January 29, 2014
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By TOM HERZIG
piate addiction and all that goes with it – personal devasta-tion, family conflict, crime, incarceration, financial loss, health problems and more – is getting more attention state-wide since Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted his entire State of the State address to the issue.One aspect of Vermont’s opiate affliction is an increase in the availability and use of heroin. Heroin is a form of morphine, a narcotic produced by opium poppies – infamously the leading agricultural crop of Afghanistan. Heroin is quickly assimilated into the bloodstream and then converted back to morphine.Heroin and opium production has been in the news of late, given the recent US Senate testimony by special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction John Sopko – “poppy cultivation is at its highest level since the U.S. invasion more than a decade ago, sparking corruption, criminal gangs and providing the insurgency with hard cash despite a $7 billion expen-diture to eradicate it.”But, as Turning Point Central Vermont Recovery Center Director Bob Purvis points out, history has shown that when a particular addictive substance is in short supply, others are soon sought out. Purvis isn’t suggesting that there’s nothing to be alarmed about by the present spike in opiate abuse, rather that addictive behav-ior has been with us for a long time.Consider the statistics compiled from studies from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).- One of every eight Americans has a significant problem with drugs or alco-hol. Forty percent of that group has the dual diagnosis of a concurrent mental disorder.- Over 27 million Americans either use illicit drugs regularly or are “heavy drinkers”. SAMSHA claims that nearly 16 million of them need immediate treatment.- Approximately 70 percent of illegal drug users are employed and contribute significantly to workplace absenteeism, accidents, decreased productivity, increased insurance expenses and employ-ee turnover costs.In his legislative address, Gov. Shumlin made proposals intend-ed to make treatment more readily available and also spoke of the importance of recovery – a lifelong, day-to-day process that requires the support of family, friends, counselors, co-workers and in some cases, medical care.Recovery is the term generally used to refer to the ongoing process of overcoming dependency, maintaining sobriety and improving one’s overall health.“Recovery is the least known, least understood and most critical part of dealing with addiction and bettering your life long term,” says Bob Purvis.“Vermont’s the only state with a network of recovery centers,” Purvis said. “We offer peer support. We’re not clinicians. We’re not formal treatment providers ourselves, but we collaborate with them as part of a whole-person approach. We help people regain their enthusiasm for life. We let them know what recovery is. Recovery is much more than just abstinence. It involves envision-ing a healthy, productive life and then achieving it.”The Vermont Recovery Network utilizes recovery coaches to help people identify and remove barriers to recovery, navigate through the human services system, access community resources and connect with mutual support groups. Coaches are peers in personal or family recovery, who work with people who have active addictions, people who are already in recovery, or with people who are concerned about someone else’s substance abuse.Vermont Recovery Network centers such as Turning Point in Barre have taken an active role in devel-oping and approving standards for the provision and supervision of recovery coaching.Friends of Recovery, a Montpelier non-profit, operates the Vermont Recovery Coach Academy, a 5-day, 30-hour interactive experience that allows participants to learn the purpose, tasks, tools and resources vital to providing recovery support services and develops the skills needed to link persons in recov-ery to the services and support.“Coaches are taught what questions to ask to find out where people are and help them get where they want to go,” Purvis said. “We try to be positive and respectful. It’s about accepting them where they’re at without passing judgment.”In the early stage of recovery, people need support in staying clean/sober while they may be experiencing fear, anxiety, guilt, insecurity or resentment.“People can forget that they have positives,” Purvis said. “We help them identify their strengths and then build on them.”For the newly drug-free or sober, family relationships, family priorities and socializing in general can be a real challenge, espe-cially if one’s spouse or significant other is actively addictive or recently drug-free/sober themselves – not to mention breaking up or starting a new relationship.The list of potential issues to deal with in recovery can be lengthy including finances, employment, medical problems, eat-ing a healthy diet, depression, loneliness and utilizing leisure time.“Sometimes there’s co-occurrence – mental issues to deal with along with dependencies,” Friends of Recovery Director Rita Johnson said. “That can mean there’s a greater chance to be eli-gible for programs and services – which is something that coaches/counselors can help people access.”“There can be relapses to deal with also,” Johnson noted. “Relapsing can be pervasive, but it doesn’t mean treatment failure. It’s a part of the recovery process to be prepared for. Recovery centers and coaches are vital in dealing with relapses.”“We don’t recover alone,” Purvis points out. “People get thrown back into the real world and need lots of support to take the actions needed to change their lives. You can analogize it in some ways to building a new house. You need some tools. We’re a place that you can go with no stress or obligation.”The Vermont Recovery Network has locations in Bennington, Brattleboro, Burlington, Middlebury, Morrisville, Rutland, Springfield, St. Albans, St. Johnsbury and White River as well as in Barre – 489 North Main Street – 802-479-7373.
Recovery Centers –
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“People can forget that they have positives,” Purvis said. “We help them identify their strengths and then build on them.”
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