It could be your mother. Your sister. Your little brother or even your daughter.
But chances are someone in your family, someone you love, is addicted. And they need help.
Darrin Taylor and Chris Bader are extending the hand of hope.
The two men are addictions counselors, intent on making a difference for people who want help but for whatever reason cannot commit to an extensive stay at a treatment centre.
Taylor is the owner of Axis Intervention Services, a Kelowna and Vernon based service that has been helping Okanagan families since 1999. This fall, Axis is offering a new program aimed at meeting addicts or potential addicts where they’re at — not on the Downtown Eastside, but right here in the Okanagan Valley.
Taylor clears up a couple of the myths surrounding addiction: one, the addict in your life is not likely living down on Skid Row. The truth is they are more likely to be working, or a stay-at-home mom, or a student.
“I think that there are a lot of people in the Okanagan who could use help,” said Taylor, a registered therapeutic counselor and a board certified interventionist. “Our target market is probably not going to be the street level addict. If someone is struggling in that way they require a more intensive program. The majority of people struggling with addiction are likely to still have a home, a family, and they probably still have a job. That’s the real face of addiction in this country.”
Bader agrees that the problem is massive and underground in the Okanagan.
“I think it’s huge. We talk about it often; it’s not necessarily the alcoholic drinking out of a brown paper bag. It can be people with families, working jobs but they definitely have issues outside the public eye,” he said. “We see situations where the addicted individual loses their ability to be emotionally available with their spouses and family. It’s a separation of the family unit.”
The other thing to consider is that not everybody needs residential treatment.
“Typically, the street level addict needs residential treatment,” said Taylor, whereas IOP’s (Intensive Outpatient Program) are more for those who for whatever reasons just cannot go away for 30 or 60 days or longer to get their footing. “If they’ve tried on their own to quit, but they have a strong desire to change, and are unwilling or unprepared to leave home and engage in a residential program, this is certainly a good option.”
He adds that there is an understanding that some people may ultimately require more intensive work, and “the IOP we are delivering may be a good springboard for longer term residential treatment if that’s what’s needed.”
Taylor and Bader are offering an Intensive Outpatient Program starting this month. The IOP is an educational, 10-week program which will explain the essentials of addiction to those who may be struggling with symptoms. Using one of the premier IOP models available, the two men will walk clients through a series of practices designed to lead people to a goal of abstinence.
The Edgewood Treatment Centre model used by Axis includes education on addiction, cognitive behavioral therapy, relapse prevention techniques, group therapy sessions, anxiety management techniques, healthy living practices, self and peer assessments and a recovery plan. In addition to the two evenings a week, clients can also expect one 60-minute individual counseling session per week. There will be lectures, assignments to do, an introduction to the 12 Step movement (Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous), and the family will get an opportunity to understand what their loved one is undertaking, at a family education presentation. There will also be a drug/alcohol testing, which should help the facilitators determine during the assessment process whether the individual is motivated to stay clean.
“Essentially it’s a program for people who can attend in the evenings and still allows them to maintain their work and family obligations. We have a heavy focus on education as well as counseling,” said Taylor.
The Edgewood IOP model is being used in that centre’s five outpatient offices across Canada. Edgewood is an 80-bed, private care facility in Nanaimo. The centre recently announced its new Edgewood Health Network, which included joining with Bellwood Treatment Centre in Toronto to offer a standardized treatment protocol for addicts across the country. The new EHN is planning on acquiring a third residential treatment centre in Quebec, and will launch another 15 to 20 outpatient clinics in the next five years.
“Based on the number of outpatient locations, and the scope of its patient services, Edgewood is the premier provider of addiction treatment services nationwide,” said Taylor. “I would argue that Axis has been for a number of years the leading provider of addiction and post-treatment services across the Okanagan Valley. With our six therapists and a registered nurse in our two locations, I think this is a good fit.”
With the high profile deaths of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams, and the media-detailed struggles of people such as Rob Ford, Sen. Patrick Brazeau and Ron Francis, addiction remains a puzzling problem for Canadians.
“The big thing that we are trying to get across to individuals we work with is yes it’s a chronic, progressive disease, but it’s highly treatable,” said Bader. “When I talk to clients about it I ask them, ‘if you got cancer, what would you do?’ and they say, ‘Well I’d go for treatment.’ This isn’t any different.
“We’re getting into the root cause of the problem, the meat and potatoes of what’s behind the addiction. AA is a fantastic thing to get support from. But the IOP educational aspect, and feedback, and ongoing aftercare is essential. The one-on-one recovery coaching. And there is a family component to what were going to do. If the addict gets better and the family is still stuck, that doesn’t create a healthy family atmosphere. So it’s about moving forward with a healthy recovery plan for everyone.”
For its part, Edgewood management say they are thrilled to be offering Edgewood-style IOP in the Okanagan, and that it is Axis which is providing it.
“We’ve always had an excellent relationship with Darrin and Axis,” said Elizabeth Loudon, clinical director at Edgewood’s main campus in Nanaimo. “I’ve always found him to be professional, empathetic and caring. He always goes above and beyond to help people. And I think it’s very important that we are going to be offering IOP in the Okanagan. More people getting help is a good thing.”
The program will run continuously, meaning that participants may join at any time beginning in November. Space is limited. Some employee plans or benefit plans do cover all or parts of the costs.
For more information on the Axis IOP program, please call Taylor or Bader at 1-866-455-AXIS or 250-545-1898 in Vernon, or 1-778-753-6227 in Kelowna.
Jeff Vircoe is a freelance journalist based in Nanaimo.