Area facilities help addicts overcome problem

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   As war in the Middle East seems to continue without end, so too the war on drugs and alcohol is a continual challenge. Area clinics constantly fight to help people overcome addiction by encouraging them to avoid the temptation to do drugs and to stay out of jail.
   For those who have found themselves lost in a world of drugs and an endless cycle of use and recovery, two area clinics are doing their part to help them overcome their dependency by serving as drug and alcohol rehabilitation and detoxification clinics.
   Woodridge Hospital and Magnolia Ridge, both of which are divisions of Frontier Health, operate what are known as "detox clinics" that offer addicts not only the medical help they need, but access to support groups and counseling.
   "As far as drug and alcohol rehabilitation, being an acute care facility, we detoxify people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol," said Kim Cudebec, clinical director for Woodridge Hospital. According to Cudebec, the facility offers rehabilitation for addictions to alcohol and some pain killers.
   Those addicted to other substances find their help at Magnolia Ridge. "We detox for everything except alcohol and benzodiazepenes (tranquilizers), because those are the ones that pose the possibility of being life-threatening as people come off them," said Deanna L. Irick, director of Magnolia Ridge.
   According to Cudebec, alcohol is the most dangerous drug to rehabilitate from. "The withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can include seizures, hallucinations, DTs and probably the scariest part is increased blood pressure and pulse," he said.
   Both facilities offer a variety of individual counseling to talk through problems that surround a patient's addiction, such as depression and anxiety. According to Cudebec, increased anxiety and depression can be among the leading factors that lead people to substance abuse, which, in turn, leads them to addiction.
   "They need help with their depression, and they need help with their anxiety, and they've been medicating it themselves for years," he said, adding that, while at Woodridge, many patients are given appointments with psychiatrists to determine if there are any underlying problems that may be contributing to their use of drugs or alcohol.
   Evaluation of a patient's medical condition is an important aspect of helping them to stay on the road to recovery, Irick said. "That's what alcohol and drugs are for some people -- self medication," she said. "When things happen, they don't know how to react other than go use." Many times, according to Irick, patients will have what are called "co-occurring disorders," meaning that they suffer from the addiction as well as another illness, such as depression.
   Both facilities offer the opportunity for family counseling to help families of patients not only understand that addiction is in fact an illness, but also to see how the family dynamic can have an affect on the patient. Many times, problems in the family can be linked to a person's substance abuse, Irick said.
   "A lot of times the two are so inter-connected that they cannot see where the rest of the problems in the family are," she said.
   Another important aspect to helping people overcome their dependence is teaching them how to live again without substance use. "Our main focus is habitation, coping and anger management," Irick said. "We're looking to teach people how to cope without using."
   An important factor in learning how to live without turning to drugs or alcohol is finding out what factors in a person's life lead them to want to use a substance. "We require that they make a triggers list and plan what they would do in those situations," Irick said. Triggers can include everything from lifestyle to stress to other habits.
   Patients at Magnolia Ridge also learn about behavior modification in order to change certain habits that they have identified as being linked to their addiction.
   However, even the best laid plans do not always work on the first try. "They have in their mind what it's going to be like when they go home and they're sober. Then reality kicks in, and it's not like that, and they're disappointed," Irick said. "Because it is a disease, we don't expect that everyone will make it their first time out."
   Repeat visitors are not uncommon at either facility. "We have people who have been here two or three times and then BAM! it's their time," said Cudebec. "They leave here and stay clean forever."
   Having patients return does not shake Cudebec's trust in the rehabilitation program. "They know this is a safe place where they have gotten help before," he said. "They know they can come back here and be taken care of and get back on the road to health."
   Irick shares his sentiment about returning patients. "They are starting to return because they believe in us," she said. "They learned something the last time and they believe we can help them again. We know it is a disease and not something they can overcome overnight, and they know we understand and that we care."
   One employee at Magnolia Ridge offers hope to patients who come there, some voluntarily and some under court orders, and he serves as a living example that overcoming an addiction can be done.
   Fryde Huneycutt, who serves as a counselor at Magnolia Ridge, is a recovered alcoholic and drug addict who once abused substances for about 25 years and has since overcome his dependency. Huneycutt stated that he has been drug and alcohol free for more than 10 years and 10 months now.
   "I dabbled in a lot of things, but those were my two big drugs of choice," Huneycutt said.
   Huneycutt's decision to quit came after he received his third conviction for a charge of driving under the influence and his wife left him, taking his two children with her. "My life was falling apart," he said. "I was pretty much a broken man when I went into Woodridge."
   For Huneycutt, the hardest step on the road to recovery came when he had to learn a new lifestyle due to the fact that drugs and alcohol had been a part of his old lifestyle for so long. "The hardest part is just learning a new way to live, how to deal with problems without taking a drug or a drink," he said. "Learning coping skills was also hard. With most drug addicts and alcoholics, that's the way they cope. The world comes down on them, so they just use."
   Huneycutt attributes his success to "the grace of God and 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous."
   Having personal experience with the topics he talks to patients about helps the patients to relate to him, according to Huneycutt. "They seem to open up a lot more to me because they feel I've been there and done that and know what they're going through," he said. "Some of my experiences are pretty bad, and they get new hope seeing that someone who was addicted for 25 years can get a new life in recovery."
   Anyone who wants to take the first step on the road to recovery and enter a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program is asked to call the Crisis Response hotline at either 928-9062 or 1-877-928-9062 or Magnolia Ridge at 232-4130.