Understanding the issue of addiction and recovery means looking at all aspects of our society – the wealthy, those living in poverty and all those in between – when discussing treatment options.
The Chatham-Kent Drug Awareness Council is hosting a Recovery Breakfast Oct. 28 at the Salvation Army Church in Chatham, where guest speaker Dr. Rick Csiernik will discuss, “What are we doing in addictions treatment and what should we be doing?”
Csiernik, who has several degrees, including a PhD in social work from the University of Toronto, has written several books about substance abuse and addiction, and is in demand as a presenter at conferences and workshops around the world. He also was the co-developer of the McMaster University Addiction Studies Program where he has taught for over 25 years.
Ron Paterson, director of external client services for the Westover Treatment Centre in Thamesville, said there is a stigma related to addicts, particularly the ones who live on the streets or in poverty, but said there are also functioning addicts among those with jobs, money and families, and there needs to be a plan for helping all addicts to recover.
A therapist with the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance Mental Health and Addictions Program, Janice Miller said there is no single path to addiction.
“If you were to look at everybody’s story who got here, each one would be very different,” Miller said. “You can have 10 people doing the same thing and you can’t predict who is going to become an addict.”
It is important for the public to realize that addiction to alcohol and drugs is a disease, the same as cancer is a disease, noted Ron Elliott, executive director of Westover Treatment Centre.
“When we treat it as a disease, it garners more respect,” Elliott said. “The stigma associated with addiction, particularly drug addiction, is the reason they don’t get help. When they have a job, family, kids; they have to hide survive in their world.”
Miller agreed and said mental illness is the same.
“One psychiatrist shared how supported she felt by family and co-workers when she was diagnosed with cancer, but not when she later suffered from depression. People don’t know how to help you with that but you should feel comfortable talking about any illness, and addiction is an illness.”
Paterson said people with substance abuse and dependence problems need to know that, with help, recovery is possible.
“Hope is the key. You have to have hope that life can get better or you won’t even try,” he said. “It is the first of the three keys – hope, treatment and recovery.”
Instead of stigmatizing people taking the steps to recover, Elliott said those who are in recovery need encouragement.
“Being in a 12-step program or treatment isn’t a character flaw,” he noted. “People in recovery should be celebrated.”
The Recovery Breakfast begins at 8 a.m. with doors opening at 7:30 a.m. Tickets are $15 per person and anyone interested in attending can call 519-692-5110 and ask for Ron Paterson.