Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Sameem Patient Speaks Out

Honestly it took a lot to get me to quit and I had to be open and honest about my problems.  Not only to the doctors and staff but I had to be honest with myself.  I was in denial. I was caught up in the culture and the feelings that drugs gave me.  At first I didn't want to stop.  I was angry that I got locked up.  I was angry at my parents for helping put me there.

The anger clouded my judgement.  But once I overcame the anger and started to get clean I began to see how my substance use was negative for me in so many ways.  When I was rollin' or trippin' or whatever, I only saw the positives but now I see the negatives and I'm starting to see the old me again.  It will never be the same, my brain will always carry the things I've done to it but I'm still starting to feel normal.

Today was amazing.  I know it sounds kinda lame, yea I'm doing my school work, yea I'm trying hard, but it makes me feel good to sit down for 2 hours and be able to see that I've done something productive and it feels great.  I wanted to drop out.  I didn't want to go to school.  I thought it was lame.  I thought I was a rebel, but I always lived with the guilt of what I was doing to my life when I had so much going for me.  I lived in paranoia that I would get caught.  Now that paranoia is gone.  I have less stress, and I'm starting to make something of my life.

I've stopped hanging around the messed up people who really only cared about how they were seen by others.  Whether the stories were bull... or not they lived by drama because they acted this way.  It is going to be hard, but if you really want to get sober and stay sober you have to be strong.

To start off, if you want to get sober think of reasons, whether it's for others or yourself.  At first I just got sober because I was forced to, I relapsed the day I finished my partial program.  But after a few weeks of doing what I was doing I started to think.  I thought about how I had the chance to change my life right then and I started getting sober again but not just for the system, not just for my parents, but for me and my future. 

One more thing:  I'm going to be tested the rest of my life.  I'm always going to be a recovering drug abuser and one thing I can't do is make any exceptions.  It's only been about 3 months and I got the rest of my life ahead of me, but if I take just one hit or one shot or one beer it's over.  These 3 months might as well not have happened.

I'm going to stay totally sober from drugs and booze, probably even after I turn 21.  It was a hard decision to make, to get sober, but now I'm starting to think clearer, work harder, and be productive.  I'll always have my past and so will you, but you can learn from it in more ways than you might think.

Published with Permission
Sameem Patient
Age 16

Friday, October 16, 2009

What is needed for successful Addictions Treatment

At Sameem Associates we speak with individuals who are actively addicted, parents whose children are substance abusers or possible addicts, teachers who are concerned about their students, supervisors who are concerned about their employees, hospital officials who are concerned about physicians, coaches who are concerned about their athletes.   These conversations take place daily.   The common theme that seems to run through these conversations is an important question.  "What is the motivator that will get this individual to attend treatment?"

Motivation comes in all forms.  Much of the time, at Sameem, we rarely see individuals who are motivated to get clean and sober because they know it is the "right" thing to do.  Most of the time motivation comes from a source outside of the individual's understanding of "right" and "wrong". 

If we were to line up 100 patients at Sameem Associates who we know are currently clean (abstinent) from the use of mind altering substances including alcohol and who have the disease of addiction, we would ask them one question;  "Do you want to use your drug of choice now or in the future?"  The response from virtually all would be "yes", and the reason would be, "because it feels good".   This response would be the same regardless of how long each individual was abstinent.  What motivates people with addiction problems to not use?

Motivation seems to come in different forms.  "Not wanting to get arrested or go to jail";  "Not wanting their spouce to leave them";  "Not wanting to lose a job";  "Not wanting to lose a professional license";  "Not wanting to lose their children";  "Not wanting to be asked to leave school".  The reasons are as many as there are individuals who speak of them.  With this in mind, what is needed to help individuals successfully complete treatment?

The answer to this question is time.  Individuals need to spend time examining their motivations, without the influence of substances in order to have the chance to change their behavior and their way of thinking so that sobriety becomes more important than relapse.   This is why good treatment will last for many months and will include attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics Anonymous so that individuals can adopt a new way of life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What Patients Need to Know

When patients come to Sameem Associates, Inc. for outpatient treatment they are usually referred from hospitals, insurance companies, schools, courts, city health departments or others who have sought treatment in the past.  Most patients however regardless of their age expect that treatment will be either meeting with a therapist once weekly for a brief period, or briefly consulting with a therapist to conquer the immediate problem or crisis.  What most patients don't understand is that addiction treatment is a lifestyle change that takes months and years to treat.  This is why many who come through our doors have tried and failed many previous treatments before landing on our doorstep.

Addiction treatment is a process of helping the patient recover physically, mentally (emotionally) and spiritually.  During the active stages of addiction, individuals are altering their brain chemistry through their use of substances and their behavior;  they are compromising their thought process and positive decision making;  and they are moving away from their values system and spiritual growth.   All of these changes affects a whole person and thus it takes time to help an individual recover.

It is shocking to most when we at Sameem demand that patients commit to a minimum of 3 months of treatment as the first step.  We inform patients that this commitment is the initial stage of treatment and that treatment will probably go on for some time after that.  In reality, part of the initial stages of treatment are teaching patients what treatment is all about and how to use treatment to best effect change.  Staying focused and committed is probably the hardest step for most patients, but once they learn how to stay focused, change comes more rapidly and smoothly.

For adolescents,  we usually recommend group treatment or therapy rather than individual or one on one therapy.  Most adolescents that we encounter do not know how to use therapy to best effect change, and the idea of meeting with a therapist weekly one on one and being in the spotlight and having to talk for the hour raises anxiety.  Thus most adolescents after just a few weeks are trying to find ways to stop coming.  A group on the other hand lowers anxiety because the adolescent does not have to talk if they don't want to but will probably get just as much out of the group by listening as they might by talking.  They are not always in the spotlight.  We find this approach very effective.   For some adolescents, after attending group for a few weeks, they might have heard something in group that triggered a response but were too embarrassed to talk in front of the group.  For them, we give options of meeting with the group leader for a few minutes after group to address their ideas and thoughts.  This gives adolescents an additional time to learn how they might best use one on one therapy without committing to weekly visits.

These are a few ideas on what patients need to know, as we at Sameem experience how individuals approach treatment.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sameem Associates and our exciting NFL relationship

Sameem Associates has been involved with the NFL Program for Substances of Abuse since 1997.  At that time the NFL program was attempting to create a network of treating clinicians in each city where the football clubs played.  Through a series of contacts, Sameem was approached and the relationship began.  Over the years we have had many opportunities to work with players from different teams as well as present at NFL sponsored conferences about that work.  Due to the very strict standards of confidentiality that the program and that the NFL demands about this work, it is inappropriate to communicate any details.  What can be said however is that the relationship has been excellent.

During the 2008 season another opportunity was created when the NFL decided to sponsor a series of seminars on different topics for the rookies on each football club through the newly created Conduct Management Program.  Through the Player Development department these seminars would be held, one of which was on the topic of substance abuse.  We were fortunate to beable to be part of a team of presenters last season to the rookies as part of this program for the New England Patriots.  It is our understanding that each football club had been conducting various programs in the past for their players.

On Wednesday, October 7, 2009, our second opportunity to present a seminar on substance abuse to the rookies for the New England Patriots through the Player Development department as part of the Conduct Management Program was held.  It was very successful based on our past experience and the enthusiastic participation of the players. 

We would like to thank the NFL Program for Substances of Abuse, administered by ERM Associates, the Director of Player Development for the New England Patriots and the consulting team psychologist for their support and help with this seminar.

Matt Green, Treating Clinician
NFL Program for Substances of Abuse
Clinical Director, Sameem Associates

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Day In the Life at Sameem

Sameem Associates, Inc. with its two locations in Sharon, Massachusetts and Newton, Massachusetts remains busy as we approach the holiday season.  Many people think that holidays are harder times for individuals suffering from addictive disease and other mental health problems.  We find there is some truth in that.  Holidays often mean more involved family time, reminders of the past both positive and negative as well as thoughts toward the future.  These factors can be triggers for those who use substances to self-medicate their feelings.  We find however that self-medication can occur most any time during the year.  The importance of  recognizing how we react to feelings and then understanding that there are resouces available for help is what matters.

Our typical day at Sameem will find clinicians in their offices working with patients beginning at 9am and ending well into the evening.  Typically, the work may involve, speaking with an overwhelmed and desparate parent on the phone about their 16 year old son who was arrested at school for possession of marijuana;  interviewing a new patient who reports being a daily heroin user for the past 3 years but maintains a high level position (vice- president) at a well known insurance company in the area - the patient is symptomatic in the office - withdrawing and interested in an outpatient program so he can remain at work;  attending to several patients who have been in treatment with us but have relapsed and need urgent care or perhaps residential placement;  communicating with the university official or NFL representative who referred one of their division 1 athletes or players for treatment and negotiating the treatment plan;  running a therapy group for resistent adolescents - a therapy group for older men in recovery - an adult child of alcoholics group - and a stabilizaton group for individuals recently discharged from inpatient treatment.  These groups are running throughout the week and most of them daily.  Adolescents participating in the interview process with one of the staff from Massachusetts General Hospital - Department of Psychiatry, as part of the 4 year adolescent substance abuse research study Sameem Associates and Mass General Hospital partnered in from a National Institute on Drug Abuse Federal Grant.

In addition to the clinical work on a typical day at Sameem, one will also find staff preparing for presentations at local schools or community events;  consultations with primary care doctors about their patients, as well as drug testing for private companies, local physicians who are in trouble as well as Sameem's patients.  Clinicians also meet patients at local meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous to introduce them to this important resource while reducing their anxiety about going to their first meeting. 

Sameem Associates remains a busy practice and resource for the community.  We look forward to updating our activities as the holiday season approaches.

Monday, October 5, 2009

We're Up and Running!

We are extremely excited to offer ourselves as a resource, share our findings and news of upcoming speaking engagements with you in cyberspace through our new blog!  Now that we're up and running, please be sure to check in with us here and on Twitter: @sosdrugs

Thanks and see you soon!