Happy, Joyous...and Sober
In the fatal accident at Catherine’s Store last week the surviving driver had a blood alcohol level of point-two-four-one. It is a reminder that substance abuse is the top public health problem in the upper valley. According to Pitkin County health surveys, year after year drinking and drugging are listed as the biggest health issue.
For people with a substance use problem getting clean and sober is anything but easy. The valley has a large and active 12 step community and in Carbondale a sober society is emerging around the drug rehab center called Jaywalker Lodge. APR's Roger Adams reports.
Carbondale's Jaywalker Lodge drug and alcohol treatment center is the brainchild of Bobby Ferguson.
“The first and most important thing that happens for guys here is that they find other men here, both in the program and in the local community who can identify with where they’ve been and what they’re going through.”
That sober community is what makes the Jaywalker lodge stand out among the growing and crowded field of drug and alcohol treatment. When it opened 9 years ago, Ferguson wanted to offer treatment for the hard-cases, men who had been to treatment but kept falling off the wagon, or as it is called in the field, relapsing. These are guys who went back to drugs and alcohol after one or more stays in residential rehab.
“It was sort of a new concept, this idea of send us guys with a struggling track record in recovery and by integrating them into community they’ll have a better outcome.”
Within the mental health profession, current thinking is that the best chance for long-term recovery from addiction requires at least 90 days of intensive rehab. Residential rehab centers often involve a 28-day stay.
Ferguson says that was the trend in 1980’s and 90’s. Today he jokes, 90 is the new 30. Much of the current literature on addiction says what is even more critical is aftercare – what support does someone get after residential rehab. Jeff Kramer is Director of Clinical Operations at Jaywalker.
“When I started off in this field we had that thirty day model, right? You went to treatment got cleaned up and you went out and stayed sober, right? Except that’s not the way it works for a lot of people.”
The Jaywalker model takes its clients well beyond thirty days. Imagine concentric rings of support with the residential rehab lodge itself at the center. Once a client has completed the initial treatment he can move into a sober living apartment setting across the street, living more or less independently with other sober men but still with in-house 12 step meetings and counseling support.
Here the men live as many as four to an apartment. They shop for food and cook together and more importantly they keep an eye on each other’s sobriety. Slip-up here by drinking or drugging and you’ll be caught by your roomates. It is hard to fool another addict. And you’ll get kicked out. It is a self-policing sober environment. Cary Pew is the program coordinator.
“There’s nothing more special than an addict helping another addict. In fact that’s what people in AA and NA say is the solution.”
Hence, the name of the sober living building is Jaywalker Solutions.
Ultimately, says Bobby Ferguson sobriety itself, or more precisely, abstinence from drugs and alcohol is not the key to long term success for his clients. Instead, says Ferguson, it is finding a new way of living. He says Jaywalker has shifted the focus away from abstinence as the goal to one of living a joyful life for, as he puts it, a promise of a long term future in recovery.
“And abstinence is essential," says Ferguson, "but its not sufficient. And, so guys need to learn how to not only abstain from mood-altering chemicals and alcohol but also how to fill that void with the kind of activities that people in Carbondale do every day.”
So Jaywalker clients not only attend group counseling sessions, they climb mountains, hike, ride mountain bikes, go kayaking and other physical activities.
This follow-up of the initial residential treatment is a key to long-term sobriety. Dr. Kevin McCauley is the Director of the Institute for Addiction Study in Utah.
He says Jaywalker’s wide range of support systems beginning with residential treatment follow the best thinking in addiction treatment.
“There’s a lot of debate," says Dr. McCauley, " about whether everybody needs in-patient treatment, 90 days which can be incredibly expensive, or whether you can get the same benefits from out-patient treatment. But, what’s most important is that when they leave treatment they have some kind of support and monitoring in a formal way for at least a year after they discharge.”
The sober living aftercare support in the Jaywalker community, says McCauley provides a safe environment for someone emerging from the close care of residential treatment. Where a recovering addict or alcoholic lives can make or break their ability to continue in recovery.
“It turns out housing really matters," says Dr. McCauley.
"Where that person puts their head at night is a big facto in whether they’ll be able to capitalize on the gains they made in treatment. One of the few things that a community can do to improve its problem with substance use disorder is make available affordable, safe housing for people in recovery. “
It’s been almost ten years since Jaywalker Lodge opened its doors in Carbondale. The lodge has just commissioned a study to follow-up on alumni over the decade to formally track the success of their recovery.
Kramer says,“The data that we have produced so far is encouraging in that in terms of some of our principles being actualized. And that is in the sense of an individual’s spiritual fitness and connection to others in particular is big for us. We have one goal we want you to leave our treatment center with one or two close friends. We think that’s huge.
As the circles of recovery continue grow outward from the original lodge on main street, founder Bobby Ferguson has most recently created a direct interface between his clients in recovery and the Carbondale community at large; a coffee shop, called the Boomerang, where the staff all are in recovery is now open for business.
Looking back at his decision to start a rehab in Carbondale, Ferguson says It was the right location.
“If you’re a man in recovery in your middle twenties looking for a do-over or a second chance, this is a great community.”
More about Jaywalker Lodge is here: http://www.jaywalkerlodge.com/
NA and AA in the valley:
Narcotics Anonymous Meeting Schedule: http://nacolorado.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/MountainsWestArea.pdf
Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting Schedule: http://www.coaadistrict14.org/meeting-schedule/
Aspen Detox / Mind Springs Health: https://www.mindspringshealth.org/