Page 20 winter issue of empowerment magazine


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Page 20 winter issue of empowerment magazine

  1. 1. Continued from page 7 what are some of the things you would want to assess or identify before you start?DR. STENSON: A simplistic answer would be to start with the most urgent issues (i.e. suicide or homicide risk) andmove to other symptoms or behaviors that are creating distress, serious problems, or role functioning interference. It isimportant to have a sense of the individual’s insight, motivation, and exposure to previous treatment. Substance abuseoften includes a high degree of denial and may require an intervention with loved ones or persons most involved andaffected by the family member’s disorder.INTERVIEWER: If someone has no insurance or lacks adequate coverage will that rule them out of successful recovery?DR. STENSON: The ingredients to “successful recovery” are sometimes mysterious and hard to define. Many timersover the years, I have recommended to a patient, friend, family member, etc to attend 7 to 14 meetings a week for AA orNA, which costs nothing. With mental illness, participation in local NAMI meetings is open and free. Being in the pres-ence of others who are dealing with similar problems who are motivated to help themselves and others often leads tosuccessful recovery.INTERVIEWER: What is the most influential character trait among individuals who maintain long-term recovery whilealso having happy lives?DR. STENSON: Perseverance and an ability to stick with a tough challenge certainly help when one is dealing with thedifficulty illness of addiction. I also like to remind patients that channeling or redirecting their inner rebelliousness canalso be very helpful. Often times, this characteristic relates to a sense of not being heard or understood. In the presenceof others that do listen and understand, this characteristic can become a positive energy used to achieve long-term re-covery and living a rewarding, happy lifeINTERVIEWER: If I’ve had multiple relapses, will I ever be able to find the right combination that will work for me?Some of the patients who have had the most meaningful and rich recoveries were our most difficult patients, with manyrelapses or persistence of drug abuse patterns. I preach often to not make prognostications as one never knows whenthe light will go on and the right combination occurs that facilitates recovery. Many, many individuals with long-term suc-cessful recovery had many relapses prior to their more lasting recovery.DR. STENSON: Ignorance and lack of good knowledge is the biggest danger. Often the most impaired individuals knowat some level that they need help and are not completely hopeless. They often are very sensitive to insincerity or lack ofknowledge and can easily be turned off when being helped by someone not knowledgeable of the unique challenges ofsubstance abuse and mental illness.INTERVIEWER: What are good ways to prepare for the changes that may occur after I have made needed changes tosupport my recovery?DR. STENSON: Change is hard for human beings, including all the people that are connected to the individual. Onemust prepare for the reality that others may want to, need to or unconsciously stress the recovering individual by havinga hard time adjusting to a new, recovering person. One may find out who their real friend are. It can be a lonely journeyat times, especially if not connected with healthy supports. Sometimes a person who is viewed as a “black sheep,” maycontinue to be treated that way even though they are working hard, making positive changes, and doing well in their re-covery. Many humans feel better about themselves when someone close to them is the identified problem. When theperson with the identified problem improves, others may be forced to look more honestly with themselves an have a hardtime doing that. Have a toolkit of stress reducers or stress coping devices. Such things as relaxation breathing exercises,physical exercise, hobbies, special interests, trustworthy and supportive friends, etc all become important considerationsin preparing for the changes.Dr. Stenson graduated from the first class of the UC Davis school of medicine. After being awarded a Re-gent’s Scholarship as both a UCD undergraduate and medical student, he completed his residency training inpsychiatry at the UC program affiliated with the Sacramento Medical Center, where he was also the chief resi-dent. He served 2 years in the Air Force under the Berry Plan, directing both an outpatient and alcohol pro-gram at Sheppard AFB. His subsequent professional career has been primarily related to community mentalhealth and substance abuse. He was the medical director of San Joaquin County Mental Health between1984-2006. He is the owner and medical director of C.O.R.E. Medical Clinic, located at 2100 Capitol Ave inSacramento, which treats individuals suffering from opioid addiction. Dr. Stenson conducts a monthly work-shop on opioid addiction the third Wednesday of each month at 11:00 a.m. at the clinic which is open to any-one interested in learning more about opioid addiction and treatment.