Holiday season a struggle for addicts

(WISH Photo)

GREEN BAY, Wisc. (WBAY) – Christmas time brings joy to many people, but for some drug addicts and alcohol abusers, the holidays can bring stress.

Bill LaBine is the director of the Jackie Nitschke Center, a national leader in addiction recovery. He says he knows how tough the holiday season can be while hooked on drugs and alcohol.

“This time of year was incredibly stressful for me when I was drinking and doing drugs,” he says. “I could never stop enough to go Christmas shopping. I showed up late and was inappropriate at some family get-togethers. I wanted to leave early because I wanted to drink more.”

LaBine is encouraging families of addicts to speak to them and offer up support during what could be a very difficult time. He also urges addicts themselves to reach out to loved ones for help.

LaBine’s message comes at a time when heroin use is raising and alcoholism is prevalent in our community. He says people driven to drink or use drugs during this time of year may go too far and end up dead.

“Even with proper treatment, some people still decide to go back drinking and they die,”

As hard as it is for many addicts to seek and stick with treatment, LaBine says they shouldn’t give up.

“Just stop and tell somebody how you feel – what’s going on in your mind, what’s going on in your heart,” he urges. “Just share honestly how you’re doing.”

That message goes both ways – to the addict and their families.

LaBine says losing an addict to overdose can cause other family members to addiction, especially during the holiday.

“Families are incredibly distant and distraught and depressed during the holidays because that family member is gone,” LaBine says. “Some chose to drink or use drugs or they get prescribed medications from their doctor to deal with those feelings and that anxiety.”

LaBine says what’s more is heroin addicts seem to be taking more risks than ever before, especially younger addicts – teens and people in their early twenties.

“Right now the current trend is people are getting tattooed on their wrist for each time they’re revived from narcan,” he says. “That means they died that many times and they’re proud of it.”

“What I’ve learned working with the younger population is they don’t value life as much,” says LaBine. “They don’t value relationships.”

“They’re going as far as they can with the overdosing and then being brought back to life,” he says. “It’s become a game.”

LaBine says treatment for addicts is harder to get in the US. Cuts in state and federal funding have left forced centers to cut programs, services, and in some cases shut down entirely according to LaBine.

With more than 20 years of experience helping addicts, he says the difficultly comes with knowing that for every drug addict or alcoholic the center treats, there are plenty more who aren’t getting help.

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