Posted by Bernard Dewonck on Jan 03, 2019
For the last official meeting of the club in 2018, we welcomed one of our newer members, Jim Robertson, as the morning’s speaker. His topic was the multiple forms of addiction and his role in treating them as an outpatient counselor with AXIS Intervention Services, in Kelowna and Vernon. The time available for his detailed presentation did not do it or him justice.
 
Jim has a Master’s degree in Christian Studies, Counselling Concentration, from Regent College which included internships at University Hospital, UBC and the Richmond, BC, RCMP. As a professional counsellor for over 26 years as a Canadian Certified Counsellor he established private practices in Albert and BC. He has a long history of community service, having held board positions on Canada wide counsellors’ associations and societies. These included groups as development arms of East African universities with the purpose of raising funds for student scholarships. He also served terms as a Director of both the Duncan and Lake Cowichan Chambers of Commerce.
 
 
 
Jim’s PowerPoint presentation began with the title “Addiction as a Family Disease” and ended with “Addiction – There is Hope”. In between, there was a plethora of information and analysis that included many types of addiction which might not be at the forefront of public conscience.
 
Addiction is “Any mood altering experience that has life damaging consequences”. Probably the best known and publicized are alcohol and drugs (both natural and synthetic) which fall into a list of mood altering substances that includes sedatives/hypnotics, inhalants (petroleum gases, solvents) and steroids. Another list defined as process addictions such as social media, relationships, codependency, compulsive spending, performance (workaholism), cults, gambling, food, sex and rage and violence. Some symptoms of addiction include blackouts, sneakiness, preoccupation with the addiction, hurried ingestion, avoiding discussion, more frequent loss of memory, loss of control over use, alibis and rationalizing and many others.
 
The continuum of Substance Use Disorder ranges from experimental or casual use, which evolves from misuse and abuse to dependence/addiction. Treatment paralleling this progression follows the path of education, counselling, mutual support, outpatient then inpatient treatment. There are many causes of addiction, including genetic predisposition as well as trauma and abuse, major life stressors, early and continuous use and type of substance use. Jim pointed out that once the brain is “hardwired” it can no longer return to its previous functioning and one is addicted. The only way to put it into remission is through abstinence from all mood altering substances and process behaviours.
 
Aside from the intervention of professional counsellors there is often the inevitable presence and involvement of family, which can manifest itself as providing excuses, ignoring the signs, making it out to be something else etc. When the addict leaves the family unit for treatment the remaining family members readjust their relationships, however upon the return of the addict these relationships are adjusted again. This is sometimes a difficult process.
 
All in all the path from normal behavior through escalating use and abuse of mood altering substances and/or processes leading to addiction, then hopefully redirection into remission is a complex and intense one for both the addict and the people around him or her.