There are numerous examples of classic fiction—from Burroughs to Selby and Thompson—that focus on addiction. Here are our top 10 contemporary favorites that are (somewhat) off the beaten path.
I had an ironic encounter with someone the night before the Seabrook House Foundation’s Charity Golf Tournament that really made me thankful for where I’m at now in my life.
For those who don’t know me that well, I have been sober going on 12 years now and abstinent from gambling for the past 4 years. As I was waiting for my colleague’s flight to arrive, I decided to sit and watch the Giant’s game that was on TV at the hotel bar. Some people may have raised an eyebrow at a recovering alcoholic/gambler sitting in a hotel lobby bar 7 miles from Atlantic City on a Thursday night watching a football game, but fortunately for me, today I can watch a game with my favorite Diet Coke.
After a while watching the game, my legs were bothering me more than normal, and that led me to limp a tad more than I normally do. The waitress noticed, and asked me immediately what I was taking for the pain. When I told her Tylenol she asked me “Why not Oxycontin?“.
Sallie, as I will call her, seemed sincere and innocent with her question. As an addiction professional my mind started to realize the reality of living in a society ignorant about prescription opiates. This young woman spoke of Oxycontin as innocently as a Tylenol. I expressed to Sallie that I felt the danger of dependence with those types of drugs was not worth the risk. She agreed. When I told her I worked for Sunrise Detox Center and was attending a fundraiser to support a local foundation for treatment, her jaw hit the floor.
After a few moments, Sallie re-engaged me in our conversation. She confided in me that she had had an addiction problem at one time with Oxycontin. She had stolen from her boyfriend and father in the past to support her habit and now she was on Suboxone, but felt she couldn’t get off of that either. When I asked her why, she said, “I’m terrified.”
I recognized the look on her face. I knew I was there once before, lost in the panic and confusion of addiction. Sallie told me that her job waiting tables didn’t help her avoid addiction either, as some of her colleagues offered her drugs on a daily basis.
I told Sallie that had many options available to her. I gave her our admissions number – (888)443-3869, and I strongly recommended detox plus 28 days of rehab. I explained it would give her the best chance of success. I also encouraged her to seek support in 12 steps. Especially as a woman who had long term sobriety.
As I left for the airport to pick up my colleague, I realized that I am lucky to have found recovery, and lucky to be working at Sunrise Detox. I have acquired so much of the knowledge I have today about addiction from my work with Sunrise Detox.
I also left the sports bar thinking that maybe someone or something had put me in that ironic situation, so that I could possibly affect Sallie’s life in a positive way, and be reminded of my good fortune and the results of my own recovery efforts.
Writers In Treatment presented The REEL Recovery Film Festival in New York Sept 28th-Oct 04, 2012. This multi-day annual event is a celebration of film, the arts, writing and creativity, showcasing filmmakers who make honest films about addiction, alcoholism, behavioral disorders, treatment and recovery.
I attended the opening party along with addiction professionals and those in recovery. The atmosphere was positive and the buzz among attendees was that they hoped for more recognition of addiction in film going forward. The opening performance was “On the Bowery” which is known as the predecessor to modern day documentaries. “On the Bowery” is described as follows:
“Among the most important films from the post-war American independent scene are Lionel Rogosin’s On the Bowery and Come Back, Africa — two incredible documents of bygone eras that still resonate today. From the beginning, Rogosin’s style as an independent filmmaker was straightforward and compassionate. His films, made “from the inside” showed the subjects he chose in their normal surroundings and allowed them to speak in their own words. By choosing ordinary people caught up in universal problems — homelessness, racial discrimination, war and peace, labor relations, and poverty — Rogosin made his point poignantly. The Oscar®-nominated On the Bowery is a masterpiece of the American blend of documentary/fiction.”
The follow up to the film screening on opening night was a Question and Answer session with actor and celebrity Robert Downey Sr., who was open about his personal recovery.
One of my many perks of marketing and outreach is attending charity events that support recovery.
On September 21, 2012 Sunrise Detox sponsored Seabrook House Foundation’s Golf Outing at Seaview Resort, in Gallway, New Jersey. The outing benefited those in need of treatment but who are unable to financially afford the increasing costs of treatment today.
Sunrise Detox Sponsored the Longest Drive Contest and donated $2500 to this great cause. Joining me were Michael Karl, LCSW LCADC, the Clinical Director for Sunrise Detox in Stirling, and Stokes Aitken , the CFO of Sunrise Detox Center, and Terry Cronin, a New Jersey based interventionist.
Great weather and networking with addiction professionals from all over the country was had by all.
According to an article I read recently, 56% of people in Scotland think that you can tell someone is an alcoholic or drug addict simply by looking at them. It doesn’t surprise me a bit. One of the most difficult things to get across to folks — including alcoholics and other addicts — is the amazingly widespread nature of this disease of ours. My own case in point: a month before I was forced into treatment by my employer, I was a prominent member of the community where I worked. No one would ever have guessed that the guy they’d known for 13 years (third in command of their police department) was a raging drunk and seriously addicted to prescription drugs.
I was in treatment with three dozen or so other people, ranging from admitted prostitutes to a nurse with a graduate degree, to a superior court judge. There is no way to tell an addict or alcoholic from any other guy on the street, until the disease is way, way advanced. In retrospect, I know that I drank alcoholically for at least 20 years, and yet it was only a few months before I got sober that I had any idea of my “problem.” My family suspected — some of them. Others had trouble believing me when I told them myself, and yet my behavior was certainly out of character (and downright irresponsible) for years prior.
Alcoholism and addiction strike across all boundaries. We all remember the problems of Rush Limbaugh, Britney Spears and the current crop of celebrities, because the media hounded them unmercifully. We don’t know about the problems of the FPL supervisors, the dentists, the successful attorneys, the school teachers, Navy SEALs, politicians and many other professions, all of whom I’ve met in and around the 12-step groups over the years. We don’t know about most of the others, either, until they’re so far gone in their disease that it’s impossible not to notice.
Addiction is the invisible disease. It worms its way in and destroys personalities, families, minds and bodies so successfully and so subtly that even when we notice odd things we think, “Oh, not that, why she’s a____.” So keep that in mind, and if a loved one or friend seems to be changing, be alert for signs and symptoms similar to these. Keep in mind that there may be reasonable explanations for single instances, but repeated incidents or clusters of symptoms may indicate problems.
- Extreme mood changes: happy, sad, excited, anxious, etc.
- Changes in sleep patterns: time spent sleeping, times of day or night, insomnia
- Changes in energy – unpredictably tired or energetic
- Inattention to personal hygiene
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Unusual behavior at certain times, and normal at other times
- Pupils of the eyes smaller or larger than usual; eyes watery or bloodshot
- Lying, especially about whereabouts, amount of alcohol consumed, other addiction-related matters
- Stealing, or missing valuables that may have been sold or pawned
- Financial unpredictability: ready cash sometimes, broke at others
- Changes in social groups, new and unusual friends, odd cell-phone conversations
- No longer interested in former pursuits; misses family occasions and duties
- Repeated unexplained absences, or sudden trips “to the store” or other excuses for leaving home or work
- Absences from appointments or frequent tardiness
- Drug paraphernalia such as unusual pipes, cigarette papers, small weighing scales, etc.
- “Stashes” of drugs, often in small plastic, paper or foil packages
- Unusual insistence on privacy
- Alcohol found in unusual places, laundry baskets, back of closet, etc.