Health July 29, 2008

Locals Share the Road to Recovery

The faces of addiction may inspire you.

Rerouting the derailed

Nancy Kneeland could have easily gone to work in her family’s Ketchum namesake art gallery. Instead, after addressing her own addiction issues, she earned her master’s in counseling therapy. She recently opened The Diamonte Wellness Group, an outpatient treatment facility in Hailey.

“We’ll cover the basic nuts and bolts of what addiction is and how to arrest it,” explains her partner, Tyler Lohrke, who, like Kneeland, is 21 years sober and holds a master’s in counseling therapy. “We’re treating both the disease and the root cause.

“When people are born, they have a sense of wonder about life,” continues Lohrke. “They don’t need alcohol and drugs. As people get to their teen years and life pushes down on them, some start reaching out for more heightened experience. They’ve gotten used to life. It doesn’t hold the wonder it once did. They originally used drugs or alcohol to have fun and then to cope with the stresses of life to decompress. At the end of the day, some become dependent on it.”

The way out of dependency begins during a motivational interview with Kneeland or Lohrke when they recommend the best course of treatment. Some will need to detox for 30-45 days first at an inpatient treatment center like the Walker Center in Gooding before working in outpatient.

Treatment here involves different types of learning/support groups. Some are gender specific because “each gender has its own set of issues,” says Kneeland. There is a family skills group teaching positive relationships as well as an anger management group and a group teaching everyday skills like stress management. Individual meetings with Kneeland and Lohrke are an added bonus.

Each client has an individually designed program as to how many and which meetings to attend during an eight-month period, with recommendations of 12-step-type meetings continuing after treatment. The cost of treatment here is determined on a sliding fee scale based on the client’s hourly wage.

The first step is “to stop the addictive behavior,” notes Lohrke, and then we “go into the deeper issues” that change an individual’s perception of themselves. Clients examine their perception of the world in order to see irrational belief systems that have developed. “It’s really all about awareness,” continues Lohrke, to break the habitual cycles of the past.

“The treatment center,” says Kneeland, is “a window of opportunity, not just to get the alcohol out but to realize that there is another way of life”—a way to rediscover wonder in everyday life again without drugs or alcohol. >>>


A Secret Support Society
“You know, here we are in a resort town where everybody drinks every night and I had a bunch of pals that I drank too much with. I chose to stop because I knew my mom’s sisters and the course their lives took and I didn’t want it for me,” shares local Spooky Taft.

Taft began attending 12-step meetings and now, 13 years sober, still goes two to three times a week. “There are a lot of 12-step programs here. I affectionately call it our secret society because we are all very close. Recovery here is very strong, very powerful. The people here bend over backwards for you.” Different meetings in the area deal with different types of addiction—alcohol, narcotics, overeaters, debtors and addictive relationships.

At meetings, like the teen support groups Taft has led, people become aware of their trigger points—what triggers them to use. “Every adolescent has problems at home and you try to get them to change how they react to their problems—like their parents, so that when their mother or father gets down on them, they don’t turn around and sabotage themselves. They don’t go out and get drunk because Mom yelled at them. We try to come up with behavior to replace the drinking, like maybe go outside for a walk or a jog, call a friend and go to a movie.” Or attend a 12-step meeting. Moving away from the group of friends you drink with is also important. This is called cognitive behavior change—first becoming aware of what makes you drink (trigger points), and then substituting different behavior choices.

Taft is presently working toward her certification as an alcohol and drug counselor. “Life is just so full and busy and great now. When you get clean and sober, you become who you were supposed to be.” >>>


Healing Cup of Coffee
Along with the fancy lattes and frothy frappuccinos, Cowboy Coffee in Bellevue offers a big dose of community and caring. Owner Gary Orr runs the coffee shop while his wife Shannon runs her successful beauty salon, Shannon’s Hair Care, right next door.

“Six years ago I was living in my truck with my dog and my motorcycle. We were split up,” says Gary Orr. After ‘hitting bottom,’ the couple went through a recovery program and began attending 12-step meetings.

Now the Orrs spend their lives helping others. “What works is when you start thinking of others first and doing things in the community. When you’re doing drugs and alcohol, you don’t care about anything. It’s about you.” Helping others helps them stay sober.

Now Gary goes into jails to share his story of addiction and recovery. “They come out of their cells, and I get locked up with them in the drunk tank.” Gary leads meetings where he shares his experience, strength, and hope. “We tell them what’s going on in our lives and how they can get assistance when they get out of here.”

“It was miserable,” remembers Shannon, “but today I have things beyond my wildest dreams. I have a business. I have a home. I have a stable marriage. I have everything I dreamed about when I was a girl.” Laughing with Gary, Shannon adds, “You’re a country-Western song played backwards—you get your dog back, you get your truck back, you get your life back.”

Breathing to recovery
March 9, 1980. That was the day that Victoria Roper became sick and tired of being sick and tired. Four years later, she won Best Teacher of the Year in Idaho.
Roper had been using drugs and alcohol for years—ever since she attended Harvard University during the 1960s when drugs were in vogue. She got married in a blackout and couldn’t remember her wedding. But one day she attended a special ed class where the professor described an experiment in which rats learned to press a lever to stop an electric shock.

Later, when the shock was changed to hit them when they pressed the lever, the rats still habitually continued to press it, even to the point of death. Roper sat in the classroom after everyone left and cried. Alcohol was her lever, she thought. “My lever is killing me. I asked myself what’s the difference between those mice and people in recovery. We have language. We can support each other in a fellowship. We have these steps to work and we rely on some kind of higher power which is left up to the individual to define.”

She reached out to a group recovery program that she calls my “god with skin on.”

Now Roper teaches yoga which she finds a great adjunct to recovery.
“The breathing helps to cope with stress. There are breathing techniques that are energizing and some that are calming, so we can do a lot of mood altering with our breath. It’s really wonderful how much we can surrender if we just take a nice deep breath in, hold it and then exhale it all out—it’s the letting go of the things we can’t control and relaxing into the present. Yoga’s a lot about being in the present,” an important element of alcohol recovery.

The yoga poses and meditation give a sense of balance and discipline. “People are constantly surprised at how good those simple things make them feel.”
Roper talks about the inner holes that we all have (perhaps due to something missing in childhood) that create a craving to fill them with something, anything, whether food, drugs, alcohol, work or whatever. Instead of trying to fill them, Roper suggests “connecting through that vulnerability” to heal, which group recovery programs also encourage. “We connect through our holes.”

Now Roper is making the ultimate connection. She’s getting married again, but this time it will be a real wedding with flower girls and all the trimmings. This time, she says smiling, “I’ll be totally present.”

This article appears in the Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.