Substance use disorders can have long-lasting emotional, mental, and physical side effects. Many of these side effects are very well known, but the lesser-known lack of good nutrition is one we tackle daily in our treatment programs at Stepworks. Regular consumption of alcohol or other drugs deprives the body of essential nutrients, while many other drugs suppress or increase appetite, wreaking havoc on the overall digestive health of people suffering from addiction. Meth users may go days without eating. Marijuana smokers are notorious for binge-eating junk foods.
Across our state and beyond, hospital patients are being treated for life-threatening infections related to injection drug use—but receiving zero treatment for their substance use disorders. Our Stepworks team knew something had to change. We saw the effects of this endless cycle, and it was devastating.
Due to factors like the high likelihood of relapse, continued injection drug use, and generally low compliance of drug-addicted patients, patients have historically been required to receive their entire course of antibiotics while hospitalized. The cost of keeping these patients in the hospital for 30 days and longer is extremely expensive. Meanwhile the disease of addiction, which caused their hospitalization in the first place, remains untreated. Our successful PICC line care program is one of the first of its kind in the country to address this issue.
“This is medical treatment that makes recovery a priority,” says Stepworks Nurse Nicole Smith.
Shauna O’Nan looked around one day and realized her life was gone—everything she had known and loved, robbed from her by the disease of alcohol addiction.
“I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I was so far gone, I didn’t know how to be human.”
Shauna is a mom, a daughter, a friend, who made decisions that left her spiraling out of control. She recounts how her alcohol addiction began at an early age. With each new traumatic turn in life, Shauna’s addiction gained a stronger foothold. Before long she was “doping and drugging,” as Shauna says, on a daily basis. Her once fruitful career and vibrant motherhood were replaced by dark trailers without electricity and consecutive days without food.
“My parents hadn’t seen me in years, my sons didn’t know if I was alive or dead, and no one trusted me. Even when I called for help and my parents made plans to pick me up, they were fearful I was setting them up.”
So you’ve spent 30 days in residential treatment and you’re starting to experience the benefits of health and wholeness. It probably feels really good! At the same time, you’re well aware that the journey is just beginning. Remaining committed and intentional in your next steps is going to be key to your recovery success.
What does that mean in practical terms? We asked Rebecca McCracken, a therapist at Stepworks of Nicholasville, to share a few of her recommended next steps for people fresh out of recovery. Here’s what she had to say.
Do you find yourself wondering if you are addicted? Are you thinking that maybe it’s time you talked to someone about what is happening? Here’s the thing: if you’re here reading this and thinking about it, it’s time. We are proud of you for getting this far.
There’s a common belief that folks have to “hit rock bottom” before they can be ready to change, that is not always true. Most of us don’t wait until we are on death’s doorstep before we go to the doctor for a medical illness. If we have a fever, our throat is sore, and we don’t go to work, we generally seek professional help to find out what’s going on. We go to the doctor. We don’t allow our sore throat to blossom into a full-blown infection that can kill us.
The same can be true for substance use disorders. If you’re having “sore spots” or disarray in your life because of using any substance, it’s time to take a good look at your relationship with that substance. How is that substance and your dependence on it impacting your everyday life?
“What does it mean to be sober this Christmas?” I asked her. She cocked her head to one side and offered up a gentle smile.
“This dark weary cloud isn’t hanging over my family…I’m not absent.”
Alex Middleton has spent years fighting a disease that separated her from her family and nearly took her life. But this year is different. Nearly two years sober, Alex is proud to say that her mom won’t have to wonder about the daughter that didn’t show up to family dinner.
“I asked her, ‘Don’t you want to see your rock out there? Don’t you want to join this group of solidarity?'” Big ones, small ones, a collection of brightly colored reminders inscribed with messages of hope—this is the Stepworks rock garden. As clients inch toward the finish line at Stepworks’ Crowne Pointe Drive facility, they get to take part in a unique experience. Each graduating client is invited to paint a rock of their own to leave behind in the facility’s special rock garden. While some choose to simply write their names, others leave inspirational quotes or positive reminders to those who are entering or still in the program.
Life after military service is a life that begins with extreme readjustment. As veterans return to their “normal” lives, they reintegrate into life with family, friends, and their community, while still processing all the trauma they have experienced in their time of service. This crossroads, the moment that the past life so well known to a soldier converges with “when I was in the service,” can leave service men and women with unique mental health challenges.
When you think of residential addiction treatment, dogs probably aren’t the first thing to come to mind. At Stepworks, we are always looking at new ways to help our clients have the best possible treatment experience, setting them up for success once they leave our program. In the last few years we have seen the value of an unexpected element of our programming—man’s best friend. Friendly dogs are residential treatment comfort animals at some of our facilities. Why have comfort animals? Well, dogs are often attentive, comforting, and accepting animals. This can be a tremendous benefit to a client who has experienced trauma or is struggling with self-esteem from substance abuse issues.
It’s a warm September Saturday and there is a crowd gathered at Stepworks of Nicholasville. The crowd is loud and laughter fills the space. There is a vibe in the air that for the outsider could be mistaken as a party—but the insider knows this is a unique celebration.
At first sight, there is a glimpse of Aaron Smallwood, Facility Administrator. He is adorned in a football helmet and soaked from head to toe. It looks like he has engaged in a friendly game of water-balloon toss, but the reality is he sat patiently by as the women around him hurled water balloons at him like it was their job. One after another they giggle and throw shade at the man who has impacted them in profound ways.
“I’ve dropped truth bombs on you, now it’s your turn to drop water bombs on me. Give it all you got,” Aaron chuckles.
He welcomes them, the countless women who have walked through the doors of Stepworks and walked out into a new life: a life of sobriety and change…