meal may the first they have had in days or even weeks. Again, speaking from my experience, my money and thought process was on getting one more bag or pill. The thought of food was non existent most times.

A bed with pillows and blanket are provided, another simple luxury that is ignored when one is “running the streets.” Hygiene products are provided such as toothpaste and even a shower. When one is “caught in the grip” of their self destruction, they are reduced to an animal level of behaving and I don’t know many monkeys or coyotes who bathe or brush their teeth.

Another major thing is the wide range of emotion, mood swings, and desire to go back to the thing that brought one into detox. These things can be addressed with 24/7 staff who are trained to deescalate a newly recovering person. All the things I have stated above are not from books or web streaming documentaries, they are from my hardly earned experience from multiple detox stays on my recovery journey.

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When a person is determined to be healthy enough to be released from “intensive care” and enter the next phase in recovery, case managers begin the work at finding a longer term treatment center or “rehab.”

This is no different from when a person leaving the hospital form having major heart surgery. They are out of immediate threat, but not ready to return just yet. They are also placed in a “rehab” to get stronger and healthier. In the addiction treatment world, rehab is where the real hard work begins.

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Detox is not the place for this as one needs to be brought to a place of homeostasis or balance first before being stretched, shaped, and molded into something new.

I would not have been able to begin facing the multifaceted issues that brought me to my knees without first going to intensive care. If you or your loved one is doing the same substances I was doing, detox is paramount.

I did everything I could get my hands on and the signs and symptoms of an active drug or alcohol user are the same and thus the recovery process requires the journey from the starting point. Reach out to me. 

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  • Great FB Groups @ Pages For Addiction I’ve been working with the best support people/groups in the addiction vertical on Facebook for a number of years now. All the groups (below) are some of the...
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  • Lost In Limbo? Hey if you need a friend and some help reach out to me Robert @ 772.206.6676 If you’re a service provider and wish to become a member of our network call John...
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