Deadline Now: Addiction & Recovery

Deadline Now: Addiction & Recovery

Friday, April 11, 2014

We are in the midst of addiction epidemic -- across the nation and across demographic lines. What are the causes? What can be done to stem the tide?

This week, "Deadline Now" looks at addiction and recovery with Todd Crandell, founder and president of Racing for Recovery, Marsha Drees, director of symmetry wellness at Harbor, and Robin Isenberg, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Toledo.

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Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

I think sometimes it is hard for people who don’t have substance abuse problems to understand those who do. They look at an Amy Winehouse or a Philip Seymour Hoffman and say, “how stupid could they possibly be? They had looks, recognition and money.

“Why in the world would they throw that -- and their lives – away by using needles to stick poison into their veins?”  Not too many years ago, I thought much the same way. But unlike millions, I have never suffered from chronic physical or psychic pain. Not yet, anyway.

However, about twenty years ago, I became friends with a writer named Bill Dufty who had been singer Billie Holiday’s best friend.

She was a huge star, and a heroin addict. Dufty, who ghostwrote her famous autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues, was at her bedside when she died. Lady Day was only forty-four when her life ended.

There’s no doubt that drugs vastly shortened her life. But Dufty told me that he actually thought that while heroin killed her, it also prolonged her life by making the intense psychological pain she lived with more bearable. That’s a controversial diagnosis, to be sure.

But there were no Racing for Recovery or work-life balance counselors in 1959. About all they did for most “addicts” back then was to lock them up and make them quit “cold turkey.” That seldom worked.

Today, we live in a different world. Scientists and health care agencies know a lot more about addiction than they once did. We have groups and agencies like Harbor and Racing for Recovery and the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

But at the same time, life for many people is more and more stressful. There has been an explosion in the number and the availability of drugs, and not everyone knows how to get help.

Even for those who do, survival and recovery is anything but easy. For those who have a problem and those who care about them, the one thing certain is that you need to learn as much as you can.

And, when it comes to getting clean, don’t think you can do it on your own. Millions who have had trouble with the world’s oldest recreational drug can tell you all about that. They started a group you have probably heard about. They’re called, Alcoholics Anonymous.