Monthly Archives: June 2015

Kim’s Story: Recovery From Drugs And Mental Health

By Kim Lee Johnson

The earliest memories of my challenges with mental illness and addiction – I remember my mother shaking and being uncomfortable holding me as a baby.  There were years of abuse – emotional, verbal, sexual – but mostly in my household – the family members didn’t communicate with each other.  I learned to suppress my emotions and communicate only in writing.  I did not make close friends.

In addition, my caretaker and best friend, my maternal Grandmother, retired and when she left for the winter months, no babysitter was hired to take her place.  So, at 10 years of age, I began to cook, clean, and do laundry and to take care of my parents and younger sister and brother – emotionally – and physically – all at the same time.

Thus, perfect prep work for a future “member of Al-Anon” and a “Peer Support Specialist”.

I started drinking at the age of 14 to numb the pain and because I fell in deep like with a teenage boy who ran with a dangerous crowd.  It was just the excitement and attention I yearned for.

I got sober at 29.  And, my recovery from mental illness and subsequent addictions began.  Unfortunately, there were 20 years in Psyche wards, two failed marriages, two houses lost, and a loss of a 15 year career in my field (Bachelor of Arts from Michigan State University in Public Administration).  Eventually, I had to file bankruptcy.

I have been in therapy for as long as I have been sober – when I made a conscious decision to “not pick up a drink” when during my first hospitalization – the doctor told me “you will be on medication for bipolar disorder and you cannot drink alcohol again”.  I listened.

Most of my life, I had female therapists.  I had issues with female dominance and I thought that that would be “the ticket for me”.  During the past three years, my life and recovery have benefited by a wonderful man- my age – a therapist with disabilities himself.  He loves to work with people with Substance Abuse and Mental Illness – and he fulfilled the role of both a father and a brother for me.  He helped me to emotionally bond with a healthy male, and understood the desire to bond with a partner again.  He helped me with boundaries and trust issues for both my personal and professional lives.

He also encouraged me to continue to look for employment that satisfied me – and he knew I would benefit from relocating to do just that.

I hadn’t been employed by a “Peer Support” bureaucracy in 4 years.  But, I remained in contact daily with other “Peers” and I continued to visit the local “Drop In Center” where I used to work.

Ironically, I attended “Peer Recovery Coach” training this spring in Lansing.  I was certified in “Substance Abuse” as well as “Mental Health”.  I was offered a position by my trainer and accepted and bought a house.  I didn’t think I could make it an easy transition but with a lot of spiritual guidance and prayers from friends, it is now all falling into place.

I am also diabetic so I have plans for increasing exercise by walking this summer – at a local mall that is open early in the mornings and this can be accomplished every day of the year.

I sewed for many years and plan to dust off the cover of the machine again.  I used to sew with a large Group of women – but I enjoy sewing at home alone as well as with a Group.

I have returned to my old church – and am happy to have my friends and Pastor still there and happy to see me.  I intend to increase my activities with the Chapel – cooking for large groups, enjoying picnics, outings, Womens’ Groups, and Bible Studies.

I am making strides to handle my finances in healthier ways.  Finances are a challenge for people with bipolar illness – as well as most in general.

My sleep patterns have changed.  Insomnia has decreased and my moods are not quite as drastic.  As I said someone the other day, “I used to isolate to control the mania”.  I am not able to do that as much with my “new” life – and believe it or not – I don’t need to.

Have a beautiful – sober – clean – healthy life – each one of YOU!  Peace . . .

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4th of July Parade Marching for Awareness

By Aaron Emerson

Two local groups who are in the middle of fighting for individuals and families dealing with substance abuse issues will be in the middle of a Fourth of July Parade.  Families Against Narcotics and Wellness InX will be marching in the annual parade in Downtown Mason to help raise awareness for addiction and those in recovery.

The parade steps off at 7:30 at Mason High School and heads through downtown and then returns to the high school.  This is one of the largest parades in the county each year and will most likely draw a bigger crowd than usual due to the fact that the city of Mason is celebrating it’s 150th anniversary this year, which is a major theme of the parade.

Families Against Narcotics is a local group that advocates for individuals and their families who are in addiction or in recovery from addiction. They do a tremendous job of hooking individuals and families up with resources and hold a monthly forum where all parties dealing with the issue – including professionals, law enforcement, medical, etc. – get together and share resources and do what they can to help each other out.

Wellness InX is an agency in Lansing that deals with substance abusers and offers many services, including case management and peer support. They are a professional organization that deals with addiction directly at an almost street level, with case managers and recovery coaches that do a lot of work out in the “field.”

Together, the two organizations will be marching together with a banner and will be wearing t-shirts. This is a great way to not only raise awareness for substance abuse, but will help erase the stigma attached to addiction.

“This is an opportunity for the community to see that those in recovery, their parents, spouses, siblings and friends, service providers, and business leaders are all coming together to battle this epidemic,” said Phil Pavona, the Vice President of the Ingham County chapter of Families Against Narcotics.  “This epidemic is a community problem, it’s victims are community members, and it takes the whole community’s efforts to eradicate it.”

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State Creates Prescription Drug/Opioid Task Force

By Aaron Emerson

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced last week that the state is creating a task force that will focus on addressing the growing prescription drug and opioid problem in Michigan.

The group, officially named the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force, is going to be chaired by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and will include members from all across state government, law enforcement, and the medical community.

This announcement comes at a time when Michigan, consistent with the country, is undergoing what many experts are calling an epidemic. Drug abuse statistics, specifically prescription drug and heroin abuse, have risen dramatically over the last decade. This has led to a large increase in overdoses, many resulting in death, and according to the state’s website, the number of unintentional drug deaths have quadrupled in Michigan since 1999.

The announcement of the task force also stated they will examine the recent trends, evaluate strategic options, and develop a statewide action plan by this Fall. The state budget for the 2016 Fiscal Year includes $1.5 million to address the issue.

Hopefully, this task force will be able to make an impact on the opioid problem that has engulfed our state, affecting individuals and families from all walks of life. From my perspective, there are a lot of great things trending in the right direction to start putting policies and programs in place to better treat and prevent this issue, but there is still a lot of room for improvement, obviously.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon will also be serving leadership roles on the task force.

Other members include:

  • Mike Zimmer, director of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
  • Kriste Etue, director of Michigan State Police
  • Jim Ananich, State Senate Minority Leader
  • Tonya Schuitmaker, State Senator
  • Anthony Forlini, State Representative
  • Andy Schor, State Representative
  • Victor Fitz, Cass County Prosecutor
  • Judge Linda Davis, President of Families Against Narcotics
  • James Craig, Detroit Police Chief
  • Mike Lovelace, Marquette County Sheriff
  • Spencer Johnson, President of Michigan Health and Hospital Association
  • Justice Conrad Mallett, Detroit Medical Center Chief Officer
  • Laurie Wesolowicz, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
  • Steve Bell, Michigan Osteopathic Association
  • R. Corey Waller, Spectrum Health
  • Larry Wagenknecht, CEO of Michigan Pharmacists Association
  • Bob Lathers, CEO Ionia County CMH
  • Matt Clay, Director of Health Services of Pokagon Band of Potawatomi

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One Year Sober

By Aaron Emerson

What a week I have had! One Thursday I celebrated one year of sobriety, an achievement and milestone I am very proud of. Not only am I excited that I, a recovering heroin addict who used to not be able to go six hours without using or scheming to get my dope, went a full 365 days without any mind or mood altering chemicals in my body.  I am also particularly proud of this because I worked so hard to get another year after a brief relapse took away my first year of sobriety.

After about eight years of active addiction, four of which were spent on heroin, I checked myself into a rehab in Jackson and was able to jump on the recovery journey. After several past attempts at rehab, numerous stints in jail – the last time in which I served a full year in jail – two overdoses and a severe infection, it was the first time I wholeheartedly and honestly tried to get recovery for myself. And it worked.

The rehab stabilized me and hooked me up with some great resources and individuals who helped me when I checked out. I was finally serious and it felt good. To show how powerful the disease of addiction is, though, I couldn’t put together more than a week without using.  I wanted to stay clean so bad and had a daughter that I wanted to be present for, but I kept slipping.

Finally, on May 16 of 2013, I surrendered at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and vowed to stay clean one day at a time. I started to put together weeks without using, then a month, then a few months, and all of a sudden I was gaining substantial sobriety.  One day at a time, I got up to and celebrated one whole year of sobriety. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. I had beaten a severe heroin addiction without using anything – not even an occasional sip of beer or puff of a joint.

And though I knew that addiction was a lifetime disease and was never truly “beatable”, I let up a little bit in my recovery program and relapsed right before my birthday. After being so proud of gaining one year of clean time, I gave it right away just a month later. I was so angry at myself and sank into a deep pit of depression. Somehow, though, with the help of my girlfriend, Alison, my family, and my recovery coach, Phil, I was able to keep the relapse very brief and didn’t continue to use.

Next thing I knew, I was up to another month clean. And once again I started gaining sobriety and started climbing out of the fog of depression and self pity I was stuck in. I got up to six months, nine months, and then I started getting really excited again. Could I actually gain another year of sobriety?

Though I was excited about the approaching date – my birthday – I still continued to take it 24 hours at a time, knowing that I can’t ever put on the brakes like I did last time. The day came – June 18th – and Alison and I took a trip up to Ludington State Park to celebrate the milestone with a three day long camping trip. We got to the park the night before my official date with Alison hiding my sobriety coin she ordered for me. I woke up the next morning at 6 am because I was so excited to celebrate my accomplishment and pull out my one year coin!

We had an amazing day and I enjoyed every minute of it – the hiking, bonfires and beautiful scenery of Michigan’s nature. It was such an amazing experience and moment for me, not only as a recovering addict, but as a person. I can honestly say that not only am I so proud of myself for once again obtaining one year of total sobriety, but that I have grown as a result of this experience and came out of it a stronger person.

I have also been able to experience the true power of addiction. Not the kind of active addiction that forces you to use drugs each day just to get out of bed and not be sick, but the kind that eats at you even after a year of abstinence while doing a lot of positive work in the community. Addicts are never safe from relapse and can never be “cured”, contrary to claims in commercials for expensive rehabs in California and Florida. That is why it’s so important to work a recovery program and take life one day at a time – even after years of sobriety.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me through this journey and to every individual who reads this Blog and Newsletter. I hope you will continue to read and share YOUR story of addiction and recovery with others on this site – if you feel comfortable. Talking about this stuff not only helps us, but it helps to erase the stigma. I can assure you that recovery works – even for the most hardcore of us – and that a life of joy and fun awaits those who work hard to fight this battle.

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Adventure Recovery

By Andy Anderson

As any addict seeking treatment will soon discover, the world of recovery is full of many options. Finding the program that is best suited to your personal situation is critical for your ultimate success. In considering all of the options, make sure you take a look at programs that include some form of adventure recovery.  

What is Adventure Recovery?

The term “adventure recovery” may be completely new to most prospective addiction rehab patients. Though it’s name may lead you to believe otherwise, adventure recovery is a simple, easy, and effective way to recover from addiction. Simply put, adventure recovery is replacing your addictions with exciting, active, and meaningful activities. This usually entails physical activities that help you to achieve the “natural highs” that come from observing and participating in life’s wonders.

Whether it be hiking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, or any other physically exhilarating activity, engaging in outdoor activities can greatly assist in addiction recovery as well as provide new and exciting routes through which the addict can reclaim a zest for life and appreciate the beauty of the world.

What are the Benefits of Adventure Recovery?

Addiction recovery should always be an individual process. Different methods work for different people. But there are unique benefits of adventure recovery that, when combined with medical treatment, are practically universal. One of the most important aspects of any program is active engagement. In adventure recovery, you are engaging directly with others and the world around you through participation in physical activities that demand focus, coordination, and energy.

Most importantly, you’ll be re-engaging with yourself in ways you probably haven’t done since before your life as an addict. Re-engaging with your body and your mind in adventure recovery is a great way to get re-acquainted with yourself and re-discover your inner strengths.

Another great benefit of adventure recovery is that it allows the addict to boldly create a new life for themselves, with new memories, new relationships, and new ways to interact with a community. Much of addiction rehabilitation involves removing oneself from the habits and relationships that feed addictive behaviors. Adventure recovery replaces those things with their healthy counterparts.

While many of the benefits of adventure recovery are social, mental, and psychological, the physical benefits are important too. As referenced here, adventure recovery activities help you to get in shape and aid in building physical strength. In other words, adventure recovery will help lead you to better health overall.

Organized vs. Personal Adventure Recovery

In order for adventure recovery to work properly, there needs to be a balance between organized and personal adventure recovery. Both contribute to the overall positive experience of the addict, and both require the addict to develop skills that will transfer over to building a sober life. Horseback riding at a rehab center, for example, may entail adherence to a schedule and being responsible to a group, whereas personal horseback riding may involve more internal reflection and individual interaction with one’s surroundings. Whatever the details of your adventure therapy program, the interplay between organized and personal adventure activities grants the addict a full pallet through which to channel their energies toward successful life training.

Organized expeditions are often a successful part of adventure recovery. Whether it be an extended white-water rafting trip, wilderness expedition, or a combination of many activities, expedition therapies will help the addict participate in a group effort while becoming more in touch with their own physicality. Organized expeditions will also give the addict an extensive outlet through which they can exercise leadership and interpersonal skills in a safe space.

Ongoing Adventure Recovery After Rehab

One of the great advantages of adventure recovery is that it gives the addict skills and activities that they can continue long after rehab. Most adventure therapy activities take place in the outdoors, so that recovered addicts have a rich array of skills and hobbies they can continue no matter where they are.

After rehab, adventure recovery becomes a way to deal with the stresses of life that were once triggers for relapse. Successful execution of the activities you first engaged in through adventure therapy will become avenues toward physical, emotional, and spiritual growth and learning. With adventure recovery as a template for your new sober life, you will be fully equipped to see how fulfilling life can be without using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with your problems.

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