COLORADO SPRINGS — Following up on our last story on the benefits of Sober October and cutting out alcohol or other substances for a month, sometimes it can boil down to perspective. How does increasing your mental focus, sleeping better, eating healthier and being happier while excelling in almost every area of your life sound? It kind of sounds like a miracle drug to me, and a better pitch than, you can reduce your risk of liver problems, cancer, sleep issues, concentration issues and depression and anxiety, by giving up alcohol.
There is more evidence that the pandemic really did a number on people struggling with addiction, and alcoholism specifically. A new study in JAMA [jamanetwork.com] shows a correlation between the number of people now on the waiting list for a liver transplant and the increase in alcohol sales during the pandemic.
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, 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.
Patrick says, “Typically when you're an addict or an alcoholic, you're the last person to know it, even though you would think you're the first person that should know it. A big downfall of people with addiction is denial. When I was in the grips of addiction, I denied it because I would think to myself, ‘What are people going to think of me?’ It was the stigma and all that stuff. So when you have a loved one or someone else trying to help you, a lot of times the first reaction is going to be: ‘I don't have a problem, I'm good.’ That's where loved ones have a tough time.”
Daniel tells me he has helped many people in many countries break their alcohol addiction and improved their quality of life, but the person who needs the help, he says, is key. “There was a lady texting me asking if I could help her father, and that broke my heart. I said, ‘Yes I can help if he wants help. Is he aware that there is a problem?’ She said, ‘No, but the whole family is aware of it but he isn't.’ So it broke my heart.”
Dr. Mendez says one thing you can do is make sure you are personally in a healthy place to offer that help or have that conversation. “It can be really hard to figure out what to do around (helping a loved one or friend) that. I think taking care of yourself is really important for your own mental health. And potentially seeing a therapist can be helpful to create boundaries for yourself and to help protect yourself is one thing to try before trying to get the person connected to care.”
Dr Mendez adds: “There are different avenues for recommending help. It could be through your primary care doctor. If religion is something that's important, then reaching out for help in that way might be meaningful. Reaching out to groups, like substance use disorder groups, can sometimes have advice on how to connect someone else to treatment.”
Patrick says another option is this: “I always tell family, if you know anybody else that has gone through (recovery) it, if you know someone that has been through it that is sober now, they might be better to have a conversation (with your loved one) than you.”
Patrick also says recognizing that you have a problem and deciding to get help may be the most important step to a successful recovery. “It's a good step, and I can tell you that it's very difficult to take that first step, and it’s the most important step. I typically tell people that if they need help, online seems to be a good way to begin, there are plenty of resources online. There is a website called SAMSA, that's a federal government site of treatment options and help that is available.”
Daniel says it took being in a horrible accident while he was under the influence to finally convince him he needed to make big changes. When he did, he figured out it wasn’t as easy as just stopping. “I decided to change and I thought, ‘Ok, just stop it. How hard can that be? I'm a strong man in the business world.” But it wasn't so easy. If you’re struggling it can feel like there is no hope, and then you might shift from one addiction to another.”
Dr. Mendez says reaching out for some kind of help is essential. “There is help out there and there are various ways to get help. Everyone has their own way of navigating through getting sober and getting into recovery. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to figure out what path is going to be right for you, but the most important thing to know is there's a lot of people out there that want to help you.”
In our next story: (CLICK HERE Your Healthy Family: If you're ready for help, there are many options out there) Who are those people? If you're ready to break an addiction, where do you start? What are your options and is quality help something you need to pay for?
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