Transcription of Episode 1 / Straight Talk Recovery
Raymond Moore: Hi, welcome to Straight Talk Recovery. My name is Raymond Moore, and I’m here with Adam Kostiw.
Adam Kostiw: Kostiw, but that’s close enough.
Raymond Moore: Kostiw, sorry, I always get that wrong. So welcome to our first episode of Straight Talk Recovery. We decided to start this podcast as we were having discussions of how many people in the recovery community, those struggling with mental health and addictions, were having very limited ways of accessing care and treatment. So, we thought it’d be kind of cool to put on a podcast, both of us coming from clinical backgrounds to talk about recovery. Some of the things people are struggling with, what is addiction? What is mental health? We’ll be talking more in-depth about coping skills and other various topics that people may be struggling with in recovery. Part of this podcast was inspired by numerous podcasts out there that do have a recovery-based theme. And, you know, when we started to get this going, we were looking at the community out there that’s reaching out to people during this difficult time. And we decided, hey, let’s get on there and just dedicate some time to helping people that may not have the ability to walk into a center and get some help. So, yeah.
Adam Kostiw: And this is also not just about the person in recovery, their self or the person who’s struggling because addiction and mental health doesn’t just affect the person. It affects all those people around them. And so we want to resource and have an open discussion about these topics that can actually help those who are trying to support someone with an addiction as well. And for them to better understand as a society as a whole, there’s still a long way we can go regarding mental health and addiction and understanding. It is the first step along the way.
Raymond Moore: So, I mean, before we get going, I think it’s clear to kind of look at what is addiction and what is mental health. And it’s a very basic question. You would think it’d be easy enough to go on to Google and find a very basic definition from this. All the definitions specifically in terms of addiction vary from place to place. We more so work from a perspective of- I’ll just read it off here. And this is from the American Society of Addiction Medicine. That addiction is defined as a treatable chronic medical disease, involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and the individual’s life experiences. So much of what we talk about is addiction from a maladaptive coping strategy perspective, that people often pick up substances when they find it challenging to cope with real-life situations. So, much of how we will be talking about is through that perspective. We will touch on 12 step modalities later on and basically, that’s the 12 steps and how people utilize the 12 steps. Also, be looking at things like cognitive behavioral therapy and other forms of therapy as well. So if you’re new to this, this should be a very exciting podcast for you.
Adam Kostiw: Yeah. And so, again, like Ray was mentioning is we want to talk about the impact addiction has on mental health of those around them.
So, as we go on with these podcasts, we’re going to have an opportunity to reach out and talk about more of the different aspects of it. We’ll have guests involved to talk about the specific areas and their experiences as well during the process.
So, we’re going to be encouraging other people to share their experiences and more real-world type of talks going on from a mental health aspect. It’s incredible that the numbers aren’t even that up to date. They’re struggling to even keep an idea of how much the cost is when just looking at these numbers, trying to figure out in preparation for this, the earliest number that I could find was 1998, where they say that in Canada, mental illness cost 7.9 Billion dollars on the economy, so it’s a big piece right now.
Ray, why don’t we start off by going a little bit more about addiction itself and the reasons that we’ve seen come for it.
Raymond Moore: Well, I mean, I think, for now, one of the most pressing issues, and I actually had a conversation with another individual yesterday who asked specifically during these times, why do we see such an increase in the amount of people that are reaching out for help? So one of the more challenging things right now is, again, as I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, was the accessibility for many people. And we’ve seen a very large spike in virtual therapy. So people utilizing more virtual methods in order to get better. That has been a transition for many people that are used to therapy, that are used to counseling, but also for the therapists and the counselors and the helpers out there that are actually trying to help those in need. It’s definitely a very large transition.
So one of the biggest things we’ve seen, because, again, if we’re looking at addiction from a maladaptive coping strategy, you know, it’s a very challenging time. We often suggest people to utilize support systems, utilize communities, utilize what is around them. And right now there’s an actual mandate basically saying that you’re not able to go and be within contact with people, which in recovery is probably one of the most significant pieces of recoveries remaining connected and finding a recovery network. So right now, those struggling with addiction, especially those that struggle with isolation, that struggle with trauma, that may struggle with those things, are struggling that much harder because of the inability to reach out for that help. I mean, you did mention the numbers. And I mean, I think I think we’ve seen numerous treatment centers open up. We’ve seen a lot more attention on mental health. Yet it’s still very much a problem.
Adam Kostiw: I think you said bang on there with the isolation part of it, because so often we talk about isolation, watch out for isolating as part of the recovery programs, as part of recovery, making sure that a person is watching out, that they’re not isolated. And here we are in a time in society where COVID’s rampant and we’re actually being told to isolate. And this is why we’re seeing these startling numbers in the news every day about the opioid pandemic, the overdose pandemic, and the fact that we’re seeing such a rise in numbers over this last year because it goes hand-in-hand with the isolation portion of what addiction is, which is a large part of addiction, because with addiction, as people become more addicted, they start isolating that much more. And now that they’re being forced to isolate, it’s the revolving door here.
Raymond Moore: Yeah. And there’s numerous issues that come along with this, too. I was looking into something yesterday where one of the issues they’re having is that a lot of people who use one particular substance are having difficulties getting it because COVID basically impacts everything, including, believe it or not, the distribution of certain substances. So what many people are doing now is they’re actually finding cheaper methods that are typically done in very unsavory and unhealthy ways. Much of that is, is the feedback I got was that many people are turning to drugs like crystal methamphetamine, which is very easy to kind of make for yourself or to find in many different areas. So we’re seeing a spike in certain drugs that would not normally be used, but because of accessibility, they’re becoming more commonly available.
Adam Kostiw: Right at the same time, it was I remember having a conversation with someone who actually described it as the way we see a run on toilet paper at Costco is what they’re seeing happening in the underground market for drugs and for anything else is that there’s hoarding, that people are grabbing. And then so those people who are already with an addiction are now struggling to get what they’re used to and now reaching out to areas that they’re not, whether it’s fentanyl, whether it’s anything else, and all of a sudden they’re getting themselves into more trouble.
Raymond Moore: Certainly, I think one of the things to look at, too, is for a first-time person who may be studying recovery or getting an idea of what addiction is. It brings up a very good question.
There’s a global pandemic happening right now and there are still people that are going to buy drugs that are putting themselves in dangerous situations in order to obtain the particular substance. And, we are seeing the spikes. So, I think it’s important for us to talk about why it is that we’re seeing such spikes. So with all of that happening and basically everybody anxious to go out to the local Costco and get their groceries, we have people that are going to extreme lengths to find substances they would not normally use, go to places they would not normally go in order to find these substances. So I think it’s important that we actually talk about what keeps the addict going or what keeps the alcoholic still drinking or drugging.
Adam Kostiw:Not everybody when they’re isolating or isolating alone. So now what happens is we’re having people who have even strained relationships, whether it’s with a spouse, other family members. And if they’re cohabiting in the same household. Right. The tensions growing and we’re seeing that as part of it as well, is using it as a coping mechanism just to be able to survive the relationships.
Raymond Moore: Definitely. Definitely. I mean, one of the basic understandings we have of addiction and I mean the way I most often explain what a drug does. So as complicated as that could be from many different perspectives, it’s very simple. A drug changes the way you think and changes the way you feel. So as we’re sitting here during a global pandemic, we’re not doing the activities we usually enjoy doing. We are in situations with people that perhaps we need a little bit of space from or whatever it may be. Drugs become a very easy way of changing how you think and feel, ultimately changing your perception of the reality that you currently sit in. And I think this is why we’re seeing such a spike, because it kind of gives you that artificial sense of control. COVID or no COVID most often people are using substances to alter or to change how they think and feel because they don’t think and feel in a desirable way when they’re not using a substance.
Adam Kostiw: Right. I like how you put that. It’s that is that escape from the current reality. It’s the change to get to mask what’s going on, to get away from it, to have that break from it or that moment.
Raymond Moore: Definitely. I mean, I think you can see it even outside of the world of people that use substances or drink alcohol or engage in more processed style behaviors, gambling addiction, sex addiction, and so on. I think even outside of that particular community of people, you’re also seeing people finding very maladaptive ways of coping with their stress, like whether it’s overeating, whether it’s excessive Internet time, whether it’s excessive television, or whatever it may be. Everybody’s finding their own ways to cope. Sadly, for people that have, you know, a past history of trauma or a mental health condition, it just exacerbates it, makes it that much more worse. Because, again, there aren’t very many options out there seemingly of what it is they can do to get help, right?
Adam Kostiw: Exactly. And those are the options. Right. So a person is regularly used to going out socializing or being able to do these activities. And all of a sudden those activities have been curtailed. Where are they stuck? They’re stuck in their own heads. They’re stuck within themselves. And, it’s been explained to me by one person is it’s the cruelest place they could ever go is within themselves. That there’s no one crueler to them than themselves. And it’s almost there were explained to me that they’re escaping themselves at that moment in time.
Raymond Moore: Definitely.
Adam Kostiw: Ok, and to go further on about the escape of themselves, it’s important to understand that according to even CAMH, in any given year, they’re saying that and this was really before even COVID that one of the five Canadians are going to experience mental illness or addiction. Right. What I can say from my perspective, again, this is from what I see is they’re hand in hand. You can’t separate the two, right. You can’t actually treat the addiction without treating the mental health aspects of it as well. I think for too long in the past, there was a separation where people were trying to keep the two apart. It’s when we look at this. Look at everything together then and only then can we really get to some really good work done.
Raymond Moore: And I think that’s definitely been a big issue in the past at times. A lot of times people would walk into a psychiatrist’s office or whomever and get misdiagnosed based on the fact that they were actually dependent on a substance that was mimicking certain mental health issues. I know a lot of times with people that are addicted to substances that I work with is most often that addiction is masking certain mental health conditions that need to be addressed. So. And that’s why also because a lot of those mental health conditions come with very uncomfortable symptoms, if you will. They’re actually masked by the substance, although they see the substance is causing devastation, their life, it’s allowing them to function. And I use that word loosely. It allows them to function at a capacity which that they’re comfortable functioning on, despite the fact it may be causing damage in other areas of their life. And this is where proper intervention is needed. And this is precisely what you’re saying about, addressing both issues as one rather than segregating one versus the other is addressing them basically at the same time.
Adam Kostiw: That’s right. So I just realized it’s really important that we haven’t done yet. We introduced our names. So again, I’m Adam Kostiw. Just to let you know that I’m a clinical director at Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Center. I’m a registered psychotherapist with a master’s degree.
So that’s where my background comes in as far as mental health. And I’ll let Ray introduce himself.
Raymond Moore: So I’m Raymond Moore.
I’m the director of programming at Trafalgar Residential Facility, and I have an international certification in addiction counseling through the CACCF.
Adam Kostiw: Right, and so the way this podcast came about also is from the regular conversations that me and Ray have almost every day, what you’re hearing today is the kind of discussions we have about what’s going on around us, what we’re seeing, and we’re constantly trying to dig deeper and get a better understanding.
And then we realize that while we don’t have all the answers and we’re still gathering information every single day, there are other people out there who need information as well who want this information. So hopefully this will be a platform where we can share some of the knowledge and some of the answers that we’ve come up with.
Raymond Moore: Exactly, and I mean, this changes every day, it feels like almost I mean, our conversations change dramatically, whether it’s things happening in the community, whether it’s things like the opiate crisis or whatever it may be. Times change, perspective, treatment methods, all of that kind of stuff changes. Right. So I think it’s important to have an ongoing dialogue on this platform is an excellent platform to reach people that may not have the accessibility and the ability to hear about what’s actually happening out there and hopefully find ways that can that can help them and their loved ones.
Adam Kostiw: Right.
Raymond Moore: So, I mean, a simple example is from the perspective of, I have been in the field for a long time. And I remember when I first started off much of the suggestions that were given to families about, you know, how to care for an alcoholic or an addict was very tough love like they need to hit that bottom. And if they don’t want to hit that bottom, you know, pull away all your resources, pull away all the connection from them. And over the years, we have found that there was absolutely a big, big mistake in the sense of connection is absolutely crucial. And in early recovery, whether it’s addiction or mental health, pulling away that support, that love, that care, whatever it may be, is more detrimental than it is good. Right.
Adam Kostiw: Right. And what we’re seeing is that these connections, because of addiction and other things going on in these relationships, damages the relationship, damages the communication that’s happening. And so one part of recovery that we strongly push and I really believe is important, is the repair of that relationship to open up the communication, because all too often we’re seeing is the same communication over and over again. It’s not working yet. If they’re banging their heads off the walls, trying to do it just louder as opposed to changing the way it’s done.
And so what we’re seeing, and it’s very clear, is there’s need for repair from both sides. So it’s not just the person who’s struggling with the actual physical addiction, but it’s also the other side, the parents, the spouses, siblings. Any of those people who they have a relationship with, a lot of the cases we’re seeing, they’re having their own struggles. And some of the best outcomes that we see is when those people get external support as well. They get the help, whether it’s mental help, doing some therapy or whatever. The more resources they have, the better the outcome is overall as a family unit, as a friendship unit, whichever type of relationship it is.
Raymond Moore: Definitely, and, you know, one of the things that I have seen is the increase of support for families. And one of the things that we often explain is that you know, addiction is a family problem. It is not this person has an addiction. I mean, to keep it as clear as possible that family has an addiction within it. Right. And with that comes certain things. So, you know, you’ll actually hear people who are using a substance literally echo what their family is saying when it comes to things like, “I’m not being heard” or “I’m hurt” or “I’m resentful” or I’m whatever it happens on both ends. And, you know, if the addict or the alcoholic or whomever is trying to get better and the people in their life still remain hurt, perhaps maybe from the addiction or past events, whatever it may be, if they still are hurt, resentful or lacked that trust, all it’s really doing is letting the sickness remains sort of speaking. Right. So one of the things that we’ve really looked at over the years is, is not only treating the addict, but treating the family as well. Right.
Adam Kostiw: Yeah. In our family sessions, we talk very much about that. Every once in the past it was always talked about when it comes to addicts, what are their triggers? What are their triggers?
Well, we turn it around and look at the family and spouses and what are their triggers by what the person who’s suffering, because they’re all suffering. But the addict itself, what are the triggers for that person?
Raymond Moore: Exactly.
Adam Kostiw: Because, it goes both ways and they don’t realize, and that’s eye-opening to them. As, oh, yeah when that person says that then it does. One of those ones that so often happens is very triggering for people is the word sorry.
It’s amazing because it becomes so second nature when you get caught at something or done something wrong, of course, you’re going to apologize. Well, it loses its meaning and actually brings on a whole new meaning. So instead of sorry, the other person hears in their head or in their emotions is, oh, what did they do now are they’re using again? Are they doing this when it could have been actually a simple mistake.
It no longer has the same meaning. And so they actually have to learn to change their vocabulary.
Raymond Moore: Definitely. I think one of the biggest things, too, is, is just education overall from family.
You know, many people still have this very moral perspective of substance use that, people have a choice. So I know the people that I’ve worked with in the past, I mean, my own family included just to qualify out there, too. I’ve been in recovery and I’ve had my own issues with alcohol in the past. And, you know, one of the things that’s very hard for families to understand is typically people view it from their perspective so they can see I can drink one drink, I can put it away. So basically my level of knowledge stops there because I can do it. Therefore, you should do it. But it’s very clear and I think we’re going to kind of really define this as the podcast and the series goes on is that, there are differences.
So the reason why one person may drink may be different than another person. Again, somebody may enjoy a glass of wine or drink or whatever it may be. And, you know, it’s a temporary thing. They can move on with their life. But again, other people do drink or use substances to change the way they think and feel because again, in a normal state, when they’re sober, when they’re feeling well, perhaps they’re in pain, or perhaps they’re struggling with a mental health issue, or perhaps there’s something much deeper there than simply a moral decision to give up substances and that they should just know better.
So I think one of the coolest parts that I’ve seen over the years is that family starting to understand that addiction and mental health is a lot more complicated than once thought, even from a mental health perspective. That whole you’re depressed will just get a gym membership and run on to the gym. Right. I mean, to be depressed, you lack the ability to actually get up and do that. And that’s happening on a physiological level. It’s not simply a decision to just get up, lift a couple of weights and you’ll feel better. I mean, there is drive that we all have that allows us to get up and actually go and do these things.
So sadly, for the person that’s struggling with an addiction or a mental health issue, they may not be fully aware of what’s happening with them. So when when you ask them, “why do you keep doing that?” “Why do you keep hurting me?” I mean, the number one answer you’ll always hear is, “I don’t know”. Right. And it’s without a doubt the most honest answer anybody could possibly give, because in reality, they don’t know.
Adam Kostiw: That’s right. Until they do the actual internal work and come to recognize what it is and share it with the other person and be able to learn to communicate it in a way that is going to be understood is so important. And this way that, you know, what we hope is we’re going to stop hearing those people come in. Let’s say the other person keeps telling me just to stop. You know.
Raymond Moore: Like we never thought of that.
Adam Kostiw: It’s really simple. Just stop.
Raymond Moore: Yeah, but I think we’re seeing an increase in understanding with that. And I think a lot of different treatment approaches are really taking that into consideration to stop really talking about what the problem is. What the problem is, is addiction. I mean, drugs are addictive from a chemical perspective. I mean, many of them are addictive to certain people. There are many variables that go into it. It’s not really the what. And I think Gabor Amitay really kind of made it very trendy in asking the question why? Why the addiction? not What is the addiction or what’s happening? But why? why are people not looking at what’s happening underneath the addiction? And, you know, I’ll say from a personal perspective, in my own struggles with addiction, a lot of the issues that happened in my life predated my use of substances.
So really only to kind of highlight the fact that substances were something personally I used in order to deal with uncomfortable emotions that I was struggling with. And like you said, it wasn’t until I actually got in and looked at the work and looked beyond the fact that it was a moral issue or that I was just trying to cause issues in my life. When I really dug deep, I realized there’s a great deal of pain there. There was that lack of connection, that support, and many other things that were personally happening. Right. So it’s very, very important that people are looking at why the addiction, like what is actually happening below that.
Adam Kostiw: Exactly, only when, you know, the why can you actually have the communication. And, you know, as we’re getting ready to wrap up this session here for today, is we want to say that, you know, one of the things that our goal to have this is actually open up communication so that people actually not just hear some of the information that’s here and then some of the conversations that we have but are able to take it out and actually start having these conversations with other people so that it’s communication, it’s open dialogue. That’s what needs to happen.
So we wanted to thank you all on behalf of me and Ray for listening today and hope you tune into hopefully many more podcasts to come. Thanks a lot.
Raymond Moore: Thank you, everybody.