Change Addiction Now – United We C.A.N. | Steps of Change

More than 100 million Americans are affected by a loved one’s addiction, a brain disease that is still so tightly shrouded in secrecy and shame, making intervention, treatment and recovery difficult to find and pursue.

These 100 million Americans are the children, parents, siblings, grandparents, husbands, wives, in-laws and significant others of those whose brain disease has changed them and in the course of trying to help, changed their families, as well.

Thankfully, there’s an organization bringing the family voice to addiction and recovery – Change Addiction Now – United We C.A.N. 

Founded by ten women as a project of the Hub for Direct Community Action, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Change Addiction Now – United We C.A.N. aims to harness the enormous power of these 100 million family members to change the way addiction is treated, perceived, and legislated and to champion 21st Century research in the studies of brain, addiction, evidence-based treatment and evidence-based information for families.

Cindy Koumoutzis, Co-Founder of United We C.A.N. shares information on the annual "Steps of Change" event May 16, 2015.To that end, please find today’s guest post by Cindy Koumoutzis, Co-Founder of United We C.A.N., Regional Director, Ohio State Director and Chairperson of the second annual “Steps of Change” event on May 16

This event’s objective is to raise awareness, not only about the devastating disease of addiction, but about it’s devastating impacts on families, as well.


Families affected by drug addiction will participate in “Steps of Change” throughout the states to educate, empower and embrace those living with substance use disorder. They will bring attention to the shame and stigma associated with substance use disorder, while advocating for more evidence based treatment.

Each year, millions of people suffer from the disease of addiction and the majority of those who need treatment for do not receive it. Substance use disorders (SUD) are boundless; they affect every known race, demographic, and population regardless of existing socio-economic status. And statistics state that for each one affected by the disease, at least 5 family members are impacted. We know this number to be much higher.

Addiction is a brain disease. Scientists have defined the neuroscience, identified genetic components, developed effective medical treatments for substance use and alcohol disorder, and documented the chronic nature of this disorder with relapse risks and remission rates. Yet society’s misunderstanding of addiction is profound. Being a mom whose daughter has the disease of addiction, I have found it is not recognized as a disease, but more so a choice. A choice leading to overcrowded jails used as “treatment facilities.” I have found that Judges and parole officers make decisions regarding medications for their “offenders” with opioid use, promote inadequate 30 day treatment programs which only recycle the sick and federal disability laws do not consider the presence of severe SUD as sufficient criteria for receipt of disability benefits.

The shame and secrecy that blanket this disease of addiction is just as deadly as the disease itself. Stigma keeps families down, in, or away. Stigma takes away a family’s rights. Stigma on an individual level is part of what comprises SUD within a family. Over the past eight years, I have felt hopeless, worthless, and ashamed. Those thoughts and feelings intensify when during a hushed conversation I am reminded that I did something wrong, I had poor parenting skills or my discipline was lacking. Divorce. Financial difficulties. Worked too much. Didn’t work enough. Too many extra-curricular activities. Not enough. Never is it simply a disease.

Families are blamed for the choice of their child. We are quickly judged on our wrong behaviors. Enabling, Co-dependency and Leniency . And just as quickly told how to fix our child. Kick them out, let go, stop enabling, stop loving them to death and wait until they hit rock bottom. For many, this is death. No family should wait for this.

It is also interesting that our loved ones in recovery feel the need to defend the family due to previous shame and stigma. “I am in recovery. I came from a very good family. I had everything I needed. I was a great student and had lots of friends. There was a lot of love within my family and I had great times with my brothers and sisters. We were your average typical family.“

And lastly, words matter. Diseases have symptoms; people live with and manage these symptoms and our language should reflect this reality. My daughter who lives with a SUD is referred to as an “addict” or worse, a “junkie” far more than a “patient “or someone who has the “disease of addiction.” This wording conjures up a bad person who belongs in a jail cell, not someone worthy of receiving high quality medical care. Families and those living with a substance use disorder are boxed in by an outdated vocabulary that reflects the unfortunate view of individuals with SUD as being moral failures and criminals. At a time when SUD is finally beginning to come out of its darkness, now is the time to truly look at it through evidence based treatment — and that starts with stopping the shame, stigma and language. Only then can we help our children gain control over their illness and their lives and we as family members can begin to heal as well.


Change Addiction Now – United We CAN – 2014 “Steps of Change” Event

Yes, families impacted by substance use disorder face stigma and shame. We pay dearly for the disease of addiction. Financially, mentally, physically and most important, emotionally. And because of this, members of the national organization, Change Addiction Now (C.A.N.), are rallying across the country on Sunday May 16th at “Steps of Change” to help bring the family voice to addiction and recovery.

About Change Addiction Now – Steps of Change Event

State groups are holding Steps of Change events, which include a variety of activities including walks, runs, ceremonies, health fairs, and balloon releases. Each state’s program is different. Most groups will stage “Walk a Mile in my Shoes,” in which family members display a pair of shoes of those who continue to struggle or who have passed from the disease of addiction.

09e6465d3f7a9c9e9209964211f74ce0Steps of Change is a unified National effort to use the power of families affected by addiction to:
• Break the silence, the stigma and the shame
• Embrace evidence-based information and abandon outdated beliefs
• Show families affected by addiction that they are no longer alone

Each event is open to the public and everyone is encouraged to attend.

Change Addiction Now was started in 2014 by 10 mothers who met on Facebook. These women’s families were affected by substance use disorder. The group incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit and has already grown to more than 3,000 members in 18 state groups across the country

For more information, please visit our website or find us on Facebook. And to locate the Facebook page for your CAN state or one nearby, simply type CAN followed by the state.

Hope to see you on the steps – May 16th!

Anthony’s Act Petition – 90 Days Inpatient Treatment

Anthony P. Fiore died Saturday, May 31, 2014, at his home in Warrington. He had lost his battle with addiction. His parents, Cris and Valerie Fiore, are working to spread the word about heroin addiction and to gather signatures on their Anthony’s Act Petition to urge Congress to pass an amendment to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to provide a minimum of 90 days inpatient drug or alcohol treatment.

Why is the opportunity for a minimum of 90 days inpatient drug or alcohol treatment so important?

Because addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease, and we don’t heal a brain – the organ that controls everything a person thinks, feels, says and does – of this disease in 28 days, just as we don’t heal cancer in 28 days nor heart disease in 28 days.

To learn more about addiction and effective treatment, please visit The Addiction Project, a collaborate effort of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and HBO, or read NIDA’s, “Principles of Effective Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).”

Please find the following is guest post by Anthony’s father, Cris Fiore…

Fighting for a Minimum 90 Days Inpatient Treatment for Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Anthony Fiore

Anthony Fiore

My son Anthony died from heroin May 31, 2014. He was 24-years-old. Almost immediately and almost without discussing it, my wife, Valerie, and I both decided we wanted to “go public” with the cause of his death. His obituary began:

Anthony P. Fiore died Saturday May 31, 2014 at his home in Warrington. He had lost his battle with addiction.

In the days immediately following Anthony’s death, when friends and neighbors called or visited, the phrase I heard most frequently, after the obligatory, “sorry for your loss,” was “I have a (child, spouse, cousin, nephew, friend) struggling with heroin addiction.” It was a real eye-opener as to how prevalent heroin was in my suburban, middle class neighborhood.

Knowing that many young people – both friends of Anthony and of his younger brother, Nick – would be in attendance at his funeral, I felt led, as I wrote the eulogy I would deliver, to address what I called the mantra of the young: “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want. I’m only hurting myself.” This, in part, is what I said:

Every time another young person says, “It’s my life,” Satan smiles.

“It’s my life and I’ll do what I want.” Yes, of course you will. But your actions have consequences and sometimes your mistakes are irreversible.

“I’m only hurting myself.” Really? I wish I had words strong enough and true enough to convince you of the staggering selfishness of that remark. And how wrong it is.

Almost exactly one week ago my lips were pressed against Anthony’s cold, pale lips, trying desperately to breathe air into lungs too full of fluid to receive it. For the last week his mother has carried one of Anthony’s unwashed shirts around with her, holding it to her face so she can smell him. She sleeps in his bed with his shirt and a framed photograph of Anthony. Everywhere she turns something else reminds her of Anthony. The leftovers from the last food he bought – food was a very big thing with Anthony. The stale remnants of the last soda he ever drank. She wants to die, so she can see her first born again.

* * *

But, hey, it’s your life. Do what you want. But before you ever again dare say, “I’m only hurting myself,” look at your mother, look up the word ‘inconsolable’ and remember Anthony’s mother.

Here is the text of the full eulogy

On June 8, 2014, the day after Anthony’s funeral, I posted the eulogy I delivered on my Facebook wall, along with a picture of Anthony taken just a few weeks before he died, hoping it might strike a chord that hadn’t yet been struck with some addict somewhere.

Since then, I have posted it I everywhere I can think of; on hundreds of private and public Facebook pages. Many people shared it. Some of their friends shared it, and some of their friends. The last time I checked it had been shared over 8,000 times. I’ll spare you the math discussion, but the power of social media means that it has probably been seen by well over one million people, and counting. Somehow, it reached “Abby.”

On June 12, 2014 I received the following private message:

“Your son died on my birthday. I just turned 23 and I have been addicted to heroin since I was 17. I don’t want to ruin my mother’s life by dying. But I can’t stop.”

We messaged back and forth. She gave me her phone number and we talked. Eventually she agreed to join a private Facebook group I created for addicts and their families called “The Left Behind,” where she has shared her story and become a strong leader. Abby has been clean for over four months now. Detoxing was rough. Because of some previous bad experiences, she refused to go to a clinic, choosing instead to detox on her own with the help of her best friend. She relapsed a number of times. But each time, she got back up and went right back to the hard work of regaining her sobriety. She knows she is not “cured.” She knows she has to work to stay clean every single day, but she is determined to do it and I believe she will.

Recently Abby told me that reading Anthony’s eulogy was her “breaking point.”

Then there is “Catherine,” a single mom with a young daughter, a recovering pill addict who told me my eulogy saved her life. Catherine said she has read and watched my eulogy and looked at Anthony’s picture so many times that Anthony is “in her head” and that his presence there has helped to keep her clean.

Anthony struggled with addiction for more than six years before he died. He overdosed and almost died. His friend overdosed and almost died in front of his eyes. Both were hospitalized in the local ER. He was arrested. He overdosed again. He was arrested again. He spent a week on the street and a month in prison.

He was in rehab three times. Three unsuccessful short-term treatment programs, 28 days, 21 days and seven days, which was all our insurance would pay for.

The insurance industry has defined addiction treatment as 28 days or less. We want to change that definition. The 28-day model of treatment has absolutely no basis in science. It was established by the U. S. Air force as a matter of simple bureaucratic convenience. Air force regulations provided that service men and women would have to be re-assigned if they were away from duty for longer than 4 weeks. Solely to avoid this logistical inconvenience, when drug and alcohol treatment protocols were established by the Air force back in the early ‘70s, the treatment period was set at 28 days. It’s worth noting that the doctor who helped establish the Air force treatment program has since repudiated the 28-day treatment model.

Research tells us that effective in-patient treatment leads to long term sobriety and fewer relapses. Ninety (90) day residential drug rehab is suggested as the minimum length of time for effective treatment.

In Anthony’s honor, and with the help of, I recently started a petition, Anthony’s Act – Providing Those Suffering With Addiction a Real Chance at Recovery, seeking support for an amendment to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to provide for a minimum of Ninety (90) days inpatient drug or alcohol treatment.

Here is the petition – Anthony’s Act.

To date we have over 22,000 signatures, but we will need many, many more, if we are to convince our “do nothing congress” that they must act to save lives.

Anthony Fiore and his mom, Valerie.

Anthony Fiore and his mom, Valerie.

My wife, Valerie, has begun speaking at schools and rehabs as part of a program put together by the Philadelphia police department. She introduces herself as “Anthony’s Mom,” and she shows the kids she speaks to, a picture of Anthony and a picture of his grave, and pointing to the grave, she tells her listeners that this is where she goes to see her son. She tells them that Anthony was in recovery and that he appeared to have his addiction under control. He was working, cooking meals for his family, going to the gym and hanging out with his younger brother. Then, apparently, he decided to try his old friend heroin “just one more time” and that one more time proved fatal.

Please Help Provide a Minimum of 90 Days Inpatient Treatment for Drug or Alcohol Addiction

Sign the Petition – Anthony’s Act and encourage your friends and followers to do the same.

Check out a related article on The Fix, Anthony’s Act Pushes for Minimum 90 Days Inpatient Drug Treatments.”

Follow Cris Fiore on Facebook, or contact him via email at, or call him at (267) 629-1477.

National Child Abuse Prevention Month 2015

National Child Abuse Prevention Month 2015 officially opened with President Obama’s proclamation calling upon “all Americans to observe this month with programs and activities that help prevent child abuse and provide for children’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.” The President continues, saying, “A strong, stable family is the best foundation for a promising childhood, and when parents and caregivers have support — from loved ones, friends, and their community — they are more likely to provide safe and healthy environments for children.”

As part of the celebration and throughout the year, communities are encouraged to share child abuse and neglect prevention awareness strategies and activities and promote prevention across the country.

Given the role childhood trauma (verbal, physical, emotional abuse; neglect; sexual abuse; absent or drug/alcohol addicted parent) plays:

this is an incredibly important national celebration!

Sharing Success Stories About New Ways to Prevent and Counter the Impacts of Child Abuse in Celebration of National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Fortunately, there is a great deal of awareness of late about the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experience(s)) Study conducted by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente, thanks to organizations like ACEsTooHigh. And this awareness is moving mountains, so to speak, when it comes to how we should prevent child abuse AND what we can do to counter its effects once done.

The following is a random selection of recent news stories reporting on new ways of preventing and countering the impacts of childhood abuse. I’ve been studying this issue for more than a decade and what has been happening in the recent 5 to 10 years is remarkable and demonstrates what we can do when we understand brain development and the impact of childhood trauma on that development.

  • A murderer at 14, Then a Lifer, Now a Man Pondering a Future,” by Erik Eckholm, April 10, 2015, The New York Times. In his article, Mr. Eckholm writes, “In the 2012 ruling, the Supreme Court did not say life terms were never appropriate. But, building on earlier rulings that ‘children are different,’ and citing research on brain development, the court said sentencing must take account of mitigating factors like the offender’s background and age, and consider the potential for change.” Click here to read more…
  • “MN High School Screens Students for ACEs to Develop Trauma-Informed Education,” by Jane Stevens on April 10, 2015, ACEsConnection. In her article, Ms. Stevens writes, “’It forced me to identify the real issues facing the students at Paladin,’ notes Irwin [Leisa Irwin, Executive Director of Paladin Career & Technical High School in Blaine, MN], and it was deeper than poverty, or if they were behind in their grade level, or if they were on probation, or if they were designated learning disabled because they were on a special education plan.” Click here to read more…
  • Juvenile Jails Adopting ACE- and Trauma-Informed Practices,” by Ed Finkel on March 29, 2015, ACEsConnection. In his article, Mr. Finkel writes, “Youths convicted of offenses that land them in facilities to serve out their sentences have a disproportionately high number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).” To read his article and learn about a number of excellent programs doing this sort of work, click here…
  • Moving Parents and Children Out of Poverty: a Two-Generation Approach,” by Child Trends, March 24, 2015, Quoting from this article, “…parents are critical to children’s healthy development. The first few years of a child’s life are crucial in order to ensure their healthy development, and children need stability as well as responsive and nurturing relationships.” “…Children can also affect parents’ ability to succeed. When children are sick or having difficulties at school or other problems, parents working in jobs without paid leave may not be able to fully attend to them without compromising their employment.” Click here to read more…

  • Though not an article, this organization, The Reset Foundation‘s, approach is another noteworthy example of what’s being done differently, now. Quoting from their website, “Instead of serving time in a dehumanizing prison environment, a sentenced young adult lives at a Reset campus, focused entirely on academics, career, and healthy living. We create a positive, 24/7 environment that supports a whole student’s learning and growth.” “At full scale, Reset campuses are designed to cost no more per student per year as prison. We partner with local and state governments to serve students using diverted funding that would have paid for their incarceration.” Click here to visit their website for more…

Help Raise Awareness About National Child Abuse Prevention Month has made it easy to continue prevention messages throughout the last two weeks of April – simply copy and paste these messages, for example:

Sample Facebook messages

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to recognize that we each play a part in promoting the social and emotional well-being of children and families in our communities. Learn more on the National Child Abuse Prevention Month website.

Encourage your mayor or governor to issue a National Child Abuse Prevention Month proclamation. They can use the 2014 National Child Abuse Prevention Month Proclamation as a model.

Want to raise awareness about the importance of child abuse prevention? Add a National Child Abuse Prevention widget to your agency’s website.

Have you downloaded the 2015 Resource Guide: Making Meaningful Connections? Available on Child Welfare Information Gateway, the guide supports service providers in their work with parents, caregivers, and their children to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect. Learn more here:

Download the National Child Abuse Prevention Month activity calendars to learn how you can promote child well-being throughout the month of April. The calendar is available in English and Spanish on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

Watch real-life stories from prevention programs across the nation. Visit the National Child Abuse Prevention video gallery, and share with your friends, family, coworkers, and community.

Sample Tweets

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Visit the NCAPM site to learn more:

Add a National Child Abuse Prevention Month widget to your blog to raise awareness about the importance of prevention:

We can help promote the social and emotional well-being of children & families. Visit the NCAPM site to learn more:

Watch real-life stories in the NCAPM video gallery to see what prevention programs are doing nationwide:

Check out the NCAPM activity calendars to learn how you can promote child well-being during April.

Or visit their website for more information.

Control and Other Necessary Fictions – Guest Author Steve Hauptman

The following is a guest post about control by my good friend, Steve Hauptman. I’ve followed Steve’s work for some time, now, because of the way he writes about/sheds light on the issue of control, which is such a big issue for those who struggle with secondhand drinking | secondhand drugging and those who struggle to wrest control of their drinking or drug use.

Steve Hauptman, LCSW, is a Gestalt-flavored psychotherapist in private practice on Long Island and the creator of the blogs Monkeytraps, Monkey House and Bert’s Therapy. He is also the author of a new book, Monkeytraps: Why everybody tries to control everything and how we can stop, currently being serialized at monkeytraps.comTo learn more about Steve’s upcoming book, click here.

Control and Other Necessary Fictions by Steve Hauptman

Upcoming book, Monkeytraps, by Steve Hauptman - currently being serialized

Upcomingbook, Monkeytraps, by Steve Hauptman – currently being serialized

A necessary fiction is a story we tell ourselves to help us get through life.

It’s not a lie, exactly. Nor is it entirely the truth.

It’s more like an aspiration — a way of reaching towards what we need or want.

It makes us feel good about ourselves, or life, or the future. It makes pain and disappointment more bearable. Gives us courage. Gives us hope. Helps us cope.

We all live by necessary fictions. We all tell ourselves stories about who we are and what we’re doing and where it will all lead.

For example,

Everything will be okay.
We’ll live happily ever after.
I’ll never die.
The people I love will never die.
I’ll never get old and sick.
Money buys happiness.
Driving is safe.
If I vote for X, it will make a difference.
Tomorrow’s another day.
I can get control of how I feel.

That last one is my favorite, of course, since the idea of control is the necessary fiction my blog Monkeytraps is all about.

Why do I call these fictions necessary?

Because of our big brains.

Like oversized computers run amuck, our big brains are dominated by the process Buddhists call monkeymind — an incessant stream of remembering and projecting, interpreting and analyzing, worrying and agonizing.

Ever stop to listen? It’s a nuthouse in there.

Necessary fictions act as a sedative. They appease monkeymind, quiet it down.

Imagine, for a moment, living without that sedative.

Imagine living day to day, hour to hour if you cannot forget that someday you must die. I’ll never die fends off death anxiety.

Imagine getting in your car and running to the store for milk if you can’t forget that someone dies in a car accident every 13 minutes. Driving is safe is the necessary antidote.


There’s a difference between relying on necessary fictions and being lived by them.

We must remember that our fictions are fictions. To do that means being self-aware and self-supporting.

To forget that they’re fictions — that this is a story we tell ourselves, not a literal truth — is to lose touch with reality.

Religious bigots are a good example. They’re convinced themselves the story they believe is The Truth. It’s a short step from that conviction to seeing everyone who doesn’t share it as deluded, even evil. (Even deserving extinction. Read the papers.)

Control addicts are another example. They’ve convinced themselves — despite all evidence to the contrary — that control is both possible and necessary. So they spend their lives chasing it, like a hapless commuter ten steps behind a train he can never catch.

Which leads to lives of frustration and misery. Control addicts make other people pretty miserable too.

In therapy I try to help them see control as a necessary fiction, a story they tell themselves about the way they want things to be. It’s a very human story. One that’s sometimes necessary, and sometimes necessary to give up.

Because if you can’t give it up, you’ve made a problem out of a solution.

Steve invites your thoughts and comments and can be reached via email at

Problematic Drinking and the Harm Reduction Debate

There’s a great deal of debate when it comes to answering the question, “Can a person with a drinking problem reduce how much they drink so it’s no longer a problem?”

I was prompted to write this post after listening to Paul Staley’s perspective on KQED Radio’s April 3, 2015, “With a Perspective” program.  Participates on the program are selected to give a one-minute perspective on a topic of their choice. Paul Staley titled his, “Becoming a Moderate Drinker.” You’ll see why after you listen to it – it’s just one minute long (click on the title).

For the Person Who is Not an Alcoholic – Harm Reduction (Moderating One’s Drinking) Can Work

Lisa Frederiksen explains harm reduction when it comes to problematic drinking.

As this screen shot of a page on the NIAAA website, “Rethinking Drinking,” shows: 1/3 of American adults don’t drink any alcohol; 1/3 of America Adults always drink within low-risk limits; and 1/3 have a problem (the 9% and 19%) figures.

To answer that opening question,”Can a person with a drinking problem reduce how much they drink so it’s no longer a problem?”

The short answer is, “Yes – IF the person is not an alcoholic – meaning that person does not have the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction.”

[Paul’s Perspective explained how he was able to moderate his drinking. He’s also very clear, his approach might not work for everyone.]

If, however, a person is an alcoholic – does have the brain disease of addiction – there is absolutely NO AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL they can consume without triggering their disease (meaning the behaviors they exhibit as a result of their dependence on alcohol).

Surprising to many in this debate is the fact that one-third of American adults don’t drink any alcohol and one-third always stays within “low-risk” limits, which are described in the image below:


NIAAA Defines "Low-risk," aka "Moderate," aka "Normal," drinking in this image.

NIAAA Defines “Low-risk,” aka “Moderate,” aka “Normal,” drinking in this image.

As you can see in the “What’s your pattern?” image above, which comes from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), that leaves only about one-third of American adults who misuse alcohol – meaning, they have a problem with how much they drink.

Now here’s the little understood piece of this last figure.

2/3 of the people who misuse alcohol are not alcoholics (the 19% figure). Yet the behaviors they exhibit can be just as awful as the people who are, which is why people tend to fight to the end to protect their drinking patterns so as not to call themselves an alcoholic, and in so doing, find themselves feeling the way Paul described in the opening of his Perspective.

These are the people for whom moderation, aka harm reduction, aka learning to change one’s drinking pattern to fall within low risk limits, can work. [Note: I got to this image by selecting, “Is your drinking pattern risky?,” and then purposefully inserting high daily and high weekly figures. You can do check your own drinking pattern by clicking here.]

For More Information

This ten minute video of mine, “Alcoholism is a Disease and It’s Not Alcohol Abuse,” shares more on this subject, as does NIAAA’s website, Rethinking Drinking. You will find so much other great information on the NIAAA site, including tips for cutting down, the definition of a standard drink and drink calculators to help you determine how much alcohol is in your favorite cocktail or alcoholic beverage container. This post also has some helpful links and information, “Why Can’t an Alcoholic Have One Drink?

The bottom line is it’s possible for a person to learn to moderate their drinking, but only if they don’t have the brain disease of addiction (alcoholism).