By: Maggie Young 

Is it possible to demonstrate unconditional love to someone with a substance use disorder (SUD)?

Does love get clouded when addiction takes shape? Does an individual experiencing addiction not deserve love? Isn’t Love! Love!

Do we believe that Love transcends all barriers or are we only speaking that with our mouth but do not really believe that it applies to us personally?

Each individual living with a SUD represents only one ripple in the pond, although connected to others who love them, it may be; a family with a mother, father, siblings and pets or family may be a pet or a friend. Love remains consistent yet boundaries are blurred and confusion drops in causing love ones to question their love because a person is living with a SUD. With love comes judgement; individuals with SUD’s are not the only ones who are judged; so are loved ones and supporters. Stigma created by labels and linked to negative connotations oftentimes stifle, choke and shame those loving and supporting individuals with SUD. Addiction is a disease as are other chronic diseases comparable to cancer and heart disease. Those are not judged but respected as diseases and loved ones are praised for supporting and loving them. However, Individuals living with SUD’s and their loved ones are weighted down with cloaks of labels such as; dysfunctional, codependent and enablers. Labels that Identify love as a factor that prevents and prolongs healing and recovery. Supporters are told that they are hurtful instead of helpful, language, which is overrated and insensitive. Ask yourself, why would anyone limit or box in their love for someone because they are living with a SUD. Are individuals with chronic diseases other than SUD challenged to “suck it up and get over the disease”? The disease of addiction should be handled the same as other chronic diseases with love, understanding and support.

A Mother’s Love!

A friend of mine recently lost her daughter as a result of her SUD, Mom loved and supported her daughter throughout her 34 years of life. My friend ensured that her daughter had all she needed including access to treatment. In spite of Mom providing for and loving her, she still died. Would one call her love enabling or co-dependent because Mom provided her basic needs? Was she co-dependent because she continued to support her or was she simply a loving mother? My friend did the best she knew how and loved without bounds with her entire heart. It was an honest mother-daughter relationship. Does one believe mom should have allowed her daughter to hurt more and feel love less?
My mother loved me through full-blown addiction for two decades and into long-term recovery; loving a person with a substance use disorder (SUD) IS possible, so is recovery!

Loving unconditionally, without boundaries and restriction while also supporting and not delaying recovery is conceivable. I am a prime example; my mother Loved me through decades of active addiction into long-term Recovery. My surrender was grounded in love and my mother’s prayers, inpatient treatment, incarceration, engagement in sober support groups as well as willingness to put the alcohol and other drugs down and arrest my SUD.

Where my mother gained her strength and sustained her faith to pray for me all those years I will never know. What I do know is even while using alcohol and drugs I knew Mom loved me and no matter how long I was away, how far I had gone, nor how deep into my addiction I was I never felt unloved. Even in the thick of my addiction, my mother remained my rock and my foundation. When I called Mom picked up the phone, when I knocked, Mom opened the door and invited me in. I was shy, introverted and uninterested in the social side of life including parties, I was a late starter. The addiction was slow and steady and the progression was swift and intense. My first drink was at age 16, second drink at age 17 and I did not like it. By second semester in college, I was using cocaine and soon heroin. By year two, I was abusing alcohol and other drugs, and visits home stopped. Priorities flipped and my life took a 360, things took a turn for the worse and attending classes was an after-thought. For the next 15+ plus years, I spiraled out and down, sinking lower and lower in my drug use until I crashed in 1992.

February 6, 1992 was one of the coldest winters ever; I climbed two flights of steep red-carpeted stairs; where I made one of the most important decisions in my life. The following morning, my mother was at the door to deliver a gift basket with everything I needed, she met me, smiled and wrapped me in a huge bear hug and whispered in my ear “I Love You, God saved you by bringing you here.” That statement and hug, was dripped in enough love to carry me through. Those stairs led to Liberation House, which was then a co-ed treatment center. By the grace and mercy of GOD, I have not engaged in active addiction since that day. February 6, 2021, I celebrated 29 years in long-term recovery. My mother loved me through all the despair and darkness of my addiction, she never allowed my SUD to blur or block her love, she loved me in spite of it. With love all things are possible, including unconditionally love of those of us living with a SUD.

We do recover; MY MOTHER’S LOVE and prayers planted the seed that grew into my long-term recover of 29 years. That seed was watered and nurtured by treatment at Liberation Programs, Inc. Peer supports, consistent surrender, willingness and daily perseverance, and sober support groups and activities in spite of my SUD. I am GRATEFUL that I get to demonstrate Recovery One-Day-At-A-Time through my work at Liberation Programs, Inc.

Remember love endures ALL. Assist your loved one to access support and help whenever they need help, treatment is available so are sober support and sober coaches. If treatment has been tried and did not stick, try again, remember every treatment experience is valuable you never know which one it will be, you might save a life. Don’t Give Up!!!

If you or a loved one is seeking substance abuse treatment reach us at www.liberationprograms.org

We are saddened to hear of the passing of Kathy Carroll. Her contributions to the field of substance misuse will have a lasting impact on the work we do.

 

In Memoriam: Kathleen M. Carroll, PhD
1958–2020

It is with profound sadness that we share the news that Kathleen (Kathy) M. Carroll, PhD, a clinical scientist who made seminal contributions to improving treatments for addiction, died unexpectedly after a brief illness on December 28, 2020. She was 62 years old. At the time of her death, Dr. Carroll was the Albert E. Kent Professor of Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine, and director of psychosocial research in the Division on Addictions.

Dr. Carroll possessed a rare blend of brilliance, generosity, and humility that propelled a career spanning over 30 years in addiction treatment research at Yale. She graduated summa cum laude from Duke University, received her PhD in clinical psychology and neuropsychology in 1988 from the University of Minnesota, and completed her predoctoral training at Yale School of Medicine’s Division of Substance Abuse. Following a brief stint as instructor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School, she joined the faculty at Yale in 1989 as assistant professor of psychiatry. Working closely with Dr. Bruce Rounsaville, she helped establish and subsequently led the Psychotherapy Development Center (PDC), the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA’s) only funded Center of Excellence devoted to behavioral therapies research. Through Dr. Carroll’s leadership, the PDC became one of the most important sources of addiction treatment development and dissemination over the past 25 years, improving the methodological rigor of clinical trials research and leading to multiple clinical innovations that have impacted the lives of many struggling with addiction. Officially ending in 2020, the PDC produced over 1,500 peer-reviewed publications and launched the careers of dozens of independent investigators. Dr. Carroll also served as a principal investigator of NIDA’s Clinical Trials Network, a partnership between NIDA, treatment researchers, and community providers to work toward new treatment options in community-level clinical practice.

The depths of her contribution to the field of addiction are unparalleled. She has been a principal investigator on over 100 research projects funded through NIH, with funding amounts totaling over $76 million. She authored or co-authored over 330 articles in peer-reviewed publications, with over 50 chapters in major textbooks, along with several books and published manuals. Her Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) manual for cocaine use disorders has been translated to over 14 languages and implemented worldwide. Among the defining accomplishments of her career has been broader recognition of the efficacy, safety, and durability of behavioral therapies. She helped establish the Stage Model of Behavioral Therapies Development that facilitated important advances by defining stages of science for behavioral therapies development, from pilot testing of novel approaches translated from basic clinical science (“Stage 1”) to efficacy testing via randomized clinical trials (“Stage 2”) to effectiveness research based in community settings (“Stage 3”). This required a set of methodological advances (e.g., systemization of interventions in manuals, development of fidelity rating systems, therapist training strategies) to which she made multiple contributions. She received a NIH MERIT award for her work which led to the development of an effective web-based version of CBT (“CBT4CBT”), now validated in eight independent trials. CBT4CBT became one of the first evidence-based computerized interventions for a range of substance use disorders and is currently being adapted and implemented for various co-occurring conditions.

Dr. Carroll served on several journal editorial boards, advisory boards, and NIH scientific review panels, too numerous to list. Most recently, she was an invited member of the National Academy of Medicine’s committee on medications to treat opioid use disorders and was a major author of its influential consensus report Responding to the Opioid Crisis: Medications Save Lives.

Dr. Carroll received many prestigious awards, but being honored in September of this year at the 50th anniversary celebration of the APT Foundation, where she conducted much of her research, was among the most meaningful to her. This award highlighted not only her research contributions but her mentorship and relationships with others, to which she was truly committed. According to long-time collaborator, Charla Nich, “we were blessed to be able to give Kathy a message just 3 months ago about our gratitude for her scientific integrity, brilliance, courage, strength, radical acceptance, and love personified.” Ayana Jordan, MD, PhD, a current mentee noted, “Her ability to lead compassionately and lift others while climbing, is indeed a gift from the creator.” Brian Kiluk, PhD, another long-time mentee, described her as “the embodiment of a true mentor—someone who both teaches and guides others on their career path, but also serves as a shining example for what others aspire to be.”

Dr. Carroll’s tremendous academic and scientific accomplishments are dwarfed by her kind, generous, and playful spirit. She had an amazing ability to find joy in everyday situations, especially in life’s most difficult moments. She loved swimming, art history, architectural history, hiking, and reading. Kathy was an expert on the works of Shakespeare and opera. She also had a fine sense of humor and loved a good prank. She was a lifelong progressive with great compassion for social justice and coupled anti-racist principles with her recent academic work on identifying and addressing racial and ethnic disparities in substance use treatment outcomes.

Dr. Carroll has maintained a decades old relationship with Christian Community Action (CCA) in New Haven and contributed annually through efforts to provide for school clothing, Christmas gifts, and Easter baskets for children living in emergency housing. From her hospital bed one week prior to falling critically ill, she reached out to CCA caseworkers to make sure that all the homeless children were cared for—and donated electronically toward that effort.

Kathy is survived by her daughter, Kate, her brother, John and his two amazing sons, Dag and Dashiell, her mother Barbara, and her husband Geoffrey White and his daughters, Natalie, and Carla White as well as Matthew Chivian. Her Yale/APT team, too large to mention by name, embraced Kathy as family. Kathy was predeceased by her father John, and loving canine companions Trundo and Ernie.

In lieu of flowers, Kathy’s family is suggesting a donation to the Kathy Carroll Memorial Playground fund at Christian Community Action, 168 Davenport Ave., New Haven, CT 06519. CCA has agreed to set up a creative, safe, and fun outdoor play space for the children in emergency housing.

Memorial services have been postponed until the pandemic allows for a proper gathering and celebration of Kathy’s life.

2020 has been an unprecedented year in so many ways.  Every day we see stories and news reports about COVID19 but that is not the only crisis we are facing.  The Opioid Epidemic continues and has only worsened since the Pandemic began.  Between March and May, 42 states and territories issued mandatory stay at home orders which led many Americans to begin work from home, virtual learning or unemployment.  For those deemed “essential workers”, work continued under uncertainty, fear and increased use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The effects of the Coronavirus vary from individual to individual but common experiences include feelings of social stress, isolation, fear, grief, concerns about job security, finances and health.  All these factors, plus countless others, have played a roll in what state officials predict will be a year of record overdose deaths in Connecticut.  The Chief Medical Examiner predicts the total number of overdoses in the state in 2020 to exceed 1300, over 100 more than last year.  Through October 2020, Connecticut reported a 13% increase in overdose deaths over the same period in 2019.  Fatal and nonfatal overdoses nationwide spiked in May 2020 with a 42% increase compared to May 2019.

It is impossible to know all of the correlations between COVID19 and substance use but some things we know for sure.  Alcohol and cannabis sales have both increased during the Pandemic as many individuals are reporting new or increased alcohol and drug use as a coping method.  Alcohol sales were deemed essential during the Pandemic as alcohol withdraw can be deadly.  So what do we know about why overdoses, especially fatal ones, have increased?  Isolation is a key factor.  Individuals who may have once used drugs with others were often isolated and using alone.  If an overdose occurs while someone is alone, there is no one to call for help or administer the lifesaving overdose reversal, Naoloxone.  Even if someone is present, the fear of going to the hospital during COVID19 may have prevented individuals from seeking help.  The existing stigma around SUD can impact willingness to seek treatment that could prevent a future overdose.

While organizations such as Liberation Programs were deemed essential and not forced to close, fear of leaving the house and being around others became a new barrier to treatment.  Fortunately, governmental mandates were changed to allow for an increase in take home medication such as Methadone which curbs opioid cravings.  Additionally, telehealth services were able to be implemented to provide treatment and support from an individual’s residence.  However, if someone has no access to a phone or internet, this was not an easy solution.  We have adapted and made changes to provide lifesaving treatment during the Pandemic, but there is much work left to be done.

Individuals with Substance Use Disorders (SUD) often have co-morbidities that can worsen symptoms in those who contract COVID19 as well as make individuals more susceptible to the virus.  Unfortunately, minorities have been disproportionately affected by COVID19 and Substance Use Disorders.  A study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), found that African Americans with Substance Use Disorder and COVID19 had worse outcomes for hospitalizations and mortality.  Another study showed that Black patients had a larger portion of Opioid overdoses during the Pandemic.  This disparity in access and treatment must be addressed in order to save lives.

So what are we doing at Liberation Programs to address the Coronavirus Pandemic and Substance Misuse?  We have never closed our doors to Recoverees and are fully utilizing allowances for take home medications and telehealth – something we hope to incorporate even once the Pandemic is behind us.  Our Mobile Wellness Van continues to operate throughout Fairfield County 5 days per week providing life saving Narcan (Naloxone), syringe exchange, harm reduction supplies, education and referrals to those seeking support.  We have trained all staff as well as many in the community and local government in Narcan, including providing Narcan kits, so that we can get as many people as possible equipped to save lives.  We remain committed to meeting people where they are, saving lives and showing that Recovery is Possible.