July 26, 2017

I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore!

Based on the events of the past few months and my experiences over the past eight years, I have finally reached the point where I needed to say something our system for dealing with addiction. While I did my best to keep it constructive, I wanted to make certain it shares my complete and utter contempt for a broken, corrupt, and woefully unjust, inefficient system.

When it comes to the legal system and treatment programs relating to addiction, the system is completely, totally and unnecessarily messed up. Law enforcement, legislators, the courts, the probation system have no clue how to effectively respond to the issues they are dealing with. They are ill-prepared and ill-equipped to responsibly manage or respond to what they are dealing with. Our laws are archaic and non-nonsensical. They are designed to deal with the issue of crimes related to addiction, most of which are non-violent, with no commitment to dealing with the issue of the addiction.

For the most part, for profit treatment programs prey on those in need by focusing on the financial bottom line, not on providing truly effective services to those who need it. Any facility that sells a 30-day program as beneficial and effective for treating an addiction is deceitful and preys on the ignorance of those they are selling their programs to. Yet, they do and it is considered acceptable, even though it borders on corrupt.

Our system is messed up. Everyone complains about how their tax dollars are being deployed, yet they have no clue where those tax dollars are being incredibly misappropriated. It costs more to enforce, protect, arrest, incarcerate, and manage post-incarceration our addicted “criminals” than it would if we were to eliminate the criminal component and actually treat the addiction. Imagine the financial opportunity if law enforcement, courts, and jails had their workload reduced by 60%.  Imagine the fiscal savings available if that money was redirected to treat the addiction issue. Housing a criminal in jail costs 150% of what it costs to treat an addict in a residential treatment program. We are wasting our time “protecting society” from non-violent felons when we could be providing non-violent felons with programs to assist them and get them out of the cycle of addiction and incarceration, which benefits all of society.

Allow me to provide a personal two-part example of how pathetically messed up our system is.

Part One: Three years ago, my son was ordered to attend a treatment program relating to shoplifting and possession. It took him two weeks to get into a Medicaid supported program. He went to the treatment facility every morning for two weeks until he was finally admitted – meaning they had room for him. He was there for three days before he was required to attend a hearing related to different shoplifting issue.

He was pulled out of the treatment program to attend this hearing.  At the hearing, the judge sentenced him to 60 days in jail and required him to start serving that sentence immediately. Immediately, he goes from a court ordered treatment to court ordered jail. Upon his release, he is required to attend the original court ordered treatment. When he goes back to the treatment facility he is turned away because he has been clean for over 60 days. They cannot use these Medicaid funds to pay for his treatment because he has not used for 60 days.

Now, he is not able to honor his court ordered obligations because he was forced to honor another court ordered obligation. He is in limbo until he relapses. Ironic, since the supposed purpose of this whole exercise, in theory, was to rehabilitate him while punishing him for his crimes. This entire situation reflects utter and complete nonsensical incompetence.

Part Two -Today: My son was clean for over six months. Given, he was hiding from the law, in plain view for the same previously mentioned issues. During this time period, he has actively engaged in weekly counseling, group therapy sessions, morning prayer group, and attending a local church.  All these things in conjunction with each other were working. This was the longest period of sustained, self-driven recovery in his ten-year addiction journey.

Unfortunately, with all fugitives, he was eventually picked up in late April. At the hearing, the judge acknowledged all the work he had done and gave him a kind and supportive two-month jail sentence, which he happily, gladly served. When he was released from jail, his probation officer, going off of a year-old report about his past behaviors, told him he had to live in a sober living facility.

At this facility, he would not have access to any of the four activities that were working for him. Instead, he would be required to play by their rules and participate in their treatment program which is 12-step based. For the record, despite their overwhelming popularity, my son and I are adamant that 12-step based programs for substance abuse are outdated and moderately successful. Instead of plugging him into what was working, they plugged him into something that wasn’t working, nor ever worked. Despite the efforts to interact with the probation officer to explore how to incorporate some of his effective treatment activities by my son’s counselor, the PO was not at all interested.

As was predictable, my son made a stupid choice earlier this week, used, got kicked out of the sober living facility and now expected to go to Plan B – Salvation Army. The Salvation Army has a great program and a high level of success. This is a reasonable alternative, except my son has walked out of Salvation Army twice before. I can predict how this is going to go.

Instead of understanding what works, why it works and exploring avenues to incorporate things that have proven to work, the PO because of his ignorance, stupidity, poor training, workload or all the above, chose to ignore everything my son asked him, rather pleaded him to consider.

I understand, accept and acknowledge the poor choice and historically poor choices my son has made.  I am sharing this not to excuse or condone his reckless decisions. However, I would love to know who is holding the PO accountable for his reckless, irresponsible treatment of the situation? Who is monitoring the efficacy of the sober living home’s treatment facility (where I paid cash for him to stay)?

Ultimately, this is a perfect example of how the system failed the addict.  This is not the only story of its type. Yes, the addict failed the opportunity presented to him. However, it was not a program where he had any opportunity to consult or collaborate with a treatment methodology which would benefit him. Isn’t this what we are supposed to be providing – a path to recovery and rehabilitation?

I am completely disappointed and disgusted by the way our society treats the downtrodden. Until you find yourself in this situation, do not judge or comment from the safety and protection of your ignorance.

The system is irreparably broken. Something needs to be done. It needs to be done quickly. We need to get out of the politics of policy and process and deal with the issue before us. Our children are dying, while others profit directly and indirectly, and society is bearing the cost of both.

Addiction in the Family, featured, Parenting and Addiction , , , , , , ,
About Dave Cooke

Dave Cooke is a dad on a mission. His mission is to help parents get control of their lives over the powerful, destructive influences of a child's addiction. As the father of a son in a ten year heroin battle, Dave knows all to well the challenges parents and families face. He also knows there is a way to find peace in the chaos. It is his mission to help parents discover their path to a healthier, balanced life even if a child's active addiction is still part of their daily journey.

  1. Yes! This is every parents and addicts experience. There are some exceptions. I have personally contacted my state representatives and the Presidents team. Every- single-parent needs to band together and place so much pressure and awareness on the issues and offer concrete solutions backed by data. If we consistently prove the financial drain- that will change things if nothing else does. I want to be part of the think tank. We can change things.

    • The biggest obstacle to getting parents to band together is each causal organization is its own silo. Politics, ego, pride, and protection prevent many groups from collaborating as one voice. It is frustrating and disappointing. We don’t have a deep pocket voice on our side to drive this agenda yet. Someday we may find a way. Agree, it is critical if we are too facilitate and drive change.

  2. I am completely with you on all of this! The system is not geared at all to help addicts and if they are on Medicaid — like my son as well — there are very few choices for them when it comes to rehab facilities. Some of them are so bad, my son refused to go — no matter how badly he needed the help in coming off heroin. The hospital nurse even told him, “I know it’s yucky there, but that’s all your insurance will pay for.” And unless they are writhing in pain on the floor and vomiting, even the bad places will turn them away. If they have come this far without detox help, then they should be good on their own. It’s then the parent who has to assist in supporting their addict child during the intense waves of anxiety that hit during detox — anxiety that’s so severe, it often leads them right back to the drugs that started this. The cycle is terrifying, heartbreaking and unfair. If the system helped more, perhaps some of these addicts would recover and get back into society as productive participants. And if they don’t fit the broken 12-step box (which doesn’t really help my son either), then help them do what does work. Have some compassion instead of treating them like they are crap! Treating them like crap helps them continue to feel like worthless people and feeling worthless leads them back to drugs. The opiate problem is so bad everywhere. There are so many people who are good inside and want to heal, but can’t because the system won’t let them.

    My son has a four year addiction history — started with Percocet for fun thanks to an introduction to that by his girlfriend and eventually led to heroin which was cheaper. Fortunately, he never used needles, because if he did, I am afraid I would lose him to it forever. He’s currently clean – went through detox on his own at home with Xanax and weed to help with the anxiety, because no decent facility would take him with his Medicaid insurance. There were days I cried endlessly with him as he struggled to keep from using as a result of the anxiety. All the while having to act like nothing is wrong at home with everyone else. It’s a weight that those who haven’t been through it wouldn’t understand. He’s now in an outpatient rehab program, which he hates, but has to attend in order to get his job back. And, his job won’t take him back until his urine is clean and because marijuana stays in your urine for so long, it’s still showing up. I’m hoping he’s able to go back to work and start feeling productive, before he gives up and goes back to what hurt his life (and vicariously mine) so much.

    If the system had been there for him, he would have had the assistance and professional support he needed to get through this quicker without falling multiple times in the middle of it. I don’t condone his choices, but I know his heart and it’s a good one. He cries and says, “Do you think I wanted to be a drug addict!” I know he wishes he could go back and never have touched an opiate, but he can’t. The system needs to help these people who really do want help.

  3. My son was sent to prison for 3 1/2 years for a non-violent, heroin related charge. His sister actually overdosed and died while he was there, so obviously no closure for him. He and I both asked for counseling for his addiction and her death, rehab or some sort of treatment. Anything!!! All to no avail!!! He was using again 2 weeks after he was released and he NEVER used while in prison. He ended up overdosing and dying as well. So much more money spent for his years in prison than what would have gone towards treatment on the outs. And we had good insurance so the state didn’t even have to cover the costs. I want so badly for treatment vs incarceration. How do I make this happen?!?!!!

    • Michelle, we need to continue the fight we have engaged in. We need to spend time with our legislators and get them to understand what they currently don’t. We need to have a Governor who invests money in something other than private prison contractors. All we can do is stand up, step in, and make certain our voices are being heard.

    • Michelle, I am so very sorry you lost two children to this disease. I can’t imagine your pain. Know you are in my thoughts and prayers.

  4. I understand you completely. I am dealing with my son who is a meth addict for 10 years, pills, alcohol and cocaine prior to that. Placed him in treatment again today through Medicaid. He’s been in treatment more times than I can remember. Such a sad disease. Until you live with an addict you’ll never understand the disease!

  5. This is so, so true. The system is set up for Failure. The percentage of criminals that are in jail due to crimes that are a result of being on drugs is staggering. Let’s treat addiction issues and help people to move forward in life!

  6. What you are saying here is the absolute truth! I have experienced much of what you are stating here. My son is currently serving 3.5 years in AZ DOC for a non-violent $172 theft from a big box store. This wasn’t his first offense so they threw the book at him. I sent emails and letters to my representatives at the local level and never heard back from one of them. I also sent letters to our 2 senators and received a boilerplate letter back stating it wasn’t their problem, contact local government. I also sent this same letter to all the local TV stations, with no response. The only person that responded to me, was Debbie Moak.
    Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family
    1700 W. Washington, Suite 230, Phoenix, AZ 85007
    O (602) 542-1773 | M (602) 339-9134 | F 602-542-3423

    Our system is broken and that is an understatement. When my son went to prison, he was sober for 7 months, had a job paying $16.50 per hour with full benefits and lived in an house with 2 other sober men. He had worked so very hard at getting his life back. He was so proud of himself. The AZ DA office wouldn’t listen to any of this. All they could see was a person that had 3 felonies for theft and it was a numbers game to them. So back in the system went my son. What a waste. There are so many drugs in the prisons it is disgusting. Everyone knows this but yet no one does anything about it. I’m disgusted….and don’t even get me started on the probation and parole officers. What a joke.

    Thank you for fighting the fight.

  7. drugs are literally the worst thing I have ever faced in my surrounding, the government should talk a high reaction on this. it brings a major defect in youth, unfortunately, this is spreading day by day in schools and everywhere.

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