While every addict’s brain undergoes similar changes, there is no treatment program that works for everyone. In this episode, Bill Moyers visits innovative treatment programs, including the one that helped his son.
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DONNA LANYON: The seeking of mood altering started at 13, maybe 12. You know — I was always in pursuit of, ‘How can I feel better?’ It never occurred to me that I could do that on my own. I thought the only way was through chemicals.
PAUL EARLEY: I felt like, in many ways, I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t what my parents wanted wasn’t what I wanted to be. I felt like I should be more. Well, drugs and alcohol, as soon as they got in my system, they said, ‘Well, you are more, you’re more. You’re just fine.’
MAYA HENNESSEY: I just couldn’t get out of it. I could promise myself at night when I was feeling really guilty or ashamed — I’m not gonna do this anymore. And then hours later I’d have a drink in my hand and think, ‘Why? You know, why? Why can’t I do anything about this?’
FELICIA WASHINGTON: I’ve been to college. I’ve got computer training certificates. Cocaine, any drugs, they don’t have preference. They don’t say, ‘Well, I’m going to get this — this kid because he lives in the projects,’ or ‘I’m going to get this guy because he’s a doctor.’ Whoever picks it up stands a chance of becoming extremely addicted.
CHIC WILLIAMS: Change is very scary for an addict. But I’m beginning to not be so afraid of the change and welcome it as a new beginning, where it used to be terrifying.
LISA OVERTON: I’m learning about me, finding out that I am a special person, that I am worth being clean, I am worth life.
PAT OWEN: When you look at this person now in front of you and you learn about what they were like a few months or years previous to that, it is like a biography of two totally different people. And that, to me, is fascinating that a transformation can occur.
BILL MOYERS: I’m Bill Moyers. Just about all of us have a hard time changing things we don’t like about ourselves; alcoholics and addicts have it even harder. Their bodies have been so altered by prolonged use of chemicals, they hunger to keep using despite the life-threatening consequences.
When you realize just how powerful addiction can be, you’re tempted to think it’s a miracle anyone can break its grip. Yet many people do, some of them on their own. For others, treatment makes all the difference. Studies show that people treated for addiction have a rate of improvement that compares favorably to other chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Still, it’s an uphill battle, and as our oldest son discovered, no one treatment works for everyone; the road to recovery differs from person to person. Whatever their way back, the people who make it have not just repaired their lives, they’ve made a transformation.
We’ll visit some places tonight that have worked hard to discover how best to help people who are addicted. They would agree with the ancient Greek playwright who said, ‘There is in the worst of fortune, the best chances for a happy change. ‘
LORI ALBERT-WALKER: And for all of you looking for a higher power, Rosemary’s mine. (Albert-Walker sings)
BILL MOYERS: Every May they come back, with friends and family for a reunion. From many different walks of life, what they have in common is addiction.
In my quest for a deeper understanding of addiction and recovery, I came to this treatment center near Atlanta to
talk to these people about their lives and their journeys away from addiction.
DON WILSON: I — I began as a social drinker. It escalates slowly and I couldn’t tell you the point at which I slipped from being a heavy drinker to an alcoholic. All I can tell you is I knew it happened. If you have to go to a party and your wife has to tell you, ‘Don’t drink too much,’ and you do anyway, there’s a problem. If you promise faithfully and, ‘No, no, it’s all right. I’m not going to drink too much,’ you know, ‘I’ll be the one who drives home,’ and it never happens, then you might have a problem with that. I mean, if you keep banging your head against a brick wall, it’s great when it stops but with alcoholism or drug addiction, you can’t stop and then suddenly you realize this nightmare is true, ‘I can’t stop.’
CHIC WILLIAMS: I was smoking pot from about age 18 and then later I was — I started using Demerol.
BILL MOYERS: Demerol?
CHIC WILLIAMS: Demerol.
BILL MOYERS: How did you get it?
CHIC WILLIAMS: I — uh — here’s the word, diverted it from the hospital.
BILL MOYERS: Oh, you work in a hospital?
CHIC WILLIAMS: Yes, sir. I’m a registered nurse. And — and I was — I’d drawn some boundaries in my mind
where I wouldn’t — take it from the patients that it was prescribed for. I would take their leftovers.
BEVERLY SANDERS: It started out with fioricet, which is a babar — barbiturate. Fioricet. ..
BILL MOYERS: I haven’t heard of that.
BEVERLY SANDERS: They prescribe it for migraine headaches. And I had migraine headaches, so I started taking it. And I first started taking it with prescriptions from physicians. And then started taking it off the shelf.
BILL MOYERS: And how did you get it?
BEVERLY SANDERS: I worked in a pharmacy.
BILL MOYERS: You’re a pharmacist?
BEVERLY SANDERS: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: And so you could help yourself to it?
BEVERLY SANDERS: Yes, it’s a little candy store.
CHIC WILLIAMS: It can happen to anyone. It happens to anyone. In my mind, the picture of an addict was a man who hadn’t bathed, shaggy hair and a — dirty clothes with a needle hanging out of his arm, not Chic Williams in a white nursing uniform at a nice hospital.
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BILL MOYERS: The Ridgeview Institute is a private medical facility specializing in the treatment of addiction. When you come here, one of the first things you learn is that addiction is a disease, something many people still have a hard time accepting.
PAUL EARLEY: Well, the problem that I think that people have with seeing it as a disease is that it has so many different facets and it confuses those who observe it.
BILL MOYERS: An MD by training, Paul Earley is Ridgeview’s medical director.
PAUL EARLEY: A family therapist sees the family problems. And a biochemical person sees the biochemical problems. And a sociologist sees the crime. And no one’s seeing the thing at the center.
BILL MOYERS: What is the thing at the center?
PAUL EARLEY: The thing at the center is — is a compulsion which slowly eats away at the person, consuming a larger and larger — parts of its thought. It’s an obsession of the mind. And that obsession takes over everything around that person.
DONNA LANYON: It was like being in prison for me because the obsession to use was so strong in my life that once that I was in the full — what I’d like to say the toxic state — my daily regime was that I was drug seeking. I had to. And by that time my body was — already had signs of withdrawal. So I needed to repeat that charade constantly. And I had no choice.
CHIC WILLIAMS: It took more and more and more just to feel OK. You ne — you never and I never could quite get back to where a — I was feeling excited anymore.
BEVERLY SANDERS: And I started drinking, too. On top of all that because those medications wouldn’t numb my fear of being addicted and knowing I was but I didn’t want to see it, I started drinking on top of that.
DON WILSON: Denial is a very powerful thing. Because denial means that you are the last person to know that you have a problem, because you deny it. ‘I can control it. I can do this.’ And you can’t.
PAUL EARLEY: Denial means an unconscious mechanism which distorts that person’s understanding of — of what’s happening to them. And they can’t see it. And some people say that ‘I just want to go up and shake them and say, “Do you see — well, don’t you see what you’re doing?'” And that wouldn’t do any good either. That’s the tragedy.
BILL MOYERS: And why is that? Because the drug itself has so affected the processes of the brain?
PAUL EARLEY: It has affected it. Addiction gets its tendrils in the part of our brain that is much deeper than reason. It is in the survival part of the brain. And so what we try to do is use this thinking part of our brain that is saying, ‘Oh, my. Maybe I shouldn’t do this,’ and meanwhile this driven instinctual part says, ‘I will,’ and that thinking part on the top says, ‘Maybe you ought not.’ The just say no part of the brain on the top says, ‘Oh, well, just say no.’ And that basic primitive drive says, ‘The heck with that “just say no.” I’m gonna do it.’
DONNA LANYON: My addiction for me, took me so low that a — I wanted someone to get me. I wanted someone to say, ‘Stop. You need help.’ Because I couldn’t do it. I was powerless over it.
BEVERLY SANDERS: And I knew that I had to do something. Because, well, I guess I knew I was going to get fired or I was going to lose my license.
CHIC WILLIAMS: I wanted some help and I wanted to change. I wanted to — something had to be different.
DON WILSON: You don’t have to lose everything to hit bottom. You just have to get to the emotional state where you can’t cope with anything.
BILL MOYERS: And that happened to you?
DON WILSON: Yeah. Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: And you came here?
DON WILSON: I volunteered to come here. I turned myself in.
BILL MOYERS: Don came to Ridgeview as a patient. I came here some years ago as a father. Our oldest son had relapsed on drugs and alcohol and entered Ridgeview, fighting to survive. Like my son, the changes Don made here saved his life.
DON WILSON: When I came into treatment, the first thing I was told by Paul was, ‘You have to surrender.’ I said, ‘Surrender? I want to fight this disease.’ And he said, ‘If you get beaten up by Muhammad Ali 18 times, are you going to get back in the ring with him and fight him again?’ No, you’re not. You’re going to surrender.’
BILL MOYERS: Surrender?
DON WILSON: Surrender. That means admit to yourself — not to anyone else, to yourself — ‘I am powerless over this thing. ‘
BILL MOYERS: And what does that mean?
DON WILSON: It means there’s nothing that I can do alone to beat this. It means I’ve got to accept — and for an alcoholic or addict, it’s difficult — that I need someone else and some other things to help me.
BILL MOYERS: When you get here, it’s like a cocoon — the outside world left behind. Under medical supervision, you must first get out of your system the stuff that got you here.
DON WILSON: You have to go through the pain and the pain is the withdrawal, the physical effects of not having a drug or alcohol. And that takes — and it’s not too long. The physical craving, the need to drink, disappears — in my case in about 30 days.
PAUL EARLEY: We have them in a setting where there are no chemicals and where we try to specifically pay attention not only to the chemicals, but also the other behaviors involved in the addiction and we try to stop them for a moment. Now that doesn’t do anything towards long-term change, all it does is set the stage.
When someone comes in to me, I like to think of them as a puzzle. They arrive at the door and they’ve got — on the surface, they’ve got their addiction behavior which is very, very — by the way, very stereotypical because alcoholics, when they’re drinking, they do the same nutty stuff. And then as they begin to stop drinking, all of a sudden you realize there is a series of psychological lynch pins that need to be pulled for that person to kind of shift into recovery. And my job as a therapist and as a program director is to — is to figure out how we can start pulling the right lynch pins that make the changes occur.
RICHARD MORGAN: You getting ready to work?
ANNIE: Are you an addict?
SUSAN: I’m an addict and an alcoholic. And a — cravings — not recently, but you know what I’ve learned like is that you said, when I’m stressed, for me that’s usually when I’m easing into my depression or I’m in it.
BILL MOYERS: At Ridgeview, group therapy is a critical tool for maintaining sobriety and supporting the process of change.
RICHARD MORGAN: And the other thing that I notice is how direct you are able to see what your emotions are and experience…
BILL MOYERS: With the help of a skilled counselor like Richard Morgan, they confront the problems that underlie their addictions.
CHIC WILLIAMS: I’m sad. I’m moving all my stuff out of my girlfriend’s house today. That’s what’s making me sad.
RICHARD MORGAN: What’s the issue?
CHIC WILLIAMS: Being alone.
RICHARD MORGAN: That felt right.
CHIC WILLIAMS: Yeah.
RICHARD MORGAN: So it’s not so much the sad as the alone?
CHIC WILLIAMS: Right.
PAUL EARLEY: When we develop an addiction illness, we become actors. And we become exquisite actors. And we can act in a certain way and fool anyone given person almost all the time. But if I take that one person and put him in group, that group will be able to ferret out that there is a problem there. And I don’t know why that is. It’s the power of unmasking that that group has.
RICHARD MORGAN: Understanding isn’t so much your issue now then.
CHIC WILLIAMS: Right. I want to get out of this.
RICHARD MORGAN: ‘I want to get out of it.’
CHIC WILLIAMS: And I a …
ANNIE: Wait — wait — wait. You want to… Unidentified Group Member: What? You want to get into another one?
ANNIE: … out of what?
CHIC WILLIAMS: This feeling — and of just — and …
RICHARD MORGAN: Feeling …
CHIC WILLIAMS: I had a conversation with her last night on the telephone. And she was telling me…
PAUL EARLEY: For Chic to recover, it is critical that he see the destructive nature of the relationship he’s in.
ANNIE: ‘Cause I’m watching someone still under the influence, doing their deal here. And a — you know, you’re still having a conversation, you’re still tr — no, but this is what I hear, I hear you trying to get her to feel a certain way and her trying to get you to feel a certain way so that then you can both be comfortable and stop doing what you’re doing. I mean, you need to close that door. You need to end it. You’re consumed with it.
CHIC WILLIAMS: But in my — in my heart I know it’s over. But I kee — and that is what I’m saying is, is I keep wanting …
RICHARD MORGAN: But in your body, you’re still doing it. You’re in the relationship.
CHIC WILLIAMS: Damn.
RICHARD MORGAN: And I have a real question myself and have on whether you can chemically stay sober for much longer than 90 days if you keep playing around in this relationship.
CHIC WILLIAMS: One of the sayings around here is, ‘The group will not lie to you.’ And if you’ve got 15 people telling you, ‘Chic, can you see this?’ You might want to listen to them. I decided to listen to them.
PAUL EARLEY: So someone like Chic coming into treatment, as he begins to peel the layers of the lies off of himself, the denial begins to drift away and he sees himself who he — for what he truly is. And it’s that kind of self-knowledge that is critical for people to be in recovery. You know, a lot of us go through life and — fool ourselves and fool others about things. And we try to be one way we’re not a little bit. And that’s OK if you don’t have an addiction. The problem is you have an addiction, is that it is a — fatal problem. It’s not just a problem; it’s a fatal problem.
BILL MOYERS: It’s a life and death struggle, an ordeal no outsider can ever fully appreciate. Over 14 million Americans grapple with addiction, often in secret. Only 20 percent of them receive any kind of treatment. You’re grateful when one who does is someone you love.
PAT OWEN: It’s remarkable that we have people who are college professors, CEOs of major companies, people that are obviously brilliant and yet when it comes to their own addiction they are blind.
BILL MOYERS: Pat Owen is the director of research at Hazelden, a pioneering treatment facility in Minnesota. What do you think when you see these people the first time? How do they seem to you?
PAT OWEN: Typically, I’m mixed with a feeling of despair and hope — it’s an odd mixture. Because you don’t know who is going to be able to make it and who isn’t. You really — we do not know that yet. It’s a huge limitation in our science or in our treatment. And you see people when they get here being really at a crossroads. For many of them, you truly do know that if they go out and use again that they may die. That’s not an exaggeration, that’s not a hysterical conclusion that they try to scare people with. You just know that this may be the last chance for somebody. So it’s a frightening thing to see that. On the other hand, it’s very easy to pick up bits of resiliency — bits of potential that you just know will make it possible for this person to recover.
BILL MOYERS: Do you think it’s important to think of addiction as a disease?
PAT OWEN: Yes, I do. When I first came into this field and heard people refer to it as a disease, I thought, ‘Well, that’s kind of a cute euphemism. Maybe that’s just Minnesota nice or something — makes people feel better, you know?’ And so I was tolerant of the notion but it didn’t sit right with me. As time has gone on, though, I have become fully convinced that it is a disease.
BILL MOYERS: What about people who think of it as a moral failing?
PAT OWEN: We see people here, who themselves — who are addicts or alcoholics, who also have a moral view of the disease, who come into treatment saying, ‘I am a terrible person. I have defied God and everybody around me by becoming an addict. I don’t even deserve to live.’ And we say, ‘Whoa. Wait a minute. Let’s learn a little bit about what the disease is.’ Because as we know, nobody that I’ve ever met has intentionally become an alcoholic or addict.
(Women singing “Lean On Me”)
BILL MOYERS: In the treatment of addiction, something unusual is happening in the small city of Rockford, Illinois. They are rehearsing to celebrate the biggest change of their lives. None of these women expected to become addicted, and when that happened, none expected that they would one day be liberated from it.
Today, they graduate from an innovative treatment program called Project Safe. Funded by the state of Illinois, Project Safe reaches out to addicted mothers and to their children, who are at great risk of becoming addicted themselves.
Unidentified Woman #1: Today, my life is very happy, peaceful, joyful without the use of rugs. I have the tools that I need to fight this disease head on, one day at a time.
BILL MOYERS: This is a big moment for the graduates, and for their families and friends, who have come to support the changes they have made and the changes yet to come.
LASHONDA: Hi. I’m Lashonda and I’m an addict.
Group of People: (In unison) Hi, Lashonda.
LASHONDA: They always asked me what I was grateful for. I always said, ‘Nothing. I’m not grateful for anything. But I am grateful. I’m grateful for Mimi, the outreach workers, for my P.O. for showing up when my family didn’t show. And the new friends I met — best friends I ever had. They clean.
BILL MOYERS: Project Safe reaches out to people who are not likely to get help on their own. This approach grew out of research by people like Bill White, who has made the study of treatment his life’s work.
BILL WHITE: When I began to evaluate this project in 1986, what I’m expecting is what I always expected. I’m waiting for a crisis. The classic hit bottom pain and then out of that came this opportunity for change. We didn’t have that in Project Safe. We just didn’t have it. I had outreach workers telling me, Bill, you don’t understand. My clients don’t hit bottom, they live on the bottom.’ And what they said is if we wait for them to hit bottom, they will die. And they said the issue is not an absence of pain in their life. They got more pain than most of us can even comprehend. The issue is an absence of hope.
Unidentified Woman #2: I want to encourage you. Be encouraged. I don’t care how hard things get. I don’t care what anyone says.
BILL MOYERS: Maya Hennessey, along with Bill White, played a key role in developing Project Safe. Working for the state, she looked at the barriers that kept women from treatment.
MAYA HENNESSEY: Probably in the ’70s was when we began to look at the need for some changes in treatment, if it was going to be more sensitive to the needs of women, which includes looking at her kids, the relationships — a11 the relationships in her life, high percentage of sexual assault and domestic violence that women are dealing with. We would say things to a woman like, ‘Well, you know, after you’re straight a year or so you can deal with those things.’ For some women, there was no hope of getting a whole year of recovery if we didn’t begin to deal with them.
Unidentified Woman #2: And you can do anything. There’s nothing that you cannot do. Don’t pick up. I don’t care what it is. Do not pick up. Don’t let anybody talk you into anything, going anywhere that you know you don’t have no business going.
BILL WHITE: Many of the women are coming from absolutely drug saturated environments. So the question obviously is: ‘How did these women get started in treatment?’ A woman said to me, ‘Do you really want to know?’ And I said, ‘Yeah. How did you get to treatment the first time?’ And she said it was that woman, I couldn’t get rid of her. And she was talking about an outreach worker who came out and began knocking on her door and just kept coming back. And just kept coming back. And what they did, they didn’t bring a message about pain. They just kept saying, ‘It can be different, it can be different. You can do it.’ They slowly began to build the relationship and penetrate all that distress and all that fear. And out of that relationship came some sparks that said, ‘Maybe it can be different. ‘
BILL MOYERS: We first came to Project Safe three months before graduation and met up with Denise Johnson, an outreach worker.
DENISE JOHNSON: And matter of fact, the day that I started they had a graduation. And that just blew me away. I cried. And I didn’t even know these girls. And I’d never seen these girls before in my life. And I’m sitting there and I’m just crying and it’s like, oh, my God, this is what this is about. And that just took me away then. It’s like, ‘OK. This is where I need to be.
On a typical day, I drive about 100 miles a day. That can consist of transporting, bringing the women into group and taking them home, home visits, if they got to go to court, if they got a doctor’s appointment. You know, sometimes they have like three appointments set up, you know, all in one day, so we’re bouncing allover Rockford.
MAYA HENNESSEY: The women that come into Project Safe are women who are involved in the child welfare system. So there’s been a report or suspect of either abuse or neglect with their children. Child welfare refers the woman to substance abuse treatment and then the outreach workers go and find this woman and encourage her to come into treatment. And these are individuals that will tell you over and over, ‘I never would have gone to treatment on my own. ‘
DENISE JOHNSON: I’ll be back definitely. She know I’ll be back. She’s not ready. So we got to come back and get her.
BILL MOYERS: Denise’s next stop was a homeless shelter.
DENISE JOHNSON: Hi. I’m here for Beverly. It’s Denise. Here she comes.
MAYA HENNESSEY: So, by getting these women, the outreach workers befriend them and tell them, ‘I know you’ve got a lot of problems and I know that there’s a lot of barriers, let us help you.’ They encourage them to come into treatment. When they come into treatment, they meet all of these other women who have also been involved with child welfare.
And as a result of meeting other women in the same boat, they begin to get little ideas of things that can change for them. ‘You were able to get out of an abusive relationship, maybe I can, too. You were able to find a job, maybe I can, too.’ When they step into a program like Project Safe, they begin to step into a complete community of people who are in recovery.
BILL MOYERS: It’s like an extended family — someone helps with the kids while Mom is in treatment. There’s fellowship over a hot breakfast, and the beginnings of friendship. For three mornings a week, this environment is a safe haven, a refuge, a place to begin rebuilding a life.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: When I first came into the Safe program, I was here because I got busted selling crack cocaine. My house was raided. At that point, I could have had my children taken. But I think by the grace of God, I didn’t. I was put on probation which meant I had to go into a treatment program. It was a treatment program or it was to do my time which I was given, could have gotten three to seven years in the penitentiary. So I decided, ‘Yeah. Well, fine. I’m going to go into a recovery program — this is what the state wants.’ You know, it’s not what I wanted. But once I entered the program, I got to seeing other people and I got to listening to other stories. And a lot of them are much, much worse than mine. I started thinking, you know, I’m lucky.
MIMI BAZUIN: What we’re going to work on today is feelings. I think that when I said, ‘Oh, the topic today is feelings,’ everybody went, ‘Oh, no.’ OK. But I think that it’s significant for us in recovery to get to know who we are. What do we have feelings about?
Group: (In unison) Everything.
MIMI BAZUIN: What’s everything?
MIMI BAZUIN: OK.
LASHONDA: From a dog to an earring.
MIMI BAZUIN: How did you say that? From a what?
LASHONDA: From a dog to an earring.
MIMI BAZUIN: OK. OK. Let’s talk about that. OK. The earring could be?
LASHONDA: Something that your mother gave you or something precious.
MIMI BAZUIN: OK. Something precious. So we have feelings about a situation.
BILL MOYERS: What starts out as a room full of strangers evolves over time. The group leader encourages these women to help one another. Mimi Bazuin has been an alcohol and drug counselor for 14 years.
MIMI BAZUIN: About coming in here, to treatment — I remember the first day we all came here in together. And there was one — a couple people … Most of them come to us and they’re very isolated. They don’t share with anyone. So many of them come in very angry and have to work through that anger and know they have to come to acceptance of their feelings and acceptance of their choices and that they’ve made them. And to take responsibility for those feelings and the actions and their own recovery. It’s an incredible amount of work. And we’re going to go around OK and I want you to tell me one feeling that you have right now.
BEVERLY SANDERS: Satisfied.
MIMI BAZUIN: Satisfied, all right.
LISA OVERTON: Frustrated.
MIMI BAZUIN: Frustrated. OK.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: I feel a happy feeling and a lonely feeling.
MIMI BAZUIN: Sure.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: I mean, all at the same time, but it’s so confusing.
MIMI BAZUIN: It is.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: I mean — and I’ve been feeling like this since the other day. This is my second time around, due to the fact that I relapsed last year. My relapse — the for me, I think, is to show me that I didn’t work it right the first time. You know, learning how to deal with issues that I couldn’t deal with before. They taught me to understand my feelings and, you know, that it’s OK to have them.
MIMI BAZUIN: Now what do chemically dependent people do with their feelings?
Group: (In unison) Stuff ’em.
MIMI BAZUIN: What does stuff mean?
Group: (In unison) Don’t talk about them.
MIMI BAZUIN: Is it OK to feel anything you want? What do you think?
Group: (In unison) Yes.
MIMI BAZUIN: Sure, it is. So is it OK for me to be angry?
Group: (In unison) Yes.
MIMI BAZUIN: One way or another you deal with your feelings. And these women come in and have dealt with them and tried to medicate their feelings by using. They don’t understand that when they first come to us. And I think that it’s a significant part of recovery to be able to know that everything that you feel is a part of you.
LASHONDA: I feel lonely .
MIMI BAZUIN: You feel lonely.
MIMI BAZUIN: OK.
LASHONDA: And — that’s it.
MIMI BAZUIN: OK. Lonely. OK. Anything in particular you’re feeling lonely about?
LASHONDA: Yeah, my significant other.
MIMI BAZUIN: OK. OK. So what do you do when you feel lonely?
MIMI BAZUIN: And that’s OK? Because that can be a healthy part of it. It doesn’t mean it’s on — it’s — it’s fun. OK, it may be uncomfortable for you, but that’s healthier than doing what else? Taking a walk on the wild side, right? OK. So when you get lonely, we need to make a plan for you before you go today. OK?
MAYA HENNESSEY: Studies show that there is healing in talking. We know that if a person tells their story, whether that be something they’re ashamed of that they did or some heartache that they’ve experienced, it diminishes as they keep sharing it. So it may be to somebody who doesn’t understand, they’ll hear a woman sharing the same thing over and over again like, you know, ‘I’m in this abusive relationship. And I’m not going to take it anymore.’ And we could hear her say that four or five times. Well, if you don’t understand it, you might think she keeps saying that but not making any changes. But the staff that work in Project Safe know that she may say that many, many times. And each of those times it is bringing her closer to the strength to do something about it.
MIMI BAZUIN: We’ll talk for a few more minutes today and I’d like you to share about how much clean time you have ’cause that’s a victory, too.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: OK. Today I have 29 days clean.
Group: (In unison) All right. Good job, Felicia.
MIMI BAZUIN: And will you share that with us.
BEVERLY SANDERS: I have 64 days clean.
MIMI BAZUIN: Oh, good job. OK.
TANYA JELKS: A week short of two months.
MIMI BAZUIN: Good.
LISA OVERTON: Today.
MIMI BAZUIN: Today, that’s OK. That’s special. We’ll talk.
LISA OVERTON: I know.
DENISE JOHNSON: When a person like Lisa does let us know or says that she relapsed, we have to kind of like keep an eye on them. You know, we have to constantly do home visits on them, making sure that, you know — they’re not still using, you know? But as we are talking to them, we’re not, you know, beating them down. You know, we’re talking to them in a, like, in a loving and caring way that you know we’re here to support you. You know, we’re here to help you. You know, you don’t have to do this by yourself, you know. And if there’s any other help that you need, we can help you with it.
BILL WHITE: See, traditionally, what we would do and I know that it sounds pretty irrational, but we would say, ‘If you’re coming into treatment’ — what we’re asking you to do is to give up the primary symptom of what we called your disease. And if you exhibit that symptom then we’re going to throw you out of treatment. Now what I’m suggesting with these women is if we would have taken that traditional approach, the vast majority of these women would have been discharged from treatment in the first seven to 10 days of treatment. So we had to rethink what’s the process through which people go. We found that they wanted to keep coming to treatment and they wanted to keep using cocaine.
We found that they would come into treatment one afternoon, blow up in a group and shout profanities at everybody, storm out of the place and call back two hours later wanting to make sure it was still OK to come back to group tomorrow. And what it meant is — is we’re not going to have conversions here. We’re going to have destructive and healthy, very fragile, healthy behaviors existing side by side. And our only goal is each day we’ve got to get this one weaker and each day we’ve got to get this one stronger. What you’re looking for is really a synergy going on, the sort of chemistry between people to do together what they haven’t been able to do by themselves.
PAT OWEN: What happens in treatment is it makes it possible for a person to change. It creates the environment and the education and the fellowship in order for change to happen. They find out they’re not alone. They find out that they’re accepted for who they are, that they don’t have to pretend that they’re somebody else. They don’t have to use chemicals or drugs or alcohol to be accepted.
BILL MOYERS: Is your goal abstinence?
PAT OWEN: Absolutely. That’s an assumption. We also know that not everybody is going to be able to maintain total abstinence all the time. It’s a nature of the disease, really is that — that there will be relapses. However, we do expect that a person will get the education and experience to know, first of all, how to anticipate a relapse and to do what they need to do in order to prevent that relapse; but if that doesn’t work, if they’ve experienced a slip or a relapse, to be able to get back on track, relatively quickly. So it doesn’t have to spiral into total despair and chaos again.
BILL MOYERS: Avoiding relapse is something every recovering person must learn to do. Home alone is often the toughest place to do it.
DONNA LANYON: I think relapse is always an issue for somebody like me. And for me to not think of it that way is dangerous. You know, I have a disease of compulsion. You know, and if I’m angry, relapse is possible. If I’m hungry, relapse is possible. If I’m tired, relapse is possible.
BILL MOYERS: Donna struggled with a narcotic and alcohol addiction for almost 20 years.
DONNA LANYON: What I suffer from is a soul sickness. You know, a deficit inside. The seeking of mood altering started at 13, maybe 12. You know, I was always in pursuit of how can I change? How can I feel better? You know, how can I fit in? I just thought that was the way to live. You know, it never occurred to me that there was another way.
BILL MOYERS: Two and a half years ago, when she found herself in serious trouble she discovered that her company had a program to help. The major airline she works for as a flight attendant paid for her treatment.
DONNA LANYON: Their response to me was, when I called and told them I wouldn’t be back to work for a while was, ‘Thank, God. Thank, God. We — we liked you. We like you. We’ve known there’s something wrong, we just didn’t know what. Because when you’re here you do a good job. You’re having a problem getting here. So this makes perfect sense.’ And she said to me, ‘Do you realize that this is your life? Do you — do you’ — and I was crying and I said, ‘But what about my job? What about my job?’ And she said, ‘This is your life. You need to save your life.’ And there again was that concept of, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is much bigger than I even imagined. I feel sick. I feel nauseated. This feels too much. You know, sometimes if I’m feeling, I get sick to my stomach. It just feels too much.
RICHARD MORGAN: Well, one of the things you can do with that — yeah, that’s one of the things. Yeah, right there. Is you can also be aware of moving that out a little bit. Emotionally, moving it out. ..
PAUL EARLEY: Many people who are addicted are very hurt …
DONNA LANYON: I’m checking out. I’m hearing you, but I’m…
RICHARD MORGAN: Which I translate as, ‘Let’s not work on that, Richard.’
PAUL EARLEY: …especially the people that were hurt early in their lives — are very cautious. And part of treatment is not to strip away all those defenses, but to strip away enough so that one can look inside. And if you don’t strip away enough to do that, you have someone who will inevitably relapse.
DONNA LANYON: I’ve been here before.
RICHARD MORGAN: Do you know of any way you can be with the — feel sick that can kind of grow you forward a little bit with it?
DONNA LANYON: I don’t know. My body’s just clenched. I don’t like this spot right now. ANNIE; Are you willing to let him guide your process here?
DONNA LANYON: Fifty-fifty.
ANNIE: OK. Because I don’t think anybody expects you to know how to do this.
DONNA LANYON: They don’t probably, but I do. Well, it’s me. I know that.
ANNIE: OK. Are you willing to let him guide your process?
DONNA LANYON: Sort of.
RICHARD MORGAN: Then let’s just do sort of.
DONNA LANYON: OK.
RICHARD MORGAN: Let’s do 50:50. Is that all right?
DONNA LANYON: OK. What I was feeling in the group was a little bit of the fear that — I tend to, if I’m going to work, it goes like it did
really fast. Uh, and it’s been a while since I’ve had that kind of overt expression. And I let myself go with that today.
RICHARD MORGAN: Do you feel that resistance to working on that? Do you now know what it is?
DONNA LANYON: Just — scared.
RICHARD MORGAN: Scared. OK. That feels to me like a good place to be is the scared place. Are you aware of that scared place?
DONNA LANYON: I wish …
RICHARD MORGAN: You keep — yeah.
PAUL EARLEY: The problem with therapy is therapy can wind up healing, but along the way in therapy there is always pain. And if the pain causes a return to the drug use, it is of zero benefit. So you cannot push that person to go so deep into the pain that they wind up returning to drug use. Yet, if you ignore it, then you still have a pained individual who is — who is — who is hurt. So what I spend my time late at night worrying about with people, like Donna, is: Should we be doing this therapy now, in order to make sure that she stays sober, or should we wait?
DONNA LANYON: The voice of my truth is about sexual abuse.
RICHARD MORGAN: Mm-hmm.
DONNA LANYON: I just don’t want to listen to it. Because just I don’t believe it. I can’t believe it. It just — it happens so fast for me sometimes. It just — you know, I walk in and I wear the face of the world and everybody thinks I’m OK a lot of times. And I’m not. And I shift so fast.
RICHARD MORGAN: Sex abuse history does that. Pow! But what I notice is you have a lot of ability to recognize that process. Be clear, pull back as much as you need to and come on back in, and know what you need to work on next. Am I?
DONNA LANYON: Oh, yeah. I do work at it. I don’t want to die. I mean, that’s how I see it. You mean — it is how I see it. Because I was — I was told that this is a fast and progressive illness. And if it isn’t treated, whether that’s medically in an in-patient setting or on a — individually and — and using the tools that were suggested to me, I know that pain will swallow me. And I know that. And I’ll go back to using. And then I don’t have a stop button. I’m not one of those lucky people in life that can have one. And — and I will go back to that life.
PAUL EARLEY: People in recovery say — sometimes to me they say, ‘Well, being in recovery is a little bit like having a bowling ball suspended over my head.’ It’s like of like you’re always walking around saying, ‘Boy, that’s really going to hurt if it goes.’ So I have to be real careful. So I’ve always got my eyes up waiting for that bowling ball to fall. You have to encourage them to explore new avenues and find out more about themselves. And to do that and not relapse. That’s the trick.
BILL MOYERS: Some physicians — and you’re a physician — some physicians have said to me that it’s very frustrating working with addicts because the disease is so tenacious and they just often don’t get better very fast. Do you find it frustrating?
PAUL EARLEY: Yes. Treating addiction is frustrating. It is — it is a combination of frustrating and heartbreaking. The number of my patients that I treat and relapse and some die is — is — you take to bed at night and when you can’t sleep they move around in your head. So, yeah, it’s hard.
BILL MOYERS: What brought you to this work?
PAUL EARLEY: I came to this work because of my own addiction and recovery. I was so hopelessly trapped. And that’s the part that I think I can see in patients, that sometimes they can’t even see. I can see because I have had enough distance from it. And I remember what it felt like to be trapped.
BILL MOYERS: To escape addiction’s grip, requires an enormous amount of time and patience. Not everyone relapses, but when it happens, the important thing we learned is not to give up.
TOM McLELLAN: It is a fact, it’s a law. People who stay in treatment longer do better. And I don’t care what modality it’s in. Whether it’s in-patient or out-patient, or methadone maintenance, or on a — on a patch for nicotine, or nicotine gum, whatever. People who stay in this longer do better.
BILL MOYERS: Tom McLellan is a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. He has studied treatment outcomes for 25 years. Twenty-five years of looking at this, are you more or less hopeful than you were a quarter of a century ago about our ability to confront addiction and to change people?
TOM McLELLAN: Oh, my God. This is the best of times. Tremendous strides have been made at every level, understanding the genetics of these disorders which are going to lead to treatment options. Understanding the brain chemistry which is going to lead to new treatment options. Understanding behavioral change, learning, conditioning, social supports for change. We know more than we ever knew.
BILL MOYERS: When I listen to you, McLellan, you make me feel hopeful about this. Yet I know from personal experience it is difficult. It is one of the hardest diseases of all to conquer. When the — when person I love and care about came out of 28-day treatment, I was scared. I wanted him to stay there because he was safe while he was there.
TOM McLELLAN: Right.
BILL MOYERS: And sure enough, over the next few years, he relapsed twice.
TOM McLELLAN: Yeah. Yep.
BILL MOYERS: It’s hard.
TOM McLELLAN: It’s very hard. A person who has become committed to change and who’s gone through some period of initial stabilization, detoxification, even some extended rehabilitation, they come out of treatment and they are truly changed. They are physiologically different people. They’ve learned lessons. They’ve established relationships. They’ve learned some things about themselves. They feel optimistic. But at the same time, they feel scared, too. They leave that warm relationship and now they’re back out into the same stressors, the same cues, the same environment that was associated and the same emotional problems that led to the problems in the first place. That’s when they need a family. That’s when they need continuing support from the recovering community. That’s when they need friends that will support them in that continuing effort — in the behavioral change. It’s — it’s the toughest part of the treatment. And it’s the least supported.
DENISE JOHNSON: I’ve been clean now for seven years and eight months and I can — as I’m talking now, it’s like I can remember all that like it was yesterday. And I tell the girls all the time that if you forget your last high, then you’re going to use again. And they look at me like, you know, ‘How could you say something like that?’ I said, ‘You’ll find out why.’ I said, ‘Just try not to forget — remember it like it happened just a few minutes ago and keep that feeling, you know, that one — that last time when you felt like crap, when you smelled like crap, when you were crying and you were angry, and you did whatever. it was to do to get that last high — and that you was so sick and tired and how much pain and how much anger that you felt. You know, remember that.’ I said, “Cause I’m telling you, that’s what’s going to save your life.’
BILL MOYERS: Project Safe’s extended family tries to fill in when a woman’s own family and friends cannot. Sometimes a home visit can make the difference at a critical moment. Denise came to see Felicia because she sensed this might be one of those times.
DENISE JOHNSON: Hey!
BILL MOYERS: A single mother with two school-aged boys, Felicia is having a hard time making ends meet. At 30 days sober, she is at high risk for relapse.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: And I’m trying to deal with the physical part, along with the emotional part, then I got all this outside stuff. You know, it’s right here. It’s across the street. It’s down the street. It’s over that side of the street. And some days, it’s not that I feel like that using thing, but it’s just the fact that I know it’s there.
DENISE JOHNSON: Right.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: You know what I’m saying? That I know, you know, all I have to do is walk across the street and get me a bag.
BILL WHITE: We often think of addiction as a relationship between a drug and a person. And we often forget that there’s an entire elaborate social world that surrounds that person/drug relationship. I’ve committed myself to recovery but the issue is, now what do I do? It’s Saturday morning, I just got home from treatment. Every relationship, every place, everything, every word out of my mouth in my home community ties me to relapse and that addiction life style. I’ve got to replace not only the hole inside myself that that drug filled, but an entire social world I’ve got to rebuild.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: I felt like if I just give the one moment, that — just relax and let my — you know, just let myself go. And I can’t do that. I can’t do that and I know I can’t do that. And it frustrates the hell out of me ’cause I get tired of being on guard all the time . You know? I’m sick of being on sentry duty. You know, 1…
DENISE JOHNSON: I first me Felicia when I became her outreach worker. And the relationship we have now is — is more like a sister now. Because I know her. She knows me. And I know her. And she knows that I’m not going to take any crap from her. You know, I’m not going to take any lies. I’m not going to take any of the roles that she’s, you know, tried to play on me. That anytime that she’s — she wants to close me out, that I’m not going to allow her to close me out. I’m going to say something that’s going to bring out whatever it is that’s bothering her.
(To Felicia) What you was just saying about you know how you get tired of being on guard all the time, you know, and, you know, I still today — feel that. And I don’t know if it — I don’t know and I guess it’s not for us to know that it’ll ever go away. You know, there’s just something …
For a lot of them, they used for so long and lived that lifestyle for so long — that change is everything. It’s your attitudes, your actions, your emotions, the way you dress, the way you walk, the way you talk — everything you know it has to change.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: And my babies are suffering. I don’t know what to do.
DENISE JOHNSON: You’re doing the best that you can do right now, baby. You’re doing the best that you can do. And I know you would, you know, love for things to get better. But, you know, we got to remember, you know, how long we were out there doing what we were doing and that it didn’t — that didn’t happen overnight. You know, and that getting better is for us — it’s a lifelong thing. You know?
FELICIA WASHINGTON: Oh, God. And if — take me so long to — to get over this as it did for — as many years as I was doing it before I changed.
DENISE JOHNSON: Like, what I got, seven years, eight months now? And when you get through all of it, to the end, it’s like, ‘Hey, I made it through.’
A lot of them will say, ‘Well, I want to be like you.’ And I ask them, I say, ‘What do you mean by that?’ You know? ‘Well, I want to be — you know, you got so many years clean. You know, you got a good job. You got a house. You know. You got a car, you know. You — you always seem happy. You know, you — it’s just — you know, you dress nice. You know, I mean, it’s just things that — that — that I see in you that I like, you know, and I want it.’ You know, and — and the first thing I tell them, I say, ‘Well, you know the only way you can get this is you’ve got to go to meetings.’ You know? And they look at me like, oh, there you go. I said, ‘I’m not playing.’ I said, ‘This is not, you know, a joke. This is reality. If you want what I have, you have to go to meetings to get it.’
BILL MOYERS: Most treatment centers and counselors urge recovering people to attend meetings at organizations like AA — Alcoholics Anonymous.
MAYA HENNESSEY: Nobody knows the millions of us who are in recovery because we don’t like it be known.
BILL MOYERS: You’re referred several times to those of us in recovery. You’re in recovery?
MAYA HENNESSEY: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: How long have you been …
MAYA HENNESSEY: It will be 25 years the end of July.
BILL MOYERS: Twenty-five years?
MAYA HENNESSEY: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Do you go to AA meetings?
MAYA HENNESSEY: Yeah. That’s been an important — a very, very important part of my recovery.
BILL MOYERS: What do they do for you?
MAYA HENNESSEY: There’s all these people there and they have — for as many millions of people there are in recovery, there are totally different stories but there’s always somebody who shares something that gives some solution or meaning or hope to whatever I’m struggling with at the given moment.
BILL MOYERS: Many people who never go to treatment find their way to AA, Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous. With no dues or fees, these organizations are the most accessible form of treatment around. Across the country, throughout each day, people come, meet and speak frankly about their efforts to stay sober and sober.
PAT OWEN: They have a chance to disclose things about themselves, or to state intentions about themselves that perhaps before they’ve only mulled around in their head and kept it secret. And so by getting that out in the open, somehow that creates a clearing for more change.
BILL MOYERS: Live and let live; but for the grace of God; first things first — these bits of folk wisdom have been collected by AA over the years. They are reminders that change is a journey of many small steps, repeated every day.
TOM McLELLAN: I don’t care if you stayed in an in-patient treatment for a day or a year. It won’t be enough. It’s not like learning a lesson. You must practice the behavioral changes that you learn in an in-patient program and keep them up and sustain them after you — after you leave.
BILL MOYERS: You — you have found that groups like AA do encourage change?
TOM McLELLAN: Absolutely. Over…
BILL MOYERS: Going to a group, just talking about it?
TOM McLELLAN: Over and over and over, every study that looks at this finds that participation in these self-help groups is — is quite consistent with maintained change.
BILL MOYERS: Keep coming back is perhaps AA’s most important slogan. Many people swear by this advice.
DON WILSON: My sponsor once told me — I was going through it. It was about a year and I said, ‘Why me?
Why do I have to be an alcoholic? Why do I have to go to meetings?’ And he looked me right in the face and he said, ‘What’s so special about you? That it should be why not? Why not you? It can happen to one in 10 people. You’re one of the lucky ones. You’re here.
(Group of women singing “One Voice”)
BILL MOYERS: Over the course of months, they’ve been coming back again and again, growing stronger in each other’s company. Whatever it is they find together, they must be able to take it away when the circle is broken.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: Self-love. I woke up this morning and I had a hard time for a while. Then I realized it was because I wasn’t liking myself very much. Recovering people often say, ‘I just don’t like myself. When will I start liking myself?’ The answer is: Start now.
MIMI BAZUIN: What’s up Lise?
LISA COCHRAN: Just having a hard time today. I went to court yesterday.
MIMI BAZUIN: Mm-hmm.
LISA COCHRAN: Urn, I took the plea bargain, which was a cap of no more than four years, no less than six months.
MIMI BAZUIN: Do you mind sharing with us what happened? Because there’s people in here who probably don’t know your story. Can you talk a little bit about that?
LISA COCHRAN: Mm-hmm. Well, I started using drugs about 10 years ago. And I started out with a good job — a good job. And I thought I wasn’t like everybody else. So I went through treatment for my job the first time around. Then after that I lost my job and I started shoplifting to support my habit. Urn, that escalated, you know, got worse and worse and worse and I kept doing it — kept doing it. Finally now it’s caught up with me. I’m clean. I have seven months yesterday. But you know how they say you always have the skeletons that haunt you.
MIMI BAZUIN: Mm-hmm.
LISA COCHRAN: So — that’s what I’m going through.
MIMI BAZUIN: What’s changed about your life from six months ago? Eight months ago?
LISA COCHRAN: Oh, uh — more serious. You know? More — the main thing to me is my kids. I don’t know. Just — more seriousness. You know? Tired of playing games, this in and out of drug rehab type of thing. You know? ‘Cause I’ve been here and done this before.
MIMI BAZUIN: Mm-hmm.
LISA COCHRAN: I don’t know. It’s just different. I used to never talk.
I was molested when I came up as a child. OK? So I never — I never talked. I never said anything. I was always alone. I kept that secret for 18 years till I came to treatment here. And Wanda — thank God for Wanda. She was a counselor here. She helped me to open — she helped me to bloom. So it’s just a — I’m going through a lot of things.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: I respect you for dealing with this, for facing it. Because you could have turned away. You could have hid. You could have ran. You know? You could have — there’s countless of things you could have done. You know? Just to — to not face…
LISA COCHRAN: Don’t get me wrong. Let me interrupt you. I thought about it.
FELICIA WASHINGTON: I know you did. OK? I see you. I know you did. And I admire you and respect you because you didn’t. And that shows me right there that — that you mean that you’re recovering. You mean what you feel and what you say about your recovery. You know, ’cause if you didn’t you would have went one of them other ways. You’d have took that easy way out.
TANYA JELKS: I know how angry I would get, facing what she’s facing. But it seems like once you learn how to deal with your anger and deal with the problems, some type of peace just comes in there and you learn how to deal with it. You don’t get bent out of shape. Even though consequences may come, you still have that peace. That you don’t — you know, you don’t be tripping like you used to. And I — you know, I found — and you can see it on her face. You can see it.
MAYA HENNESSEY: Of course she’s not delight about the fact that she’s going to go and be in jail. But she also said, ‘This is the consequences for my behavior.’ Recovery is about the consequences. It’s not about getting off the hook for it. It’s about saying, ‘These are the not OK things I did. I want to clean those things up so that I can get on with my life. ‘
BILL MOYERS: Getting on with Don’s life involved leaving his job as vice president of a large pharmaceutical company and starting over.
JONATHAN: Hey, Don. How you doing?
DON WILSON: Hey, good morning, Jonathan. How’s it going?
BILL MOYERS: During the three years since Don entered Ridgeview, he spent plenty of time sipping coffee in this coffee chop. One day he decided to buy the shop. Today he owns the largest specialty roasting factory in the southeastern United States.
DON WILSON: Your recovery gives you gifts. And one of them is not to fear change. And if you change from substance abuse to non-substance abuse, then dropping a career and starting something new is no big deal. Sometimes I pray and wish that I wasn’t in recovery and I could be a normal person again. But you can’t. I’d love to tell you, Bill, that I’m going to get better from this disease and — like the measles and I’m going to be immune. I’m not. I have a daily reprieve.
The last — you asked me what I do in a daily routine. The last thing I’ll do when I go to bed tonight is go, ‘Thank you, God. It’s’ — take a bad day at work. ‘It’s been a shitty day. Everything went wrong. But tonight I’m sober and I’m grateful for that. Thanks.’ And then tomorrow I’ll do it again.
My wife used to tell me that I had a titanium shield and I never showed any emotions. ·1 don’t think she’d ever seen me cry really. Ridgeview taught me that it’s OK to cry if something upsets you. But equally it’s OK to show love. When I finally went home, my wife thought that she’d got herself a Step ford husband, whatever they did to me in there. Luckily, no such film has been made. And I told her, ‘It’s — it is me, actually. It’s the real me that you may have not have seen for years.’ And she said, ‘Keep it.’
BILL MOYERS: What is the change you’re after here? Is it change of heart? Change of habit? Change of mind?
PAUL EARLEY: All those. What they first notice is that, ‘Gee, this is funny. The world looks different. My wife, she seems different. My job — my job — my job used to drive me crazy and it’s not so bad.’ And so they come in to see me and they say, ‘The weirdest thing happened to me, I got out of treatment, and I went back and everything changed.’ And I say, ‘Well, you know, sure that happened to you, the entire world orchestrated itself around you so that you could stay sober.’ And they laugh and they say, ‘Oh, I see. I’m the one that changed.’ That’s what makes working in this field so great, is that people — they become something they always wanted to be and they feel as if their lives have meaning. It’s like someone rewrote the script and all of a sudden they gave them a part they could really play. Instead of saying, ‘Well, you need to play this part all your life,’ someone rewrote the script and said, ‘Well, that’s not the script. Let’s rewrite it, being something that is written for your soul rather than someone else’s soul.’ And that person says, ‘1 — 1 can play this — this script, and this script doesn’t include drinking.’
DONNA LANYON: As I go on this course of recovery, you know, I realize that it’s not really about drugs anymore. That has nothing to do with it. That’s just what I did to relieve the pain. I feel like before I got sober, I was trying to be so many things but I just didn’t have a clue. You know, and as my soul becomes in alignment, or starts to piece together, I see the patterns in my life and why I chose what I did. And if you figure the amount of years it takes to get to this place, the recovery period, the period of reconstruction is going to be long. But then there’s just the life to live that you stopped living when you were using. You know it’s almost like you get your second childhood when you get sober.
PAT OWEN: Oftentimes people have forgotten themselves who they were. Or perhaps they were only that person as a child. Oftentimes addiction for a person is a long, long journey away from themselves. So recovery is a journey back to themselves.
BILL MOYERS: We watched our own son rediscover himself. During his addiction, his personality had changed. Now in recovery, the changes were no less dramatic. We began to understand them only when we came with him to the Hazelden Family Program. Here we learned how families can work together in the process of change.
I wanted you to give me a prescription to fix my family member’s addiction. And you didn’t do it.
PAT OWEN: No. Time and time again we know and we learn and we tell others, ‘You can’t change somebody else. ‘
BILL MOYERS: That was the hardest thing to learn that I could not change this person.
PAT OWEN: That’s right. No matter how well intentioned a person is, how intelligent, how informed a person is — no matter what you cannot change somebody else. And that is probably one of the hardest things about the disease and one of the things that is the most frustrating to the family.
BILL MOYERS: What is the impact of addiction on families as you’ve seen it?
BILL WHITE: My favorite still is the metaphor of we have an elephant living in the middle of the living room here at the house and no one talks about it. It’s like everybody’s walking on egg shells. Everybody’s hypersensitive to the most significant issue in this family and nobody will even put a word on it until the very — until we’re very late into that process.
BILL MOYERS: And that becomes the family secret.
BILL WHITE: Becomes the family — dominates the family.
BILL MOYERS: You can’t ignore it, everybody changes behavior because of it.
BILL WHITE: Absolutely. Part of recovery is a reconstruction of identity and a reconstruction of the social world. Families, I think, got to go through the same thing. Families and the individual alcoholic need to be able to say, ‘Who was I before and who were we as a family before this thing happened to us, and this thing called alcoholism? What happened to us as a result of that? We need some words and labels to put on that individually and collectively. And where are we now and what are our roles here now that we’ve got a member of our family in something called treatment? And where — where — how do we go forward here. I mean, how do we go back and restructure and put this thing back together?’ And I think families need some help to make sense out of that and move forward.
JUDY JOBE: I’d like to thank all of you for coming today and helping us celebrate and honor the courageous steps that these women have taken to change the direction of their lives and the direction of their families’ lives. You and your family and the people here who have supported you know the tremendous courage it took on your part to make the changes that you have made to date and the changes yet to come.
BILL MOYERS: In this Project Safe graduating class were many of the women we met when we first came here. But some were missing. Lisa, began serving her prison sentence 10 days earlier. Felicia was also missing. After repeated attempts to keep her in treatment, she dropped out of Project Safe.
BILL WHITE: If we have 10 women who started, we may have three of those women in graduation. So there’s a lot of casualties that go on. Now some of those women that didn’t make it are going to be coming back in and they’re going to be in a future graduation. What our experience is is the greater the number of times that they come back the greater the opportunity. The odds of recovery happening increase each time that they’re trying.
DENISE JOHNSON: Like I always tell you, you know, you have to keep going on. You have to make your meetings. You know, because you know I’m going to be out there. I love every last one of you-all. You-all touch — each — everytime I go to a graduation, each one of you-all leave a piece inside of me.
BILL MOYERS: So what does your research tell you is a good measure of success? How should the public think of treatment as successful?
TOM McLELLAN: What people really want out of treatment is not just reduced alcohol and drug use. They want improved social function. They want an end to the crime that’s associated with alcohol and drugs. They want an end to the family disruption and the embarrassment and the violence associated with it. They want an end to the high insurance costs caused by excess utilization — all of those things. Now is substance abuse treatment able to deliver on that? The answer is yes.
TANYA JELKS: Hi. I’m Tanya. See you-all ain’t going to make me cry. I’m not going to do that. I’m nervous. I need somebody.
MIMI BAZUIN: We’re right here. We’re right here with you.
TANYA JELKS: OK. I’d like to thank Rosecrance for giving me a chance to come back.
Things are looking a lot better for me. I take better care of my children than I did before. I feel a lot more confident about myself now. I’ve got a lot more self-esteem. I just feel a lot better about everything. And the graduation was great. It was — it was really nice. I tried not to cry, but I had to.
MAYA HENNESSEY: This woman in AA said to me, ‘You’re going to meet a woman and this woman is going to be everything you ever wanted to be. She’s going to look like you want to look and sound like you want to sound and feel like you want to feel and she’s going to have her life headed in the direction you want yours to go. Well, that woman is you, as long as you never pick up another drink.
And I think about that with these women. Even if they haven’t clearly defined who that future them is, they have inside of them an idea of who it is they want to be. And every day without alcohol and drugs, they take another step towards becoming her.
Unidentified Son: I’d just like to say I’m proud of all of you for graduating — especially my mother.
Unidentified Daughter: Don’t sit down yet, you got one more. Mom, I’m proud of you. You look so beautiful today. And all of you do. Congratulations, everybody. You’ve done a good job. I love you, Mom.
Undentified Woman: I love you, too.
BILL WHITE: It’s pretty dramatic. And we tell clients, ‘This is a real simple program that we’re doing to bring you into.’ And what we forget to tell them is it’s a simple program, all you have to do is change everything about your life. Because it is — I mean, it — but it’s — it’s the kind of thing — no one could face that much change. And yet looking backwards, that’s precisely what happens to people. Is there’s almost nothing short of transforming most aspects of their life in this recovery process.
This transcript was entered on May 1, 2015.