How do you change all that?
In the last audio, I succinctly laid out what was at the roots of our country’s profound dilemma at this point in history. In a word: addiction.
We have become a society of addicts.
And the addictions run the gambit. A majority of Americans, at this point, are addicted to one, or a combination, of the following: alcohol, drugs, sex, television, internet, gambling, debting, overworking, overeating, compulsive shopping, continual dysfunctional relationships, adrenalin…
This, in turn, is causing more and more dysfunction in families. And the cycle of addiction is playing out in the next generation, and the next…
And extrapolating all this out, it is also at the root of most of our current societal problems.
Some 80% of those in prison committed the crime under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or committed the crime to get drugs or alcohol. Domestic violence is on a significant rise. We now have a 60% divorce rate and broken homes everywhere. With gambling addiction, there has come all sorts of destructive societal gaming – from widespread compulsive lottery betting now to casinos, and all their attendant vice. With compulsive debting many people are drowning in a sea of debt, as is the federal government now.
Addiction to television and the internet is rampant now too – as faith, family, community… take further and further back seats. And with addiction to sex, violence, and so on… this is often what people these days are primarily watching – and, by extension, this often then plays itself out on the streets, so to speak, with increased gun violence, with increased sexual acting out, with increased abortion rates, with increased… well, you get the point.
And the point is, we’ve become a “Society of Addicts.” And all the societal problems being caused by this won’t really shift until these addictions are dealt with at their roots. It’s that simple.
America has to create an extensive, multi-tiered climate that makes it as user-friendly as possible to, not only stop the addictions, but to learn to live optimal emotionally healthy lives.
Also, to argue this is merely an unattainable utopian concept would be the verbiage of, well, number one: someone who was in denial about their addiction. And two, it would be patently false – because there are people, and towns, profoundly on the road to recovery already.
And the combination of what I talk about next, if plugged into every town in the country, would go a long way in shifting all this – at its roots. And in turn, get our country as a whole on a real solid road to recovery.
At the front end, we need to expand upon existing social services, counseling and so on, by a factor of at least 10. As a former addictions counselor and social worker for a county agency in Ohio, I know there are many quality programs out there to deal effectively with addictions, mental disorders, domestic violence, and such.
However often because of society not prioritizing these areas much, there aren’t, by any means, enough of these agencies. And many of the ones that do exist are underfunded.
This is why the passing of much more robust local mental health levies across the board in America is essential. And to offer some incentives for the passage of these local levies, our administration – in the short term – would offer various matching federal grants to help bolster, say, these county mental health agencies.
For instance, I used to be a counselor in a structured halfway house for alcohol and drug addicts. It was a 90-day comprehensive treatment program. There was often a waiting list to get in. That county, Lorain County, Ohio, could have used at least three of these facilities. And what’s more, if the program had been stretched to six months to a year, the relapse rate for these addicts would have diminished measurably.
The Lorain County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (LCCADA, for short), not only ran the halfway house, they also had an outpatient treatment program with individual and group counseling. They specialized, primarily, in drug and alcoholism counseling and codependency counseling. The counselors here were also over-booked and there simply weren’t enough of them for the demand. And their work, again, was primarily around drug and alcohol counseling.
If the money was there, there could have been satellite offices in almost every town in the county. And the counseling scope could expand to deal with the other areas I allude to earlier. That is, counseling (both group and individual) that focused on compulsive sexual acting out, compulsive overeating, compulsive gambling, internet addiction, compulsive debting, adult children of alcoholic and other dysfunctional family issues…
Books have been written about all these areas. And there are counselors that specialize in all these areas. But percentage wise, given the scope of these addictions in our society at this point, there are not, in any way, enough counselors currently -- or counselor training.
Besides expanding the scope of mental health services from county to county across the country, our administration would help subsidize more education, and education opportunities, for those wanting to get training in addictions counseling – that would include all these other areas.
Currently, most of the education is geared toward getting a college degree in addictions counseling that primarily just revolves around the dynamics of alcoholism and drug abuse. We would push for an “Addictions Counseling Degree” that encompassed in-depth study of all the addictive areas. And our administration would help subsidize such college programs with matching grants, and so on.
Criminal Justice System
Our administration would also stress the concept of “Restorative Justice,” in regard to our criminal justice system.
That is, a significant portion of our prison system revolves around what’s colloquially referred to as “dead-end warehousing.” Many people “do their time” in, for the most part, a static sense – without much in the way of rehabilitation.
Consequently, the recidivism rate for people ending up back in prison is high.
Restorative Justice is about circumventing as much of this as possible.
At Bluffton College in Bluffton, Ohio, I sat in on a class in “Restorative Justice.” Professor Jeff Gingerich explained that in the country of Denmark, for instance, once someone is sentenced to prison, a thorough psycho-social assessment is done on the inmate to determine if, say, they need long term psychological counselling, drug or alcoholism treatment, education, job training… Professor Gingerich said the belief in Denmark is that the society should do everything possible to “restore” that person to society much better off than when they came into prison.
On a stop in Fostoria, Ohio, I talked with Mark West. West started the Oasis Treatment Program at the Piqua Correctional Institute in Ohio. (Oasis is now being used as a national model.)
West has a prison-consulting firm in Fostoria, Ohio. He told me that his program (which had a 95% success rate, with tracking for five years after release) has a capacity for 200 inmates and is based on a “Behavior Modification Therapeutic Model.” This includes “encounter groups” with a healthy degree of confrontation, a reward system to reinforce positive behavior, individual counseling, etc. (It, incredibly, lasts a whole two years.) With the program demonstrating that it considerably cuts down on the recidivism rate for prisoners, West said he showed state lawmakers that – in the long run – his program saves millions of dollars, and many lives.
In doing the psycho-social assessment during the intake phase, our administration would propose checking for the other addictions alluded to earlier, and expanding, say, the Oasis Program to deal with these other areas as well.
And in addition to working on these addictions, the restorative justice model would also include helping prisoners with ongoing education, with ongoing job training, with ongoing healthy parenting classes…
There’s a Biblical exhortation about ‘visiting the prisoner.’ Restorative justice would demand that the prisoner not just be visited by someone from the outside, say, once a month. But rather they be ‘visited’ by a host of creative things to help turn their life around.
And one of these main things would be addiction analysis and treatment.
As Mark West noted to lawmakers, his program alone save millions of dollars – because of the low relapse rate, etc. – and many lives. What’s more, this sobriety, this newfound emotional health, can’t help but ripple out into the next generation, and the next…
Also for first time offenders, and such, there are diversion programs that work quite well and should be plugged into every county in the country.
For instance, in Needles, California, I researched what’s called the Drug Court. Instead of going to prison, some first time non-violent offenders are diverted to this there. This is a comprehensive two-year outpatient treatment program supplemented by mandatory attendance at 12-Step programs. Again, this program too could be expanded to include treatment for the other addictions I mention earlier.
As another extension of this, in Georgia and Ohio we talked with two people who had been involved with “treatment farms,” if you will. That is, non-violent offenders with addiction problems were given the option of going to rural settings where they worked on a farm for a year, or longer, while, in this slower paced more cloistered setting, also had time, and much less distraction, to work on getting a solid base in recovery.
Glendive, Montana’s “Healthy Community Model”
In tandem with the various recovery options I just mentioned for individuals, our society would also do well to draw from tried models that have been effective in changing the recovery climate in general of entire communities.
To draw from a Hillary Clinton euphemism, “It takes a village…” to help a person optimally recover. In our travels, we have come across a number of programs that, if plugged into every town, would dramatically enhance the recovery climate in a town.
For instance, Glendive, Montana’s “Healthy Community Model” has prioritized things that lead to healthy family life. (It is often the increasing dysfunction in today’s families that set the stage for the addiction process.)
On a stop in Glendive, we learned the town sponsors regular parenting classes in a room at the local library. So often parents, when they’ve come from dysfunctional homes, simply need additional information to know more about the dynamics of healthy parenting.
Also in Glendive, there is a good deal of support for mental health levies to keep counseling services as available as possible. The town also, for instance, places a strong emphasis on alcohol and drug prevention programs in the schools. And much more.
To take this a few proactive steps further…
Each town should have a Take A Stand for Kids (TASK) Program. I spent a few solid months researching TASK on the Monterey Peninsula in California.
This is a grassroots group of people who were in recovery for any number of the addictions I mention in the previous audio.
They were in counseling, 12-Step groups, and such, for alcohol and drug addiction; for compulsive gambling; for compulsive overeating; for compulsive debting; for workaholic, for sex addiction… And they bonded together to ramp up the recovery climate exponentially on the Peninsula. What’s more, it was working.
This TASK group put together a format of in-home neighborhood meetings and started holding them all over the Peninsula. Panels of people with these various addictions would candidly share brief versions of their stories and what they were doing now to recover.
And they didn’t stop here. They did various trainings in the local schools. They put on public seminars are various issues…
At every turn, they’d try to get a message out. And incrementally, the recovery climate on the Peninsula kept changing.
And to supplement the Glendive and TASK models, we would point to a town that has taken all this even a step further, a town that could be considered a true “recovery town.”
The New York Times recently did a story on Delray Beach, Florida (pop. 65,000). They referred to Delray Beach as the “recovery capital of the country.”
The article primarily focused on drug and alcoholism recovery, but, as you will read here, this could well be expanded so that a “recovery town” could cover the gamut of recovery I refer to earlier.
The article said Delray Beach has scores of halfway houses, 5,000 people in 12-Step groups, recovery radio shows, recovery coffee shops…
The article also notes “there is safety in numbers,” which is what draws a lot of people here. And there is a “compact geography combined with a critical mass of recovering addicts.”
“The community is one big helping hand that is always open,” said Mike Devane, a halfway house owner.
There is no reason every town, or rural county, couldn’t evolve into the same thing. And evolve into the same thing, again – not just around drug addicts and alcoholics, but around people afflicted with all the addictive and compulsive behavior I mentioned earlier.
This would mean, in essence, stepping up exponentially regional recovery services, establishment of more rehab and halfway house options, a solid network of 12-Step groups for a multitude of these issues, recovery radio and TV shows, recovery coffee houses…
If we want the country to change, really change, at its roots, then these addiction issues need to be addressed at their roots – from person to person.
There’s just no shortcut.
And as we deal with these things: the nation’s crime will drop significantly, traffic fatalities with drop significantly, the amount of divorce and broken homes will drop significantly, drain on the healthcare system will drop significantly, poverty and excessive debting will drop significantly, the natural environment and local communities will improve significantly… You see, once people get in recovery and start feeling better about themselves, they often also become much more active in making the community they live in a better place.
And dealing with these addictions is not just about us, or the country, or… It’s also about our kids. Because if these things aren’t dealt with, they will be passed on – in one form or another – to our kids. And the cycle will continue to repeat, and repeat, and repeat…
And what sane parent would want that for their kids?