Mitchell Rosen: Realities behind the epidemic of alcohol and drug abuse – Press-Enterprise

Shortly after becoming licensed as a family therapist, I was hired to facilitate group therapy on a chemical dependency unit. I did this every day for about 10 years. I also coordinated family group for the spouses and relatives of those who were recovering from alcohol and drug abuse. There were a lot of “take aways” from this experience.

Despite my education, I held many prejudices and myths toward those who abused alcohol and drugs. These men and women taught me a great deal.

Perhaps the most significant lesson I learned was that most alcoholics are not fall down, live in the gutter, going through trash cans drunks. In fact, the label of being “a drunk” is not accurate or helpful. As I learned, drug addicts are not sleazy, better watch your wallet, can’t trust ’em as far as you can throw ’em liars.

Some patients lived up to these stereotypes, but very few.

The alcoholics who lived under bridges and pan handled on the freeway exits were rarely predatory, exploitive or violent. Truth is, they were often the ones who were exploited, robbed and worse. The majority of these individuals also were mentally ill, some floridly psychotic. I stopped making smug, smart aleck comments about these men and women.

I used to think drug addicts were from the “other side of the tracks” — uneducated, poor, slovenly, with no family or values. During the family groups, I saw their spouses, parents, relatives and children come out to support recovery. Some were without anyone, but most had someone, often several people who knew the person inside. I threw out my stereotypes; there is no such thing as a typical drug abuser.

What I was not prepared for were the middle class, middle-aged men and women addicted to Vicodin, Percocet or

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