Saturday, February 12, 2011

Treatment Center Versus Alcoholics Anonymous?

Jim... you just printed up the best description of the difference between the Treatment Center and the program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  You had "Chris S" at the bottom of it... I've heard of Chris R, but who is Chris S?

It said something about the alcoholic being different than the hard drinker or the real addict being different from the hard drug user?  I guess this is very possible.  I don't think I know what it's like being a hard drinker.  I was a hard ... or maybe a firm drug user from time to time.  But I remember being young... like 18, 19 years old and purposely laying off the weed so I could have a good drunk-on and not get sick.  Getting the bed spins is a good waste of booze.  But it rarely stopped me.  Now drinking to unconsciousness... that's something I could relate to.

It said something about the treatment centers/rehabs/etc. not wanting to turn loose of some of their clients?  How would that go?  You are a bad drunk and this treatment center may not be effective for you.  Give it a shot and if you are not satisfied after 90 meetings in 90 days, we'll give you 80% of your money back... less charges for this wonderful and nutritious food." 

I was sent to treatment centers.  I have my own experience with them.  In the first one, back when I was 18, I learned that "For me to drink again is insane."  This is how I would sum up my first reading of the 164 in the Big Book, of which I did during my stay at Washington House Detox.  What else I learned there was how to play spades and smoke cigarettes until 3:00 am every morning and how to get 13th Stepped by a 26 year old girl with a Camaro and the Playboy Channel.  If you think I'm bragging about the last comment, you'd be correct.  Now... without going to A.A., I left that experience to go back to smoking weed and staying away from booze for about 6 or 8 months... the details are foggy.  But I did manage to do all kinds of fun drugs, like acid, shrooms, opium, coke... snorted and smoked, crank, whippits!  Ha.  That last one is funny.  Amazing I have any brain cells left.  But guess what?  After about a half a year or so... I decided I was missing something, not being all that I could be.  So, I decided to try some controlled drinking.  I drank 8 beers my first night and drove home.  Was quite sure this was great and I could handle it.  A few days later, I was back to blacking out and a week later, I spun out of control, wrecked my car and felt like a fucking loser POS that didn't deserve to live. 

I tried so hard to control my drinking over the years, only to find as the book says, pitiful, incomprehensible demoralization.  I really really could control my drugs though.  I could smoke $50.00 worth of freebase with a friend in Louisville Colorado, go home and stay away from him and his cocaine for months, years.  In fact, the last several times I'd seen him was since I got sober.

I got sober and stopped doing drugs... except for caffeine.

Now, let's talk about treatment centers and money.  There's a dude named Wayne B. who spoke at our Ocsoberfest a couple of years ago, and his spiel was that things changed in Recovery Land, for the worse, once the insurance companies regarded alcoholism as a disease and an addiction.  I'm not saying I know how this all went down nor am I the expert here.  I also don't know where to place the blame.

I'm not of the belief that it's all A.A.s fault.  I do believe that it's all A.A.s burden.  When the treatment and alcoholism recovery industry fails, A.A. gets the blame.  Just ask our anti/XAers out there in cyberland.

Well.. back to my treatment/rehab experiences... so, my first attempt merely planted the seed for me.  Ten years after buying my first Big Book I would dig that book out again and give A.A. an earnest attempt.  From 1994 to the present, I have 7 years of continuous sobriety and no wrecked cars as a result.  That's got to be worth something.

However, I did manage to cause damage to a hotel in Durango Colorado.  That landed me back to a treatment center.  To get sober or dried out?  No.  To save a job.  My A.A. peeps told me that it wouldn't work and I've have to re-learn my recovery once I got out... if I was going to do A.A.  So I told them, "What the fuck do you want me to do?  Quit the rehab, leave and quit my job or get fired?"  They said, "No.  Do their deal and get some rest.  Consider it a 2 week vacation."  So I did.  Then a year later, I'd stayed sober and my place of business let me go and refused to pay the treatment center bill.  They charged $14,000.00 and my employer picked up $6,000.00 of it and said the treatment center charged too much.  So Parkview of Pueblo Colorado sent the remaining $8,000.00 that I owed to a collection agency and I paid them off... thanks to a pension, some tax-return savings, and a gracious wife who stood by me. 

I think treatment centers suck ass and the Industry of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction is a big huge fucking scam. 

But I'm the fucking loser piece of shit who chose to drink booze, right?  Well I'm sober now and all of my naysayers can suck my hairy sweaty sober balls.

If you have anything to add to this topic, please do so.  What you cannot do is argue my actual experience with the deal.  Now, I go to those treatment center meetings from time to time.  There are a couple of counselors who are either there or once worked there who I respect and who I can discuss recovery with.  One guy is someone who I would describe as a recovered alcoholic and perhaps a recovered addict.  Though he can't seem to put the tobacco down.  Too bad he may die of lung cancer.  But he's an otherwise smart and spiritual guy.  The other guy ain't an alky, but is an otherwise neat guy.  I disagree with him 100% about recovery.  He's a huge proponent of current science, THIQ, and the "drug is a drug is a drug" philosophy.


  1. Patrick, I tried to break Jim's stuff into several treads, but it looks like your new one sorta screwed me up. All his stuff is there under the archives, but not listed in the right sequence in the home page. Can you unscrew this or should we just let the guys go to the archives? Good stuff there.

  2. Which new post? This one... or the new Jim's Grapevine Articles post?

  3. Hey Patrick I Joe,

    Like I said, don't worry about the mess. Actually it doesn't look like that much of a mess to me.

    You know, although I am a "two-hatter," as the good folks over at ST call me (actually one of the nicer things I've been called), I think that the industry is screwed up and the more they try to lump alcoholism in with drug addiction, personality disorders, and mental illness, they more they fuck it up.

    I am taking the steps again and just wrote some current inventory. I only had a few resentments to write about and one of them concerns CD counselors and mental health professionals who don't have a clue about what they are really doing trying to "help" alcoholics. And addicts I might add, because the real addict will die just as well as the real alcoholic if they can't find a real answer to what really ails them. Now is my resentment fancied or real. Well, it's fancied in the fact that what these educated fools are doing isn't really an affront to me. But on the other hand, I heard something at an A.A. meeting today that pissed me off (which isn't that rare of an occurrence). But what I am saying is that it is a real problem.

    There was this guy there who was a client in the place I work about fourteen months ago. I remembered him. While in detox, he was assessed by a CDP and referred to IOP. Get this-while in IOP, he was assessed again, this time as not an alcoholic, but a fucking CO-DEPENDANT! He goes from detox, where I watched him go through the DT's and talked to him about alcoholism as a hopeless condition, to a fucking treatment center where is assessed by a so-called professional as a fucking co-dependent. When he got out of IOP, he goes on a bender, believing of course that he ain't a drnk, just someone who loves drunks, ends up in detox again (not ours), experiences the First Step. This time he says what a great thing that is because now he is utterly convinced that he is a hopeless, pants-pissing, knee-walking fucking alcoholic (His words) and that he is fifty-four days sober, has a good sponsor ( I know him) and is currently on his amends. I like hearing that stuff, but it is the stuff about the stupid counselor that assessed him that pisses me off. I wonder if they can be held liable for malpractice?

    By the way Patrick, I don't know who Chris S. is. You are right though, he is dead on.

  4. Chris S! I have his pitch, along with a Peter M, that I got from Rob B I do believe.

    I do believe my stupid battery on my laptop is about to cause my computer to shut off.

  5. My last experience with a treatment center was that it gave me 21 days (all insurance would cover) after detox (another 5 days of sitting in the psych ward watching the loonies crap their pants) to get my head straight. I couldn't drink and that's what I needed - a place where I couldn't drink for a while.

    Problem is, there were about 10 alcoholics out of a population of 100, the rest being 18 to 20 year old kids caught on drugs, mostly crack and heroin. We drunks pretty much stayed together and watched the tweenies hug and exchange beads. Don't ask. The alkies got a lot of AA stuff and even got to go to outside meetings a couple of times a week. One of the alkies was there for his 5th visit - guess he just came to dry out for a while, the rest were ok people.

    When the tweenies got discharged they usually went into a halfway house nearby the center. Not one, not one fuckin' tweenie made it past 2 days before going back to drugs while I was there. And that's about 50 kids. Can't speak for the alcoholics other than myself, but my guess from getting to know them is that they were probably as successful as I was. 'Ceptin of course, Dick, the guy on his 5th visit.

    The other thing that struck me about the place was that they were seriously pushing Vivitrol for alcoholism treatment. The director of the center actually stood there before the entire resident population and said that if you were injected with Vivitrol each month, you could not, repeat could not, get drunk. Just make an appointment with her and she'll arrange for your insurance company to pay for it ($800/mo.).
    I heard this bitch give the same spiel at least 10 times. Before I signed up, I did a little illicit checking on the internet (a verboten act, but I broke into an office one night) and found that Vivitrol was merely an injectible form of Revia, which had been out for a while. That bitch was getting a cut for every script written. When I confronted her, her only question was where I got that information. If I told her, they would have thrown me out for breaking into the office. But I was warned that I would be thrown out if I spread the information I learned around the population since I couldn't document it. So much for treatment centers...

    But on to my favorite - Intensive Outpatient treatment, affectionately known as IOP, the worst fucking experience an alcoholic can be submitted to. Sit around a circle with a bunch of druggies who don't want to be there while moderated by a psychologist who pull shit such as Jim refers to.

    A woman I gave a white chip to about 5 weeks ago is seeing a therapist who thought she should try IOP. The group was her, who really wants sobriety, and two druggies who spent their time bitching because drugs weren't legal in this country. After 3 sessions she approached the "moderator", a PhD in Psychology and said that it was a waste of time. She told him that she got more out of 10 min in an AA meeting that the 9 hours she had spent with him. Asked for a refund of money she forked over for the following session which she wouldn't attend.

    This PhD looked at her like she was a piece of shit and told her (her words) "Get the hell out of my sight. Get your ass out of the building." Now this is a 40 something, well educated, personable lady and she's being talked to like she's a piece of shit. So if I ever rant about IOP, that's where I'm coming from. And sadly, it's not the first horror story I've heard.

    Speaking of pitches, have you guys heard Vince Y. from Burbank or Charlie C. from Pasadena? I also have John Larroquette and Anthony Hopkins that I can email, plus Joe and Charlie if anyone's interested.

  6. Pretty much nails how I feel, Joe.

    I am working with a guy that had long-term sobriety until he got into a car accident. To manage chronic pain, he was given Oxycontin, which, as everyone does, he became physically dependent on. Which took him back to drinking.He has been in detox twice and is currently in IOP.

    Friday night at a meeting, he introduced himself as an alcoholic/addict. So yeterday morning we were looking at The Doctor's Opinion and I asked him if he was calling himself an alcoholic/addict because he came to that truth in his innermost self or if he had been labeled that and pressured to call himself that in IOP. We talked a lot about that and what he came to is that is an alcoholic who got hooked on Oxycontin. He is no more an addict than I am, and I used a lot of drugs.

    So he asks me if he should go and confront the counselor and tell him that he has found his own truth. I told him that was up to him, but if he did, he would probably be called non-compliant and discharged. I kind of hope that he does tell this counselor about what he has realized. He isn't forced there by the courts or his job. He put himself there.

    I've heard Vince Y. If I'm remembering correctly, he says some cool stuff about financial amends. Back in '95 I had the pleasure of sharing a table with and having breakfast with John Laroquette. I was going out with a gal who was in Cocaine Anonymous and Laroquette was the Sunday morning speaker at a C.A. convention that was held in Seattle. He is a genuinely nice and funny guy, but he is totally serious about his recovery.

  7. So your friend put himself there? Nice. So what if he would have been sentenced there? Would that be any less "honorable"?

    I was sentenced to A.A. in one form or another since I was 18. Prior to that, I just pretty much tried to keep myself surrounded by drunks. Then I moved to the big city where there were a bunch of uppity-law-abiding fucks.

    Srsly though... my very first impression of "Whateverthefuck Anonymous" was when I was a little crumb-snatcher watching the flinstones one day, and this episode came on called "Fred Flintstone Before and After". He was sent to this place called "Food Anonymous" where these obnoxious bastards follow you around all day and night and when you try to sneak a piece of food, they stick it with an arrow and nab if from you and go "Goink Goink Goink!"

    My honest impression of this 12 Step thing was , "FTS". (use your imagination)

  8. Yeah Jim, Vince is pretty funny. You can download him, Charlie C., Joe and Charlie and about 2 kazillion others at XA speakers. I can see where your friend is coming from. I'd tell the counselor just to get out of the agony of having to sit through that IOP bullshit.

    That raises a good point, too. There are recovering alcoholics who get hooked on prescribed drugs and turn into addicts, and then end up back drinking again. They're a different breed, I feel, from those who intentionally abused both drugs and alcohol and ended up shit's creek. It's a matter of how you honestly see yourself - an alcoholic/addict or an alcoholic who got hooked.

    I was pretty fortunate in that I was prescribed Oxycondon for several knee/ankle surgeries and found that when I took enough to kill the pain, I ended up liking it too much. I knew the danger of liking anything of that nature, so I found a pain level that I could live with, cut way back on the dosage, and got off that shit as soon as I could.

    And Patrick, my first impression of AA was pretty much the same as yours. I went through my first rehab stint/AA thing to get my wife off my back. FTS indeed! Dumb fucking attitude looking back on it, but what did I know? I was just a stupid drunk being forced to do something I didn't like. I think of that when I sign slips for the courts now.

  9. xa speakers is a good site. I've downloaded a bunch of stuff from there.

    Yeah Patrick, he put himself into treatment. I guess that's a good thing in the sense, that I'd have to be pretty fucking desperate to stop to actually put myself into IOP. Other than checking myself into detox several times,I have never voluntarily placed myself into a treatment facility. Been forced there four times. So, yes, if he goes to this counselor and tells him that he has found his own truth and that IOP is a fucking joke and he gets the boot, he won't be facing any legal repercussions.

    I too have learned to live with a certain level of pain. I have found that if I don't focus on it and resist it, I don't suffer. I still have it, but I don't suffer.

    From what I've seen, the alcoholics who get hooked on prescribed opiates are pussies compared to a real deal junkie heroin addict. Just like the hard drinker is a wimp compared to a real alcoholic. So the alcoholic/addict thing is usually just a label sold to the client by the treatment center. Some people are both of course and some are neither.

    Another trend I've been seeing over the last several years is the alcoholic who is prescribed benzodiazepines, usually xanax, klonopin, or atavan and usually for anxiety or insomnia. Benzos are nasty to withdraw from, being the only other thing besides ETOH that withdrawing from will kill you. We call benzos "booze in a pill" because the alcoholic will use them like booze. Opiate addicts use benzos to allieviate withdrawal symptoms.

    In detox, we get the alkies crying for their atavan because they are suffering from anxiety. They know that if they go to a doctor and say that are having anxiety that the doc will give them benzos. Then we have the mental health professionals who assess the alkies as having a "mental illness" because they are suffering from anxiety. What a bunch of baloney. I told the clinical director that any alcoholic or addict in early recovery is going to suffer from anxiety. She asked why I thought that and I told her because they are scared shitless of being sober. Everything is up in the air and they can't sit still because they have to "do" something to start to get their life back in order and they are depressed because the feel bad about themselves and the fact that their life is a mess and it's their fault. She asked me how I knew that and I said because I have been there. Jeez!

    That is what we are up against. Seems to that if you go to college and get a master's degree in psychology you would get smarter. Funny thing is, I'm going to be doing that soon. A therapist friend of mine says that I will find out that I already know most of that stuff. I hope so, I don't want to get a degree and find out that now I a real dumbass.

  10. The man who finds that the more he learns, the less he knows is indeed a wise man. With your background and experience you'll never be a dumbass, Jim.

    If you get a Master's Degree and join a group/rehab center/whatever, your biggest battle will probably be with the Psychiatrist who shows up once a day to throw out pills, especially to guys going through withdrawal. Can't let the babies feel uncomfortable, so here's a bunch of Ativan. Still uncomfortable? How about some K's or Xanax. So we take an alkie and turn the poor bastard into a benzo freak.

    At my last detox I was assigned a shrink who wouldn't give you an aspirin if you were frothing on the floor. (Actually, everyone was closely monitored for serious symptoms, but you know what I mean) The other "inmates" thought she was a bitch, but she was the only one who knew the workings of the alcoholic mind. I was one of the few who left detox w/o a script for Klonopin or Ativan. I actually felt much better than those who were drugged up and on the way to a new addiction but didn't know it yet.

    But how do you, as a licensed counselor, fight this shit? I don't envy you. This could open a whole new blog. "Withdrawal and Detox. Are Benzodiazepines the Answer?"

  11. Hi Joe,

    I'm not a licenced counselor. I'm the frickin' maintenance man.

    The biggest battle I have is to not fight it. I have to keep my views pretty much to myself, unless asked. And even then, I have to watch it.

    I do some work with detox patients, about two hours a week. After I came to work there, the detox supervisor overheard me talking to some of the clients and then went to the director and asked if I could do an educational group. So I do that now. I've already made a few waves by telling clients that they don't have to stay sick and struggling and that they can get well and that I do not want to see their asses back there.

    Not a popular thing to say in this business.

  12. I am glad I am here reading these posts.. Jim you are always a breath of fresh air... yea.. we don't have to stay sick and struggling...

    I went to treatment to save my career... Fine, that's what it took to keep doing what I have been for 25 years... But I have had to undo a lot of the damage they did... especially that staying sick part... Maybe this particular treatment center had a few things going for them... very strong 12 step program... I saw the medical director at AA meetings in the community and he was a no bullshit guy who did more for me in one sentence than all the others did in 2 months...

    The antidote to your (perceived and real) loss of credibility in your career is integrity.

    God bless him.

  13. Hi Mark,
    It's good to see you.

    You are right, integrity is the key. That's why I couldn't be a CDP. I'd have to sell out vital principles and lie and teach a philosophy that I don't believe, much less embrace for money. I'd be a fucking prostitute.

    My aim is psychology, particularly trans personal psychology, because it centers on the "I am you and you are me" transference that is so vital in what we do in 12th step work.

  14. Can you expand a little on the Trans Personal Psychology?

  15. Transpersonal psychology is where psychology and spirituality overlap. I'll go so far as to say that practitioners make a mistake when they separate the two.

    Transpersonal psychology is a form of psychology that studies the transpersonal, self-transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human experience. Carl Jung was a pioneer in this field. Since then, people like Ken Wilber, have explored and developed the field.

    A short definition from the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology suggests that transpersonal psychology "is concerned with the study of humanity's highest potential, and with the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness" (Lajoie and Shapiro, 1992:91). Issues considered in transpersonal psychology include spiritual self-development, self beyond the ego, peak experiences, mystical experiences, systemic trance and other occult experiences of living.
    Transpersonal psychology developed from earlier schools of psychology including psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanistic psychology. Transpersonal psychology attempts to describe and integrate spiritual experience within modern psychological theory and to formulate new theory to encompass such experience. Types of spiritual experience examined vary greatly but include mysticism, religious conversion, altered states of consciousness, trance and spiritual practices. Although Carl Jung and others explored aspects of the spiritual and transpersonal in their work, Miller (1998: 541-542) notes that Western psychology has had a tendency to ignore the spiritual dimension of the human psyche.

    I'm interested in this field because I've watched and listened to the clinical people where I work. Most are clueless to what really makes an alcoholic or an addict tick. At first I thought it was because they are not addiocts or alcoholics, but more and more I'm believing that they are unconsciopus, they are asleep to their own being. In other words, you can't transmit what you don't have. They look at mental illness from a one-dimensional point of view, because that is what they are taught. They have yet to explore the many dimensions of the interior life. With alcoholics and addicts, they are more interested in treating the behavior than the disease, because to them, it is a behavioral issue. It's like in Gresham's Law and Alcoholics Anonymous, where the author talks about how conventional wisdom sets the bar too low. "Just be a nice person and don't drink and get a life and go to college and buy a house and pay the bills." Rather than a trans formative experience.

    Make sense?

  16. Had a very revealing talk with a client last week. Last week was hell in the detox unit, the whole place was full of the insolent little "tweenies" as Joe called them, except for one alcoholic, a woman in her mid-thirties. The tweenies would sit in the day room and dominate the place with their drug talk and just general sense of malcontent. The alcoholic woman told me that she felt really out of place in that room. That was on Friday. On Monday I noticed that she had left AMA over the weekend. Can't say as I blame her. In a talk with the detox supervisor,I used this as an example of why opiate addiction and alcoholism are two different animals and why the two do not mix and should be segregated on the floor. She said that she would talk to the director about it, but I doubt anything comes of it.

  17. Good to know you're in the trenches Jim. This is specifically where 12 step gets derailed.

    We call it identification.

  18. I know three women who have walked out of therapy/IOP in the past month for the exact same reason, Jim. WTF do they expect an alcoholic who wants sobriety to get out of sitting in a room full of tweenies who spend the day bitching how unfair life is 'cause drugs are illegal?

    And you're right, Jim, nothing will come out of you're suggestion to segregate the alcoholics and addicts. As far as the Psychologists and therapists are concerned, an addiction is an addiction. Any sort of segregation would involve extra effort on their part as well as reflect on perhaps what they're doing is fucked up. Can't have that.

    It gets even worse when you consider that each Psychologist/therapist has their own narrow view of effective therapy based on whatever some narrow minded professors pushed on them in college. If Dr. Shitbrain was a Cognitive Behavorist with a PhD, then that's what you'll see used in sessions conducted by his students.

    It never would occur to them that maybe this fucking approach isn't working on some patients. Patient failure is never the fault of the therapy. Failure results only because the patient wasn't "receptive to constructive input" or "would not accept meaningful insight to correct maladaptive behavior" and other psychobabble.

    I firmly believe that no one, repeat no one, should be considered qualified to treat an alcoholic unless they themselves are alcoholics. I don't give a shit whether they use a 12 step conversion experience approach, a re-socialization approach, or a psychological approach.

    Or here's a unique thought: "Listen, I'm a Psychologist but don't really know shit about alcoholism. Go to some AA meetings and maybe they'll be able to help you." Naaaaw....

    They'll never be able to truly comprehend alcoholism unless they've been there. If they don't understand the problem, then it doesn't matter what fucking therapy they use. They're gonna fail.

    We'll never read about any failure, though. Each treatment center will post "statistical studies" showing an exceptional success rate of their patients after treatment. I've looked at some of these studies and my only reaction is "You've got to be shitting me!"

    I just commented on my thoughts about success rates in alcoholism recovery so I won't belabor the point here. But some of the shit these centers put out should be considered basis for a fraud investigation if anyone ever gave a shit.

    So this is the stuff I file away in the "accept the things I cannot control" drawer. Along with out of control home groups, the fact that my ex gets 1/2 of my retirement pay, and the brain sucking aliens from Mars.