COLORADO SPRINGS — This may be the most potentially impactful Sober October because of the spike in addiction of alcohol and drugs, because of the pandemic. If you need help getting sober or freeing yourself from addiction, is that something you have to spend a lot of money on?
I spoke with three experts for this story on the topic of addiction. Dr. David Mendez, MD, is an addiction expert with the UCHealth Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation (CeDAR) [uchealth.org]. Patrick Cronin [patrickcronin.com], the Director of Business Development at Ark Behavioral Health [arkbh.com], and is in long-term recovery himself since September 23, 2005, and has worked for 15 years counseling others. And Daniel Gasser, (Daniel G [quitthebottle.com],) says he has freed himself from years of drugs and alcohol use and cravings, has authored a book, and has become a for-hire, self-help life coach who offers to teach others the techniques he found so much personal success with and give them individual support, as wanted.
Daniel says, “I’m not a doctor, I don't have a PhD. My expertise is life. I think I’m qualified to help people because I started to drink alcohol at the age of 13. At the age of 17, I started injecting heroin into my veins -- brilliant idea I know. Thankfully, I was able to stop that at age 22. I smoked cigarettes for over 30 years and I drank for over 30 years. I stopped all three addictions with (my) method, so I think I have an expertise to help other people to do it too. If I can do it, you can do it too.”
It’s certainly an important option to know about, if you're looking for help to break an addiction to alcohol, but if you have decided it’s time for you to get help from drugs or alcohol, it’s also important to know there are also other options out there. Many are free and others are covered by insurance.
Dr. Mendez says, “I think there is a wide spectrum of options out there. Many of these peer support groups exist in various communities. Typically they are free, and sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find a group that you fit in with and you connect with.”
Patrick Cronin says going online for resources about getting help is also a good start. “I typically tell people that if they need help, obviously, online seems to be the way to go. There were plenty of resources online; there is a centralized website called SAMSA [samhsa.gov] (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). It’s a federal government site that lists resources by location. You can also search for Ark Behavioral Health [arkbh.com] and find a list of providers near you, or you can always go to a local doctor or hospital.”
Dr. Mendez says that while so much went wrong because of the pandemic, on-line virtual support groups are one thing that went right. “People who are in rural areas gained more access to meetings and substance abuse treatment because a lot of things went virtual. They were able to join AA meetings or NA meetings. For people who are in recovery and they have a craving, you can find a meeting anytime of the day, you can find a meeting in another country or another state. You can login and there are meetings that are 24 hours a day. What’s also nice about virtual stuff is that you can leave your camera off and you can be as anonymous as you want, and just listen to what people are saying. Sometimes that resonates with someone and you can connect with someone, but also maybe you can find some help there.”
Perhaps you have been dabbling anonymously online, and still trying to deal with addiction yourself. If you know you need to take a step to get help, what’s a good first step?
Dr. Mendez says, “I think talking to someone is always helpful. That can be someone you trust, someone that’s close to you. It’s also helpful to have someone who isn’t as tied to you, perhaps someone a little more objective like your primary care doctor. Talk to them about the first few steps.”
Patrick says: If you find a close friend or loved one trying to talk to you about a problem they are having, just listen. If you believe someone close to you has a problem, but you’re afraid to bring up the subject directly, there are some very gentle questions you can ask.
“Rather than asking things like, ‘Do you have a drinking problem, are you using drugs?’ Try asking questions like, ‘Are you okay? I’ve noticed you’ve lost some weight or you look depressed’ and tell them: ‘I’m here if you ever need anything.’ It is a way you can let someone know that you are willing to listen and help them out.” That puts the ball in their court, which for real change is where it needs to start, with the person who has the problem.
Attending free groups is an option, in person or on-line. Dr. Mendez says: “Sometimes one of the things that can be helpful is to join one of these Alcoholics Anonymous [aa.org] or Narcotics Anonymous [na.org] or Cocaine Anonymous [ca.org] groups, or community groups that provide peer support.”
Patrick says, “If you need full treatment or medical detox, that’s usually insurance-based. You shouldn’t have to pay anything out-of-pocket, per say. There are always facilities that will be covered by insurance and if you only have state public insurance there are centers that will cover that, so there’s always a way to get free treatment.”
Dr. Mendez says, “There are substance use treatment programs that insurance can cover. With substance use treatment, there are some discrepancies on being able to access some of that depending on your insurance. Colorado, overall, for various insurance covers various medications to help people stop using or have less cravings. It’s a great way to figure out what level of care you need, to reach out to a medical professional and go from there. Try things on the outpatient side first, then in-clinic, and if someone is still struggling with staying sober, then escalate from there.”
Patrick says, “Sometimes that treatment might not be good for you and you have to go to another extent and you might have to pay. There are plenty of people you can pay. When it comes to peer-to-peer recovery coaching, that’s usually something that can be covered under a grant.”
If you are willing to spend some money out-of-pocket for individual self-help coaching, that’s where someone like Daniel Gasser might be someone who can help. To be clear, his services are not free, he is selling his approach, but he says his clients have found freedom from cravings and his program is worth the investment. That’s a decision you will have to make for yourself.
Daniel says, “I stumbled onto this method which was revolutionary, which changed my point of view about drinking alcohol and the society we live in. All that opened my eyes, and I stopped drinking. It’s not even part of my life anymore. I figured people don’t really read books these days but people are online and people love to watch videos. I figured it would be good to put it (my program) into a bits of portions in daily videos. There are 30 videos and you can watch one a day, which is about 15 minutes a day. People can sign up for a phone call with me, weekly or daily. What this method does is it makes you free so you don’t even want it (alcohol), you can sit around people who are all drinking and you’re not even triggered - not at all. What I give is a toolbox, it’s not magic, I’m not a wizard or something. If you use the toolbox, you’re free.”
In the end, the real message is to get help, any kind of help that works for you, before it’s too late.
Patrick says, “If anybody is watching (reading) this, I had to value my life enough to want to get the help, and I always tell people that no matter how down and out you are, someone out there does care about you, so value your life enough to seek the help. My life now is typically centered trying to help people who are struggling with this, because I saw what it did to not just me, but what I did to my family. And a lot of my friends are no longer here anymore because of this, so I try to dedicate my life to helping others now.”
Dr. Mendez adds, “There is help out there. There are various ways to get help and everyone has their own way of navigating through getting sober and coming and getting into recovery. Sometimes, it takes a couple of tries to figure out what path is going to be right for you, but there’s a lot of people out there who want to help you.”
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