Have you ever experienced a Blackout? This is a tough question to answer, as of course if you are having a Blackout, you are not aware of the moment.
You might become aware of the Blackout if someone tells you or if something odd happens. You will know if you experience a trauma, with no memory of it, while others present will report what happened to you. This is a Blackout.
Something odd could happen, and you may wonder, what could that be? You may even think that you just fell asleep. This could be the best outcome of a Blackout, but here are some real examples of what did happen during a Blackout, to two of our patients.
One patient, lets call him, Bob B., was addicted to K , also known as Special K, or Ketamine, which is an animal tranquilizer. The patient also drank alcohol, but did not think he was addicted to alcohol, although he did recognize his addiction to K. We sent him to an inpatient recovery treatment program, which set him straight.
After this patient returned from his inpatient program, cleaned up from K, he was doing quite well. However, during a night out at a local, well known bar in town, the patient remembered drinking for several hours. When he left the bar he could not find his car, which was a good thing for his own safety and for the safety of others. The patient remembers it was after 2 AM, as he had closed the bar. Bob decided to start walking home. He never got there.
The next morning, the patient woke up in the hallway of a local Hotel, with his ID and money missing. His clothes, which were always impeccable, when he came in for his recovery treatment, and were the most expensive business suits available, were disheveled. He could not stand on one leg. He was a mess.
An ambulance was called, after he was found confused and disheveled, laying in the hallway of this Hotel. The ambulance took Bob to a local Emergency Room of a major Hospital, for an examination and treatment. It was determined that the patient had a broken ankle. The ER doctor said he had never seen such a bad break, and “it looked like someone jumped down hard on his ankle, intentionally“. The patient had a broken ankle which was badly crushed. For a sober person, the pain from this badly crushed ankle would have been intolerable. For someone who is using drugs or alcohol, the pain was quite tolerable.
The patient had no memory of how he got to the Hotel, nor what happened, nor how he ended up in the hallway of the Hotel. This was a Blackout.
Another patient, lets call him Scott P. , had a blackout which landed him in jail. Scott P. was heavily addicted to alcohol, and reported never using pills, nor street drugs of any kind. However, he did report being a heavy drinker. One Sunday, as he and his partner were having their regular Sunday Brunch which included unlimited liquor, they drank them selves "under the table". This was a regular event, for these two men, and had been for many years.
Later that Sunday afternoon and evening, as the two continued drinking when they returned home from their Sunday Brunch, Scott P. snapped, and lunged at his boyfriend, choking his neck. The boyfriend, lets call him Raul D., tried with all his might to push Scott off of him, and with all his strength he did. Scott came back again to choke Raul again. This time Raul ran into the bathroom, and locked the door, to protect himself. He luckily had his cell phone in his pocket, so he could call 911. Raul was terrified for his life, as he had never seen Scott like this before.
When the paramedics arrived, they found Scott running up and down the street, crying , disoriented and in a panic. He was interrogated, handcuffed, arrested and taken to the local jail, for the night.
Scott had no memory of this event, at all. Both men came in together to the office for an Intake Session (the first session). Raul reported the story above, Scott reported feeling shameful, yet had no memory at all of this event. Since they had a long, and healthy relationship, never had any violence between them, this was most unusual. This was a Blackout for Scott.
We have found that many patients who experience a trauma, such as a broken ankle or being arrested, sober up quickly and they have a greater chance of continued and long term sobriety. Be careful, because if you live in a state of denial you will not have this benefit, of cleaning up immediately. Sobering up does take work, just less work for those with addiction traumas.
Another potential patient, who jumped out of his second story window, because he was having a Crystal Meth hallucination, was taken to a local hospital. When I arrived at the Hospital, at the request of his doctor, the patient wanted nothing to do with me, nor with any recovery program. This patient was cavalier, did not think he was addicted, nor did he want any recovery treatment.
Here are a few stories, all a bit different, yet all the same, in that the patient had a traumatic situation, with no memory at all of the event. These took place during a Blackout. It is only through the disaster that follows or the people around the situation, that the pieces of these puzzles are put together, and understood.
If you have experienced Blackouts, get some recovery treatment now, because you are at a very high risk of continued addiction. Go to an AA meeting, today. Find a sponsor and take your addiction seriously. We do.
What is addiction prejudice? Over the years, as we have treated recovering patients who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol we have noticed a predictable phenomenon. When people are addicted, they have problems in all parts of their lives; this includes social problems, legal problems, employment problems, physical and emotional problems, financial problems, and of course relationship problems. These addicts are perceived as being flakey, undependable, showing up late, or not at all. They are perceived as being out of control, not telling the truth, often not being able to complete employment tasks, unable to maintain friendships, and more. While these patients are using, most of these perceptions are well deserved and true.
When addicts clean up, the longer they stay clean, the better people they become. They often improve on the job, begin to repair damaged relationships, and live a better life. Most stop the lies, and deceptions. However, many addicted people who are in recovery that we have worked with, still feel the stigma of having been addicted. The stigma continues even when they are clean and sober. Other people continue to judge them, as though they are still using, even when they are sober.
The notion of addiction prejudice is the continued judgment and negative thinking about people who have been addicted. It is very difficult for the population at large to forgive and accept the improved life style of our addicts. When addicts use substances and people it is very difficult for those who have been hurt to be forgiving. Holding onto negative stereotypes about addicts is a way to defend against further hurt. For the recovering addicts, it is very difficult for them to prove that they have improved their lives. What we have seen is that others are often stuck with their old images, and many find it difficult to see the changes and improvement that we can confirm.
Fear and distrust of addicted people make it hard for everyone. Addicts often experience misperceptions about themselves, generally based upon their past. Others may not trust any changes that they do see, so they dismiss the changes unconsciously. Employers are often caught during employee reviews as being totally unable to see the improvement , and continue to judge the addict upon history, not their present situation. Some are blinded to accept the improved, sober employee, as being different, better, learning to live honest lives, and hard working. Many people in our culture have addicted parents, relatives or friends who have influenced them negatively, and it is very difficult to change their misperceptions.
Additionally what is most misunderstood in our culture is the stereotype, and prejudice, that addiction is a flaw in one's personality. The truth is that addiction is a public health problem and our culture must be re-educated in this way so addiction is viewed as the menace that it is; a public health problem and not a character flaw.
We adhere to the medical model of addiction. This means that addiction is a disease, it runs in families, it is cumulative, progressive and can lead to death. However addictions are treatable.
The popular belief is that once an addict, always an addict. This is supported by the 12 step meetings. Each member attending a 12 step meeting, is expected to claim that he or she is an addict, or alcoholic. In early sobriety, addicts must learn to "own" their addiction. Whether this is useful over time, may be questionable.
We think initially, when the patient is in the early stages of recovery, within the first 3-5 years, it is probably very important to claim one's status as being an addict or an alcoholic, on a regular basis. But over time, perhaps after 5 strong years of sobriety, we think it may be better for continued sobriety to say, "no longer addicted." The reason for this shift in language and thinking, is to separate the alcoholic or the addict from this belief. It may be better, and should support extended sobriety to stop the identification with being an addict or being an alcoholic forever and always. This need not be a permanent self definition.
However, if a lifetime of 12 steps is your primary program to staying sober, we support that wholeheartedly because people recover in different ways. Should this be the case, then we recommend attendance and participation, especially participation. The 12 steps can remain the very basis for life long sobriety, as the beliefs that are instilled though these meetings, generally help members become better people who add to a better world. The fellowship with other sober people is also of great value for a continued life of sobriety.
I tell my recovery patients that I am a heretic. What this means to me, and to them, is to do the best with the 12 steps. Accept what fits and leave the rest behind. Do not take on identifications that no longer help, nor fit. In fact this continued belief, of always being an addict, may hurt. What this also means is that based on my experience I challenge conventional wisdom as it relates to addiction. This is because it is clearly discussed in the literature that conventional treatment methods do not necessarily help patients in recovery.
What would it take for the population at large to accept that addicts can and do clean up? It takes these addicts to work the steps, and when they make their amends, the patients in recovery must not only apologize, but it is imperative that they become "recovery ambassadors". Being a "recovery ambassador" means that these "no longer addicted" people must teach others that addictions are treatable, that people do change and improve their lives. Sobriety improves life. We see this all the time. This must be taught by the addicts themselves. The teaching is not only through words, but of course through actions as well. In the hundreds of cases that we have treated at the Road to Recovery Program, those who maintained their sobriety, and worked a program, improved their lives. This is true of 99% of our recovery patients with 1 year or more of sobriety.
However, never underestimate those drugs or alcohol which brought you down before. They always can and will bring you down, perhaps even further, if you return to using. Drugs and alcohol are very patient, they are always waiting. For this reason alone, be sure to go to 12 step meetings, find a useful sponsor, and work those steps. Overtime, become a sponsor yourself. We hope someday that addiction prejudice can and will be eradicated.