Marietta Municipal Court hosts addiction seminar for families

Attendees learn the science behind addiction

Wednesday a crowd of 52 individuals, including local family members of addicts, service providers, law enforcement and court officials, gathered to discuss the stages of addiction and recovery at Marietta Municipal Court. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Families seeking answers and support were met with science and services Wednesday.

This was through the Marietta Municipal Court, which hosted a seminar called Stages of Addition and the Process of Recovery aimed at those witnessing the fluid cycles of addiction and recovery firsthand.

Court Administrator Jason Hamilton said the seminar was held in response to the Your Voice Mid-Ohio Valley forums held in Marietta, Belpre and Parkersburg last month, with the hopes of following up with families trying to understand addiction and recovery.

“Even if we can just get someone to call the court and ask us where they can find services for their son or grandkids, whether it’s treatment or getting linked up for clothes and supplies for school while mom or dad is in treatment,” said Hamilton. “We do provide that for those that go through the court system, but we also refer often for those that are out of probation or haven’t been caught yet but want to get help.”

The seminar, attended by 52 people, first covered the science behind addiction and recovery, described in detail by Coda Click, clinical coordinator for Rigel Recovery Services.

Amy Smithberger, left, talks with her counselor from Rigel Recovery Services Coda Click, center, and her mother and grandmother Janet Brown and Marcia Beardmore, respectively. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Rigel is the outpatient side of the Oriana House program in Reno providing substance abuse assessments and chemical dependency treatment.

Click explained that addiction is a disease developed through a hijacking of the brain’s prefrontal cortex and limbic system and for those who suffer from the disease, the limbic system (primitive brain) overshadows rational thinking.

“The brain doesn’t heal that fast, even if you’ve been incarcerated for two months, maybe sober for those two months,” said Click. “If I grew up in Marietta and used drugs in Marietta, then there will still be lots of triggers in Marietta for me that weren’t present in jail or prison.”

She explained that addiction has four stages; introductory, maintenance, disenchantment and disaster; which if the families present are aware of, they can better preserve their own health throughout.

Introductory

“You might just wonder why’d they oversleep and miss work?” said Click.

She explained in the introductory phase the family is not as affected, problem behaviors are not associated with a drug problem.

“They might have an erratic moment, or some action that doesn’t make sense, but you may not know it’s drugs because they still have a job,” Click expanded.

Maintenance

“This is when the hijacking and rewiring of the brain starts occurring,” Click detailed. “They have to plan ahead and more of their life is revolving around that next high or how are they going to hide it from mom when she comes over?”

She said in this second stage of addiction family members begin to realize there is a problem and try to solve the problem through enabling behaviors like bailing out of jail or paying bills.

“I’ll take your kids for you, you do what you need to do,” she described. “But the truth is, these efforts only help to put off the consequences the addict needs to face.”

Disenchantment

In the third stage of addiction families experience emotional reactions including guilt and shame, or begin to try and ignore the problem, Click said.

“By the time a person reaches this… you’re tired from watching the kids all of the time. You either don’t want to talk about it and just hope it goes away or start blaming (yourselves),” she added. “If I was a better mother you wouldn’t do this, or blaming them, I was a great mother how could you do this.”

Disaster

The final stage of addiction Click described as rock bottom. Though, she made sure to say the timeline is different for every addict and addicts families and thus treatment for addiction varies by individual need.

“I can get addicted to the addict and just like they’re chasing that high, I’m now chasing that next good day with them,” she explained.

She said family members try to preserve the peace or distance themselves completely from the problem in this setting and can either lose relationships from the stress or boundaries or they can enable the cycle of substance abuse and withdrawal.

“But there is good news, as hopeless as this disease is, it’s not hopeless,” said Click.

Recovery

By this point in the night, fathers and mothers in the room were rubbing away tears.

Addicts working in recovery, of all stages, were nodding their heads.

Click then moved to the four stages of recovery, noting that fully healing the brain, if done purposefully and holistically can still take at least two years of sobriety and support before a person is fully back to contributing to the community.

The recovery process she outlined entailed:

1. Detox/Withdrawal; the first seven to 14 days without any abused substance.

2. Early abstinence/ Honeymoon stage; days 14-42.

3. Protracted abstinence/ The Wall; 1.5 to 5.5 months clean.

4. Readjustment; 5.5 months clean to a year clean.

She explained that like addiction, the pathway to recovery is on a slope, and relapse is expected to occur.

“The worst part is in withdrawal where they’re incredibly sick but even after you get through that there’s still days of fatigue, trouble sleeping, anxiety, irritability and being emotional,” she explained.

One person from the gallery noted that the stress of getting a job could trigger relapse, or the first paycheck after so long without money could trigger another chase after a high.

“Then there’s the shame they feel, instead of saying hey I messed up last night, can you help me,” Click added. “You’re not going to prevent them from going back, and it’s not your fault if they go back once they know they have this disease. They mess up, it’s on them.”

She suggested family members set clear boundaries and give the addict personal requirements for aid, housing or contact including a clearly defined timeline.

“And follow through, you can visit on this day, or we can only talk on the phone,” Click described. “You have to decide where you’re willing to draw the line.”

But drawing the line and handling the fallout from addiction is not a battle to be fought alone, added Cindy Arnold, representing The Addict’s Parents United, a group of parents who gather weekly to support each other in their family’s stages of recovery from addiction.

“It’s very important to love yourself enough to take care of you too,” Arnold said. “It’s not something to be ashamed of, it happens in every kind of household. I too was one of those parents ashamed and afraid of what people would think of my son, the addict, but I’ve discovered if I don’t talk about it I go crazy.”

Janet Brown and Marcia Beardmore, the mother and grandmother of Amy Smithberger, 31, of Marietta, were quick to get more information on TAP United following the seminar.

Brown and Beardmore take care of Smithberger’s son and sometimes her daughter, as she works through recovery.

“I’m glad she chose to go to treatment,” said Brown. “I’m hoping in two years she’ll be able to have her kids back and hold a job.”

Smithberger emerged from treatment at the beginning of the month, after intensive care for 90 days.

“Try explaining to a 4-year-old where their parents are, see those tears,” described Brown. “She now sees him every once in a while and he gets upset but at least he knows she’s here now.”

Like Smithberger, Stephanie Dunn, 34, of Marietta, is also fighting to stay sober for her kids.

“I’m here because I wanted to be around people willing to work in recovery,” she explained. “I am an alcoholic and the probation department helped me to become a better person and have faith in people again. I hope people will understand how they can help their loved ones going through addiction and to never give up. Everyone deals with the same devil just different hells and different levels.”

For more information about addiction treatment and recovery services contact the Marietta Probation Department at 740-373-4474.

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