Panelists in Aspen promise there is a ‘way out’ of addiction | AspenTimes.com

Panelists in Aspen promise there is a ‘way out’ of addiction

Addiction experts who spoke Tuesday in front of close to 300 people in Aspen said there is a way out of chemical dependency but it takes deep personal work, commitment, courage and, most importantly, asking for help.

"I think the key message today is: encourage those who suffer that it's OK to ask for help, even if it's more than once," said William Moyers, vice president of public affairs and community relations at the Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation.

Moyers, who also is an author and son of veteran journalist Bill Moyers, told the group of recovering addicts and therapists who filled the ballroom at the Hotel Jerome that his path of addiction started here in Aspen in 1975.

As a teenager, he mowed the lawn at the Aspen Institute and began smoking marijuana, which was his gateway drug that eventually led to crack cocaine.

"This is ground zero for me," Moyers said, adding that once he found that high, it was over for him. "I didn't have to work so hard anymore. … I found that answer."

Years later, Moyer found himself at a crack house. That's when he went to treatment — twice — in 1989 and then again in 1991.

A few years later, he found himself at another crack den in Georgia when he was working for CNN.

"I surrendered," he said. "Surrendering is not giving up, it's about giving in and it takes great courage to give in.

"Sobriety is not the end; it's the beginning."

However, Moyer found himself struggling again in 2012 when he got hooked on pain meds from a series of dental procedures that had him in chronic pain.

"Pain meds are the Trojan horse of addiction in America," he said. "I was going down a slippery slope and I wasn't on top of it. When I hit rock bottom, I was sober and I had to ask for help. … I had to learn to live without opioids and live with chronic pain."

And so far, he has. Moyer has been sober for 24 years.

He added that addiction is a cunning, baffling and patient disease.

"Ours is an illness that waits," he said. "I had to find a way out of the sanity of my own thinking."

Moyer, along with Dr. Mel Pohl and Claudia Black, Ph.D, were part of a panel organized by local nonprofit A Way Out.

The speakers were part of a community discussion on solutions to the opioid epidemic, the effects addiction has on family, trauma's role in fostering addiction and getting past addiction and becoming well.

During the Q&A portion at the end of the four-hour discussion, the high rate of suicide and substance abuse in the Roaring Fork Valley was brought up almost immediately. The notion that no one is really talking about it so the problem continues is real, audience members noted.

Black, who specializes in family systems and addictive disorders, said it's imperative that adults stay connected with kids and realize that suicidality is pervasive.

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It stems from depression, self-loathing, self-sabotage and the person being ashamed of whom they have become, Black added.

In her presentation, she outlined a portrait of addiction in the family, overlaying how adverse child experiences can fuel generational repetition and how people can improve the traumatic response and its effects.

"Addiction in the family is one of the most horrible things ever and it's the most treatable illness," Black said. "Don't underestimate the role you play in someone's life, and validate them with power and treatment."

Moyer said it's imperative to keep trying to help those who need help, even if they don't realize they need it.

"Don't let your loved ones get to rock bottom," he said.

csackariason@aspentimes.com

SEEKING HELP

If you or someone you know is in crisis or considering suicide, there are resources available locally and nationally.

Colorado Crisis Services is a free, 24-hour organization that helps with mental health, substance abuse or emotional help.

Confidential services are available at 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. Reach them online at coloradocrisisservices.org.

Aspen Hope Center provides a free, 24-hour confidential Hopeline for anyone who needs help or is in a crisis. Reach the crisis line at 970-925-5858.

Mind Springs Health has its own 24/7 crisis service line at 888-207-4004.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a 24/7 support line available by calling 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are resources available.

A Way Out is an Aspen-based group that has a number of resources available. They can be reached at awayout.org.

The national group Recovery.org has a list of center in Colorado and around the country. They can also be reached at 888-502-9053.