March 12, 2012

Oklahoman’s Addiction Habits Die Hard

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Forrest Coin had been drinking and drugging for decades before he decided to give it up a few weeks ago.

Through the years, addiction to alcohol, pills and “just about anything I could get my hands on” landed him in drug treatment programs five times with no success.

Coin started drinking as a teen, eventually working his way up to IV drug use.

Alcoholism, he said, runs in his family and “alcohol always seemed to be involved.”

“I sought help after an overdose in 2003, but that didn’t take,” he said. “It was a short-term program at a hospital but I never followed up.”

At 40, Coin’s addiction has cost him a lot through the years.

His marriage is headed for divorce and he says his relationship with his daughter and stepson is “stressed because of trust issues.”

Over the last decade, like so many other Oklahomans, Coin had become addicted to opiate pain medications.

“I was bad,” he said. “I knew I was going to end up either dead, in jail or in an institution.”

Then, things got better. After nearly three decades of substance abuse.

Coin believes a 12-step program is shaping up to be his salvation.

Clean for roughly three months — his longest stretch of sobriety since he was a teen — the longtime user credits the process of “working the steps” for his success.

“I just started listening to my doctor and my therapist,” Coin said. “I just grew tired of being the way I was,” Coin said. “Through therapy, I’ve learned to face my life and what’s happened to me in the past.”

Coin said he believes events and circumstances from his childhood have contributed to his addiction, making it worse as he grew older.

Dr. Charles Shaw has been treating Coin during his sobriety. The doctor runs a small outpatient drug treatment center in Oklahoma City and also works for a major hospital doing the same thing.

Shaw said addicts who don’t deal with their pasts often make things worse for themselves.

“Addiction is shame-based,” he said. “That’s why it’s such a hard disease to treat.”

Coin says he’s starting to let some of those things go now. He’s also letting go of any resentment, which Shaw says addicts feel when they realize they can’t drink or use drugs without losing control.

“At this moment, I have let go of that resentment,” Coin said. “That’s step four.”

Relapse, which is a part of the recovery process, is a fear for Coin. Every time an addict relapses, he said, “it does get worse.”

“It’s a daily fight and I’m working every day on preventing relapse,” Coin said. “But I think if it does happen, now, yes I think I have the tools to do something about it.”

As for the future, it’s the old saying you’ll hear a lot in the world of recovery and addiction.

“Life happens a day at a time,” Coin said. “I have high hopes for the future and I want to be a productive member of society. But it’s a challenge, where I’m at right now, just to get through the day.”

Shaw said successful patients are those who get into a routine that involves a heavy dose of “meetings,” such as Alcoholics Anonymous groups, and working the program.

“You have to be able to look at yourself and accept who you are,” Shaw said. “The meetings … your sponsor … are there to help you through the rough times.”

Coin, who says he gets some kind of drug counseling nearly every day, believes he’ll need help well into the future.

I was dreaming about it a lot, at first, but the urges have subsided dramatically,” he said. “I have new friends, new supporters and just a whole new network of people.

“But even having all that, I think I’ll probably have to do this for the rest of my life.”