Due to a severe back injury Bob Howland hit rock bottom and became heavily addicted to opiates. Bob discusses his struggles which ultimately led to his addiction. He also speaks of his rise back to the top and the challenges he now faces to maintain a sober lifestyle.
I would say to anybody out there that there’s always a way back. A lot of times, we put ourselves in our pits so to speak and believe that nothing’s going to get better and that is absolutely not true. There’s professionals out there that know exactly what they’re doing, how to get to the heart of the issues that could be going on with one individual or another and then pick you up and steer you back down the right road where you’re truly happy.
I went online absolutely. I had been reading because when you’re baffled with addiction your start reading about addiction. I also started thinking about treatment centers. I was worried about the costs and getting the right help. Because I was in the medical field I decided to look for the best doctor I could find and I came accross Dr. Matthew Torrington. I found out hew was literally the best … I mean this guy filled every category that I could see.
I don’t think people understand what withdrawal is about or what it’s like. There is a reason that people will do just about anything not to go into withdrawal. You hear these crazy stories and the reason for that is the feeling and the mental part they are literally the worst. If you could imagine what it would be like to be shut in the box and the feelings that would come with that, that’s the kind of panic you begin to feel as you’re going into withdrawal. Then if you can imagine the worst flu you’ve ever had in your life and times it by 20 and you get all the symptoms with it too. So drug or alcohol detox is a major, major fear. I was looking for a doctor that could handle that.
AA is something that is actually excellent to do in recovery but when you’re looking at treatment, treatment is something that when you’re saying you’re treating the problem, you’re looking for underlying issues. You’re looking at working on therapy to get to what those underlying issues are and treat it with science and evidence based behavioral change therapies.
I understand in AA it’s one addict helping another but when you’re looking at the disease of addiction, there is core to it. There’s things that it can do to your body and if you had pancreatic cancer, would you go to a pancreatic cancer survivor to be treated for the cancer? No. You would go to a medical doctor so they got to do a full work up to see what you’ve done to your body, to your brain, what may be off chemically. If there’s things that are off chemically, I mean these are things that make the mind look to self-medicate because we all want to feel normal.
Then if we’re getting to that self-medicating thing, then we can get stuck there and not realize that that starts screwing up the whole balance even worse but it’s just kind of a loop. You just keep coming back to the same place. What they do at Inspire Malibu is they do a full psychological profile. They determine underlying disorders.
In eight out of 10 cases, when you have the disease of addiction, there is an underlying disorder or co-occurring disorder. When we talk about underlying disorders, it could be anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, a post-traumatic stress incident. There’s many things. There can be attention deficit disorder. If somebody has one of those things going on, a lot of times they find a drug on their own to self-medicate their problem. So you have to look for those core issues because if you never treat the underlying issue, it’s basically never going to work because the person’s always going to find their way back to that coping mechanism.
When I say never, we’re talking there’s a big chance it’s not going to work. You’ve got to work on those issues because when you look at the recidivism, it’s very high and if you can get to the root of the problem, it doesn’t mean you’re going to stop having the behavior but then what you need to do is learn to change that behavior so you’re burning new neural pathways, you’re thinking another way because you’ve been stuck in this way of thinking for so long. It’s what your body responds to and goes to.
I would try to stop using by myself and then I would get counseling and I would try to do these different things and they were talking about you need to go to meetings. They would keep saying you need to go to meetings, you need to go … but I would go to these meetings and I would listen to inspirational stories, but to me, I couldn’t get how I was going to stop? I would wonder how did I get back here?
Now, later learning what I’ve learned, I understand 12 steps a lot better. There’s not a lot of people that explain these types of things but for me 12 steps are a great adjunct to treatment.
The biggest change for me is that I can see relapse coming now a million miles away and what I mean by that is these behavioral change therapies help you recognize and understand all the categories in which your brain is going to try to keep you to use.
It’s the one disease you have that tries to convince you you don’t have it first of all.
You’re always looking for a way out. You’ll go to a meeting. You’ll look at a guy that is just half in the bag or can barely talk and you’ll go, “I’m not him. I’m not one of him. I can’t really be an addict. Am I really like these guys?” Well, that’s your brain trying to convince you you’re not an addict. I mean that’s what goes on. We also have dysfunctional thinking. If you’re a pain medicine addict, there’s absolutely no way you haven’t said in the past, “Well, what happens if I get put in the hospital and I really need pain medicine.” That’s dysfunctional thinking. It’s not something that your normal everyday person thinks. They don’t think of a time in the future that they’re going to get to use. That means you’re focused on that drug.
Now, cognitive behavioral therapy helps you understand that you’re having those thoughts and how to change them through different coping strategies. You’re changing your behavior through your thoughts by literally recognizing you’re doing it so you stop it in that infancy because if you stay in those mindsets, one day, you’re going to let it take you over. You’re going to use it.
Uncomfortable emotions, dialectical behavior therapy, they use it on the troops coming back from Afghanistan and it’s like understanding you’re having an uncomfortable emotion. What to do in the uncomfortable emotion? You’re seeing it. You’re not going to use. Automatic thoughts of use, your brain is very powerful. You can think of a time you used before. Put your brain in what’s called euphoric recall. If you’re in euphoric recall, it’s kind of like you’re on fire. You’re going to use if you stay in that. Now, just understanding that, I watch my brain try to do it all the time and I stop it. I stop it before it even gets started.
Your individual therapy really is looking at your core issues like underlying issues. They look back to your life, things that have gone on. Professionals can see things about you that you can’t see in yourself and then the group can see things in you that you can’t necessarily see in yourself and you can help others in that way as well but the thing is, is that they teach you these different areas.
motivational enhancement therapy is what motivates you to stay sober. They teach this literally in class. You’re in class all day long learning. Again, this is for the willing. If you’re unwilling, nobody’s going to listen.
If you’re not going to participate, you’re not going to take it in and the thing is there’s plenty of people that come to treatment that don’t want to be there and actually come out the other side doing okay because they start to learn when you’re in treatment what it’s going to do to you, what it’s going to do to your body, what’s going to happen and nobody ever wins. It ends in three places, recovery, death or jail. I’d choose recovery and that is absolutely the way it is for anyone that has this disease.
In these classes, you learn these different therapies and putting them into action and getting yourself some good sober time, that combination is an incredible combination because what it does is your brain starts to burn new ways that it thinks and the more time you have, the better you feel and then you really want this life more. You don’t ever want to be back to that same horrible place that you were because it’s awful and you don’t stay in those thoughts and cravings and you always know where it ends so you’re back to making sure that you can see it coming in any stretch at any time.
Then the other thing is as I said, six months is a huge barrier. Nine months is a huge barrier because the thing is, is once you get past these things, you begin to feel and think differently. You’re starting to get to use those things you put into action and so your mind more readily goes there than it does to the bad place so it more readily realizes that, “Oh, I’m having an uncomfortable emotion. Oh, I’m having a dysfunctional thought,” and you know what to do now. You know which coping strategies to use.
These behavioral change therapies are incredible and do incredible things for people It seems to be the way of the future for me because there’s a lot of people that have fallen into this addictive path that may not have been pre-disposed before where they take this heroine once or twice and their body is kind of hooked to it and then they don’t know how to change that behavior. They don’t know how to see that coming. There’s the line between the two.
There’s some that believe that alcoholism is there and the only way out of it is the spiritual path, okay? I’ve seen many people that fail over and over in that category but come in and learn the behavioral change therapies and they’re finally off to the right place because then they can practice those things they want to do to get to a higher spiritual place because they can recognize when their thoughts are trying to kill them.
Get online and start researching for places out there that will look for underlying issues in addiction, places that do a diagnosis because you want to cover every area. And absolutely look for a good medical addictionologist. That’s what you want. These guys know how to treat addiction medically and then move into the therapy stage but that’s what you want. You want to find the bestdoctor you possibly can.