Baldwin family knows addiction inside and out

 

By Jeff Vircoe

Billy Baldwin may not be the most famous of the Baldwins. He’s probably not the most controversial. But when it comes to the topic of addiction, he is certainly one of the most literate. Been there. Seen that.

Though not an addict himself, the 54-year-old American actor, producer and writer has had a front row seat to plenty of high-profile carnage. His famous male siblings, Alec, Stephen and Daniel, have, at different times, been public poster boys for the chaos that comes with the illness.

Billy is also married to a woman in long-term recovery, the actor, singer and model, Chynna Phillips. Together 25 years – a rarity in Hollywood for sure – Baldwin and Phillips have recently become more public about their experiences with recovery.

Last fall, they spoke at a Healthy Minds Canada gala in Toronto, sharing how addiction and recovery play out in their own lives. Sponsored in part by the Edgewood Health Network, the dinner helped raise nearly $400,000 towards an assortment of research projects, workshops, conferences and various mental health education initiatives.

Baldwin agreed to talk at length about his wife’s and his own journey through the minefield of addiction and recovery, the full story of which appears in the current EHN Phoenix Magazine. Here is a portion of the interview conducted with Phoenix reporters.

What’s your connection to Canada?

My connection to Canada is far more through the film industry – like a million to one – than it is to any of my ancestors. My father’s side of the family came over, part of it on the Mayflower, another part of it in 1638 to Boston. My mother’s side of the family is German and French. They came through Nova Scotia and they also came through Quebec. Her maiden name is Martineau, but they’ve been in upstate New York for centuries. I don’t have a strong connection to her French Canadian side. I do, but it’s through upstate New York, so not really.

So you didn’t spend time in Quebec growing up?

We were too poor to travel and we were too poor to vacation. I was never on a plane in my childhood. Was never on a vacation in my childhood. We used to go up and visit my mother’s side of the family but that was all in upstate New York, in the Syracuse area.

But, Canada? I’ve made movies coast to coast. I’ve made movies or I’ve worked with my wife and her band traveling across Canada. We’ve worked in Vancouver many times. Winnipeg many times. Toronto, I can’t even count the amount of times. Montreal several times. I made a film out in St. Andrews and St. Stephen in New Brunswick. I did a commercial in Quebec City. I must have made a dozen to fifteen films up there. I’ve done some charity events up at the Banff Hot Springs and Chateau Lake Louise. I’ve done some environmental fundraising stuff up there in the Canadian Rockies. So, I’ve been all over the country.

Have you spoken about addiction and mental illness before?

Not publicly a lot, no. Half my family is in A.A., so, yeah, everybody talks about their addiction and personal family issues in the anonymity of an A.A. meeting, but never on a public stage like that, no.

Do any of your family members give you flack when you talk publically about things that maybe used to be left behind closed doors in the past?

Well, there are certain things that I don’t share. I share what I feel comfortable with. But there’s plenty of stuff that I haven’t shared.

In 1999, you made the movie Virus with Jamie Lee Curtis. She’s a well known spokesperson for recovery advocacy organizations. Do you see that kind of role for you and Chynna going forward? Can you use your profile for causes like this?

We could. We could. I mean, I don’t see why not. When I met my wife, she was three years sober. She was 22 and now she’s nearly 50. She’s been sober since she was 19. She grew up in a rock and roll family, so mental health issues and addiction. Her father was a heroin addict for decades and it killed him. If, somehow, I could put that together.

That format we did for you [EHN] guys would be a great platform for us to go around and talk about show business and family and the strength of marriage and addiction and mental health issues. Yeah, I liked doing it in the format we did. I didn’t want to have Chynna give a speech and then I give a speech. I wanted to sit up there in big fluffy chairs [with] an M.C. and do more of a talk show format, and then throw it out to the audience for questions. I’ve done many of those, but not with Chynna and not on that topic. But I’ve M.C.’d and done chats and all that sorts of stuff in the past.

Your description of one of Daniel’s bottoms was riveting. Did you ever get near that level, that environment that your brother was living, in your own partying years?

In terms of my own personal use, I’ve been around it. I’ve been around Hollywood people and I lived in New York for 25 years, so I’ve been around it with friends and family members, yeah. But, no, I’ve never had that kind of appetite for partying at all.

They say addiction is a family disease. So, when did addiction start affecting you? And now?

I didn’t really have to deal with it a lot. My parents didn’t do drugs and my parents didn’t really drink alcohol. We didn’t really have alcohol in our home, but that was more of a function of the fact that they couldn’t afford it.

I mean, we had it in the house. But my father was never that kind of guy. He was a high school teacher and a coach, so once or twice a year he would go out with some of the other teachers and some of the other coaches on pay day. They would cash their cheques and hit a local watering hole in my home town and my father would have a beer or two, but he was not … you know. Not to say that we were totally devoid of alcoholic behavior. But I really didn’t have a sophistication to identify what it was when I was 12 to 15 years old.
In my early adult life, I would say my earliest introduction was through my brother, Daniel, who was married to his high school sweetheart, had a child with her, got divorced, and in our early days in Hollywood, being around Hollywood people, and being around people [who] were abusing drugs and alcohol and then, my brother Daniel.

Daniel has married and divorced several times, and, more often than not, it has been drug addiction that has destroyed his relationships, and that is something that I was dealing with very early on. Even when I was in the latter years of undergraduate, and the early years in New York City after I’d finished college. I was dealing with bullshit related to his addiction. So, I’ve been running and growing and struggling with it myself – not my own addiction – but struggling with how to deal with [his].

The key being that, you know how, sometimes, when you think you’re helping someone, you’re not helping them. You’re enabling them. Trying to find that balance is always pretty tricky. It’s very challenging because you know you don’t know how to strike a healthy balance. A lot of times people will draw the line in the sand in different places.

Some people had been through this with friends and family for a lot longer than I had been at that point in my life, and they were very hard, very militant about it. ‘You gotta shut em off. You gotta shut em down. Fuck them. Don’t help them. Don’t give them an inch.’ It’s hard. When they are suffering and struggling, it’s hard when it’s a blood relative. It’s hard when they’re married and they have children. That’s something I’ve always struggled with. When children are involved. You want to try and find a way to help the kids without enabling the addict, you know?

Would you say co-dependency is one of your things?

On some level, everybody is. But, how much do you learn? How much do you evolve? How much do you grow? How much do you learn from past co-dependent mistakes? I think I’ve gotten pretty good about it.

You once had a house about 10 minutes away from Stepping Stones, which was Bill and Lois Wilson’s [the founders of AA and Al-Anon] place in Bedford Hills, New York. What are your thoughts on the 12 Step movement?

I think Bill Wilson should posthumously be awarded a Nobel Prize. Tell me where any one individual, unless you discovered penicillin, who else in the history of humanity has saved more lives than that guy? It doesn’t work for everybody. That’s okay. But the 12 Steps, across the board with narcotics, alcohol, with eating disorders – I can’t even quantify – millions of lives this guy has saved at this point.

What is the answer to the addiction crisis facing our two nations, in your mind?

It ain’t fucking Donald Trump, I’ll tell you that. But, I don’t know. I don’t know. This whole heroin thing, the way police departments are dealing with it now. I know a lot of lives are being saved because the cops are now carrying this Narcan [Naloxone]. That’s helping to save a lot of lives. It’s a Band-Aid [solution], but I like that it’s becoming more standard operating procedure. There [are] a lot of police departments that were fighting that, because I guess they didn’t want to be in that business. But they’ve saved quite a few lives, so I’m all for [it].

They say education is the key to this fight. So, what does the average North American need to know about addiction?

I think it’s one part education, one part economy and jobs, and it’s 10 parts God, if you know what I mean. Even then, you’re going to have [a lot] of people slipping through the cracks. But, I’ve never seen the epidemic as bad as it is now.

Even when heroin was chic, back when I was a teenager in the Seventies. The stuff that they have out there now with pot and with heroin, what they’ve done to it, I don’t know what they hell they put into it but, literally, the pot today – you take one or two hits of it and it’s like being on an acid trip in the Seventies.

I don’t do it – but that’s what I hear. It’s incredibly powerful and incredibly addictive. Between heroin and the benzo problem and the painkiller (opioids) problem, you could do heroin one time and no looking back. You’re hooked. It’s scary.

What do [workers] in the field need to know about the importance of what they are doing for a living?

I’ve never been an addict, so maybe it would be better for my brother, Daniel, to answer. He’s a professional in the field that you are in now. He’s still making movies, but he’s professionally doing interventions and putting people into recovery. He’s been doing that professionally for the last 10 or 15 years, particularly in the last five years.

It’s an epidemic. It’s worse than ever before. A lot of the services are being cut. A lot of the funds are being cut. And it’s coming at a time when you guys are needed now, more than ever. It’s stunning to me when you hear people like Trump talking about cutting services for the addicted. Cutting services for mental health. Cutting services for the National Endowment for the Arts, but then giving the Defense Department a $56 billion increase.

What does the term dry drunk mean to you? Have you ever seen it in action, and what does it look like?

Oh, of course. Of course. Dry drunks are frustrating to me. But, at least they have an excuse. The excuse is they are not in the program and they are not working the steps. What is more frustrating for me is somebody who is a raging alcoholic but they don’t do drugs, they don’t do alcohol, they don’t use at all.

They still go to meetings every week. Sometimes only once a week. Sometimes twice a week. They’re 25-30 years sober. They’re going to meetings, but they’re not really working the steps and they are letting or allowing their alcoholism to manifest itself in various ways in their life. It’s almost at an intolerable level and they are making people’s lives absolutely fucking miserable, and they don’t see it. They’re not doing coke. They’re not drinking alcohol. They’re not getting shitfaced. They’re still going to meetings. They go out with their buddies for a cappuccino after the meeting. They check that box. But they’re not really working the steps.

If they were working the steps then they would not be, in terms of OCD, in terms of control, in terms of rage and anger. A lot of times, the disease, when you’re not drinking and not working the steps the right way, you know, there’s transference, [there are] substitutions. A lot of people put it into exercise or sex. I’ve seen a lot of people are still going to the meetings and are raging alcoholics and it’s raging through their personality.

It’s not like I want them to go out and have a drink. But I wish they could see … they don’t see it. So dry drunk – that can be very dangerous. And, in most cases, that can be very unhealthy for somebody to not be using but to not be sober and not be working the steps. That can be upsetting and frustrating, unhealthy and dangerous.

Are you talking friends and family here?

Both. I have extended family and friends sure. And [in] all the experiences of my life, I’ve seen it many times. It’s very rare that I see somebody [who] is truly, truly sober. I see people [who] don’t use. People [who] go to meetings. And people [who], beyond going to meetings, really honestly attempt to work the steps. But, it’s such a challenge to allow that to transcend all aspects of your life.
I’ve rarely seen somebody [who] is sober who [has] allowed it to access and infiltrate and transcend every aspect of their life. Usually, you see the “ism” finding its way through some tributary; it finds a way to work itself into some aspect of their personality. Whether it’s eating, exercise, sex … I don’t know if there’s any such thing as the perfect 12 Stepper.

Your brother, Stephen, actually runs ministries. Your wife is a Christian. So where are you at with God?

I talk about that with my wife. I don’t talk about that in interviews.

Thank you for your time Billy.

The post Baldwin family knows addiction inside and out appeared first on Edgewood Health Network.

One Day at a Time: a slogan bonded in recovery principles

By Jeff Vircoe

A popular television show named itself after it. Several world-famous singers have used it for hit songs, too. Scriptures of several religions hold it up as sage advice. Yet, somehow, the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous probably has the tightest grip of anyone on One Day at a Time.

One Day at a Time has roots in recovery that go back to the very first man Dr. Bob and Bill W. succeeded helping in the summer of 1935.

Bill Dotson was a brilliant, smooth-talking lawyer when sober, but just add alcohol and he turned into one nasty piece of work. Hospitalized eight different times in his last six months of drinking in Akron, Ohio, A.A. Number Three was known to be physically violent with nurses. By the time Bill and Bob made it into Akron City Hospital to try to convince Dotson that they could help him get and stay sober on June 26, 1935, he had already blackened the eyes of two nurses and had been ordered strapped down to his bed.

Dr. Bob had him transferred to a private room. The famous painting, known as The Man in the Bed, was created for the 1955 December Grapevine, depicting a scene from those visits.

As Bill and Bob unpacked the news about his addiction – how it was not a phase, that it was progressive, and how he was destined to end up again in hospital, should he pick up another drink – Bill D. responded on page 187 of the Big Book.

“Yes, Doc, I would like to quit, at least for five, six or eight months, until I get things straightened up, and begin to get the respect of my wife, and some other people back, and get my finances fixed up and so on.”

“They both laughed very heartily,” Dotson would say in a recorded talk given in Canton, Ohio on New Years Day of 1950.

The doctor and the stock market analyst hit Dotson with both barrels, including the need to accept powerlessness, ask for help, turn to God, share with another person the anger and resentments one carries, and make restitution for harms done. But, one of the most poignant moments of that first successful 12th Step occurred when they told Dotson about how important it was to take things a day at a time.

“The next question they asked was, ‘You can quit twenty-four hours, can’t you?’” Dotson said in his recorded talk. “I said, ‘Sure, yes, anybody can do that for twenty-four hours.’ They said, ‘That’s what we’re talking about. Just twenty-four hours at a time.’ That sure did take a load off of my mind. Every time I’d start thinking about drinking, I would think of the long, dry years ahead without having a drink, but this idea of twenty-four hours, that it was up to me from then on, was a lot of help.”

So, the slogan One Day at a Time was used from the very first 12 Step calls, mere days after Dr. Bob had had his last drink.

Bill saw it as effective advice for newcomers.

“Most people feel more secure on the twenty-four-hour basis than they do in the resolution that they will never drink again. Most of them have broken too many resolutions. It’s really a matter of personal choice; every A.A. has the privilege of interpreting the program as he likes.”

So, if One Day at a Time was coming out of the mouths of the co-founders of the 12 Step movement, where would they have come up with it? One likely source is the Good Book, which predated A.A.’s Big Book by hundreds of years. Many Bible study guides point to the saying.

The Our Daily Bread Ministries, founded in 1938, writes this on its website at odb.org:

“The thread of living “one day at a time” is woven throughout the fabric of Scripture. God supplied the Israelites with manna daily (Ex. 16:4). Our heavenly Father’s mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). Jesus taught His followers to ask for their “daily bread” (Mt. 6:11) and to refuse to worry about tomorrow (v.34).”

Pastor Rick Warren, who made the cover of Time Magazine in August 2008 for his book, A Purpose Driven Life, puts it this way. “God wants you to trust him one day at a time: Give us this day our daily bread.” Not for next week. Not for next year. Not for next month. Just one day at a time.”
Perhaps no scripture passage rings the One Day at a Time chime louder than the Gospel of Matthew, who wrote in Matt. 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Given the daily readings from the King James Bible that Dr. Bob, his wife Anne, and Bill relied on in that summer of 1935, it would make sense that One Day at a Time was so profound to the first A.A. members.

In official A.A. conference-approved literature, the One Day at a Time philosophy is spelled out clearly for newcomers. Perhaps nowhere is it more succinctly explained than in the A.A. pamphlet This is A.A.: An Introduction to the A.A. Recovery Program, copyrighted in 1984.

The 24-hour plan

“For example, we take no pledges, we don’t say that we will “never” drink again. Instead, we try to follow what we in A.A. call the “24-hour plan,” the pamphlet reads.

“We concentrate on keeping sober just the current 24 hours. We simply try to get through one day at a time without a drink. If we feel the urge for a drink, we neither yield nor resist. We merely put off taking that particular drink until tomorrow.”

Anyone who has been sober for a couple of decades or longer will likely be familiar with one piece of literature called Twenty-four Hours a Day. Published in 1948 by Richard Walker, this handy little black book was the predecessor to A.A.’s Daily Reflections.

Walker, who was a member of the first A.A. group in Boston in 1943, wrote, “If we don’t take that first drink today, we’ll never take it, because it’s always today.”

Expanding his theme to 365 daily readings, Walker’s little black book has sold over nine million copies through Hazelden. Walker explained his One Day at a Time philosophy this way:

“Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when you and I add the battles of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow, that we break down. It is not the experience of today that drives us mad. It is the remorse or bitterness for something that happened yesterday or the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Let us therefore do our best to live but one day at a time.”
According to AAAgnostica.org, Walker died in 1965. He had 22 years of sobriety.

The post One Day at a Time: a slogan bonded in recovery principles appeared first on Edgewood Health Network.

One Day at a Time: Solid advice, in and out of recovery circles

By Jeff Vircoe

The value of living life one day at a time is high, at least if you judge by how many places the advice can be found. Spiritual and religious leaders, philosophers and psychologists, and all kinds of self-help advocates frequently offer up the suggestion of living life in manageable increments.

When it comes to recovery, One Day at a Time is a staple of wise counsel. Certainly, the co-founder of the 12 Step movement, Bill Wilson, understood the therapeutic value.

“On a day-at-a-time basis, I am confident I can stay away from a drink for one day. So I set out with confidence. At the end of the day, I have the reward of achievement. Achievement feels good and that makes me want more!” Wilson is quoted saying in the A.A. conference-approved book, As Bill Sees It.

One Day at a Time is found in A.A.’s basic text book, the Big Book, of course. On page 85, Wilson reminds us that, as addicts, we are not cured of our illness just because we have abstained for some time.

“What we really have is a daily reprieve,” he wrote, “contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”

When you ask people in the business of addiction treatment who are also in recovery themselves, you quickly find that One Day at a Time is advice they sincerely give and live by.

“For me, it’s about that freedom to start over. There’s a real freedom from the shame and guilt that would immediately hit me. It’s about gratitude of having that gift of a daily reprieve,” says Patty Robertson, a woman with over 25 years in recovery in family programs and a long-time counselor at Edgewood.

“It means being present in the moment and focusing on now. Letting go of the past and, especially for me, God, I want to control the outcomes, I want to worry about the future and I want to live in my self-centered fear. This is an alternative to that.”

One Day at a Time has more than its share of recovery angles. The Al-Anon book, Courage to Change – One Day at a Time, is affectionately called ODAT by many. But it also has practical meaning for many not in recovery.

Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki, wrote five affirmations that became the principles of Reiki.

Just for today:
1) I will not be angry
2) I will not worry
3) I will be grateful
4) I will do my work honestly
5) I will be kind to every living thing

Powerful suggestions to live by, one day at a time, Usui advised. He was seconded by a host of others.

“Life is like an ice cream cone. You have to lick it one day at a time,” Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts cartoon gang once said.

U.S. President Abraham Lincoln once referred to the slogan this way: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”

Even Pope John XXIII, the top man in the Vatican from 1958-1963, was sold on the importance of the principals contained in the slogan. He released a Top 10 list of tips for living a better life day by day, known as The Daily Decalogue of Pope John XXIII:

1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.
2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
5. Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

Reiki masters, presidents and popes notwithstanding, in modern times, most people seem to associate recovery and One Day at a Time as being synonymous. Asked about his prolific writing history, Canadian rock icon Neil Young once said, “I just wrote one song at a time. Kinda like an alcoholic. One day at a time.”

Sergio O., a man with over 29 years clean in Narcotics Anonymous, sees One Day at a Time as essentially being the same as N.A.’s frequently used mantra “Just for Today.”

“Just for Today to an addict means there is a responsibility to stay clean just for today. The addict mind always worries about what? I’m going to have to stay clean the rest of my life. So, he never stays in the moment. Just for Today helps the individual to stay clean just for today,” says Sergio, who has been helping addicts find recovery for over a quarter century.

“As you go on deeper into recovery, then the second stage of recovery, as I call it, happens,” he says. “Life gets real. We try to solve the problems of the future. So, that’s when we start learning to take responsibility just for today. When it comes to people, places and things we learn to be responsible, just for today. To stay in the moment.”

Living one day at a time does not mean swearing off drinking or drugging with other substances or behaviors forever, even though we know that’s what we need to do. In the A.A. Pamphlet This is A.A.: An Introduction to the AA Recovery Program produced by the fellowship in 1984, the authors put it this way.

“We take no pledges, we don’t say that we will ‘never’ drink again. Instead, we try to follow what we in A.A. call the ‘24-hour plan.’ We concentrate on keeping sober just the current twenty-four hours. We simply try to get through one day at a time without a drink. If we feel the urge for a drink, we neither yield nor resist. We merely put off taking that particular drink until tomorrow.”

It goes on to say:

“Today is the only day we have to worry about. And we know from experience that even the ‘worst’ drunks can go twenty-four hours without a drink. They may need to postpone that next drink to the next hour, even the next minute — but they learn that it can be put off for a period of time.”
In practical terms, those with the disease and those without it seem to understand that the slogan One Day at a Time is all about calming one’s self down long enough to do the next right thing. John M., an Edgewood counselor with 30 years in Al-Anon and another 28 in A.A., has been counseling addicts for 26 years.

“One Day at a Time really just breaks it down. I can get overwhelmed when I think about the future. Crazy making. I want to control it. Run it. Panic about it. My anxiety goes up through the roof. But when I just stay in one day at a time, I can manage that.”

He also recommends taking it deeper, if necessary.

“Sometimes I break it down even more to just this hour. Or the next five minutes. So, it helps break things down to manageable segments, a manageable load.”

One day at a Time is a philosophy and counsel that can be applied to all sorts of addicts, their family members, or non-addicts. The overwhelmed, anxious moments all humans face can be eased with getting grounded, and this slogan provides that relief.

“Is it common for addicts to feel overwhelmed? Oh yeah. Incredibly. It crosses all forms of how addiction acts out. Addicts and alcoholics, myself included, we are so used to having to manage and control and figure out and second guess. So, being able to just breathe and figure out what’s the next right thing, instead of two weeks from now, what’s the healthy thing that I can do right now? It makes all the difference in the world.”

 

 

The post One Day at a Time: Solid advice, in and out of recovery circles appeared first on Edgewood Health Network.

Ten Common Symptoms of Psychological Trauma

The phrase, “I was so traumatized,” is often used very loosely by individuals to describe how shocked they were about something eventful that took place. It’s true that many of us do experience some type of trauma at least once in our life but not to the degree that others might who are deeply affected by it.

Psychological Trauma is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in people when they’ve experienced an event that was too overwhelming for them to manage, and as a result feel symptoms that are negatively impacting their well-being. It can affect people in different ways, regardless of age or ethnicity.

Exposure to trauma is very common. A study published by the American Psychological Association predicts that approximately 60-70% of the general population will be exposed to trauma.[1] Most individuals will develop symptoms that will resolve themselves on their own, and move on with their lives. Yet, according to a research study conducted by McMaster University published in the Journal CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics, there is still 9% of the Canadian population with symptoms that persist.[2]

Some examples of traumatic events can include:

  • Workplace (on-the-job) accidents
  • Vehicle accidents such as cars, boats, airplane and train crashes
  • Childhood physical, emotional and sexual abuse
  • Childhood neglect and abandonment
  • Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, etc.
  • Military combat
  • Sexual assault
  • Physical assault
  • Witnessing violence

Symptoms of Trauma

We spoke with Kathy Adetuyi, one of our counsellors at Bellwood Health Services, who has been a part of Bellwood’s  Addiction and PTSD/OSI team for many years.  Kathy is now a member of our new Trauma & Psychological Injury Treatment Program that is set to launch in May 2017.  Kathy states that one of the most common symptoms she finds in patients is residual fear and/ or anger. “When a person experiences a traumatic event, they don’t have time during the event to feel fear or anger. These emotions can come out over time after the event has occurred. It’s as if the brain and the body are experiencing a delayed reaction which can be manifested as anger or extreme fear. Very often, family members or co-workers will feel the person’s reactions are disproportionate to a situation.”

The following is a list of common symptoms of psychological trauma:

  1. Intrusive recollections of the trauma, including flashbacks
  2. Emotional and physical reactivity in response to reminders
  3. negative beliefs about oneself or others
  4. Inability to feel close to others
  5. Being easily startled
  6. Dissociation
  7. Emotional numbness
  8. Inability to remember aspects of, or all of the traumatic event
  9. Avoidance of anything that reminds one of the trauma
  10. Hypervigilance: Always being alert, scanning and assessing for threat
  11. Difficulty concentrating and focusing on reality
  12. Chronic Sleep Disturbance: Inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep, frequent and frightening nightmares

Note that the above is not an inclusive list of symptoms of trauma.

Trauma & Psychological Injury Treatment

The level of treatment individuals require depends on how a person has been carrying on since the trauma. When symptoms begin to interfere with one’s daily life, intensive treatment may be required to truly make an impact on the healing process. Bellwood’s Trauma and Psychological Injury Treatment Program is designed to help women and men with a work-related psychological injury.

The focus of this new Bellwood trauma program is to improve PTSD symptoms, gain skills to manage emotions, and learn how to improve relationships and daily functioning. As Kathy explains, “Anger management, nightmare management, addressing flashbacks, triggers, and sleep disturbance are some of the features that are included in this program. We look at why individuals are specifically avoiding things that remind them of the traumatic event instead of getting help. It’s very common for individuals to isolate as a way to protect themselves. They will convince themselves that it’s the only way they won’t feel, smell or hear their trauma.”

Bellwood’s Trauma and Psychological Injury Treatment Program teaches healthy ways to self-regulate for symptom management. This can include breathing exercises and learning how to connect to safety and the present moment.

Kathy describes the program as follows: “In the first two phases of the treatment program, our team will work with a patient on an individual and group basis to understand what happens in the brain when one is triggered and teach him/ her how to manage those specific symptoms and grounding techniques. Our goal is to help patients identify the trauma symptoms that are the most debilitating and then provide them with skills and support to change how they process the trauma. Essentially, our patients are learning how to attend to themselves and manage hyperarousal and their emotions. For example, patients will learn that if they feel triggered, they need 25 minutes to first do A, B, and C, and then go back to attending to their child.”

The third phase of treatment is called Re-Integration. Patients are taught how to resume functionality, build connections with others, improve relationships with family members, and transition back to a healthier lifestyle. Kathy shares, “With the help of our occupational therapist, we will use exposure therapy to help our patients re-integrate back to their community. This might be going out and being amongst a crowd of people or going to places that are triggering, such as a school or bank.”

The Outcome

This program was developed to help patients become highly skilled in managing their symptomatology. With time, the symptoms will lessen, but they can still fluctuate over the course of someone’s life. As Kathy explains, “We want people to continue to attend to themselves as oppose to thinking they’ve completed the program and are cured. It’s important that patients understand that this is an intensive program designed to get them on the path of recovery. They still need continuing care to remain in recovery, whether it is on an individual basis, group therapy, online aftercare, or an OSI support group.”

To learn more about this program or about our Addiction & PTSD/OSI Treatment program, please contact us. We are here and we are ready to help.

 

http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/ptsd-beyond-trauma

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/fixing-fentanyl-means-treating-trauma-that-creates-addicts-1.3966361

[1] Ouimette, P., & Read, J. P. (2014). Trauma and substance abuse: Causes, consequences, and treatment of comorbid disorders (2nd ed.) American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/14273-000

[2] http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/almost-1-in-10-canadians-has-post-traumatic-stress-at-some-point-study-1.773448

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