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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Turning a Corner

Courtney Barnes PictureFor 2 ½ years I have worked for The Council as a case manager in the TASC Program.  TASC works with individuals in the criminal justice system who have a substance use disorder and related issues.  I help clients develop and implement their plan for recovery and reintegration into the community.      

I have recently been working with a young adult in TASC.  This client is still a teenager and is at a critical learning point in his/her recovery process.  By this I mean that the client is just beginning to learn about his/her substance use disorder and what is required to stay sober.  The idea of staying sober is difficult, especially for someone who is young in years or young in their recovery process.  They believe they can still drink responsibly despite much evidence (and negative consequences) to the contrary.  

This process of growing in understanding is all part of their journey, and is a focal point for me when working with clients.  I help people understand that there is a realistic path to a better, more meaningful life, and then I help them walk the path they choose by offering guidance, resources and support.  The process involves gaining insight, learning good strategies, perseverance, support and hope.  It’s a process, not an event.   

In the case of this particular client, the path towards recovery seemed unreachable at first.  But now there has been a real change.  The client’s Mother came by my office to personally thank me for the help provided through The Council’s TASC Program.  The client’s Mother stated she is seeing some serious changes, and has never seen this level of effort before.  She simply wanted to tell me how grateful she was to see her child doing so well. 

It seems that her child has turned a corner. While all the credit goes to the client, it has been very gratifying to help along the way. 

Courtney Barnes, TASC Manager
The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc.

Prevention Starts with Education

JuvenileWhy do a percentage of youth use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD)? For many it is simply about “experimenting” and not knowing any better due to a lack information and / or lack of resources. Thankfully, “experimenting” also involves healthy options such as sports, music and culture. As statistics show; more and more youth continue to choose the healthy options rather than the unhealthy. Despite peer pressure or the lower perceived level of harm regarding substances such as cannabis and prescription medication, today, youth are making better decisions. Why? Part of the reason is due to a nationwide increase in prevention efforts. Today, the field of prevention not only gives youth anti-drug messaging encouraging them to say no, it also provides them with an education and the reasons which the youth need in order to say no.

As a Prevention Specialist, I like to focus on health promotion and information dissemination regarding how drugs and alcohol negatively impact ones overall quality of life and one’s own ability to “feel good naturally”. A strong emphasis is placed on identifying realistic negative outcomes associated with ATOD use, thus increasing the youths perceived level of harm regarding ATOD use. Furthermore, I like to focus on how the brain is designed to reward us with “natural highs” (endorphins) for engaging in activities that require a skill set and effort resulting in personal achievement and peer recognition. Prevention discussions also identify the importance of embracing healthy experimentation so that a young person improves their inventory of healthy coping mechanisms which they will use to navigate challenges in life. Studies show that a youth’s peer group has a significant impact on the decisions they make, especially during emotionally charged settings such as parties and other anxiety prone settings. Therefore, I encourage youth to surround themselves with healthy people, healthy things and engage in healthy fun in order to reduce the possibility of unhealthy peer pressure.

It is not just the youths responsibility to stay informed, it also the parents responsibility. When speaking with parents the focus lies on the importance of providing youth with healthy experimental opportunities which will allow for a youth to identify what they enjoy, and are good at. When a youth discovers something they are good at, it is important for parents to give the recognition which is deserved and needed. This encourages the youth to engage in that activity again and strengthen their skill set for that activity. When their skill set improves recognition increases and vice versa. When parents provide opportunities and recognition it builds trust and bonding between family members which leads to a healthy belief system which reduces the likely hood of alcohol or drug use. This process gives youth a reason to say no.

The field of prevention is constantly adapting to the challenges we face in today’s society although our main goal remains: to provide youth, families and communities information which they can then utilize to make well informed decisions and delay the first use of alcohol and/or other drugs. Statistics show that this process works: According to SAMHSA; data shows that between 2002 and 2011, adolescents’ past-month use illicit drugs declined from 11.6 to 10.1 percent. We are continuing to make progress in these numbers. Addiction and dependency starts in the formative adolescent years but with an increased focus on prevention efforts and a broader platform nationwide to deliver prevention services we will continue to see a reduction in the number of transition age youth and young adults dealing with addiction. For information about prevention programing contact The Councils Information Hotline at 1-800-221-6333.

David Fialko
Prevention Specialist
The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania

Bev Haberle Wants the Hope of Recovery to “Spread Like Wildfire.”

292358_253486728127055_1051017011_nI am a person in long-term recovery who hasn’t drank alcohol or used other drugs for more than 43 years.  My recovery has allowed me to be a mother, a wife, Executive Director of The Council, Project Director of PRO-ACT and many more accomplishments.  

I only just started speaking publicly about my own recovery about 15 years ago, when I began to help mobilize the recovery community.  I didn’t think people needed to see long term recovery role models.  I now understand that we are the evidence that long term recovery is a reality.  We are the proof that investing in recovery “pays off.” 

I strongly believe that speaking out is not right for everyone.  We respect that for many, recovery is a private matter that should stay private.  To “come out” is a big decision, and we fully support an individual’s choice in this regard.  

Still, there may be a misperception among some people who have been in recovery for several decades that because they no longer face stigma from their addiction, it’s not as critical to speak out publicly.  The reality is that as more people earlier in their recovery have come out, we also see people talking more and more about their 20, 30, 40 years in recovery.  Before they might have been afraid they were breaking traditions, or maybe they didn’t see their silence as an issue.  But now they see that speaking about their recovery has some very important benefits.     

Also, silence is a problem.  It can breed stigma, shame and the tendency for society to treat people and families suffering from addiction differently than other chronic illnesses.  My hope is that as more of us speak out, the mounting evidence that recovery is a reality will allow addiction treatment and recovery to one day be on par with the treatment regiments for other chronic diseases. 

For example, I am a breast cancer survivor.  The initial support I received after my diagnosis of cancer was much different than the initial support I received after my addiction diagnosis.  In 1971, during my hospital admission for alcohol poisoning, my doctor called for a family meeting and presented two options:  a year-long stay in a psychiatric asylum or brain surgery to alleviate my compulsion to drink alcohol (a prefrontal lobotomy).  Fortunately, my minister and a female member of a recovery support meeting at my church quietly interceded.  After hearing the woman’s recovery story, I learned of a third option.  I experienced “peer-to-peer support” at its best, even though my connection to this support was veiled in secrecy.  

This experience contrasts sharply with my battle against cancer.  As a person with breast cancer, I was immediately inundated with support from the healthcare system.  I recall stepping onto my oncologist’s floor and seeing a sign that read, “How can we help you with your recovery?”  I was then offered “make-up and wig” advice, yoga, family counseling  and nutrition consultations.  When I asked my doctor how much these services cost, he replied, “Nothing.  It’s all part of your treatment.  We want you to have the best chance of recovery that you can possibly have.” 

I want exactly the same thing for individuals and families who are suffering from the terrible disease of addiction: the best chance at recovery they can possibly have.  For this to occur, addiction treatment and recovery supports services are critical, and need to be connected through the whole recovery process.  We should not be fighting insurance companies for one more day of treatment, recovery check-ups or other recovery support services.  We should be free from the social stigma that characterizes us as weak or morally flawed.  Our disease should not take from us our dignity.    

This is an exciting time for recovery.  We are learning how to be more effective in dealing with this illness and how to really help people access and sustain long-term recovery.  We’re also having a huge impact on their families and their children and other people that see them. And more people are speaking out in support of recovery and against barriers.

So please support recovery in whatever way you feel is right for you.  Finding out more about PRO-ACT’s activities is a great place to start, as there are many, many ways that PRO-ACT members can and do support recovery.  Click here to read more about PRO-ACT. 

I believe that with your help, the hope for recovery is going to spread like wildfire. 

Beverly J. Haberle, M.H.S., L.P.C., C.A.C.
Executive Director, The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Inc.
Project Director, PRO-ACT

Watch the video of Beverly Haberle talking about recovery, from the makers of “The Anonymous People”

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