I am a retired advanced-practice psychiatric registered nurse and the mother of a daughter who succumbed to opiate addiction. I have some thoughts about the recent story about sober homes (“A risky last resort for addicts,” Dec. 31) and the letters to the editor in response (“Sober homes are likely here to stay,” Jan. 2, and “Complicated, expensive and hard,” Jan. 3).
My daughter’s chemical dependency issues were very severe. Her condition was complicated by psychiatric illness and developmental issues. She was referred to and attended inpatient and outpatient treatment programs in three different states. She lived in residential facilities and sober homes. I lost track of the number of these referrals. She was kicked out of many of these programs/facilities for breaking rules and, at times, relapsing — in other words, acting like an addict, displaying worsening symptoms of her disease. She overdosed several times before the final fatal one. She had been referred yet again to a 28-day outpatient treatment program three days before her death.
My daughter wanted to get better. Not at the beginning of her illness, but certainly for the last three to four years before she died. So please don’t think she wasn’t trying hard enough or hadn’t “hit bottom” yet. If multiple near-fatal overdoses, incarceration and homelessness isn’t the bottom, I don’t know what is. Nothing available or accessible to her helped.
I share this because I think the focus of articles like the recent one and others in the past are missing the point. The current treatment model for chemical dependency does not work. In what other treatment model are you punished or banned for displaying worsening symptoms of your disease? In what other treatment model is it acceptable to shower blame and shame on the patient in the midst of a crisis because they are not responding the way the treatment team hoped? Does this happen to people with heart disease? Cancer? Infections? No. As your symptoms worsen the intensity of treatment increases. You are not dismissed for getting sicker, you are treated more aggressively.
I do not know what the answer is. I’m just a mom who lost her daughter — one of many in the same circumstance. I just know that what’s being done to treat addiction right now is clearly not adequate in many cases. We must do better.
Mary G. Alberts, Eden Prairie
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Thanks to the Star Tribune for its article on sober homes on Dec. 31. Unfortunately, the article’s tragic stories imply that government regulation is necessary. Maybe modern journalism just doesn’t have the resources or interest in doing objective and thorough overviews of many topics, such as the actual role of sober homes in the addiction recovery process.
Sober homes are a tool used in treatment aftercare. They are not controlled, clinical facilities, nor can they be. Patients who need that level of care can stay in treatment. Most providers, including Hazelden, provide such post-treatment options where patients leaving residential treatment can live on the treatment campus in a less structured setting that gradually provides increasing freedom of movement, communication and choice. Patients stay until they (together with staff) feel genuinely safe with self-sufficiency.
Of course this is expensive. It’s not as expensive as full residential treatment, but more than sober houses. Sober homes, depending on the city and services offered, cost about as much as an apartment. You can’t swing a dead cat in St. Paul without hitting an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, treatment clinic or sober house. It has an excellent recovery community.
One of the guiding principles of AA and recovery is fellowship and community. A sober house cannot prevent someone from drinking or using. All it (the group of house residents and its manager) can do is hold the resident responsible for what he/she does and provide support when the resident seeks it. Addicts and alcoholics are excellent at concealing use, and no government regulation is going to change that.
Imagine what would ensue if Minnesota tried to regulate sober homes. Two-thirds would be out of business and the rest would double in cost. Addiction and alcoholism treatment is difficult, but fewer options and higher costs are not the answer.
Craig Fontaine, St. Paul
TENSIONS WITH IRAN
We lack understanding and options
The airstrike at the Baghdad airport that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani escalates tension in the Middle East and around the world (“U.S. kills Iranian general,” Jan. 3). The fog of war has just thickened but, hopefully, that fog won’t be dissipated by the heat of greater, more intensified, military conflict. We haven’t learned from our quagmire experiences in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. The president has walked away from an agreement with Iran where he alienated our European NATO allies who supported that agreement. In the meantime, President Donald Trump, following the Soleimani assassination, spews forward war-threatening and challenging rhetoric that further fans the flames of distrust and hatred. I am afraid Trump’s policy of “America First” as applied to world affairs truly has us standing alone with a lack of understanding and workable options to move forward to any peaceful political end.
Pete Boelter, North Branch, Minn.
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The political world was shocked by the recent killing of Iran’s Quds General Soleimani. Patriotic Americans were pleased, while lesser intellects like my state’s Rep. Ilhan Omar, Fox news gadfly Geraldo Rivera and beaucoup Trump ankle-biters severely criticized the action. Soleimani’s killing must be placed in historical perspective — one incident in the millennial war between radical Islam and Western civilization.
Critics may have legitimate concern over possible retaliation such as cyberattacks or, what’s worse, nuclear explosions. Let’s hope our military or civilian experts are capable of countering such measures.
Richard Doyle, Forest Lake
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Trump creates his own crises. We’ve seen it at the border, in health care policy, with trade deals, with North Korea ... and with Iran.
We had a deal with Iran but Trump claimed he wanted a “better one.” He unilaterally scrapped the treaty and left us in a state of confrontation. As is often the case, he had no real plan other than to try to discredit his predecessor. Now American lives are on the line, seemingly stemming from Trump’s deeply felt need to project himself as the “greatest president.”
We deserve better than to be held hostage to Trump’s insecurities.
David Hansen, Faribault, Minn.
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One minute Soleimani is standing at the Baghdad airport and the next thing he knows … he’s baking in hell. They take out our contractors and we take out their generals. Works for me!
Robert W. Huge, Edina
CAUSES OF DEATH
We’re quick to save some, but not all
It’s good to see our national government taking action to curtail the appalling 54 deaths resulting from vaping in 2019.
If only 2019’s more than 30,000 deaths from gunshot wounds counted as much.
Craig M. Wiester, Minneapolis
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