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EP 13: Recovering From Substance Abuse Issues
(Part 2)

The path to recovery following a catastrophic event often involves pain medication and medical treatment. It’s vital in most cases, but that can eventually turn into an addiction problem when people don’t have the right support system in place. In our previous episode with our guest, BK, we talked about the relationship between trauma and substance abuse.

In this part, we want to focus on the path to recovery. BK is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Advanced Alcohol Counselor in the state of Georgia and is committed to the process of recovery, which takes enormous compassion for people dealing with these types of issues. She will share her experience working with people who become dependent and find alternatives for dealing with the trauma. We’ll also have an honest discussion about overcoming the shame and guilt associated with the issues and talk about the role the community plays in supporting people in this situation.

Here’s some of what we discuss in this episode:
0:00 – Intro
0:59 – Becoming dependent
4:25 – Gateway to other drugs
8:28 – Healthy alternatives for dealing with trauma
13:01 – Overcoming shame and guilt
14:54 – Community support

Featured Keyword & Other Tags

Substance abuse, recover, support, gateway drugs, dependency

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Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury.

Well, let me ask you a question. So, so so my dad was an alcoholic, and that caused us a significant amount of grief and problems when I was growing up. And so I can relate to what you're saying. And I've always thought, Okay, well, I may have those tendencies as well. So I have to be very careful about, you know, the things that I do, and the things that I put in my body. And so that's always been like a major sort of, you know, I tend to think that the things that we think are our challenges or adversity, when we're growing up, can sometimes be blessings. And for me, that was, that was a blessing, right? It was a, it was a huge issue in my life growing up, but But ultimately, it became something that was such a blessing because it has prevented me from making those same mistakes. And so but I always tend to think, Okay, well, that's because that's something biologically or genetically in me. Are there people who don't have those kinds of tendencies that can use pain medication use, and without without really worrying about it too much? Or do you think that in your experience, anybody who starts using this stuff, the way that is prescribed? Is is it in danger of becoming an addict and it permanently impacting all aspects of their life?

I'm not going to say everybody, however, if you are not careful with it, before you know it, yes, it be can become a problem. Because the some of it is there's a difference between dependence and addiction. Once you take the pain medicine, and you continue taking it, your body is going to be dependent on it, whether you want it to or not, it's just the way the opiates work, you are going to become dependent on it. And a lot of times what happens especially like, I know now that you have to be in, like pain management to get pain medication, and you have to have a drug screen, and you have to have probably insurance or it's going to be very costly to continue going to the doctor. I've done a lot of assessments on people that started out with yes, this was being prescribed by pain doctor, however, I went to a party when Fourth of July smoke marijuana fell my drug screen or I had alcohol in my drug, my drug screen, and they would not give me the prescription. Well, about three days after taking the medication, you are going to start withdrawing. Um, well, probably 24 hours to 72 hours. And a lot of time that is that's the problem with opiates is it's like, okay, why am I throwing up? Why am I having all these stomach issues? Why do I just feel really bad? Why can't I get out of bed. So then you go looking for that medication. And a lot of my clients already already know who like I know a friend who is prescribed it. So if I took too many, I could get some from her or him or vice versa, to tide me over to like you get back in when a doctor. Pain Medicine on the street is very expensive. I know at one time it was like $1 per milligram. So if you were on 20 milligrams of hydrocodone is going to be $20 for one pill on the street. And a lot of my clients, they started going that route until they got very expensive. And then it's like, Hey, here's some heroin, here's a whole bag. And it's only $15. And, you know, I'm not saying everyone who is prescribed pain medicine misuses it or will become addicted. I just know you have to be very careful. I had it says the research staff down said one in four patients that are prescribed an opiate medication. become addicted to it.

Do you So in your experience, maybe not through study a particular study but just in your professional experience? Do you see? I mean, how many people then become followed this pathway down into some other kind of illegal drug?

I mean, there's a lot it's, very rarely do I do like a drug assessment on someone who has only done one drug their whole life. Other than alcohol. There is a lot of alcoholics who alcohol is the only thing that they've ever done. But when you talk about other drugs, most of the time I am they are addicted to multiple things are they? Like my life was out of control with opiates. So I haven't done opiates in two years. But there's a such such thing as substitution. So we quit one drug because our life got an unmanageable with that drug, and then we go to another drug. Um, I have a lot of clients who fit that category. I mean, I fit that category, when my life got unmanageable with one substance, and I'll be like, Okay, I won't do that. But I can do this over here. But it was only a matter of time for my life was unmanageable with that as well.

So is that how people might go from heroin to cocaine or meth or crack or whatever? Yes. Is that typically, like, I know, there are exceptions to everything. But is that typically the progression that you see?

Yes, most of the time, it starts with a coarse alcohol, probably at a young age before the age of 21, and marijuana, and then you know, you're doing those two things. You're at a party, someone says, Hey, I have some cocaine. And you're like, Sure, I'll try it. And then you know, before you know it, your life is out of control are you know, hey, I got some meth or here's some opiates. Um, I think that's a lot. It starts in that with that manner.

What do you say to people? And like, I hear this sometimes. Marijuana is no worse than alcohol. marijuana should be legal. If, um, if a person does smokes marijuana, what's the big deal? You know, and really, you know, I grew up and I didn't grow up around marijuana, I grew up around with alcohol impacted me. And so, you know, and I've learned a little bit about it later, and I saw that, uh, you know, I never saw anybody, you know, become abusive by smoking marijuana, I never saw anybody really just get angry and hurt somebody else that they may be cared about, because they were high on marijuana. So it's a there's a compelling argument for what's the big deal? And so and I don't know, I'm just genuinely curious, what do you think about that? If, if, if, if a person a friend or a colleague or somebody is, you know, I mean, obviously, it's illegal, you know, but in my state in universe, but if somebody were to go to a place where it's legal, Amsterdam, Colorado, New York or wherever, what What is your thought about that?

Oh, well, um, if you are a person in recovery, marijuana is a drug. You know, if you're,

I'm asking for your professional opinion. And I don't want to get you in any trouble with your associations, licensing associations, or employers or anything. So if it's not comfortable for you to answer, I just wondered if you think it is a gateway drug that would.

Alright, thank you. It's a gateway drug? I do. I think you have to be careful with anything that makes you feel better. I mean, that's what especially Yeah, and I mean, nicotine, caffeine, food, sex, shopping, gambling. I mean, there's, it's all of those can become an issue if you're not careful.

Okay, well, so we've talked about how people get into these types of situations. And you've talked about, you know, how people can use negative things to deal with pain, to deal with trauma, to deal with things that are emotionally impactful. So, what I want to know is, what are some healthy alternatives that people could do? Or? And if is this something you help people with to find? You said, substitution? So for me, when I was when I stopped drinking, I just stopped drinking, I'm like, I'm done with this. And I basically substituted an activity in my life for that, which was I just kind of become became comprehensively involved in lives of my kids and my family. You know, I felt like that was a healthy, intentional, all tentative. But what do you think what are some healthy things that people can do to replace some of these negative, negative things that are have negative consequences that can help them deal with trauma or pain or these other issues?

There is a lot so I mean, if trauma is if you have trauma, then I would say, find a therapist that you can talk to and feel comfortable with after meeting your therapist for about three times. If you don't feel it's working, then you need a new therapist. So there's always the therapy aspect of it. There's getting involved in clubs. Get involved in the gym, volunteer, there's 12 step meetings for any addiction you could ever think about. And one good thing about the pandemic is now a lot of them you can get online. But it's about finding that support, they say the opposite of addiction is community and getting involved. So you know, when my group or at my job, go hiking, find a new hobby, do our two graphs, get involved in the senior center center? Are? There's just so many of them out there? I think that's the number one because you got to have that positive support. And if it is family hanging out with them, you know, what greater blessing Can you give your family than spending time with them?

Well, so we had a similar conversation earlier in the week with someone who had been through catastrophic accident with their, with his wife, and the two of them, were talking about it. And they talked about the way that they chose to deal with some of these things. They mentioned games, movies, music, art, they weren't really artists, but they would try to be creative and do fun things. tetes is one thing that they said that I thought was interesting, of course, family, things that I've experienced also working out, that was another thing that I put into my routine that was a took away from, you know, that replace that sort of alcohol thing is working out. And then you know, given back to giving back to other people that seems to be, to me, that seems to be a part of your plan, in terms of recovering is to take what you have experienced that's negative, and then take what you've learned through your education, and through your work experience, and try to help improve the lives of others. Is that a part of your personal recovery process? Yes,

it is. And not only at, you know, in my career, but I still go to 12 step meetings, I sponsor women. Because I, you know, one time I know, when I first got in recovery, it was just so shameful and so much guilt wrapped in it. I was like, I've never telling anyone these things. But now I have found by talking with someone and sharing your experience, strength and hope, it gives them hope to know, okay, she's staying clean, she's doing these things, I can do that in my life as well.

So how do you how does someone or how do you overcome, like, the shame and guilt thing? Like, like me 10 years ago would have never on a publicly said, Yeah, I have an alcohol problem. Like, I can't imagine saying that or, or 15 years ago. You know, that's a private thing, you know, but if I think about it in terms of, hey, this could be helpful to someone else, you know, then that to me, makes it number one, I'm not like just sharing too much in from personal information, you know, but number two, it's like, okay, well, what do I care? I'll see if I can help somebody else. And then I'll then I'll share it. I mean, but how does someone overcome the idea of the shame and guilt and, and like embarrassment?

I think one, you know, for me, I went to 12 step meetings, I got a sponsor, I started working steps. And in the beginning, someone told me, You know what, you might have been that person five days ago, but you have five days clean today. So today, you're doing everything in your power to be a good mom, be a good daughter, be a productive member of society. I know, that helped me a lot. No one. Okay. You know what, yes, that might have been, I might have been addicted to this or doing those things then. But that's not me today. And of course, I mean, meeting other people. I know the first meeting that I went to, I think I cried my whole the whole meeting because it was so powerful, because people were sharing things that I had thought in, like I thought that I was damaged or broken in some way, but to hear people openly sharing about those things really give me hope that hey, I can do this. This is possible.

Also, it sounds like to me that the recovery community is a powerful force and something that if someone is experiencing challenges from either alcohol abuse or some other kind of drug abuse, that you know, if they do reach out, there's a community there waiting for them to embrace them and help them through this process. Is that fair?

Yes, there is. I mean, now we have Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, opiates anonymous. Cocaine anonymous, meth anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, there's double trouble for people who have co occurring, and CO occurring is you have addiction issues, as well as a mental health diagnosis. There's even grieving. You know, if you're grieving, the best thing to do is to find a support group and talk to others. Because they've been where you are, you know, it's yes, someone can be supportive, who hasn't lost a child per se, but unless you've been in those shoes and say, Hey, I've been there, you know, I didn't think I was ever going to be able to live again. However, I've learned how to deal with it. And you know, be able to have a life.

Oh, okay, so, so, if that's a step that someone should take, once they realize they have a problem, what are the things that a person might? How would How would someone know I have a problem? How do you know a? Well, I guess, you tell me, how do I know? How does someone know when they have a problem?

Well, most of the time, if you have a problem your family has said something to you, hey, I'm worried about you are you know, they've might have said you too much when you're drinking you can we love you. But we we don't want you over at our house, if you're under the influence of something, sometimes is you got a DUI and you got arrested. You've lost a job, you're in trouble. What your job. Sometimes it's personal, like, you know, why do I keep doing this to myself? Why am I so isolate it? So it doesn't have to necessarily be outside consequences, because a lot of times there's those internal consequences that you kind of know, hey, I might have a problem. I mean, it's even that way with depression. If it's depression, anxiety, you know, you know, okay, I haven't gotten bed out of bed in three days. I haven't showered in a week. I haven't been able to feed my cats. Well, that is probably, you know, it's a problem. But it's kind of where do you go for help.

Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

Transcript

Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury.

Well, let me ask you a question. So, so so my dad was an alcoholic, and that caused us a significant amount of grief and problems when I was growing up. And so I can relate to what you're saying. And I've always thought, Okay, well, I may have those tendencies as well. So I have to be very careful about, you know, the things that I do, and the things that I put in my body. And so that's always been like a major sort of, you know, I tend to think that the things that we think are our challenges or adversity, when we're growing up, can sometimes be blessings. And for me, that was, that was a blessing, right? It was a, it was a huge issue in my life growing up, but But ultimately, it became something that was such a blessing because it has prevented me from making those same mistakes. And so but I always tend to think, Okay, well, that's because that's something biologically or genetically in me. Are there people who don't have those kinds of tendencies that can use pain medication use, and without without really worrying about it too much? Or do you think that in your experience, anybody who starts using this stuff, the way that is prescribed? Is is it in danger of becoming an addict and it permanently impacting all aspects of their life?

I'm not going to say everybody, however, if you are not careful with it, before you know it, yes, it be can become a problem. Because the some of it is there's a difference between dependence and addiction. Once you take the pain medicine, and you continue taking it, your body is going to be dependent on it, whether you want it to or not, it's just the way the opiates work, you are going to become dependent on it. And a lot of times what happens especially like, I know now that you have to be in, like pain management to get pain medication, and you have to have a drug screen, and you have to have probably insurance or it's going to be very costly to continue going to the doctor. I've done a lot of assessments on people that started out with yes, this was being prescribed by pain doctor, however, I went to a party when Fourth of July smoke marijuana fell my drug screen or I had alcohol in my drug, my drug screen, and they would not give me the prescription. Well, about three days after taking the medication, you are going to start withdrawing. Um, well, probably 24 hours to 72 hours. And a lot of time that is that's the problem with opiates is it's like, okay, why am I throwing up? Why am I having all these stomach issues? Why do I just feel really bad? Why can't I get out of bed. So then you go looking for that medication. And a lot of my clients already already know who like I know a friend who is prescribed it. So if I took too many, I could get some from her or him or vice versa, to tide me over to like you get back in when a doctor. Pain Medicine on the street is very expensive. I know at one time it was like $1 per milligram. So if you were on 20 milligrams of hydrocodone is going to be $20 for one pill on the street. And a lot of my clients, they started going that route until they got very expensive. And then it's like, Hey, here's some heroin, here's a whole bag. And it's only $15. And, you know, I'm not saying everyone who is prescribed pain medicine misuses it or will become addicted. I just know you have to be very careful. I had it says the research staff down said one in four patients that are prescribed an opiate medication. become addicted to it.

Do you So in your experience, maybe not through study a particular study but just in your professional experience? Do you see? I mean, how many people then become followed this pathway down into some other kind of illegal drug?

I mean, there's a lot it's, very rarely do I do like a drug assessment on someone who has only done one drug their whole life. Other than alcohol. There is a lot of alcoholics who alcohol is the only thing that they've ever done. But when you talk about other drugs, most of the time I am they are addicted to multiple things are they? Like my life was out of control with opiates. So I haven't done opiates in two years. But there's a such such thing as substitution. So we quit one drug because our life got an unmanageable with that drug, and then we go to another drug. Um, I have a lot of clients who fit that category. I mean, I fit that category, when my life got unmanageable with one substance, and I'll be like, Okay, I won't do that. But I can do this over here. But it was only a matter of time for my life was unmanageable with that as well.

So is that how people might go from heroin to cocaine or meth or crack or whatever? Yes. Is that typically, like, I know, there are exceptions to everything. But is that typically the progression that you see?

Yes, most of the time, it starts with a coarse alcohol, probably at a young age before the age of 21, and marijuana, and then you know, you're doing those two things. You're at a party, someone says, Hey, I have some cocaine. And you're like, Sure, I'll try it. And then you know, before you know it, your life is out of control are you know, hey, I got some meth or here's some opiates. Um, I think that's a lot. It starts in that with that manner.

What do you say to people? And like, I hear this sometimes. Marijuana is no worse than alcohol. marijuana should be legal. If, um, if a person does smokes marijuana, what's the big deal? You know, and really, you know, I grew up and I didn't grow up around marijuana, I grew up around with alcohol impacted me. And so, you know, and I've learned a little bit about it later, and I saw that, uh, you know, I never saw anybody, you know, become abusive by smoking marijuana, I never saw anybody really just get angry and hurt somebody else that they may be cared about, because they were high on marijuana. So it's a there's a compelling argument for what's the big deal? And so and I don't know, I'm just genuinely curious, what do you think about that? If, if, if, if a person a friend or a colleague or somebody is, you know, I mean, obviously, it's illegal, you know, but in my state in universe, but if somebody were to go to a place where it's legal, Amsterdam, Colorado, New York or wherever, what What is your thought about that?

Oh, well, um, if you are a person in recovery, marijuana is a drug. You know, if you're,

I'm asking for your professional opinion. And I don't want to get you in any trouble with your associations, licensing associations, or employers or anything. So if it's not comfortable for you to answer, I just wondered if you think it is a gateway drug that would.

Alright, thank you. It's a gateway drug? I do. I think you have to be careful with anything that makes you feel better. I mean, that's what especially Yeah, and I mean, nicotine, caffeine, food, sex, shopping, gambling. I mean, there's, it's all of those can become an issue if you're not careful.

Okay, well, so we've talked about how people get into these types of situations. And you've talked about, you know, how people can use negative things to deal with pain, to deal with trauma, to deal with things that are emotionally impactful. So, what I want to know is, what are some healthy alternatives that people could do? Or? And if is this something you help people with to find? You said, substitution? So for me, when I was when I stopped drinking, I just stopped drinking, I'm like, I'm done with this. And I basically substituted an activity in my life for that, which was I just kind of become became comprehensively involved in lives of my kids and my family. You know, I felt like that was a healthy, intentional, all tentative. But what do you think what are some healthy things that people can do to replace some of these negative, negative things that are have negative consequences that can help them deal with trauma or pain or these other issues?

There is a lot so I mean, if trauma is if you have trauma, then I would say, find a therapist that you can talk to and feel comfortable with after meeting your therapist for about three times. If you don't feel it's working, then you need a new therapist. So there's always the therapy aspect of it. There's getting involved in clubs. Get involved in the gym, volunteer, there's 12 step meetings for any addiction you could ever think about. And one good thing about the pandemic is now a lot of them you can get online. But it's about finding that support, they say the opposite of addiction is community and getting involved. So you know, when my group or at my job, go hiking, find a new hobby, do our two graphs, get involved in the senior center center? Are? There's just so many of them out there? I think that's the number one because you got to have that positive support. And if it is family hanging out with them, you know, what greater blessing Can you give your family than spending time with them?

Well, so we had a similar conversation earlier in the week with someone who had been through catastrophic accident with their, with his wife, and the two of them, were talking about it. And they talked about the way that they chose to deal with some of these things. They mentioned games, movies, music, art, they weren't really artists, but they would try to be creative and do fun things. tetes is one thing that they said that I thought was interesting, of course, family, things that I've experienced also working out, that was another thing that I put into my routine that was a took away from, you know, that replace that sort of alcohol thing is working out. And then you know, given back to giving back to other people that seems to be, to me, that seems to be a part of your plan, in terms of recovering is to take what you have experienced that's negative, and then take what you've learned through your education, and through your work experience, and try to help improve the lives of others. Is that a part of your personal recovery process? Yes,

it is. And not only at, you know, in my career, but I still go to 12 step meetings, I sponsor women. Because I, you know, one time I know, when I first got in recovery, it was just so shameful and so much guilt wrapped in it. I was like, I've never telling anyone these things. But now I have found by talking with someone and sharing your experience, strength and hope, it gives them hope to know, okay, she's staying clean, she's doing these things, I can do that in my life as well.

So how do you how does someone or how do you overcome, like, the shame and guilt thing? Like, like me 10 years ago would have never on a publicly said, Yeah, I have an alcohol problem. Like, I can't imagine saying that or, or 15 years ago. You know, that's a private thing, you know, but if I think about it in terms of, hey, this could be helpful to someone else, you know, then that to me, makes it number one, I'm not like just sharing too much in from personal information, you know, but number two, it's like, okay, well, what do I care? I'll see if I can help somebody else. And then I'll then I'll share it. I mean, but how does someone overcome the idea of the shame and guilt and, and like embarrassment?

I think one, you know, for me, I went to 12 step meetings, I got a sponsor, I started working steps. And in the beginning, someone told me, You know what, you might have been that person five days ago, but you have five days clean today. So today, you're doing everything in your power to be a good mom, be a good daughter, be a productive member of society. I know, that helped me a lot. No one. Okay. You know what, yes, that might have been, I might have been addicted to this or doing those things then. But that's not me today. And of course, I mean, meeting other people. I know the first meeting that I went to, I think I cried my whole the whole meeting because it was so powerful, because people were sharing things that I had thought in, like I thought that I was damaged or broken in some way, but to hear people openly sharing about those things really give me hope that hey, I can do this. This is possible.

Also, it sounds like to me that the recovery community is a powerful force and something that if someone is experiencing challenges from either alcohol abuse or some other kind of drug abuse, that you know, if they do reach out, there's a community there waiting for them to embrace them and help them through this process. Is that fair?

Yes, there is. I mean, now we have Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, opiates anonymous. Cocaine anonymous, meth anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, there's double trouble for people who have co occurring, and CO occurring is you have addiction issues, as well as a mental health diagnosis. There's even grieving. You know, if you're grieving, the best thing to do is to find a support group and talk to others. Because they've been where you are, you know, it's yes, someone can be supportive, who hasn't lost a child per se, but unless you've been in those shoes and say, Hey, I've been there, you know, I didn't think I was ever going to be able to live again. However, I've learned how to deal with it. And you know, be able to have a life.

Oh, okay, so, so, if that's a step that someone should take, once they realize they have a problem, what are the things that a person might? How would How would someone know I have a problem? How do you know a? Well, I guess, you tell me, how do I know? How does someone know when they have a problem?

Well, most of the time, if you have a problem your family has said something to you, hey, I'm worried about you are you know, they've might have said you too much when you're drinking you can we love you. But we we don't want you over at our house, if you're under the influence of something, sometimes is you got a DUI and you got arrested. You've lost a job, you're in trouble. What your job. Sometimes it's personal, like, you know, why do I keep doing this to myself? Why am I so isolate it? So it doesn't have to necessarily be outside consequences, because a lot of times there's those internal consequences that you kind of know, hey, I might have a problem. I mean, it's even that way with depression. If it's depression, anxiety, you know, you know, okay, I haven't gotten bed out of bed in three days. I haven't showered in a week. I haven't been able to feed my cats. Well, that is probably, you know, it's a problem. But it's kind of where do you go for help.

Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

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