By Michael Rass
Sink or swim are the metaphorical options for people with addiction. Andrea Carr, Michael Arnold, and Scott Leeper teamed up for a personal guide to recovery in Drowning in Addiction, sharing their first-hand experience with substance use disorder (SUD) and its devastating impact on families.
Andrea and Michael both recovered from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) while Scott lost his father to the disease. The book offers a multi-faceted view of addiction, featuring first-person narratives describing the descent into alcoholism and its dangers (Andrea and Michael), but also first-person viewpoints of friends and family (Scott), as well as other vignettes of people with a variety of SUDs.
Michael’s addiction almost killed her when she flat-lined in an ambulance, Andrea reached a stage where she blacked out every night from drinking, and Scott describes how his father’s death from decades of alcohol abuse almost derailed his life and marriage.
The reader learns that Andrea’s dad committed suicide after struggling with alcoholism “for his entire adult life,” putting her own alcohol use disorder into perspective. The book illustrates dramatically the impact of genetic predisposition and how underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and trauma become important drivers of SUDs. And it illustrates how substance misuse, depression, and trauma can take whole families to the brink. “The harshest [consequence] for not only the individual addict, but for friends and family of the addict, is death,” Scott writes in the book.
Despite the dire hardships caused by addiction, the book emphasizes a message of hope that recovery is possible. It isn’t an easy task, though. There is no magic cure, it takes work, and not everyone is going to recover the same way. “The only essential ingredient is a commitment to find a workable path for you and not to give up.”
It will be difficult to find that workable path, though, if the addicted individual is unwilling to accept her condition and if he is not prepared to put in the effort necessary to overcome it. Michael, Andrea, and Scott reiterate several times that “no matter what a family tries to do for their loved one, the person battling addiction has to want sobriety bad enough that they make the change for themselves.”
At the end of the book, Michael, Andrea, and Scott introduce their readers to some of the many possible recovery methods, emphasizing again that there is more than one swimming stroke to keep you from drowning in addiction. But the addicted person has to be willing to make the effort to actually swim. “Sobriety and recovery is a daily practice,” writes Michael.
“Transformation requires work, tending, weeding, and more action… Recovery is about taking ownership of your life and choosing to no longer be the victim, but the victor.”
Scott regards his father as a teacher now whose lessons kept him from succumbing to addiction himself and moved him to become a recovery coach. After turning her life around, Andrea is now helping others to do the same.
Michael works as an alumni relations manager at the Harmony Foundation and takes great pride in her recovery. “Recover out loud!” is Michael’s motto now. Her way of dealing with the disease is to help others, sharing the story of her addiction and recovery instead of hiding her alcoholic past.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use and could benefit from addiction treatment services, please contact the Harmony Foundation at 970.432.8075
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