Pubdate: Sat, 12 Aug 2017
Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Press-Enterprise Company
Author: Mitchell Rosen


Shortly after becoming licensed as a family therapist, I was hired to
facilitate group therapy on a chemical dependency unit. I did this
every day for about 10 years. I also coordinated family group for the
spouses and relatives of those who were recovering from alcohol and
drug abuse. There were a lot of "take aways" from this experience.

Despite my education, I held many prejudices and myths toward those
who abused alcohol and drugs. These men and women taught me a great

Perhaps the most significant lesson I learned was that most alcoholics
are not fall down, live in the gutter, going through trash cans
drunks. In fact, the label of being "a drunk" is not accurate or
helpful. As I learned, drug addicts are not sleazy, better watch your
wallet, can't trust 'em as far as you can throw 'em liars.

Some patients lived up to these stereotypes, but very few.

The alcoholics who lived under bridges and pan handled on the freeway
exits were rarely predatory, exploitive or violent. Truth is, they
were often the ones who were exploited, robbed and worse. The majority
of these individuals also were mentally ill, some floridly psychotic.
I stopped making smug, smart aleck comments about these men and women.

I used to think drug addicts were from the "other side of the tracks"
- - uneducated, poor, slovenly, with no family or values. During the
family groups, I saw their spouses, parents, relatives and children
come out to support recovery. Some were without anyone, but most had
someone, often several people who knew the person inside. I threw out
my stereotypes; there is no such thing as a typical drug abuser.

What I was not prepared for were the middle class, middle-aged men and
women addicted to Vicodin, Percocet or OxyContin. Many had wonderful
families, were much more educated than I and ran companies or held
positions of responsibility that were truly impressive.

Sitting across the therapy desk with a man or woman who ran a
multimillion dollar company was quite humbling. I quickly lost any
veneer of "we are so different" and learned to reframe my long held
myths and misinformation.

Again and again, I learned about men and women, smart men and women
who started with an injury or operation and went home with a
prescription. When the prescription ran out they got another one, then
another one. Some managed to convince their doctors to keep writing
for months or years and others stopped making medical appointments and
just bought the opioids on the street.

Most of these people were not from gangs, out of prison or ran with
biker clubs. Most looked like the people next door - and sometimes
were the people next door. They got in over their heads and didn't
want to stop. For some, it was the withdrawal and for many they did
not want to let go of the euphoria the drugs gave them. By the time
they realized the drugs were controlling them, not vice-versa, the
addiction was pretty far-gone. Drug addiction, I learned, is not a
lack of morality; it's a medical epidemic.

Mitchell Rosen is a licensed therapist with practices in Corona and
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MAP posted-by: Matt