Charles Johnston – Today’s Face of Recovery

It is my great pleasure to introduce Charles Johnston – today’s Face of Recovery, who has graciously agreed to share his story of heroin addiction and recovery.

Why share?

There is a great deal of confusion, stigma, shame and discrimination surrounding addiction and addiction treatment and recovery. Yet those who have the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction and are in recovery live healthy, productive, engaged lives — the same kinds of lives as people who do not have this disease. But all the words and definitions and explanations in the world are not as powerful as the people themselves. To that end, we are grateful to the people in recovery who have decided to share their experiences so that we all may put a Face to Addiction Treatment and Recovery.

Please meet Charles Johnston, Co-founder and Treatment Coordinator for Ibogaine University – Today’s Face of Addiction Recovery.

How did your addiction start?

Charles Johnston - In Recovery from Heroin Addiction since January 2013. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

Charles Johnston – In Recovery from Heroin Addiction since January 2013. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

I grew up very religious. I was taught to avoid alcohol, drugs, and anything that would deter me from focusing on my religion. However, many of my family members, although they had grown up this way, had their own relationships with different types of drugs, mostly psychedelic drugs, but also some of them were into hard stuff.

I made it through high school without ever drinking alcohol or using any drugs. However, after high school, and after leaving home and being on my own for a few years, I began to hang around different types of people, and, after some time, I started partying and I had my first experiences with alcohol.

Being a curious person, and having friends around me that were experimenting with other types of drugs, I began trying many different substances. Mostly different psychedelic drugs and Marijuana.

I was under the impression that most of these drugs were harmless. And, although the argument can be made for this, these drugs also led me down the path to trying other drugs.

By about 2009 I had tried about everything. Cocaine, Meth, Ecstasy, and although I enjoyed using these drugs, I never felt addicted, and I would use one substance or another about once a week. I was in college, being productive, and it was just part of my routine. I always felt like I was a very strong willed person and I never felt like I could be addicted to a substance, I wouldn’t let myself.

Then I tried heroin.

It started small, but my addiction grew rapidly. Within a month I was hooked.

Then it began taking over my life.

I began using needles to shoot up, missing classes, lost jobs, ruined relationships, and selling drugs in order to make enough money to use. My life began to be all about heroin. It had taken over my mind and my body. I was using everyday. I couldn’t stop, even though I tried countless times.

What was the turning point for you – what made you want to get sober?

Overdose is very common with heroin addicts. My turning point was my second overdose.

I went to a friends house to shoot up. With heroin, it’s common knowledge that after you shoot up, if you feel tingly all over, then you are in trouble.

We sat on the floor, and I prepared my shot. After I took the drug, I noticed my entire body getting tingly.

The next thing I remember I was lying on the floor with my friend working as hard as he could to resuscitate me. I had been out for about 15 minutes.

And this wasn’t the first time. This was my second time overdosing.

After 2 of these similar experiences I knew that I was going to die if I didn’t stop using heroin. Next time, I probably wouldn’t wake up.

What was your initial treatment?

I had tried quitting cold turkey before and it never worked for me. The withdrawals, the pain, anxiety, and depression. It was really hard to go through all that. I had gone weeks, a few times even months, without using, but it never worked out and even in those instances I was still using some substance to feel ok, whether it be alcohol, pot, or worse.

Friends were also a bad influence, and it’s hard to get rid of your bad friends when they seem to be your only friends.

I had been recently studying a drug called Ibogaine. Supposedly you could go down to Mexico, enter a treatment center, they would administer this Ibogaine to you, and it would take you through the withdrawal stages in about a 24 hour period. After that, you would be clean and have no withdrawals. It was basically the cure for heroin.

I really didn’t have any other choices. I didn’t want to die. I needed to quit. I had tried everything else. And I knew that inside myself I didn’t want to use, I wanted to accomplish major goals in my life. I wanted a new direction.

So, I sold all my remaining possessions, took the last of my money, and along with a student loan for my last semester of college, I had enough money to spend on a prayer–Ibogaine treatment.

My experience was similar to most people that have taken Ibogaine. I went through a very spiritual and exhausting psychedelic experience. I thought about my family, my friends, the people I had hurt, and mostly how much I had been hurting myself.

I thought about what I wanted to accomplish, what I needed to do to accomplish it, and I hoped this Ibogaine would actually do what I needed it to do.

After that experience, and a few days of recovery, it worked. I didn’t have withdrawals, I felt like a new person. I haven’t touched heroin since.

Do you do anything differently, today?

I was very much into fitness before this whole addiction experience. Even during my heroin use I would workout sporadically. Now I have a very concentrated focus on my physical health, working out, yoga, nutrition, anything I can to keep my mind focused on being something extraordinary. I know that focusing on these aspects will continue to help me stay off heroin while also respecting who I am.

What is your life like, now?

Well, after the Ibogaine experience I decided that was my life goal, to help others who needed help. So, along with a few other individuals that had been through the same experience as I had, I co-founded an Ibogaine treatment center so that other’s could find the strength I had found.

I finished my Bachelor’s degree from UCLA and I have, most importantly, stayed off opiates ever since.

I am only alive today because of these experiences. I don’t intend to ever use narcotics again.

Do you have anything you’d like to share with someone currently struggling with a substance abuse problem or an addiction? How about anything you’d like to share with their family or friends?

The only advice I have is, you need help. I know that if, during the early phases of using heroin use, if I had just been open about the seriousness of my addiction with my friends and family that were closest to me, I may not have sunk so deep into my addiction. Addiction makes you turn your back on those you love. If you can be open and get help from those around you, you may have a good chance at beating your addiction.

Find a treatment that works for you. It doesn’t matter what treatment, just find the one that works for you. Get off the drugs as fast as you can. It only takes one bad day and one bad decision to alter your life forever and the opposite is true also, so make the better choice for you.

What is the best part about your recovery?

Waking up and being free everyday to make my own decisions. This is by far the most important part of my recovery. I no longer have to ask a drug to make me happy, to turn to heroin before I can start my day, to take a pill before I can function. I make my own decisions, I control my own destiny.

Thank you so very much, Charles, for sharing your story, and CONGRATULATIONS on almost 2 years RECOVERY!

If you are interested in learning more about Charles, his experiences, his recovery and his Ibogaine Treatment method, visit Ibogaine Charles can be reached via


You may also wish to “meet” others sharing their recovery stories with by clicking on this link, Faces of Recovery.


Sober? Meet Someone New | Guest Author Antoine Nauleau

Antoine Nauleau, CEO and Founder of the Sober, a new and upcoming app for recovery social networking.

Antoine Nauleau, CEO and Founder of the Sober, a new and upcoming app for recovery social networking.

Being sober brings all sorts of changes – not the least of which is figuring out how to “live” your life sober and move away from your old friends and hang-outs – the ones that might trigger a relapse. For this very reason, I was thrilled to meet Antoine Nauleau, CEO and Founder of Sober, the first and soon to be released social networking app for people in recovery or people wanting to meet people who choose not to use substances. I invited Antoine to answer a series of questions about his new app. I’m sure you’ll agree, this will be an incredible tool! You can also find Antoine on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+.

Q. So how did you come up with the idea for this application?

A. My family comes from a technology background and since a young age, I have always been interested in Software. As I started to experience struggles in my life due to addiction, that entire part of my life was put on pause. Having started to live a life of recovery, I went back to my roots to follow my passion, and began working for a software company. During my time there, and being part of a recovery group, I thought to myself “what if I brought the social aspect of recovery to technology?” Hence Sober was born, and the idea has evolved from there.

Q. What are you trying to achieve with Sober?

A. Our mission statement is described as: “Addiction is one of the biggest struggles anyone can go through People die everyday, and don’t receive a second chance at life. Our dream is to create a community of people that are interconnected at all times. We want to guarantee success by helping people in recovery meet, socialize, and reach out for support when it’s needed.” We try very hard to stay true to this.

Q. So having looked at the website, I saw that there is a dating aspect to the app, Is Sober a dating app then?


Preview of the dating portion of the Sober app.


Preview of the dating portion of the Sober app.

A. Sober is a recovery social network and is much more than just a dating app. With my experience, I tried to include all the features that one might want in a social network for people in recovery. Moreover, dating becomes an intricate part of recovery, with many issues as well as opportunities. The question of how and where to date is raised—previously many of us would meet a significant other at a bar or a night out. Since dating becomes such a big part of recovery, I believe that having a dating aspect to the app was crucial.

Q. What are some of the other features available on the application then?

A. As I mentioned, Sober is a social network, so one could expect to ultimately find all of the features present in a social network. For our first release of the application, we have included the features of tweeting, essentially posting to a news feed a short statement, letting all of your friends know about anything you want—going to this meeting tonight or fellowshipping at the billiard’s club after the 8:00 pm meeting. We’ve also including the aspect of friends, where you can search for people, friend request them, message them, et cetera. In addition to this, a user has the option of posting their sobriety date and/or if they are available for sponsorship, aiding people to find friends with long term sobriety or a sponsor. We’ve also included a “Help” feature, which can put you in contact with different recovery institutions directly, and a hotline that you can call in times of distress.

Q. Can you go into more depth about the “Help” features?

sober_helpA. Sure, so during my experience in trying to get sober it was always a struggle to find the right place for some help. With our collective experiences at Sober, we have partnered with some of the best recovery institutions. When you access the help page there a few icons present, such as “Doctor”, “Hospital”, “Detox”, “Rehabilitation”, “Sober Living”, “Other/Hotline”. The user can click these icons, and with our location sensitive algorithm, the user will be matched with the nearest institution to them that we have chosen to partner with. The user will then be put into contact with this institution.

Q. What is this hotline feature you have, who runs it?

A. We are actually handling the hotline feature ourselves. You can expect to be put in contact with one of our employees directly or even myself, ready to help you. Sober is really trying to be in direct contact with its users and help as much as possible.

Q. Will people have to pay for the application?

A. The application is actually free!

Q. How do you envision this helping people? How about people in early recovery?

A. One of my biggest struggles in early recovery was to build a strong foundation of close friends and support. Having a strong support group is imperative of a successful recovery and it can sometimes take time to achieve this. We’re hoping that Sober will help accelerate this process for people in early recover, ultimately helping them to integrate seamlessly into a recovery group. For people already with long-term sobriety, the application helps maintain relationships, socialize, meet new people, as well as gives you the opportunity to give back and help others in need.

Q. So if I understand this correctly, Sober is not only for recovering Alcoholics and Addicts then?

A. No, Sober is open to everyone. My belief is that addiction is addiction, in any shape or form, and anyone struggling with addiction experiences similar feelings, and therefore needs the same kind of support.

Q. Do you have to be part of a 12-Step meeting denomination?

A. This is another topic that hinders a lot of peoples’ recovery. Some people do not manage to align with the principles and ideology of 12-Step programs, and therefore feel like they cannot get the help they need. There is not only one way to get sober, and we are trying to bring everyone together, whichever way you manage to recover.

Q. What about people who aren’t in recovery, but want to meet people with a similar lifestyle – say someone who doesn’t drink or focused on their career.

Sober is not only for people in recovery. People who want to date people who don't use substances will find it helpful, too.

Sober is not only for people in recovery. People who want to date people who don’t use substances will find it helpful, too.

A. Sober is open to everyone! The common ideology is that people on the application are sober, but if you have some interest in meeting people in recovery, or that are living a spiritual lifestyle, the app is open to you too.

Q. Well thank you Antoine, when can we expect to see the application live?

A. The application is still in a prototype phase, but you can expect to see it live this coming February. In the mean time though, visit our website for updates and sign up for our waiting list to be one of the first people to receive the app once it’s done!

Q. Are there any other sneak peeks that can you can spoil us with?

A. We definitely have some more features in mind, especially relating around meetings and finding them. I can’t say too much, but it will be a neat feature.

Recovery and Mental Health | Time for a Tune-Up

Recovery and mental health go hand in hand. I know, because I took the long, hard way to understanding this concept. Sure you can have one without the other. I know that, too. But it’s when I have both that my life really takes off – not to great heights or things, necessarily, rather to great contentment, peace and serenity.

But as I head into my 34th year of recovery from eating disorders – bulimia and anorexia – and find myself mid-way through my 12th year of recovery from secondhand drinking, I’ve made an appointment to meet with my former therapist — the one I last saw in 2006. I realize I’m in need of a mental health tune-up. Something’s not quite right, and I can’t figure it out, in spite of all my growth and recovery.

Life Before Recovery From Eating Disorders

For those who don’t know my story, Thanksgiving is the day I quietly celebrate my sobriety from bulimia. It was around Halloween 1981 (I’d recently turned 28) when I chanced to read a small column piece in Newsweek magazine that talked about a woman who’d been eating huge quantities of food and then throwing it up – for seven years. The column went on to call this behavior, bulimarexia. I’d never heard the term but just reading that someone else was doing what I’d been doing for the prior 11 years, and that she’d stopped, dropped me to my knees.

I write, “quietly celebrate,” because back in the day eating disorders where not talked about, although I was able to tell my parents after reading that article. In fact their search for help only turned up one doctor who was treating eating disorders. He treated them as a phobia — in my case, a fear of getting fat, he explained.

And so he referred me to a group of other phobics — people afraid of spiders, leaving their homes, heights, flying, closed spaces…. There was only two of “us” – one anorexic and myself. I must say I was relieved to finally meet someone else who was doing what I had done 11 years previously, before I started bingeing and purging — someone who spent their days and nights trying not to eat. By the time I was down to 95 pounds, my daily food intake topped out at one can of shrimp with catsup and lots and lots of carrots. For some reason, I decided I wanted to eat more than I didn’t want to eat, but once I started eating, it wasn’t long before I was eating way too much of anything and everything. It started out occasionally and then moved to more days than not until I was eventually bingeing and purging up to six times a day by the end.

But it was the self-loathing; the constant verbal self-flagellation as to the weak, worthless, pathetic piece of shit I was; the guilt; the shame; the ugly volley of ping-pong ball style thoughts about why I didn’t stop that left any moments of inactivity or reflection in shards; and the endless, broken promises to self, “this is the last time, really,” that were in such contrast to the highly successful, senior executive businesswoman, the shroud of myself people saw, the one who gave Oscar worthy performances as Lisa, that nice girl who _____________ (fill in the blank – is my boss, lives in apartment 74, is my daughter, dates that guy, is so much fun to go dancing with, spoke at our conference, wrote that article, is such a good friend, …). [Picture leaving your office and walking several buildings down the street, entering that building, taking the elevator to the 5th floor, hustling to the bathroom at the end of the hall (because you knew their toilets flushed thoroughly the first time), taking the stall at the end of the line, purging the feeding frenzy you'd managed during and after a business luncheon while maintaining a coherent conversation with the participants by shoving three fingers down your throat until the pile of regurgitated food was topped by bile, and then calmly washing your hands, adjusting your suit and returning to your office for your next meeting, as if nothing had happened.]

So the whole phobia thing didn’t make sense to me, but I had no words to explain why I did what I did, so I attended a couple of that doctor’s phobia sessions and then decided to quit and follow what the woman in the Newsweek article did – I learned to re-eat using nutrition and exercise. [This link, Eating Disorders | Anorexia and Bulimia, takes you to a previous article of mine that describes how I finally broke the binge/purge cycle.]

Where the Recovery and Mental Health Connection Comes In

What I did NOT do at that time was heal my heart, which I now understand really means to heal my brain; to do what I needed to do to restore my mental health; to unravel the deeply embedded brain maps of unhealthy coping skills I’d adopted to block out, cope with and shout down the other voices — the voices that never stopped chattering about my role, my fault, my inability to stop the sexual assault that’d occurred more than a decade before and the profound, compounding impacts of secondhand drinking that I’d continued to experience.

By the time I began my secondhand drinking recovery journey, I was desperate for mental health.

By the time I began my secondhand drinking recovery journey, I was desperate for mental health.

Instead, back in the day, I knuckled down. I learned to re-eat and I quietly celebrated each year of not bingeing and purging with a silent kudo to self at Thanksgiving. And, I became a workaholic and then a super mom and then an even more hyper vigilant hawk who saw every move of every person and inserted herself as often as she felt necessary into every situation in order to “fix” the various alcoholics | alcohol abusers and the scores of others whose lives were crumbling in the wake of secondhand drinking because I knew their pain. I knew they meant it when they promised to stop, but like my bulimia, I didn’t understand why they couldn’t and found theirs even more baffling because you don’t need alcohol to survive the way you need food.

So by 2003, when I finally began my secondhand drinking recovery journey, I’d bite off the words, “I’m FINE,” when asked how I was or “Are you okay?” But as the image to the right shows, I was A N Y T H I N G but FINE.

And for those who don’t know this part of my journey, it began in 2003 when one of my loved ones entered residential rehab for alcoholism. I will be forever grateful to the family therapist at the treatment center. She was truly a godsend for she finally put words to what I’d been experiencing for almost four decades. She called it codependency and called me a codependent. I baulked at the label but was so done with feeling FINE, I listened as she, and the others who were in the rooms with me, described to a “T” what my life was like. Hearing their stories and that they’d not only survived but thrived, once again dropped me to my knees.  I took her advice and attended as many family therapy meetings as I could, started attending Al-Anon and found a therapist – one who specialized in treating family members who are so deeply affected by this family disease. And I did what I do — I went in search of facts to answer my biggest question, “Why ‘they’ called alcoholism a disease?”

I buried myself in research — lots of research, and I found the new, revolutionizing information on the brain, stress, addiction, risk factors, childhood trauma, brain developmental processes and so much more to be life-changing. And in that process of individual therapy, research, Al-Anon and family therapy, I finally found mental health. It’s one thing to have knowledge (like that which I had with how to use nutrition and exercise to stop bingeing and purging), but it’s entirely another thing to be free of the voices.

In Need of a Mental Health Tune-up

So now I come full-circle, back to my initial point — recovery and mental health go hand-in-hand. Yes, I could keep going and would be FINE, but I don’t want to be FINE (not that I’m anywhere near as bad off as I once was, to be sure), I want to be content, at peace. I’ve given my tried and true recovery tools a go — the information about the brain and re-wiring brain maps, changing where you think, talking with people who understand where I’m coming from, increasing self-care, meditating more, spending more time in nature, prayer and quiet listening, insuring I eat nutrition-rich foods, getting adequate sleep and exercise. But for some reason, it’s just not clicking this time. However, now I know enough to understand that sometimes recovery is knowing when you need help and then asking for it. I go to the doctor to relieve physical pain in a heartbeat. I consider seeking relief for mental health pain no differently.

And what I love about my therapist (aside from the amazing cognitive behavioral therapy work we did) is that he didn’t make a career out of me. I found him through the Addictions Institute in 2003 and worked with him for three years. In 2006, he felt I was on solid ground and so did I. And I was. Thanks to my arsenal of recovery tools just described, which I found and honed through therapy, Al-Anon, family therapy and research, my life really took off. I kept growing and changing in my recovery from secondhand drinking, now in its 12th year, which meant I was healing the underpinnings of my eating disorders, though I’d been in recovery from those far longer.

But as I’ve mentioned, something’s not right, right now, and I haven’t been able to figure it out. Whatever “this” is, I’m not worried, though. I just know it’s time. Time for a mental-health tune-up. I want my groove back because for me, recovery is mental health and mental health is recovery.

P.S. After I initially published this post, I found this article, Why People Forget Details But Maintain Reactions to Traumatic Events

Drug Addiction – Not My Son | Part II by Mother D

Drug Addiction – not my child! - is a common refrain. Parents can’t even imagine let alone consider their child may be developing (yes, developing) or have the brain disease of addiction. This is due in large part to society’s utter lack of understanding about the nature of this brain disease, the key risk factors contributing to its development and what parents can do to halt the progression or help their child once it’s taken hold. Yet, “[a]dolescence is the critical period both for starting to smoke, drink or use other drugs and for experiencing more harmful consequences as a result. The teen brain is primed to take risks including experimenting with these substances and, because it is still developing, it is more vulnerable to their harmful effects,” according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Use at Columbia University’s 2011 report, “Adolescent Substance Use: America’s #1 Public Health Problem,” page i.]

It's not uncommon to hear parents say, "Not my son," when it comes to talking about a child's drug misuse | addiction. Mother D is one such mother and will be sharing her story beginning with today's Part I: The Journey Begins.

It’s not uncommon to hear parents say, “Not my child,” when it comes to talking about a child’s drug misuse | addiction. Mother D is one such mother and is sharing her story in installments and continues with today’s “Not My Son, Part II: What Next?”

It is a great honor to carry this series, “Drug Addiction – Not My Son,” by Mother D, which is obviously a pseudonym for the real mom, a pseudonym still necessary, today, in order to protect her son’s identify because of the shame and stigma that surrounds this disease of addiction. To shatter this shame and help other parents avoid her family’s nightmare, Mother D has chosen to share the story of her son’s addiction and his and her own recovery journey.

Not My Son, Part II: What Next? by Mother D

During Part I of “Not My Son,” I explained how a terse sounding social worker called and told me that friends had checked my son, Ron, into the emergency room at a hospital close to their college campus. Ron was psychotic due to drug use, and she suggested that I fly out to his aid. Two hours later, that’s virtually all I knew as I flew over several states to help him.

Shifting nervously in my seat, I wondered what I would find when arriving at the hospital. I imagined making my way to Ron’s bedside where he would be sedated yet safe and attended by compassionate nurses concerned about his welfare. Eventually a doctor would meet with me to explain Ron’s condition and what course of action the medical team would pursue for his recovery. It was going to be a hard stretch, I realized, but I was hopeful that in a short period of time, with good medical care, Ron would come to his senses, contrite and remorseful for his reckless behavior.

It, therefore, came as quite a surprise when, after touch down, I turned my cellphone on and read a text from Ron. Apparently, he was waiting outside for me at the United curb. “What in the world?” I asked myself completely puzzled. Had Ron really been released from the hospital? Clearly, I thought, they wouldn’t release him unless he was stable, especially so late at night. After all, my flight had landed shortly before midnight. Maybe there was some mistake? Could they have misdiagnosed his condition? He must not be that bad off, I concluded.

Head full of questions, I grabbed my bag and wheeled it outside. From a distance I saw Ron’s dark silhouette in front of a bright streetlight at the side of the road. “Hey there!” I waved to no response. “Hi, sweetheart!” I said louder as I got closer. I let go of my bag and gave him a hug. He barely raised his arms to hug me back. Then in an almost inaudible flat tone he whispered, “Am I going to be ok?” I stepped back, and without hesitation responded, “Of course you are!” But as I saw his eyes clearly for the first time that night, an icy blast of fear hit my gut, and I wasn’t so sure. It was as though I was looking into the hollow, lifeless eyes of a zombie, and I knew right then I had landed in a nightmare.

An Early Landmine

This is where I need to break into my story and point out a landmine (as I promised to do in Part I): When it comes to mental health crises—especially if the crisis has anything to do with drug abuse—DO NOT expect the same treatment you would get in the case of a physical crisis from the medical community.

For example, I have two sisters who (both on separate occasions) received “the call” telling them to make haste to their respective son’s side at an ER. Both sons had been in accidents and were physically in critical condition. However, in both cases, teams of medical specialists rushed to the boys’ aid, evaluating their conditions, taking life-sustaining measures and counseling my sisters and their husbands regarding medical choices.

My nephews’ accidents were terrible and traumatic, and it took a long time for them to recover. I do not mean to be trivializing their situation; however, their medical treatment lies in sharp contrast to my son’s.

Whereas my nephews’ physical health crises elicited a strong mobilization of compassionate doctors who kicked it into high gear to help, Ron was given a gruff “once-over” and discharged from the hospital almost immediately. Whereas my sisters and their husbands were contacted and then fully embraced by a communicative and inclusive hospital team, my husband and I were contacted, then forgotten. (They didn’t even wait for my arrival! Nor did they include us in the decision to release Ron late at night to a scared friend, one totally unqualified to handle his condition.) And, in retrospect, I now know that when I found Ron standing virtually alone on a street curb around midnight, he was in just as life-threatening a medical crisis as his nephews had been. He just wasn’t bleeding.

Ron handed me the discharge paper from the hospital. “Psychosis due to poly-substance abuse” had been circled as the diagnosis, and there was a quick scribble to the side: “visit mental health clinic at student health center tomorrow.” That was all the information and instruction the hospital had released him with.

Ron’s friend (who had driven Ron to the airport and then waited in a designated parking area) was able to fill me in on a few pre-hospital details, but he could offer me no more information about Ron’s release than what was handed to me on the paper. We drove in uncomfortable silence to a hotel close to campus where Ron and I checked in.

The Nightmare Begins in Earnest

The rest of that night was, as I had intuited earlier, an unqualified nightmare. Ron, terrified with paranoia and hallucinations, was inconsolable, and I was not able to calm him down until a few merciful beams of morning light began to peak in through the hotel windows. Fully dressed and curled in a fetal position, he finally fell asleep. I, of course, couldn’t.

While Ron was awake, any attempt I made to use my cellphone would send him into a paranoid rave. So, it was only after he slept that I could communicate with Ron’s father, Bryan. “Find Ron a psychiatrist in the area, fast!” I desperately texted. Bryan texted me back after some time that he had made many telephone calls but couldn’t immediately make contact with anyone. He would keep trying, he assured me.

Shaky with exhaustion, fear and anxiety, I sat on the bed next to Ron and wondered what to do next. Should I take Ron back to the hospital? No, I decided. The hospital hadn’t helped and had already sent him away; plus I knew Ron wouldn’t go back. Ron was enraged about the harsh, in fact “torturous,” treatment he reported being given at the ER.

Should I take him home? I shuddered as I thought about trying to get Ron through security at the airport, given the irrational, highly agitated mental state he was in. Nor could I rent a car and make the long drive back home safely for the same reason.

Until Bryan could find help from his end, there was nothing else I could do besides wait for Ron to wake up and take him, as suggested by his discharge paper, to the student health center.

Totally alone with the weight of my son’s sanity on my shoulders, I began to cry with a disbelief and a dark grief I had never experienced before. I wanted to reach out to someone, but there was no one, besides Bryan, that I could reach out to. Unlike my sisters who had no qualms about reaching out to their community (family and friends who then sprang into action delivering meals and flowers, holding prayer circles and sending cards and letters of support), there was no one I knew who could offer me empathy and compassion about a son gone mad with too many drugs.

And, because it was a mental crisis involving drugs, I wasn’t sure if anything should be communicated to anyone besides Ron’s father. If word got out, I was certain there would be grave consequences for Ron. I was afraid it would, for example, destroy his reputation, and because Ron had already landed a post-graduation dream job, I was sure he would lose it. And what about future jobs?

No, this had to be kept quiet. Bryan and I would find help for Ron and he would get better without anyone outside of my immediate family knowing. There would be no flowers, dinners, cards, letters of support, or even prayers made for us. We were going into battle alone.

Next Post: The Lonely Battle Begins

Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Domestic Violence | Karen Corcoran Walsh

The correlation between alcohol and drug abuse in domestic violence is the topic of today’s post by guest author, Karen Corcoran Walsh.

Karen Corcoran Walsh is the owner and co-founder of Inspirations for Youth and Families, a premier teen rehab. Karen also owns and runs the Cove Center for Recovery, an adult addiction treatment center. Karen has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show and will be a guest on the Ask Dr. Nandi, a nationally syndicated afternoon medical show this fall. She has also been featured on a host of other television programs and radio shows focused on teen behavior and substance abuse including “Teen Talk.”

The Impact of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Domestic Violence By Karen Corcoran Walsh

Founder of Inspirations for Youth and Families, Karen Corcoran Walsh shares today's guest post.

Founder of Inspirations for Youth and Families, Karen Corcoran Walsh shares today’s guest post.

Domestic violence victims are caught in a vicious cycle of trauma and fear – often living in an idled state – unable to break away from their perpetrator -sometimes for fear of their life and sometimes for fear of the safety of their friends and family.

The effect and impact it could have – especially if the perpetrator has made threats of violence and physical harm to the victim – often psychologically wears them down to the point where the person feels incapable of functioning independent of the relationship.

The perpetrator keeps the toxic relationship afloat by fluctuating from an abusive state to one where he or she uses rewards in the form gifts, terms of endearment, tokens of affection, and any other method which provides the victim a source of validation for staying in such an abusive relationship. This “rollercoaster” like existence places great uncertainty in the victim’s psyche and they become unable to discern the actual state or condition of the relationship

Victims of domestic violence are rarely on equal footing with the perpetrator. The relationship quickly turns from love to hate or reward to punishment keeping the victims in a perpetual state of flux. On top of this, in many instances the victim is undergoing other stressors in their life that contribute to their emotional torment.

The Alcohol and Drug Abuse component

Some of these stressors can be alcohol or drugs. While both forms of substance abuse and/or addiction do not directly cause domestic violence – there is a statistical correlation between the two conditions. What studies of domestic violence have found is that there is frequent high incidence of alcohol and other drug use by perpetrators during domestic abuse. The reality is that not only do batterers tend to abuse drugs and alcohol, but the probability that victims of domestic violence will turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with the abuse increases as well. Thus the cycle perpetuates.

Are Families a Breeding Ground for Domestic Violence?

As a founder of Inspirations for Youth and Families - one of the leading teen treatment centers in the nation, we have found a strong correlation between an adolescent turning to drugs and alcohol after being subjected or witness to domestic violence in their own home. The stories we hear on a continual basis are downright shocking.

Karen Corcoran Walsh provides this image to illustrate "a strong correlation between an adolescent turning to drugs and alcohol after being subjected or witnessed to domestic violence in their own home."

Karen Corcoran Walsh provides this image to illustrate the “strong correlation between an adolescent turning to drugs and alcohol after being subjected or witness to domestic violence in their own home.”

If these feelings of despair are not addressed at an early age, these teens are on a track to replicate the same mistakes their parents made and commit similar acts of domestic violence when they grow up and have relationships of their own.

A teen alcohol and drug addiction treatment center can be viewed as the front lines for protecting these teens from reenacting the same crimes that they have witnessed in their childhood. It is common for teens to turn to alcohol and drugs to shield themselves from the pain of living in a household where domestic abuse is a part of the very fabric of their family. Once addiction sets in they are vulnerable to continue the cycle of violence that has pained them throughout their childhood.

To better illustrate how a teen can get stuck in the domestic violence cycle, let’s take the story of a teen, who was raised in a household where drugs were commonplace and when he reached 12-years-of-age became a domestic violence perpetrator. Since this is a real life example, I have to warn you that the subject matter is disturbing, but portrays how substance abuse can easily lead to a life as a domestic violence perpetrator.

Ryan’s Story
I pretty much grew up around drugs my whole life. My mom’s family were all drug addicts and alcoholics and my uncle was a gang member. The first time I saw a family member do drugs was when I was seven years-old. I was riding in a car with my grandmother and she took out a joint and started smoking it in the car. One day my grandmother got drunk and high and threw me in a pool and I almost drowned

When growing up I had to go to three middle schools because I kept getting kicked out for fighting. I started fighting with people who looked at me the wrong way. When I was in seventh grade my 17-year-old sister got pregnant and everyone around school started talking bad about her to me calling her names. And my sister means everything to me especially since my brother died.

There was one time when I was getting on the school bus to go home and this 18-year-old called my sister a whore on the bus so I grabbed his head and smashed it through the window. I was fighting 17 and 18 year olds when I was 12 and I got beat up because they were older than me. One time my rage got so bad that I tried to kill my sister’s boyfriend. I went after him with a knife, but my dad stopped me.

Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel?

As a society, we don’t tolerate violent crimes against innocent victims and we should apply the same standards for domestic violence whether you are a famous athlete or the guy next door. Domestic violence is an age old problem. We need to change the narrative and educate the public about domestic violence. We also need to understand the connection between substance abuse and domestic violence. Until we get to this point, domestic violence will continue to soar and become another one of those neglected mental health conditions that exist today.