KINGSTON — A recovering addict himself, John Schroeder has seen striking changes in addiction patterns that dramatically reshape the type of treatment needed for recovery.
“When I was in treatment, the majority of people were alcoholics,” he said. With an average age of 38 to 40, they had developed addiction over 10 to 25 years while building a life they can work toward rebuilding upon recovery.
“For heroin, it takes less than three years before you need to seek treatment, if you can stretch it that far,” he said. “Now the average age in treatment is in the low 20s.” Which means the addicts have yet to build a lifestyle with family, work, a home and recreation choices. They have nothing to try to rebuild.
He hopes to use the knowledge and his own experience to help others in a new weekly program at Choices in Kingston beginning Sept. 11 and held each Monday at the Nesbitt Medical Arts Building auditorium, 534 Wyoming Ave.
The sessions will run 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
“I’m trying to bring the community together with family members dealing with recovery along with those recovering,” Schroeder said of the weekly meetings open to the public. He is the director of addictive disorders at Choices, a Commonwealth Health program.
“For the first, say, 40 minutes, we will have an addiction professional explain addiction, then we’ll break up into small groups,” he said of the first meeting.
For families dealing with an addict, “Sometimes they don’t understand their own enabling,” Schroeder said. One example: calling in sick for an addict spouse is enabling.
“The disease of addiction doesn’t just affect the addict, it affects those around the addict.”
There is still “a huge stigma” attached to addiction, he noted. Those diagnosed with cancer can discuss the disease and evoke sympathy and support, yet “say you are an alcoholic; you rally can’t bring it up to co-workers.”
Addiction is often a symptom of a much deeper problem, Schroeder explained. “It can be anything from bullying to physical abuse to sexual or emotional abuse.”
The meetings could not only help addicts and those they love, they can tip off parents and others to the signs of such problems early enough to avoid addiction, says Schroeder.