Saturday, June 6, 2009

Roving Patrol: Liberating Youth from Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Alaskan glaciers gnaw upon mountains grinding them into silt. This silt suspends in water droplets and merges with the earth to form expanses of mud. These mudflats possess properties similar to wet, hardening concrete. During low tide, visitors who are unaware of this dangerous phenomenon, occasionally venture onto these mudflats. They find themselves embedded in this mud, unable to loose their legs from its grip. Mercilessly, the sea inches its way back to high-tide. Without immediate intervention that which began as an exhilarating walk through the power and beauty of nature ends in rude, brutal tragedy.

Addiction can be a similar experience. It is against the common mind's ability to understand how a simple liquid, powder, or chemical can not only freeze and disarm a person by the potency of its pleasure, but then, due its excess of pleasure wearing away, unleash a violent and abusive storm upon that same person, even to the point of robbing them of their own will and mind. Chemicals that were intended to soothe suffering, when administered to the wrong malady, can become a devilish injury or an insidious illness, magnifying and multiplying any co-existing and pre-existing conditions. The horrifying truth sets in. The addict is cemented into a ruthless need that pales and disrespects all other bonds. All else in life begins to drown as the body and mind seethe.

Anyone acquainted with addiction realizes that this grave reality does not just affect an individual, but the entire odyssey of their human interaction. Their internal struggle is not for some drug addict out there. Drug addiction and effective addiction treatment affects our emergency rooms, grocery stores, high schools, elementary schools, churches, malls, and movie theaters. When one is affected, we all are affected. The treatment for the drug addict becomes a treatment for us all.

Treatment for drug addiction is no easy endeavor. It must encompass the entire spectrum of the human being from the internal nexus of emotion, will, character, belief, personality, and behavior to the external nexus which includes weather, nature, relationships, government, commerce, physics, organization, and institution. Intervening in the mind impacted by addiction, means entry into this spectrum and guidance from those who have emerged from this mud. It requires the histories and sensations of those who have felt the rising, icy waters encircling their ankles. It requires a seen success to give a preserving faith and confidence to those gripped by the chaos and thrashing which comes in refusing an easy, intense, destructive pleasure. It requires a re-orienting of the mind to a slower pleasure of self-awareness and an entry into a good that is not barbed with destruction. It requires an honesty in failure and shame forfeited for an understanding that recovery doesn’t come in a pretty five or ten day package, that relapse is often an early part of the process. It requires a counterculture discipline that dares to make the “arrogant” assertion that one’s life is so important as to be preserved and invested in quality pursuits instead of discarded at the first sign of adversity.

The current parent culture of America trends toward absence (whether living in the same building or not) leaving black holes in children wondering what is worth pursuing, a striving to sustain adolescent emotional highs (as the first time you experience an emotion they are often the most intense), the idea that discipline is oppression, stimuli binging, that material gain is a picture of ultimate success, and an individuality creed that states fashion and exterior ornamentalization is the greatest sign of liberation from “shackling norms.” Youth find themselves on this flat, made curious by the sucking mud enveloping their shoes. Frustrated moral leaders, increasingly ridiculed, claim that the populace’s concept of freedom is actually license. Children, abandoned to multi-media, begin to bitterly assess adults and their inability to maintain long-term relationships. The shock of icy water stabs the skin as they realize the mud has now encircled their ankles. It becomes difficult to move. Societal leaders consult a rapidly developing pharmacology. Pills are prescribed. Sensations are experimented, traded, sold, and manipulated. Identity grapples with role confusion, intimacy with isolation. Society norms blur; alienation gains a dominant position. Limitless cures are peddled as the icy waters slither under the chin. Charlatans wave-run while violence mingles with laughter. Lungs burn for breath while bureaucracy attempts burial. As the waters submerge the jaws of those on tippy-toes, the threatened human spirit is about to be crushed.

Enter Shelly Dutch, ferocious for the lives of America’s youth. Once addicted to cocaine and a survivor of childhood abuse, she is now the creator and director of Connections Counseling in Madison, Wisconsin. Insight gained by her history of addiction, recovery, twenty-plus years of being drug-free, study, and investment in others have made her a skilled psychological craftswoman. She has degrees in counseling and education. She tirelessly works to provide “a strength-based clinic focused on creating a safe and supportive environment for young people, families, and adults conducive to hope and healing." She is forging a society of recovery, self-awareness, and mutual strength by providing daily sober activities for her clients, battering any bureaucratic barrier that stands in the way of quality care, and by a cutting-edge mentoring program.

Those clients who maintain their sobriety from all drugs and alcohol for 90 days and show stability in their recovery are able to serve as "mentors." These young people take a leadership role in helping others who struggle from drug and alcohol addiction. These positions of leadership by service contribute to a long-lasting recovery via increased accountability and the reward of helping others. Mentors are inspired and busy, knowing that their actions, words, and hard work are ultimately saving lives and contributing to a better, healthier society. The result of their hard work is evident. They strive for one another; a sense of genuine, mutual support is palpable. They are not afraid to challenge one another. All recovering addicts, their advice is tempered with the knowledge that it has been tested. It does not come from a cold, pedantic book. It comes from living, breathing people who are working hard at recovery and know the games that are played, both with themselves and with others. Clients are encouraged to find their passions and move forward in the process of healing by beginning to trust.

The testimonies of those who have encountered Shelly and her clinic are impressive. They respond to her with loyalty. Many credit Shelly with saving their life. Many of the mentors and counselors work for free or next to nothing, just for the satisfaction of being a part of such a place. Connections Counseling is aptly named, as when people experience the programs offered there, they fuse.

The community is taking note. Shelly Dutch's Connections Counseling is a powerhouse on the front of AODA Counseling, making other area out-patient programs pale in contrast. Young people are gaining and maintaining a deep and stable recovery due to excellent leadership that will not allow them to simply be an insurance claim, where they are not shamed into recidivism, and where they can reach the fullness of life that overcomes the challenges and complexities of our 100mph society. These young people are finding life in a greater measure than they have ever known and are beginning to walk on solid ground. They will be the first to tell you. One young man, torn from the clench of heroin addiction states: "What I've learned is that there is nothing better than being sober. I feel so blessed to not be enslaved to using. It’s work, but it’s worth it."

A generation fighting for wholeness has located a roving patrol. Warming blankets are within reach. Those who seemed destined for destruction are being liberated from the murderous mud of addiction and, in greater and greater measure, are being transported to solid ground. Shelly Dutch’s hard-earned and challenging brilliance is resuscitating youth and gracing minds and spirits with renewed hope. Young people are taking responsibility for their lives and emerging from dysfunctional debris. If you want help, and effective help, this is where you’ll get it.

To find out more about Shelly Dutch and Connections Counseling, call 608-221-1500 or check out the website.

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