The Edmond Sun

May 23, 2009

Healing, recovery a community effort

Mark Schlachtenhaufen

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part five of a five-part series on the consequences of addiction and substance abuse. Today’s story offers information about solutions to the problems, treatment options and hope for individuals and their families.

As reported in Friday’s Edmond Sun, Jim Riley faced a life-changing moment of decision in 1985.

His wife Robin had arranged for an intervention. It was held in their home, and when Jim awoke, he found family members, his former high school football coach and others in his living room.

His coach told him why they were there — because of his addiction-related behavior — and the family’s fears that he could die. They anxiously awaited Jim’s answer to the question: Would you be willing to check into a treatment program?

Jim’s answer was, “Yes,” and that decision helped turn his life around.

The ex-University of Oklahoma and NFL football player said the support he received from his family was monumental, but his true salvation came from a different source — God.

“He was the key to my recovery,” said Riley, who along with Robin is a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Edmond. “If you don’t put God at the head of the class, it ain’t gonna work.”

A little more faith

Others agree that faith — and the faith community — need to play a bigger role in winning the war on drugs.

Among them are state Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, and Mark McCullough, R-Sapulpa.

Murphey said the government spends millions of dollars on education, treatment and incarceration, but unless the individuals involved find faith and change their lives, the problem only will continue to grow.

“Substance abuse is an obvious by-product of the breakdown in the values of society,” Murphey said. “As traditional family structures continue to break down, those who are tempted to become involved in substance abuse simply do not have a strong support network to prevent their involvement in substance abuse.”

McCullough said he also thinks the faith community can do more to help win the war on drugs.

Two faith-based models could be Transformation Recovery at Henderson Hills Baptist Church and the CareSeries program of LifeCare Ministries at Oklahoma City’s Crossings Community Church.

Henderson Hills’ program is about helping people heal from hurts, hang-ups and habits through the true and only higher power, Jesus Christ, said Chuck Robinson, Transformation Recovery director.

Group members have problems with gambling, anger, sex, food, shopping, alcohol and drugs — all afflictions that are really a symptom caused by a real or perceived hurt, Robinson said.

The program uses talk therapy led by a facilitator who is recovering from similar afflictions. More than 200 individuals come through the program on a weekly basis.

Crossings’ program focuses on giving individuals from different backgrounds tools, including a support and recovery group, to help them overcome life’s challenges, said Todd Poe, pastoral associate of the LifeCare ministry.

“We all have pain, and church is a place to find others to walk with on our path to healing,” Poe said.

The groups are not a place for therapy, but they do provide a confidential, Christian setting in which participants can be honest and grow, Poe said.

“God works in us and through us in these groups,” he said.

On average, CareSeries serves 250 individuals weekly through classes and support groups available to men, women and children, Poe said.

Classes include DivorceCare, GriefShare, Anger Management for Men, Stress Management for Women, Depression and Bipolar Support Group, Alcoholics Anonymous, Compulsive Eaters Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, a Caring Families Support Group and LifeTools for Kids, Teens and Parents.

‘Stop the demand’

The issue comes down to gaining a better understanding of an immense problem that affects so many, said Pat Nichols, founder of the Edmond chapter of Parents Helping Parents.

Oklahomans need to come together and look at all the elements of the problem and not single anyone out, he said.

“I just hate to see our young people destroyed without giving them every possible chance of survival. And I don’t think we’re doing that right now,” Nichols said. “Not that we’re doing anything wrong. I just don’t think we’re doing all that we can.”

That includes a lack of beds for substance abuse treatment, Nichols said. Another issue is that some lawmakers don’t know all the facts about addiction and substance abuse, Nichols said.

Oklahoma has received national praise for recent anti-meth laws signed by Gov. Brad Henry. Other plans are in the works.

“It is important that we not lose sight of the fact that substance abuse treatment is critical in our anti-drug efforts,” Henry said in a statement issued to The Sun. “We have encouraged the use of drug courts and bolstered funding for drug treatment programs, but obviously much more remains to be done.

“Substance abuse rips apart families and destroys lives, and so we must be vigilant in our battle against the demons of addiction.”

McCullough said he is considering sponsoring a bill next year that would involve the state matching Department of Corrections increases in spending on prevention programs.

Nichols said he would like to see a parent mentoring program. Mentors would be able to relate to parents and build rapport that could produce better results and reduce the number of inmates.

Nichols advised individuals wanting counseling to be sure they are dealing with a certified alcohol and drug abuse counselor. Addicts need inpatient treatment and it should be for a minimum of 90 days, he said.

Caletta McPherson, deputy commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said problem gambling must be recognized as a group of associated problems that affect all groups of people and all age groups, including older adults who spend a lot of time in casinos.

“This is a universal problem we all have to recognize,” McPherson said. “We have to work together to educate and raise awareness that gambling is a problem.”

McPherson said Oklahoma is making great strides, but there is a stigma related to gambling.

“It’s still something we don’t talk about,” she said.

Nichols said the solution to addiction and substance abuse problems is clear.

“We have to stop the demand,” he said. “The demand starts at about 13 or 14, (with children) drinking beer or inhalants. There’s where the demand starts."