Help available to those wanting to quit drinking

Posted: Friday, January 10, 2003

The Christmas holidays prompt many to quit drinking and abusing drugs, according to Kenai Peninsula alcohol and drug abuse treatment centers.

"We as a society have defined celebrations around alcohol and a lot of people get sober around the holidays," said Sue Caswell, director of Serenity House, the residential treatment facility of Central Peninsula General Hospital.

"Many people look at themselves after the holidays and realize that not only were they unable to celebrate because of their drinking, but it actually made them sick," she said.

"They go out and end up feeling miserable. And, they realize they're just sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Henry Novak, executive director of the Cook Inlet Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, agreed.

"The holidays seem to be a time of intense emotions, a lot of indulgence and a lot of parties," he said.

"Sometimes they are not the times of peace and love and everything they're supposed to be, and we see that during the holiday season people say their drinking is out of control and they have to do something."

Serenity House, a voluntary treatment center, is a three-story cabin overlooking Cook Inlet off Kalifornsky Beach Road and includes a men's dorm and a women's dorm.

People looking for help in getting sober or stopping drug abuse move into Serenity House for a typical 28-day stay, living together, cooking together and learning to live without using drugs or alcohol.

Treatment includes an education component and a therapy component, Caswell said.

"Serenity House is a 12-step program, not a medical program," she said.

"The education component includes what alcoholism is and what a 12-step recovery program is."

Serenity House takes clients through the first three or four steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program, Caswell said.

Those preliminary steps suggest people admit they have a problem and they are unable to manage their own lives; a power greater than themselves can help them; and they must turn their will and their lives over to the care of God.

"While in Serenity House, people have group therapy twice a day and individual therapy once a week. There's also family therapy and a family education component, and family members meet as a group to learn relapse prevention," she said.

The facility employs one clinical psychologist, one certified level-two counselor, two level-one counselors and several counselor techs, Caswell said.

She explained that counselors attain various levels by completing state-certified training on alcoholism and drug addiction and by working at the center.

Training topics include a history of chemical dependency in Alaska, cultural considerations in working with Alaska Natives, ethics and training on the human immunodeficiency virus and AIDS.

The typical 28-day treatment regimen at Serenity House costs between $7,000 and $10,000, and can be paid through insurance or Medicaid, Caswell said. She said clients are not charged for room and board.

CICADA is a state-approved outpatient treatment facility that provides education, out-patient care and after-care for alcoholics and drug abusers. Services are offered for adults and adolescents.

Funded through federal grants, the Alaska Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and the United Way, CICADA does not refuse service to anybody, Novak said.

Treatment begins with a urinalysis assessment that costs $100. Treatment typically lasts eight to 16 weeks, Novak said.

Treatment includes group or individual therapy depending on the needs of the client. Attendance at 12-step programs is encouraged. Besides AA, clients might be urged to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

CICADA employs 16 people, including two counselors in its Homer office and five in Kenai.

"All of our counselors have some training in mental health," Novak said.

"Their training varies. Some have state certification, some have bachelor's degrees and some master's," he said. All are state-certified substance-abuse counselors.

In addition to treatment for alcoholism, CICADA offers treatment for those who abuse drugs such as marijuana and synthetic opiates including OxyContin, Oxycodone, Percoset and Vicodin.

People seeking help with their addictions can contact Serenity House at 260-8587 Monday through Friday between 1 and 5 p.m. or at other times at 283-1687. CICADA can be reached at 283-3658 in Kenai or (907) 235-8001 in Homer.

State-approved drug and alcohol services for adult and adolescent Natives also are available from the Nakenu Chemical Dependency Recovery Program of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe by calling 283-6693.

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