The Woodward News

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April 10, 2014

Lighthouse can help change lives

Self admitted methamphetamine and prescription drug addict, "Jay" describes his life nearly a month ago as being in a free fall that would have eventually ended badly.

That was before he landed at The Lighthouse, a 26-bed residential substance abuse facility located south of Woodward on U.S. Highway 270.

"I was just basically tumbling down a rabbit hole and I couldn't stop," 25-year-old Jay said. "I was ready for a new life and I feel I have that life now or the hope of it. Before, I wasn't living."

"Jay" (not his real name) sat down with the Woodward News recently and spoke candidly about his journey from a lifetime of addiction that started when he was a young boy and continued until about three weeks ago.

"I have 13 siblings," he said. "I'm the only boy and so, as the only brother they (his sisters) have a lot to do with me being here."

On his 18th day of being clean and sober , Jay discussed how he believes his addiction began and how he found his way to the Lighthouse "family," where he has hope of a real life for the first time ever.

"My addictions started in childhood kind of with my parents," he said. "My mom was okay but not there so much and my dad did most of my raising. He wanted to be my friend instead of a parent, a role model, a teacher, or a father."

Jay said his need for acceptance and to gain the approval of his father led him to more and more outrageous acts and risky behavior that included use of methamphetamine and prescription drugs.

At last, however, his sisters, afraid for his life, brought him to The Lighthouse.

"I've done some serious soul searching in here," he said. "This place, even though they were strangers, were like family. But they knew me better than I knew myself."

Through his time, just 18 days at The Lighthouse, Jay now knows his father is also addicted and cannot be there for him. He understands to succeed in his life of sobriety that he has to totally own his decisions as an adult and look for his support from those who can be there for him in a healthy way.

He understands this means he cannot hang out with old friends who do not live sober lives.

Facility administrators and residents of this intensive 30-day substance abuse program are celebrating this month, the 15th year the facility has been in Woodward, according to NCBH Director Trudy Hoffman.

"We celebrated the grand opening in November of 1999 but we were already open and had residents in march of 1999," she said.

For Jay, it doesn't matter if The Lighthouse is 15-years-old or 50. His celebration was that it was here for him when he needed it the most.

Since opening 15 years ago, The Lighthouse has been full and there is a waiting list for occupancy, according to Lighthouse Director Casie Brittain, LCSW.

(Licensed Clinical Social Worker).

Basically, for every one person who gets to come to The Lighthouse there are three who need the services, but there is no room, according to state statistics.

On average, The Lighthouse serves 340 residents per year, has a mostly self referred clientele and is paid for primarily by state funding, although private insurance and private pay is also accepted.

Brittain said while there are some who might be court ordered to the facility, they are still not physically forced to the enter.

"Admissions to The Lighthouse are voluntary," Brittain said. "Even though a family might call us, we talk to the addict and they have to agree to come to the program."

The treatment is a combination of services that address the deepest and most fundamental causes of addiction.

Clients who have long-term family issues such as sexual abuse, neglect or just growing up in a family who was addicted can all be addressed here.

The approach helps clients learn how to live a healthy lifestyle with proper boundaries and in full control of their choices, Brittain said.

For that reason, the Lighthouse offers an in-depth, individualized program of treatment, education, recreational therapy, peer groups, individual counseling and 12 step program participation.

While many residential treatment facilities allow family to visit every weekend, at The Lighthouse, the family is part of the recovery program, Brittain said. So the experience visiting family members have is a little different,.

"I did a family day on Saturday," Brittain said. "I spent four hours talking about how addiction is a family disease - it affects the whole family as much as it does the individual."

For that reason, the policy limits residents to one 15 minute call per day. Family visits take place on the first and third Sundays of each month, whereby the family is engaged from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in education sessions as well as group and private counseling sessions.

"For instance, we have one activity where we have the addict come and write on the white board everything he or she has lost as a result of their addiction and then we have each family member come and write on that same white board what they have lost as a result of the addict's addiction," Brittain said.

Free family time is limited to one and a half hours.

"We feel, with all of the stressors and outside distractions, this time they are here, 30 days, it's not that long and they need to take this time to learn about themselves," Brittain said.

There are times when the strict guidelines and rules cramp some resident's styles and they may complain, she said, but setting boundaries and teaching them to set boundaries is the first step in helping addicts begin to live a life that makes sense.

"The Lighthouse does a great job of going back to basics," Brittain said. "We are feeding you three meals a day, unlimited snacks, we are teaching you to sleep for eight hours but otherwise, this is your journey. We aren't here to tell you the answers, because the answers are within you. We are here to support you."

So when a client wants to know why they must get up, make their bed and adhere to what may feel to adults like childish rules, she gives them a pretty blunt answer.

"I tell them, if you were good at following rules, you wouldn't be here," she said.

That way of "cutting to the chase" helped Jay.

"Like I said, they knew me better than I did," he said. "They didn't let me get away with stuff."

The Lighthouse is just one service among many that is offered by the Northwest Center for Behavioral Health in Woodward - an Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services facility.

Other services include outpatient private and group counseling services, an acute care facility in Fort Supply and a specialized unit for transitional residential treatment for those who don't need the intensive treatment of the acute care facility of still need support 24 hours a day.

Payment for services is based on a client's ability to pay and their income, Hoffman said. But no person will be turned away because of their inability to pay.

More than 87 percent of the services at The Lighthouse are provided to clients who are "indigent" meaning the cost is picked up by the state.

And with a $21 million shortfall this budget year, that means the waiting list for those needing treatment at The Lighthouse could get longer, Hoffman said.

For Hoffman, who has been a part of the Northwest Center for Behavioral Health and The Lighthouse since before it moved to its current location, the journey can be a long one for addicts, but worthwhile.

Mental health and substance abuse services are key to Oklahoma turning its poor health statistics around and helping the state become more successful, she said.

She hopes legislators truly consider the statistics and the impact poor mental health is having on the state.

"I mean, with good mental health you have less people incarcerated, you have less child abuse and neglect," Hoffman said. "It impacts every part of life.

"That's because this isn't just about being clean and sober," Hoffman said. "it is about dealing with the underlying issues."

Jay knows that. He encourages anyone considering to take the "very frightening step toward sobriety", he said.

"I would tell them, I know it's scary but to not be scared of change," Jay said. "It might be hard at first. But if you are coming here and you really want that change, you will get it."

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