Treatment making a difference for peninsula woman

Posted: Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Since she first experimented with illegal drugs at age 15, Jennifer Driggers' life has been like a revolving door in and out of the bleak world of drug abuse.

Today, though, thanks to an experimental treatment regimen being used at the Cook Inlet Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Driggers is among 15 women finding relief from their addictions.

At 15, 16 and 17, she tried every drug around except heroin hoping something would make her feel good about herself.

At 19, she got pregnant and spent the next five years clean and sober, raising her son, Cody. Then for three months, at age 24 or 25, she used cocaine.

At 28 and in an abusive relationship, Driggers was forced to smoke crystal methamphetamine for nine months and became addicted.

She lost a job she enjoyed, lost the man she loved, lost her son to the foster care of his father's parents, and began living on the streets of Hawaii.

She would shoplift, sleep with guys, even forge and cash stolen checks to support her habit.

An arrest for forgery sent her to jail for two months, and eventually she was released to drug court, which helps people with addictions.

Even that didn't work.

Placed on probation for five years, Driggers was helped by U.S.

See HELP, page A-2

marshals she had befriended, who made arrangements for her to come to her mother's house in Soldotna. Maybe a change of location could help.

Driggers, 31, arrived in Soldotna on Sept. 2, stayed with her mother, then checked into Serenity House, the Kenai Peninsula in-patient treatment center for alcohol and drug abuse.

Two weeks later, she ran.

She didn't like the treatment program, and a week after that, she met a girl from the North Road and got high.

"I didn't like it. I got scared. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired," Driggers said.

She pleaded with her probation officer and was allowed to go into an outpatient treatment program. She picked CICADA.

The private, not-for-profit agency is experiencing unprecedented success in relieving people of their addictions, thanks to a new regimen of health therapies.

"I'm one of the world's worst skeptics and I've seen this work," said Henry Novak, executive director of CICADA.

Novak had read a United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention report about a treatment for drug addiction using neuro-electric therapy (NET), and he found a practitioner in Anchorage using NET and other cutting-edge therapies.

Novak applied for and received a $500,000 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admin-istration federal grant and brought the therapy to Kenai on Sept. 25.

"I use a holistic approach, working with the energy systems of the body," said Ty Azeltine, the practitioner to whom much of the CICADA success is being attributed.

"NET is one small part of it," Azeltine said.

"First, I primarily use an emotional freedom technique, tapping into the cause (of the addiction) and effectively making a change in the outcome," he said.

Novak likens the first step to rebooting a computer.

"In the same way we can make changes in the computer, we can erase the effects of memory, eliminate the effects of old programs in the body, erase the effects of old traumas, old patterns," Azeltine said.

"I'm reestablishing patterns to bring people back into health, happiness, joy and erasing fear, anger, depression, grief," he said.

Using what he calls Emotional Freedom Technique, Azeltine performs simple finger tapping on acupressure points on the client's forehead and temples.

"We bring up the memory of the trauma and tap to rearrange the charge and change the energy patterns that produce the reaction to the trauma," he said.

Another form of therapy employs a device called the Nutri-Pax, a portable cranial electrotherapy stimulation device that generates an electric current with an amplitude similar to that already in the body.

The client wears a lightweight, battery-powered headset with electrodes behind the ears for 20 minutes, sending mild electrical impulses into the head, producing a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.

"With people who have addictions to drugs, the drugs create euphoria and their bodies physiologically will stop producing endorphins and enkephalins," Azeltine said.

Endorphins are neurotransmitters in the brain that have pain-relieving properties similar to morphine. Enkephalins are a type of endorphin.

"With cranial electrotherapy stimulation, they can get their body producing endorphins again," he said.

The client uses the Nutri-Pax device for about six weeks to normalize the body.

"It's a permanent correction," Azeltine said.

While the experimental treatment regimen in use at CICADA is specifically targeting drug addicts, Azeltine and Novak say it works for people addicted to smoking cigarettes and to alcohol, as well.

In addition to the lessons in positivism, clients also receive drug counseling and participate in 12-step recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Nar-cotics Anonymous.

Currently Azeltine visits CICADA twice a week.

"We're seeing a dramatic change across the board among people who have been in the system for a long, long time," Novak said.

"We're seeing major, major changes with these 15 women.

"Most of them have been in addiction, hanging on for dear life, and falling back into it.

"We're seeing people who couldn't last six weeks (without using drugs and alcohol) before," Novak said.

"We're seeing a phenomenal change in these women," he said.

Driggers said Azeltine and the counselors at CICADA are great.

"Ty works on me to make me not scared to be alone," Driggers said.

"My major issues are being lonely, being a drug addict, smoking cigarettes, and that I ruined my son's life.

"(Azeltine) coaches me that it's OK to be alone. He turns negative things I say about myself into positive things.

"There's something about this guy. I don't know what it is it's a trip," Driggers said.

"I'm starting to like myself. I've never liked myself," she said.

Driggers wants her story known in hopes that others will know there is a way to beat addiction, but as importantly, she wants to recover from her addiction so one day she will be able to recover her 11-year-old son, who still resides with his father's parents in Hawaii.

Because of the treatment she has received at CICADA so far, she was allowed a Christmas visit from Cody.

"Christmas was great it's such a blessing," Driggers said.

While she was on the streets in Hawaii, living only for the next high, Driggers managed to lose a basketball that belonged to her son, which had been signed by some professional basketball players.

"For Christmas, Santa brought him a new basketball, a bunch of toys and a Fred Meyer gift card. He picked out some Converse basketball shoes to take back home," she said.

She said Cody enjoyed his stay, playing in the snow something he had never seen before.

"We built a snowman, and we went snowmachining and ice fishing with some people from church," she said.

"Things are going terrific for me. I'm just starting to like myself and to accept myself as I am."

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