Monday, January 19, 2015

I Have a Dream For Addiction Treatment

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.” Martin Luther King, Jr. – March 25, 1966

When I think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this special day of celebration, my thoughts go back to watching my mother listen to Dr. King's speech "I Have a Dream" with tears rolling down her face.

I remember as a little girl asking, "What is wrong?" as I was very worried as my mother was crying. That is when for the first time my mother explained inequality and injustice. I remember being confused and asking, "But why?" And now, over 50 years later I am still confused and asking, "But Why?"

While I have seen many advances in the field of addictions and recovery over the last 25 years, it saddens me that there is still inequality and injustice in healthcare in regards to addictions.

For example, while recent studies continue to support that "addiction can be defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease" why is there still a stigma attached with the diagnosis of addiction? This stigma and resulting prejudice can be seen in not only the general population but also in service providers as stated by recent studies.

And while studies continue to show that the relapse rates for drug addiction are similar to those of other chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, or asthma, why is relapse from drug addiction seen as a "failure of treatment" and not just treated with renewed intervention like we do with other chronic diseases with no label of 'failure" attached?

And why do insurance companies expect people with addictions to be "fixed" after a short stay in rehab, refusing to pay for long-term aftercare while paying for continued care for persons with other chronic, relapsing brain diseases? 

But why when a person decides to seek treatment for their addiction, they can't start treatment because there are no beds available at the facility, while there are beds available for rehab for other chronic, relapsing brain diseases like multiple sclerosis?

And why is it when a person goes to jail for a drug arrest who is suffering from both a drug addiction and diabetes that they receive treatment for their diabetes only while their disease of drug addiction is often left untreated? Why do we as a country complain about the "revolving door" of drug arrests while being too blind to see that making drug treatment part of the prison health system would help to break this cycle?

These are just a few of my "But Whys?" when I think about the injustices and inequalities that I continue to see in the world of addictions in regards to our health care system. While I can see progress has been made over the last 25 years, we still have a lot of work to do.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I too have a dream. My dream is to see all persons with addictions treated without stigma in our health care system just like those with other chronic brain diseases. I have a dream that all persons who relapse see their relapse as a learning experience and resume treatment without stigma. I have a dream that insurance companies will realize that not all of us can be "fixed" after one hospital visit & pay for continued care as needed just like they do for other chronic brain diseases. I have a dream that every person seeking care will find treatment and/or a bed available without delay. I have a dream that every person in jail who suffers from addictions will have treatment available to them in the prison health care system. I have a dream that one day addictions will be viewed without stigma and everyone that seeks treatment from our health care system can do so as easily as seeking treatment for the common cold.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., PTA
Twitter: @MaryPCheney



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Memories of a Recovery Health Coach

"I Alone Cannot Change The World, But I Can Cast A Stone Across The Waters To Create Many Ripples"- Mother Teresa

After the sudden death of my grandfather due to years of alcoholism, I decided to return to school for a second degree so that I could help people in recovery. I was young and idealistic. I wanted to change the world.

During the second semester while enrolled in a class called "The Psychology of Addictions", I was asked to pick a topic I would be interested in. After looking at the choices and at the time being a yoga practicing, meditating, organic food eating, holistic hippie; I picked the topic of "Nutrition and Recovery". My professor then suggested that I interview Dr. Joseph D. Beasley, M.D. as he was doing research in the field.

During my first interview with Dr. Beasley, I was in awe, as here was this doctor, who taught at Harvard, wrote several books on recovery & health, was the Director of an inpatient hospital addiction program and here he was taking the time to speak to me at his clinic for my school project. Dr. Beasley's passion for nutrition & recovery was so contagious that by the time I left, I had decided that nutrition & recovery was the career for me but I didn't know how to pull that off as an Certified Alcoholism Counselor. Little did I know how this one meeting would change my life forever.

Several weeks later, Dr. Beasley called to let me know that he heard about a field called "health coaching" and thought it would be what I was looking for. While the local colleges did not have a major in that subject yet, he offered to mentor me at his clinic while I completed my studies in Addictions. The plan was then to transfer to a nearby school for a bachelor of science in Community Health and Human Services. While under Dr. Beasley's guidance, I took the courses that would help me become a Health Coach and at the same time was able to work at his clinic as an intern. True to form, Dr. Beasley was at my graduation to cheer me on holding flowers & ballons.

The years I spent at Dr. Beasley's clinic as a Health Coach were life changing and were never boring. Being a Health Coach means you are at times- Teacher, Guide, Motivator, and Cheer Leader for people who are trying to make positive but often difficult changes in their lives. At our clinic we saw that when health coaching was added to a recovery treatment program, it lead to positive results in thousands of patients- people who suffered from alcohol and/or substance abuse disorders, eating disorders, and addictions of all kinds.

Although the transition was sometimes difficult, everyone of these men and women found that once they had enjoyed the tremendous benefits and "natural high" of a good nutrition program it was almost impossible to go back to their old eating habits. In the words of one client: "I had a Twinkie the other day, just for old's time sake and couldn't even finish the first bite. I can't believe I ate that stuff. What was I thinking of?"

In closing, I would like to say that I am still a yoga practicing, meditating, organic food eating, holistic hippie who is still idealistic, just twenty five years older. I still believe we can change the world but now I know it will be with Health Coaching.

Have a Happy & Healthy Health Coach Week,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.
Health Coach

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Recovery and The Three-Legged Stool

"To Keep The Body in Good Health Is A Duty. Otherwise We Shall Not Be Able To Keep Our Mind Strong And Clear." - Buddha

Recovery from any illness involves the body, the mind, and the spirit. Together, these elements make up who we are, and true healing includes all these aspects of the self. Like a three-legged stool, recovery cannot stay upright and balanced unless all three "legs" are equally strong.

In many recovering individuals, the "body" leg of recovery is weak, damaged, or missing altogether. Instead of enjoying the natural high of a healthy sobriety, these individuals teeter on the brink of relapse, battling mood swings, fatigue, cravings, insomnia, and general ill health even as they "work the program". This happens not because these individuals are uncommitted to their recovery, but because they (and often the people treating them) have made the fundamental mistake of underestimating the "body" part of their recovery.

In recovery, the triad of body-mind-spirit is interdependent. Neglect one aspect, and the other two will also suffer. In pursuing the goal of mind and spirit, all too many of us neglect or actively abuse the body- consuming caffeine by the quart, smoking cigarettes by the carton, and eating junk foods on a regular basis. All of this abuse has a definite impact on the mind and the spirit. For many of us our eating habits are not a symptom of our depression and fatigue, they are the cause.

Only when recovery is a complete physical and spiritual regeneration can the seeds of recovery blossom into the vibrant beauty of a restored body, mind, and spirit. I know this from personal experience, from the experience of the clients I have coached, and from hard scientific evidence of the biological impacts of addictions and eating disorders.

With this in mind, I present this blog to everyone- recovering and otherwise- who want to take up the reins and begin the fulfilling journey to a recovered body, mind, and spirit. May you enjoy the adventure as much as I have.

Health and Happiness,

Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.
Twitter: @MaryPCheney