About Addiction: Alcohol and the Elderly, Oxycontin, and Drug Stigma

Are you ready for some more exciting information about addiction? Well, it’s here anyway so you might as well look. We try to make A3 the central place where you can find out about addiction matters (saving you the typing work) so if there are any topics we’re not covering, make sure to write us!

Drugs- Reducing Stigma, and Oxycontin

Victoria NewsStigma is often discussed when talking about addiction. The stigma a drug user is stamped with often deters them from seeking treatment. AIDS Vancouver Island is promoting Anti-Stigma Week, which runs until Feb. 14. Hopefully an activity like anti-stigma week will allow individuals to leave behind their fears about being stigmatized and seek treatment for their addictions. Continue reading “About Addiction: Alcohol and the Elderly, Oxycontin, and Drug Stigma”

“Addicted” – Recovered and Helping: The reality (tv) of addiction treatment.

With the success of shows like A&E’s Intervention and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, America has shown an almost insatiable appetite for television programs that deal with addiction. Whether this reflects the breadth and depth of the addiction problem in this country or a national appetite for tragedy and schadenfreude is open for debate, but regardless, TLC has now thrown its own hat into the ring with a new series, Addicted, that follows a trained family interventionist who is, herself, a recovering addict. Though the line between education and exploitation in such shows remains a debatable matter of personal opinion, it calls to our attention a crucial element in modern addiction treatment: the unique position of the recovering addict to make a positive difference in the lives of those still caught in the grip of dependency.

Hey, it’s what got me starting this website over three years ago.

Addicted on TLC – Addiction treatment reality

Kristina from the TLC show AddictedKristina Wandzilak, the main character of the TLC “Addicted” show, is a professional interventionist specializing in family-style interventions, targeted towards not only the addicts themselves but the families for whom having an addict as a family member has destabilized their lives and sense of control. The central philosophy of family-style intervention revolves around working not only with the addict but with the entire family to restore that feeling of control and healthy boundaries, after which, the theory goes, recovery of the chemically dependent individual can follow. Wandzilak’s faith in this style of addiction treatment is hard-earned; as a cocaine and methamphetamine addict, she cites her own mother’s ability to establish a firm boundary and “walk away” as the impetus for her to finally get clean.

Wanzilak’s story is a sadly common one. Falling in love with alcohol from her first drink at the age of 13, addicted to cocaine and methamphetamine by age 15, and in and out of treatment by 18, Kristina was clearly on the fast path to an early grave. Returning home after another escape from rehab, she was turned away at the door by her mother, a firm line she would later credit as the first step to her recovery. Though the next three years of her life would involve a continued spiral of cocaine and methamphetamine addiction, prostitution, and robbery, it was allegedly at a moment of complete rock bottom that her mother’s strength and grace in turning her away served as the inspiration for her to finally take control of her own life. After seeking her own addiction treatment, Kristina has now been sober since September 4, 1993 and calls this the greatest accomplishment of her life. In her words, she feels that if she helps families to embody the strength that her mother had in dealing with her, the addicts will be forced to “run into themselves” and thus find sobriety soon thereafter.

A note here – I’ve talked about the difference between positive reinforcement and punishment before, so I won’t go into it at length here, but I think it’s important to keep in mind the fine line between helping someone by keeping consistent boundaries and hurting them by refusing to help. With this show just starting, I really hope that this line is kep in mind and that the producers, and Kristina, don’t use it for ratings rather than helping those in need.

Where would addiction treatment be without recovered addicts?

The question stands- does Kristina Wanzilak’s or any other addict’s past with addiction make them more qualified to help those now suffering through the same issues? Many people feel that this is the case, including qualified specialists like Dr. Drew Pinsky, who takes most of the staff for his VH1 series Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew from a group of former addicts. Regulars on Celebrity Rehab with Dr Drew include technician Shelly Sprague and counselor (and program director of the Pasadena recovery center) Bob Forrest, both highly trained and qualified addiction specialists whose own experiences as addicts serves as a tool for understanding and gaining the trust of difficult patients, as well as promoting these people as living examples of the possibilities that await even the most seemingly hopeless cases. Sober houses are also overwhelmingly run by recovering addicts who can teach the newly sober a structured lifestyle and tricks to keeping focused on recovery. Our own Adi Jaffe, director of All About Addiction, is a recovering addict himself (check out his story on the Press tab). As we see recovering addicts step up to help those that remain trapped in a life of getting high, we are increasingly made aware of their unique ability to make a difference in lives that many had considered lost. Addicted on TLC is keeping that trend going.

Nevertheless, I don’t believe that having personal experience is necessary for becoming an addiction counselor or specialist, though it likely helps keep the motivation level high in a relatively stressful occupation. One thing is certain, seeing these examples of recovered addicts who are helping others is certain to do a lot of good to the addiction stigma I hate so much!

Anonymous No More: Jennie Ketcham and her sex addiction story

As part of our Anonymous No More series, we bring addiction stories of addicts who are in different stages of recovery and are willing to share their take with you without the veil of anonymity. The point is to once and for all humanize addiction, and addicts, and reduce the stigma of addiction as a condition that leaves people hopeless forever. Jennie Ketcham has already publicly shared some of her story with the world, and if her recovery from sex addiction isn’t an example of humanizing and de-stigmatizing the addict, I don’t know what is. From her humble beginnings, through her porn career, to her role on Dr. Drew’s show “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew,” Jennie has been leaving her mark on this world for years. I know her story will leave a mark on you.

Jennie Ketcham – Sex Addiction is a slippery disease

Like in alcoholism or drug addiction, the sex addict must hit rock bottom before any change can be made. The biggest problem with this particular addiction is the intrinsically shame-based nature of the disease, with core issues making that first step into recovery the biggest and most difficult step one could ever take. To say, “I am a sex addict,” is to admit total and utter defeat in an arena that is most private and sacred.

My name is Jennie Ketcham, and I am a sex addict. My bottom line behavior, behavior I absolutely cannot participate in if I wish to lead a healthy and happy life, is compulsive masturbation, porn, sex with strangers, sex outside my committed relationship, selling sex for money, and sexualizing people, places and things when I feel uncomfortable. For most people, these behaviors are already unacceptable. For a sex addict however, it’s regular Tuesday night. I am 27 years old, my sexual sobriety date is April 6th, 2009, and I ended up in the program of recovery by mistake, but it was the best mistake I ever made. And believe me, I’ve made plenty.

Up to April 6th, 2009, I was a Porn Star. I’d been in the adult business since 2001, and had worked my way to the upper echelons of porn. By the time I quit, I was managing a webcam studio, directing and producing my own content, and working whenever I wanted. I had heard about Dr. Drew and his new rehab show, “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew,” and thought it would be the perfect publicity stunt for my webcam studio. I figured if I could get national press, the studio would take off and I’d be able to retire a happy woman. This is the superficial line of thinking that led me to rehab. These are the reasons I actually needed to be there.

Jennie the sexually addicted porn star

When I lost my virginity at thirteen, I realized I have something boys want, and decided to use my sexuality as a means of getting what I want. From my first sexual experience to my last pre-recovery, I was detached, emotionless, and cruel: it was a power struggle and I wanted to win. However, it never appeared as such, always the actress, and I played my sexual exploits off as curiosity and apathy. I’d have sex because I was curious. I wouldn’t call them (him/her) again because I didn’t care. When I joined the porn business it felt like the perfect career. I could have sex with as many people as I wanted, and didn’t have to care about any of them. And they wouldn’t care about me. I’ve never been able to accept love, and this is one of my biggest problems.

I’ve been a compulsive cheater since my first boyfriend, have never been able to maintain a monogamous relationship, and never felt any guilt about my extra-curricular activities. The problem isn’t that I lacked a conscience, it’s that I never felt significant enough to make an impact on any one person’s life. When I joined the porn industry I was no longer required to be monogamous, as it was my job to have sex. It became harder and harder to care about anybody I had sex with, and if feelings of love did start, I’d shut the relationship down before I could destroy it with my behavior.

I’ve been a compulsive masturbator since I started performing in hardcore boy/girl scenes. I decided to train myself to orgasm to non-sexual things, and nearing the end of the behavior, found myself masturbating upwards of 6 hours every day I wasn’t working. At the time I thought I was bored. In recovery, I am able to see the underlying issues, and have found a solution that works for me.

Sex Rehab with Jennie Ketcham

In rehab with Dr. Drew, I was prohibited from masturbating, sexualizing, having sex, drinking, drugging, every numbing device I’d become accustomed to using. When the effects of these behaviors wore off, when my oxytocin levels started to even out, when the alcohol and marijuana drained from my system, I was left with uncomfortable feelings I couldn’t identify or process. With the help of trained specialists, I started to understand what was going on behind my compulsive, dangerous behavior, and with the program of recovery I’ve learned how to deal with life. I am powerless over compulsive sexual behavior, and my life had become unmanageable. I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity. I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to that power, and every day since has been better than before.

I was celibate for over nine months, trying to get back in touch with the Jennie pre-sex. I attend bi-weekly therapy sessions, and follow every direction given by either therapist or sponsor. I trust in the program of recovery, and have learned how to treat myself like the precious young woman I am. I have become a woman of grace and integrity, I have dreams that aren’t pornographic, and my first healthy committed relationship with a man I love. I have a relationship with my family, something that had fallen off in addiction, and am someone who does what she says she will do. There isn’t a single moment that goes by that I don’t worry about falling back into my destructive cycle, but now I have the tools necessary to live a healthy and productive life.

When I walked into rehab wanting publicity for my company, the joke was on me. I had accidentally walked into the first day of the rest of my life, and one minute in recovery is worth a thousand days in addiction. I am blessed through and through, and I take it one day at a time.

A final word on sex addiction recovery from Adi

You’ll notice that Jennie’s bottom-line behaviors are very far from the often stigmatized view of the sex-addict as a rapist, or pedophile. While there’s little doubt that there are sex addicts that fall into those categories, the vast majority of addict engage in activity that might, for others, be relatively benign but that has become compulsive in their own lives. My issues with sex addiction revolved around seeking sexual partners outside my marriage and migrated from my bedroom to online chat sites after I got caught cheating. What’s also very clear when reading about the recovery experienced by Jennie is that with the proper guidance, treatment, and time, addicts can go on to become fully functional in ways that many out there believe are nearly impossible. As Jennie mentioned in her reference to Oxytocin levels, a huge aspect of addiction recovery is letting the body reset, or at least attempt to re-establish, its  functioning to pre-addictive-behavior levels in the brain and elsewhere.

Jennie Ketcham used to live a life that left her unattached and cold, though for her, it didn’t seem like much was wrong until she saw the other side thanks to her stint on “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew.” Most other addict’s aren’t very likely to end up on a reality show that specifically addresses their problem (though A&E’s intervention may help some of them), but the knowledge that others with similar problems have recovered and are living full productive lives that would have been unthinkable should give hope to every struggling addict. It’s what works in group therapy everywhere and what gets some people into treatment in the first place. By living her recovery without anonymity, Jennie is showing endless other addicts that life with addiction is possible. That’s what addiction stories do – they give hope.

Dr. Drew Pinsky – America’s addiction guru in the NY Times

An article in today’s NY Times magazine section discusses the world according to Dr. Drew. Being an addiction specialist myself, I obviously couldn’t resist devouring it, even though I’m in Belgium at the moment.

Dr. Drew the good and bad

The article was a wonderfully written piece that dealt with much of the irony in Dr. Drew‘s fame, which is based on his selling of addiction to the public. Dr. Drew got his start working the Loveline microphone on the radio 20 years ago, so there’s not doubt that he’s put in his time.

For all the flak the man has received , I believe that his work has served Americans in many important ways. By making the patter accessible, Dr. Drew has, to some extent, reduced the enormous stigma associated with addiction. Of course it’d be nice if he could do it without all the excessive drama-centric editing, but such is life, and this is obviously the best he thinks he can deliver. As he points out, one has to work within the confines of what producers will allow, though working with VH1 no doubt restricts his movement greatly.

Addiction as a disease and Dr. Drew’s part

Still, I think that Dr. Drew has prepared America to accept that addiction as a disease. So even though he’s done it by selling his own brand of narcissism, which does little to reduce what seems to be the target of his next therapeutic goal, I think he’s helped us all a bit. He’s certainly cleared the way for therapists who are not concerned with curing celebrity-addicts, riddled with gobs of their own narcissism, to do the work necessary. And that’s what I intend to do.

So thank you Dr. Drew for paving the way through your decades of radio and television work. I’ll be ready to take it from here in September, once this Ph.D. is completed.