Friday, February 21, 2014

Addiction Dialogues, Hillcrest Community Centre

The Hillcrest Community Centre host for the evening was very helpful and organized.  We had a large room upstairs  away from the busy but healthy pool and gym activities below.  We began as people were still coming in till it was finally a full house.
David Berner, radio host, actor, founder of X-Kalay Foundation for addiction, author of the recent book, All the Way home and group therapist at Orchard Treatment Centre on Bowen Island, was the moderator extraordinaire for the event.
Opening the panel was Counsellor Candace Plattor, author of Loving an Addict, Loving Yourself.  She spoke mostly to the effect of addiction on family and community. She described solutions for treatment incorporating choice and choices individual and family needed to make to avoid enabling.
Brenda Plante, Executive Director of Turning Point Recovery Society , spoke to the incredible success of their recovery home programs over that last 30 years. Brenda Plante is a household name in the recovery community of Vancouver for her big hearted, thoughtful but well managed programs. She has support from communities, neighbours, clients, governments, RCMP and all the doctors and counsellors working in addiction.   Already with houses in Richmond she's  just opened their newest house for women in North Vancouver.  She spoke of the program and the need for addicts to be reintegrated into life. Addiction is so isolating. It takes everything away. She encourages  people to become involved in groups,  clubs and various activities as part of their process of abstinence and recovery.
(I already have half a table of  tickets to the Turning Point's annual Gala. This year  Mathew Perry of the show "Friends"  is the keynote speaker.)
I, a physician, psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist,  sat next to Brenda,  proud to be among such greats of the recovery community. I spoke mostly to the medical and psychiatric aspects of addiction, talking about genetics, liver, damage, lung damage, cancers caused, HIV and Hep C spread,  neurochemistry, harm reduction and medications, only being valid as they lead to abstinence and recovery. The 'cure' for addiction is abstinence.  (I did express my concern that there is a ‘customer’ model developing in the ‘harm reduction’ arena, with  conflict of interest, lack of faith and cynicism with increasingly two tiers of treatment, abstinence for the rich and educated and  harm reduction for the poor and less informed.  I spoke to the tremendous success of smoking cessation and how only 20 years ago this room might well have been filled with smokers and their accompanying clouds.  No better example could attest to the success of recovery. What is possible for cigarettes is equally possible for other drug addiction and alcoholism.  I mentioned Sabet's definitive book, Reefer Saniety, on the myths associated with marijuana.
AnnMarie McCullough began the first Recovery Day in Vancouver Canada. Now it’s spread throughout the provinces  so that it’s likely to be a national day perhaps as soon as  this year or next.  She also began Faces and Voices of Recovery while working at Orchard Treatment Centre. She spoke to the millions who are in recovery and the significance of their vote and political power. She was glad that the Health Minister, Terry Lake, provincially and Health Minister, Tony Clement, federally were so supportive of recovery. She encouraged everyone to speak to MP's and MLA’s and get involved like they were this evening, increasing  community awareness of the disease and need for treatment.  She spoke to the success of 12 step programs, other group therapies, treatment centres and recovery houses.
David shared a letter he’d received recently from a man, 35 years, clean and sober from drugs and alcohol, thanking him for believing in him in the days of  X-Kalay.
The audience participation began their with questions and answers.  Members from the Portland Society used this time to speak of  their controversial  provision of  alcohol for alcoholic and crack pipes for crack addicts. This lead to some interesting discussion.
A school teacher expressed his concern for the need for adolescent services.  Brenda Plante and Ann Marie spoke of the acute shortage of beds and other resources for adolescents.   Last Door Treatment Centre had however just opened some more  The need for adolescent services was a major concern to the audience.  I shared how Dr. Shimi Kang, an adolescent addiction psychiatrist was doing truly amazing work in the field.  (Our host  later told me he knew her and her husband personally and what a wonderful caring people they were.)
A tall man shared sadly how many friends of his had been killed by addiction. He spoke of Canadian solders who’d survived tours in Afghanistan only to come home to die in the clutches of drug addiction. He was very angry with  criminals invading every aspect of Canadian society with their "drug terrorism".
I couldn’t help remember  Sturges North motorcycle rally hearing  the great Canadian rock and roll band, Steppenwolf, singing their classic song, Goddam the Pusherman! I say, Goddam the Pusherman!
David thanked everyone for coming then individually we answered questions  speaking with people who told such tragic  stories of family members and friends  devastated by the disease of addiction.  A lovely woman was caring for the small children of her brother and wanted to know how to speak to the absences of addicted parents.
We were thanked all round.  Further Addiction Dialogues are planned.

1 comment: said...

Wonderful to hear of this kind of dialogue and the wonderful work being accomplished in the field of addictions.