Monday, November 6, 2017

Hope for the Hopeless
Recovery options for those suffering from addiction in the Pocono area

Volunteers from local Alcoholics Anonymous groups pass through security at the Monroe County jail, a guard accompanying them to the library where, with law books and biographies surrounding them, they wait for a dozen or so inmates to file in. The meeting comes to order, members of AA explaining to inmates how Alcoholics Anonymous works, and the assembly is opened for comment and discussion.

A prisoner, serving his sentence for a third drunk-driving conviction, speaks up. “I don’t have a problem with drinking,” he says, “I got a problem with driving and getting caught by the cops!”
Several voices in the room chuckle, but not his. What is invisible to the alcoholic or addict cloaked in denial can defy reason.

“I have a disease that tells me I don’t have a disease,” replies Steven (not his real name) a member of AA with long-term sobriety. “My disease tells me it’s okay to drink.”  

Across town several days later, Dereck (not his real name) shares at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. “If you think you might have a problem with drugs or alcohol,” he says, “you do.”

Mind-altering substances, like alcohol and drugs, temporarily mask physical and emotional pain. More than half of opiate addicts received their initial exposure to narcotics through legitimate means in the form of pain relief or anti-anxiety therapy, becoming addicted in the process. Prescription drugs are expensive; people often turn to cheap heroin to bridge the gap.   

“Addiction, including alcoholism, is a chronically relapsing illness that cannot be cured,” explains Stroudsburg psychiatrist Dr. Robert Morrow. “Addiction alters brain function to the point where will power does not work against it. The good news is, people do recover; addiction can be kept in remission.”

Recovery is more than abstinence from drugs and alcohol; it requires a complete positive mental, emotional and physical change. The active addict, unable to exert internal self-control, must at first receive that control from immersion in sober support, including group meetings, therapy, medication, and wellness.  

Detoxification, the withdrawal period when a body rids itself of drugs, may be the most physically demanding and dangerous phase of recovery, but it is the vital first step in living a healthier life. The safest place to be during this stage is a detox center, such as Pyramid Hillside in East Stroudsburg, PA. Patients there receive medical treatment to help lessen symptoms and shorten withdrawal time, and are assessed to determine a course of long-term treatment.

There are several post-detox recovery options in the Pocono area. Inpatient centers Pyramid Hillside, and Pocono Mountain Recovery Center in Henryville, PA, offer month-long programs that separate patients from the daily triggers to use alcohol and drugs.

A month off from one’s career to check into an inpatient facility is not something everyone can afford, however. “Ninety percent of our clients have to work,” says Lillie Maldonado of B.E.S.T. outpatient recovery center, located on Sarah Street in Stroudsburg, PA.

Common threads run through all options. The whole person, mind body and spirit, is taken into account. “The most prevalent addiction right now is heroin, a pain killer,” explains Mike Arcangeletti of A Better Today outpatient facility on South Ninth Street in Stroudsburg, PA. In order to begin treatment, he says, the question must be asked: “What is the pain?” An overwhelming number of addicts and alcoholics have suffered trauma.

Not to minimize their effectiveness, but gone are the days of relying solely on twelve-step programs to help people recover. Cognitive therapy, trauma treatment, group therapy, pain management, phys-ed, filling emotional voids, challenging the mind… these are all part of the modern recovery program, as is prescribing non-addictive medication like Vivitrol to help prevent relapse. Nevertheless, “The twelve steps work best,” says Dr. Morrow. “There is nothing with better statistics.”

But Nadine (not her real name) a former heroin user clean longer than six years, did not recover using the 12 steps. After detoxing at a treatment center, she attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings but relapsed intermittently, struggling with her addiction for another year.

Weary of lying and scheming, alone, tired of being sick, Nadine could not continue the path she walked. Determined to recover, she opted for a medically assisted methadone treatment at Pinnacle Mount Pocono Medical, Mount Pocono, PA.

“The program is not for everyone,” explains Nadine. “It consists of psychosocial counseling, group meetings about topics like stress management, and one-to-one counseling.”

Today Nadine has her children, financial stability, and a house. “I am able to make rational decisions,” she says.

A person’s past does not have to be their destiny; a life of freedom waits for anyone determined enough to overcome. “When I look at this, I see it from a spiritual perspective,” says Arcangeletti. “We cannot punish the problem away. We must welcome the addict back home.”


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