Homeless for the Holidays

On a cold December evening in 1962, I was walking home along Nicollet Avenue enjoying the elaborate holiday displays when I saw a man leaning against a store window. His wellworn wool coat was fully buttoned against the cold air and one boot was slit open to accommodate a bandaged foot. He held pencils in one hand and a metal cup in the other. I put a dollar into the cup and accepted a pencil. He spoke softly, something I couldn’t make out. I leaned in and asked, “What was that?” Louder he said, “Thank you; God bless you.” I … Continue reading

Tell Me A Story

A young mother in residential treatment uses her words to share her story with her 3-year-old son I am Michelle O., a 23-year-old recovering alcoholic, and mother of a three-year-old little boy named Cooper. During my time in residential, my counselor gave me one last treatment assignment: He asked me to write a book explaining my addiction in a way that my son would understand. Although this seemed intimidating at first, as I began to write I recognized more ways that I could personalize the story in a way that would be familiar to my son. I found ways to … Continue reading

Gratitude? Yes, Please

“Enough is a feast.” — Buddhist Proverb One rainy afternoon while I sat reading in the den of my home with a warm mug of coffee to one side, and a purring cat on the other, I came across a little gem of a story. It spoke to me about resiliency — the ability people have to bounce back after tragedy or trauma. It was also about Abraham Lincoln, and an account documented in the early years of the Civil War: A young man living in Kentucky had been enticed into the rebel army. After a few months he became … Continue reading

Living in the Wake of Addiction: Lessons for Courageous Caregivers

Many people in recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD) say that being restless, irritable, and discontent began long before they ever tried to medicate those feelings with their first drink or drug. Until they experience recovery, these emotions can sometimes make the person feel like everyone else but them has received a different instruction manual for life. But what about the person who is in a relationship with someone with a SUD? How do they learn to handle the extreme anxiety, stress, worry, and need to control that they might feel when their loved one experiences SUD? Where is … Continue reading

When in Doubt Say Something Bizarre

No matter what progress we may have made in taking better care of ourselves in our day to day lives, we are in danger of leaving that progress behind when we pack for our holiday trips — whether the trip is cross country or just across town. Consider the strange phenomenon of instant age regression when you step across the threshold of your parents’ home. You may be 42 when you step onto the porch, but once inside the house your psyche automatically shrinks to 12. Or think about the certainty with which you feel that you “have to” be … Continue reading

One Home, Many Hearts*

by Elaine Taylor A few years ago, I was whining to my daughter about my imminent crossing of that dreaded Rubicon: the Big Five-O. “The best of my life is behind me. I’m entering the period of throat wattles and colonoscopies every five years … and uselessness. Irrelevance.” Being both blunt and wise she said, “Ya know … someone who feels as sorry for herself as you do ought to go out and do something for someone who’s got real problems.” Whoa! A knife to the heart of my pity-party. But how could I not take her advice? Two weeks … Continue reading

It’s Never Too Late for Treatment

“Too bad you didn’t get treatment for alcoholism earlier in your life,” said a young man in the discussion group after hearing my addiction story. “Let’s face it,” he continued, “your best years are behind you.” A big guy with a voice that didn’t match his 6’1”, nearly 300-pound frame, this opiate addict had a tendency of saying things that can be taken the wrong way. Sensing this was one of those occasions, and based on the bewildered look on my face that indicated I had indeed taken it the other way than he intended, he quickly added, “But you … Continue reading

WORDS from readers and writers

Poems by Francisco Narvaez and Mike A Jackson Touched by changes Impasse after impasse Cars drift by billowing smoke in the night sky Poison! Poison! We yell as we laugh inhaling the sick gas The piff pass as I sit back Demons dastardly convince me im not cashed Ask God why and Allah Jehovah puts his arm around my shoulder Not high They say son just listen You’re powerless so don’t get to no bickering I start sniffling Cus I know I know Unfortunately my mind goes and goes Back to the original plan of attack Its like my mind … Continue reading

From Illinois to the Caribbean – Treatment Centers Evolve

1879. Dr. Leslie Keeley, who had studied alcoholic soldiers while serving as a Union Army surgeon, founded the Keeley Institute in a small wood frame building in Dwight, Illinois. He claimed his new discovery, Double Chloride of Gold Remedies, to be administered by four daily injections, would cure “inebriety, tobaccoism and neurasthenia.” Many cures were promoted toward the end of the 19th century as the country moved toward prohibition. None was as famous – or controversial – as Dr. Keeley’s “gold remedy.” It is believed that more than half a million alcoholics and addicts took the Keeley Cure between 1880 … Continue reading

EGO Reduction: The change nobody wants to make (least of all me)

Recently a good friend posted a great video on my Facebook wall. It showed a concept of a personal aircraft and it was soooo cool. Here’s the deal: I’m pretty sure I’d kill myself in such a machine, regardless of any high-tech safety features it might afford (and it’s doubtful that I could even afford to buy it, anyway.) Small aircraft are inherently dangerous to fly, because there are too many variables to simplify the process. It’s especially difficult to fly at night or in crappy weather conditions. The old adage with small aircraft goes something like this: “If you … Continue reading

Treatment Programs

Fill in the blanks: Where do/does ________ I/my partner/child/friend/relative go for help with _______ my/his/ her __________ addiction/mental health needs/co-occurring disorder? The options are ____________confusing/mind boggling/ daunting. A first step toward getting recovery and mental health services often begins with a phone call. From there, an intervention may be appropriate. Or a meeting with a chemical health assessor or psychologist. The information gleaned from such a professional will help inform the next steps. Financial considerations, medical and psychological histories, and willingness to make a commitment to change play vital roles in determining next steps. These professionals also will discuss with … Continue reading

The White House Honors Pioneer in Addiction Treatment & Rehabilitation Advocacy

Founder of Beit T’Shuvah, Harriet Rossetto, is recognized as a national leader for her work treating addiction A ceremony on May 20, 2015 at the White House honored Harriet Rossetto, founder of Beit T’Shuvah (Bate-t’shoo-vah), as an “Advocate for Action.” Rossetto was selected as a national role model for the unique approach to addiction prevention, rehabilitation and educational programs offered through her residential treatment center. She graciously accepted the award from National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli. “I am pleased to honor the work Harriet Rossetto is doing to make our communities healthier and safer,” said Botticelli. “By promoting … Continue reading

What’s in a Word

The past-tense word recovered is used in several places in the beginning of the book of Alcoholics Anonymous. This was pointed out to me in early sobriety, and in my mind, indicated that if I worked the 12-steps with a sponsor, and service work became a part of my life, that I too will be recovered. I also thought as my life improved and the obsession to drink was taken away that recovered meant that the obsession wouldn’t ever return. I was wrong. In early 2006, I left a relationship of four years when I found out my fiancé was … Continue reading

Finding Purpose in Recovery

For an addict, the prospect of no longer using whatever it is that gets them through each day is daunting. There’s a comfort in knowing what life is going to look like even if all it entails is dragging yourself out of bed, taking a drink, smoke, or hit of crystal meth, and going on with a day focused only on managing the disaster. The dark cloud that surrounds us is obscured by our drug of choice — it’s what makes the days tolerable. The first step of recovery – Addiction treatment sets the table Some of us are sent … Continue reading

Ante Up! All In For Life’s Games

Eleanor Leonard

“You know horses are smarter than people. You never heard of a horse going broke betting on people.” ~ Will Rogers Gambling. What comes to mind? An iconic movie scene? Maybe Daniel Craig’s James Bond staring unflinchingly across the poker table at the villain before Bond’s straight flush wins him $115 million. Perhaps the roulette table at Rick’s Café Americain in Casablanca? Or animated characters in Toy Story 3 placing bets around a Fisher-Price See ‘N Say toy? Or the Enterprise crew playing poker in Star Trek: The Next Generation? Movies have portrayed gambling scenarios from elegant to seedy since … Continue reading