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    Opinion...

    Drug addicts get

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    January 10, 2017

    By Jack Strickland

    Addictions are tough. Alcoholism and drug abuse are at crisis levels in America, today. They exact a tough penalty from both the addicted and the community.

    I got a crash course on the problem this week. I was invited to sit in on a group therapy session at The Metamorphosis. It is a leading residential addiction treatment facility. It is called a long term community based residential treatment program for adult chronic substance dependent clients.

    “Meta” is offered by Court Services in Alachua County and is similar to many programs in Florida. Most of the clients I met are there by court order. They elected to go to the in-house rehab for six months to a year in lieu of jail time for drug or alcohol infractions. If they “wash out” or fail to complete the program they are immediately arrested and returned to jail.

    Some of the clients I met are volunteers who are undergoing treatment on their own initiative. They seemed to want to come to rehab in search of a better life. Family pressures appeared to play a major part in their quest to find sobriety. They are free to abort the program, and leave, at any time without penalty—except for forfeiting the opportunity to ever return to the program.

    Most of the clients I met said drugs or alcohol warped their thinking. They said did not realize they were addicted and in the haze they lived in they thought their actions were normal.

    The therapy session I attended was a two hour group discussion. It was directed by a professional addiction specialist and counselor. Clients who maintained an error free week-long record at the facility were permitted to invite a guest to participate with them in the session. An hour and a half of a structured program was followed by 30 minutes of free visitation with the evening’s guests.

    For me, the visitation was the more educational part of the evening. The clients talked freely about their lives and addictions. The program urges honesty. They did not pull any punches. They spoke openly about the problems they caused their families, loved ones, and the community.

    They were very graphic in their discussion of the pain they face due to the strong pull of alcohol and drugs in their lives. Some said they would do anything to get a “fix”. When they are “jonesing” or coming down from a “high” and painfully needing a “fix,” they said they would not hesitate to turn to crime to feed their “habit.”

    After they spent their rent money and funds for other living expenses, their first targets for robbery were their friends and family. Next, they turned to burglaries, prostitution, and fraud—anything to get funds to fuel their “habit.”

    They said drugs or alcohol controlled their lives and turned them into monsters. Some of them have been disowned by their families with what they say is good cause. They say they are now all alone in the world except for their new family at Metamorphosis. It is clear that the bonds with each other in the program are very strong.

    The program is very strict. Clients are regularly screened for drugs and alcohol. There are severe consequences for any violation of the rules. There is a long waiting list of people who are seeking treatment and awaiting an opening for new clients. When a person graduates or is kicked out of the program the empty bed is usually filled within 24 hours. Clearly, there is a need for more similar facilities.

    Alcohol or crack cocaine are the drugs of choice for most of the clients. A few are there dealing with addiction to prescription medication. Caffeine and nicotine are among the substances that are prohibited at the “Met.” They are habit forming, and I learned, are viewed as “triggers” causing those addicted to seek drugs or alcohol.

    As I was leaving I received an unusual request from a handful of clients: Could I help three of their “brothers” who were expelled from the program that day.  They were a few blocks away hovering in a city park. They had no transportation or place to go for the night.

    The infraction that got them expelled from the program is amusing.

    Two flunked a drug test. They had “dirty urine” on a second drug test. 

    The first drug test was clean but it detected a prescription antibiotic that was not prescribed to either of those tested. The staff identified the client who did have that prescription. He is the other person kicked out of the program. The staff is familiar with this game. The person prescribed antibiotics was clean of prohibited drugs and had provided his urine for his friends to use in an attempt to beat the drug test.

    The three told the truth when confronted by staff. They were rewarded for their honesty. They were not in the program by court order. They were not arrested and sent to jail. They are not permanently banned from the program. They will be given the opportunity to return to the program after 30 days. That appeared to be an unusual concession by the staff.

    I was moved by the love the group showed for their three departed friends. A cheer went up when I agreed to go to the city park and perform a rescue.

    I found an interesting trio camped out on park benches. They were glad to be rescued.

    Two of them are from prominent families I know. They nixed my offer to drive them home. They say they have let their families down and are not likely to get a favorable reception if they show up on the spur of the moment after being booted from the program.

    All three say they plan to get their act together and return to the Metamorphosis. They seem to have an all-for-one and one-for-all philosophy. They are looking forward to rejoining their “Met” family in 30 days.

    The Metamorphosis appears to be an effective and outstanding program. I came away with the impression that our communities need more program just like it.