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In this episode we have guest Eilene Zimmerman joining the show to discuss her book “Smacked, A story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy”. “Smacked” is a moving memoir of Eilene’s discovery of her ex-husbands addiction after his early death. The novel follows her as she unravels the signs leading up to his death and coping with the aftermath of his passing. Right after Eilene’s interview we have Brent Eaton, the prosecuting attorney for Hancock County, Indiana, and Reg McCutcheon the Executive Director at Landmark Recovery in Carmel, Indiana joining us to talk about an encouragement of law enforcement to prosecute overdoses in Indiana in hopes of getting people the treatment they need. We hope their conversation will bring to light the relationship between the government and local addiction programs and their shared goal of helping local residents.

 

Welcome to Recovery Radio by Landmark Recovery with your host, Zach Crouch. In this program we’ll discuss the root causes and treatments of alcohol and substance addiction, speak with experts in related fields, and help navigate the road to recovery.

 

Now, here’s the host of Recovery Radio, Zach Crouch.

 

Zach: Hi. I’m Zach Crouch and you’re listening to Landmark Recovery Radio, your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. You can find us online wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to subscribe to get the most up-to-date information from leading experts.

 

We have guest Eilene Zimmerman, the author of Smacked a story of white-collar ambition, addiction, and tragedy. Smacked follows Eilene as she began noticing erratic changes in her ex-husband’s Peter’s behavior stemming from his descent into drug abuse. Throughout the book you follow Eilene’s experience of Peter’s addiction, but also her own grief upon his untimely passing from drug-related complications.

 

Today we get the chance to talk with Eilene about her new book and about how families can cope with trauma of having a loved one who struggles with addiction. Eilene, thank you for coming on the show today. We’re really grateful to have you on speaking with us.

 

Eilene: Oh, I’m so happy to be here. Thank you.

 

Zach: If you don’t mind just telling us a little bit about yourself and can you give us some background of your life before the beginning of the book?

 

Eilene: Sure. I think the very beginning of the book is that the prologue is where I discover my ex-husband Peter has died. Before that we had been married…I guess I would start at the beginning. We met in New York City and I describe a little bit of that in the book. We wound up getting married and during that period Peter went from being a graduate student in Chemistry to a bench chemist in pharma, in pharmaceuticals to deciding he wanted to go to law school.

 

We had moved from the East Coast to the West Coast. We moved back from the West Coast to the East Coast for him to attend law school. He did very well. He was top of his class, editor of Law Review, gave the speech at graduation.

 

Zach: Smart guy.

 

Eilene: Yes, very smart guy. He went to Cornell undergrad and then we went to Southern California and he started his law career. It was a very intense period in our lives. We were also having children.

 

I think a lot of things conspired to create an environment where Peter was under an enormous amount of stress for a long, long period of time, like 15, 16 years because law school is really intense and then you know trying to work your way up the ladder to partnership in a white-shoe firm. He was at several firms all of them very prestigious especially his last one.

 

That was what our life was like. While he was climbing his career ladder I was a freelance writer. I was a journalist trying to fit my life in between his career which was very demanding and which we counted on economically and raising kids and kind of keeping domestic life going and all of the other things that go in to having a family and a life.

 

Zach: Sure.

 

Eilene: I was working really hard as a freelancer and I wound up for a while I had a column at the New York Times. I still contribute to that paper.

 

Zach: Okay.

 

Eilene: I wrote a lot about business and technology and entrepreneurship and start-ups and things like that. I earned a lot less than Peter did as an attorney and for that reason he had a lot of power rate in our relationship.

 

Eventually about six years before he died he revealed that he was having an affair with someone he’s gone to law school with who was on the East Coast so it’s very convenient. He took a business trip. I didn’t know. We split up, but we really, really wanted to be good co-parents and we even went to counselling to learn how to parent when you’re not married to your partner.

 

Zach: Sure.

 

Eilene: We were friends. I think money was a big issue for him. He was always worried about not having it or losing it or that I was going to take it which I didn’t. He had his anxieties and then of course he was under a lot of pressure still. He had made partner a few years before we split up and then something happened.

 

It seemed to him, a few years before he died, about two-and-a-half years before he died he started losing a ton of weight and his hair was falling out. He looked very, very sick. He was very sick with like something that seemed like the flu for over a year.

 

Zach: Right.

 

Eilene: Things accelerated from there.

 

Zach: Wow.

 

Eilene: Maybe that was too much of an answer.

 

Zach: No, no, no. No, it’s a good place to start because I’ve got some follow up questions for you just…I have some points to make around that because I think you bring up a lot where you mentioned this piece where there was a lot of pressure, where there’s a lot of stress, intense pressures, you put it.

 

I think with what we know about addiction and in terms of substance use is that stress, pressure, etc. those are often the bedrock for addiction. They find their little places to hide and burrow in. Was there much at all, any kind of substance use going on with Peter before you noticed the obvious where he was losing a lot of weight?

 

Eilene: Right. So many people want to know that and I get it. I do, too and I tried my best as a reporter to figure out when it started. I did have some people talk to me off the record that had worked with him for a while and kind of thought a little bit of what was going on in his home life and at work.

 

It seems, from the best I can figure out pretty much the minute we separated he’s begun navigating the dark web which as I was reporting this I tried to see how easy it would be to kind of get in there. I used to imagine the dark web as like a black background of like a black hole.

 

Zach: Right.

 

Eilene: Really it’s just using different servers or different kind of entry points into a part of the web that you don’t normally have access to or wouldn’t see. I think he was a very smart guy and figured out how to get these like these supplements he would get, apparently supplements delivered to the office from China or other places.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: They didn’t really have labels. Sounds like you’re familiar with this, but I think they must have been supplements of some kind. At that point Peter was going through what seems like a very typical mid-life crisis for a man in his late 40’s. He started dropping weight. He was about 25 pounds overweight when we divorced. He dropped tons of weight. He started running half marathons and marathons. He got in great shape fast.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: Right. Some of that was helped along probably by some sort of stimulants and supplements like that. I don’t know if that’s a familiar way. It also helped you stay up longer so you can get a lot more work done.

 

Zach: Yes. I was a counsellor at one point. I still am but I was practicing at one point. Anyway we had a lady come in and she was a pretty high up executive in a local company here in Louisville, pretty large company.

 

Eilene: Wow.

 

Zach: She was able to accomplish a whole lot because she’d stay up all night and she did that from about Monday through Thursday. She did it by taking copious amounts of methamphetamine.

 

Eilene: Wow.

 

Zach: She was able to hold it together for the most part throughout the week, but when Thursday hit, Thursday afternoon hit I mean she was ready to crash.

 

Eilene: Wow.

 

Zach: Friday, Saturday, and half a Sunday or so she’d just be in bed. She’d just sleep.

 

Eilene: That’s kind of remarkable though that she was able to like hold a high-pressure job and kind of…it seems like sort of keep her life together on the surface.

 

Zach: She got rewarded. Yes. She would get praise because she would just put all these presentations together. She’d be sort of on point and able to perform and she got a lot of praise for that. That’s how she kind of worked her way up on the company really.

 

Eilene: Wow. I certainly did a lot of research into white-collar drug use and abuse. There’s a lot of stimulant use, Adderall, Ritalin, Vigans and there’s also methamphetamine, cocaine. You can get other kinds of stuff, Modafinil. I also think Peter wasn’t just using stimulants, which is why he also was sleeping when she was working. I mean he was also using opioids.

 

I think it started out he did have, from working so much at a desk he had a lot of back pain and he had a lot of carpal pain, tendonitis, carpal tunnel. If he had dental work and there was extra Vicodin or Percocet he would totally take it because it helped his pain. Actually I can remember thinking he was in a much better mood. He probably does really need it.

 

Zach: He was on a hunt for opiate.

 

Eilene: Yes. What he really needed was to see a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist and get prescribed medication for depression or anxiety or whatever it was that was underlying, but instead he could take a Vicodin and feel really good.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: He wasn’t in pain and right as you see. I think it started in a really insidious well, way with that.

 

Zach: Yes, yes. You brought up the dark web. We actually had had a patient come through our facility at one point. He talked to me just about how easy this was because you brought it up about navigating in this sort of…it’s interesting because where he went to get his substances was, of all places off a pool website. You’d go to this pool website and there’ll be all these chemicals like to clean your pool out.

 

Eilene: Oh my gosh! I didn’t know you meant an actual pool.

 

Zach: Yes. He would go to this website and just sort of go through the different lengths or whatever, the different resources on the website and eventually you would find your way to this particular area where you could order, I think it was pretty much from China, too the equivalent of like a really strong benzodiazepine was what he was getting a lot of.

 

Eilene: Wow.

 

Zach: He was able to have it delivered to his house. He was able to not have toreally lift a finger except click a mouse. He would just basically be at home and take whatever kind of substance he wanted.

 

Eilene: That’s fascinating. I mean I have to admit I didn’t go further enough down that dark web rabbit hole to figure out how exactly I can get them because I was actually afraid. It’s not private. I wasn’t using like a server that wasn’t tracked.

 

Zach: Right.

 

Eilene: It wasn’t a non-public server. I thought I don’t want to go too far down here and implicate myself in something that isn’t really happening. I could see that. I could see if you took the time to poke around. Yes. If you’re a pretty smart person you’ll figure it out.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: Wow. I can totally see that. Peter lived…we lived not far from the Mexican border and Mexican pharma as recently as 2015 you could buy a lot of prescription medication in the US over-the-counter so he had really large bottles of Tramadol, which is an opioid in the morphine medication class. He could just pretty much walk across the border and get it. That was also very accessible to him.

 

Zach: You and Peter were no longer married; right like you said when he began to struggle with…

 

Eilene: Right, when he died. Oh yes, when he was struggling with addiction.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: I think that’s exactly why he started to because it would have been much harder living with me.

 

Zach: As you look back now at your relationship and when you first started noticing this behavior, when was it? Was it long before he started the descent in to hard-core addiction? Did you see signs along the way?

 

Eilene: I think I saw very small signs along the way just because I wasn’t attuned to it and I have to say as someone who has not struggled with an addiction and I don’t really like getting high.

 

Zach: Right.

 

Eilene: I don’t personally even…except for a little bit in college and I’m talking like 1980’s pot which is not the same as meth.

 

Zach: Right.

 

Eilene: The medications that Peter took to feel good like Vicodin and Percocet they make me very sick. I just didn’t understand I think truly what I was seeing sometimes. I did notice after we split up there would be times where he’d work all night long in ways he couldn’t do when we were married. He was exhausted when he got home from work.

 

Zach: Sure.

 

Eilene: He had to take a nap before we tuck the kids in. Right. That started changing…he also started dating people that were younger than him and partied more in a way that we didn’t party, that I didn’t know to party like using different kinds of drugs.

 

Zach: Right.

 

Eilene: I know he started using cannabis with like a group of young lawyers he knew. I mean we used to joke about it. He got sick the first night he went out with them. He was like, “Oh my gosh. This is not the same stuff as we had in college.”

 

Zach: Right, right.

 

Eilene: I thought it was going to be like a one-time thing. What I didn’t understand is that he probably continued and there was other stuff.

 

Zach: Sure.

 

Eilene: I think the signs I saw along the way was a dramatic weight loss which I just thought, you know I thought he was just restricting his diet and really trying to get in shape, but it was like he reached a point where he looked great and then he just kept going.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: I thought, “Why isn’t he stopping?” Clearly he doesn’t look good. At that point I wished I had thought like this is not just from dieting. There’s something else going on here, but I didn’t.

 

I didn’t see that or the fact that, I would say probably even three years before he died, he would come up with elaborate excuses for why he was very late to something or forgot about something or slept through events. I just thought, “Oh, the poor guy is working so much. Of course he’s sleeping.”

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: Even though being divorced, it’s not easy. Sometimes this person is your nemesis. At the same time he was in my family.

 

Zach: Sure.

 

Eilene: He felt like a brother or a cousin at this point. Yes. I was like I was worried about him but I also thought like, “Well, he’s a smart guy. He knows how to take care of himself.”

 

Zach: He’ll figure it out, right?

 

Eilene: He’ll figure it out. He’s not asking for my help. I don’t want to embarrass him and say, “Good Lord. You look awful.” Eventually I did. I said, “You look like you’re dying.” He just laughed it off.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: Yes.

 

Zach: You mentioned in your book that, I think it’s some piece around your kids or your son maybe.

 

Eilene: Yes.

 

Zach: Your husband Peter would say that he was going out to get some tacos or get some food or something for them.

 

Eilene: Right.

 

Zach: He’d show up four or five hours later and he forgot dinner.

 

Eilene: Yes. There was a gas station, a Mobil station about three-quarters of a mile, a mile away from their house. Peter really liked really cold fountain diet soda with a lot of ice.

 

Zach: Okay.

 

Eilene: It was just his thing. I think he would tell my son like this was going to be his treat. Like, “I’m going to run up to the Mobil. Do you want anything? I’m going to get a diet soda.” My son would be like, “No.” Peter would be back three, four hours later and he’d say, “Oh yes.” My son would say, “Did you get the soda?” He’d say, “Oh, I forgot.”

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: My son told me this later on. I said, “Why didn’t you tell me?” He said, “I always thought that’s dad and he’s so tired from working.”

 

Zach: Right. Right.

 

Eilene: I think when you’re 15 you’re just like, “Well, dad’s being nuts but I’m going to go back to my homework.” Yes.

 

Zach: Yes. How do your kids now and do they talk about Peter much? What’s the conversation like today?

 

Eilene: Oh, that’s interesting because I think it’s been an ongoing conversation for the last four years. They have tried really hard to put everything in perspective. I think at first we felt a lot of guilt for not seeing what was happening in front of us and being able to save him. I imagine a lot of the families of people that overdose or struggle with addictions feel they might have had some power to “save” a person. I don’t know if that’s possible, but I think we struggled with a lot of survivor’s guilt.

 

Zach: Yes. Oh yes.

 

Eilene: Right? Yes. Now I think we have a deep understanding of Peter in a way that’s really compassionate. This is a guy that had a lot of things going on in his life that we didn’t understand — definitely underlying depression, anxiety, his past, he’s been adopted. There’s a lot of research on attachment that happen in early life.

 

He was adopted by a family that was very, very religious and evangelical. I think he grew up in a home where he felt loved but I know from their family that there was this feeling that God really, that love came first. Maybe that’s manageable if you’re the biological child, but I think when you’re also adopted and you came to the family after four months of not really being held that much.

 

Zach: Right.

 

Eilene: There’s a lot of complicated stuff. I mean he was certainly loved in his family.

 

Zach: Sure.

 

Eilene: There’s only so much you can overcome. I think he felt very alone in his life. He once told me, and remember we were married, right. Zach, he said, “You know you got to remember, Eilene. You got to look out for number one. You always got to take care of yourself first.” I remember thinking, “But we’re married. Aren’t we a team?” He was like, “Yes, we’re a team but you got to look out for number one.”

 

Zach: Number one is me, right?

 

Eilene: It’s you. Him. Yes. I don’t think he meant that for children, for our kids. I mean he put them first as much as he could. Obviously at some point he didn’t, but I do think he felt like, “We’re both adults in this relationship. Yes, we’re married, but it’s every man for himself.”

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: I don’t know exactly where that came from.

 

Zach: I think that you bring up in this…it rings true for Peter where, you brought up where the first four months or so of his life there was that piece of attachment that doesn’t really take place for some folks.

 

Eilene: Right.

 

Zach: It has a tremendous impact on their ability to attach just in form of relationships.

 

Eilene: Yes.

 

Zach: You’re constantly just sort of on guard.

 

Eilene: Yes. His mom had told me that he’d been in a foster home that was loving but I think there were quite a few babies and young children. There’s only so much time you can spend holding a baby and he was an infant. Yes. I’ve learned since yes, that that’s a very crucial time in an individual’s development.

 

Zach: That’s critical. Yes. We have in Louisville, Kentucky one of the, I would say the largest in the nation, opiate problem. What you have happening is a lot of women who deliver babies that are born dependent upon an opiate.

 

Eilene: Oh wow.

 

Zach: Sometimes the women are engaged and present and able to care for the child and sometimes where it’s just not possible.

 

Eilene: Right. I can imagine.

 

Zach: Some of the hospitals here in town, some of the NICU where they have women volunteers that are able to rock these babies and do things that try to…

 

Eilene: Oh, that’s heartbreaking. No. I think that’s so great. I know what you’re saying as I remember hearing about it. It might have been in Kentucky. Yes because babies they do need to be…

 

Zach: It goes back to that attachment piece, absolutely.

 

Eilene: Yes. Gosh, it’s such a hard thing. I mean I’m saying this about Peter and I know that if he could have reversed his choices and done it differently, he would have. I think he didn’t realize how powerful the drugs were going to be.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: Yes.

 

Zach: In your relationship you mentioned in a recent interview with NPR that you’ve felt sort of gaslit when you brought up concerns though about his behavior. How did he hide his addiction so well behind the excuses?

 

Eilene: He had like an almost perfect out, Zach because he was like a mid-level edging up to senior partner. He was an intellectual property lawyer in a very prestigious firm that handled a lot of very large clients doing transactional work and litigation and stuff. He was very powerful and he worked a lot. He did work a lot before he became sick. Once he became sick with this disease he didn’t work as much but I didn’t know that.

 

I didn’t know he was sleeping most of the time and getting high because he was so sick. I assumed he was working at the same level he’d always worked which was between 50 to 75 hours a week which is a lot of time working.

 

If he did something crazy like leave our son at high school for two-and-a-half hours and not pick him up and he worked 25-minute drive away and said, “I got called in to a meeting, an emergency meeting and my phone was in the office,” or “I couldn’t find it because I had ran out of the house so quickly because I overslept because I was so tired from working the night before,” I believed it.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: I mean I didn’t see any reason not to believe it because I didn’t realize that he had changed. He could very easily hide things. I found out afterwards that he had a lot of trouble showing up to work, but I didn’t know he was home because we didn’t live together. He would say like, “Oh, I’m going in to work,” and it was seven at night. I’d think, “But you just worked all day.” No, he slept all day.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: He had to get in to work and I’d say like, “Our son was going to be there. Why are you not there?” He said, “Well, there’s so much to do. There’s so much to do. I have to go back.” I’m thinking, “My God. This poor man. This is crazy.” I’m feeling somewhat guilty, too, Zach because I am a writer. He is a partner in a law firm. I relied on him to keep our life going in San Diego for our kids and me.

 

Even though I worked, I mean I was working for a time. I was making about $45,000 a year. In San Diego that’s nothing. He’s making, I didn’t know it, but at the time he was making over a million a year. I really needed him. I needed him to pay my mortgage. I mean I was living pretty close to the bone there. I felt partially responsible for that because I thought, “Oh gosh. No, he has us to take care of.” All this was going through my mind and I didn’t want to call on him on anything. He also would gaslight.

 

Zach: Yes. I was going to say just the whole piece around you questioning sort of your own…

 

Eilene: Sanity.

 

Zach: Yes, right, exactly. Around that piece of feeling like, “Man, am I really crazy here?”

 

Eilene: Yes. A great example is he had been consistently late to pick up our son. He said one time it was traffic. You can check traffic online in San Diego. It’s this site called Sigalert. I said, “I checked traffic. There’s no traffic.” He said, “You’re wrong. There was a ton of traffic. There was an accident.” I thought, “I guess it just didn’t show up on the site,” or “Maybe I looked too soon.” It’s ridiculous. It would have shown up on the site but I just believed him. I thought, “Yes. I did something wrong. I didn’t see it.”

 

Zach: Yes. I guess through the time that you’ve been through this with Peter and your family and going on going back and forth with the gaslighting or whatever would sort of be employed by his disease. To continue, have you come to a better understanding of the disease, process of addiction for yourself but also how it affects family?

 

Eilene: Yes, I think I have. I think part of it was going through it with my family, a part of it was writing the book Smacked because I was able to…that’s the wonderful thing about being a journalist. I wrote a memoir but I also got to report. I got to talk to addiction experts, psychologists, psychiatrists, and people that research the disease to try to understand what happens in the brain and the body.

 

I can imagine. I feel very certain that Peter saw it. He’s a very smart guy. He was a chemist by training, but he was not going to become an addict “like everyone else.” I had since learned how powerful these substances are and how quickly he probably became addicted without even realizing it.

 

One psychiatrist who works at a hospital in New Canaan, Connecticut called Silver Hill that has an executive treatment program said, “The minute Peter started keeping notebooks, he would note the dosage and the time that he took whatever he took,” he said, “he’s probably lost control of the disease because he was trying so badly to regain control.”

 

What I now understand is a lot of the decisions and things he was doing and making toward the end of his life were beyond his control. It was really the disease driving apart and not Peter.

 

That really helped me to stop being angry because there’s a part of me that’s angry that he made the choice to start injecting which really kicked things up quite a bit and ultimately is what killed him, but I also understand that at that point he may have also been in the throes of addiction and that seemed like a good choice to him even in a way I don’t understand and maybe he wouldn’t understand.

 

I have come to know more about that and I think the impact on the family is that’s such a good question because I think in places like Kentucky and other states that have been ravaged by opioid abuse it’s so easy to just look at the number as a statistic.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: For me part of writing this book and I wrote a New York Times piece before the book came out was to show, and that piece had photos in it, this is not just some rich guy that died of opioid abuse. This is a human being that was connected to a web of other human beings — parents and siblings and children and friends and colleagues and everybody is affected.

 

His immediate family will be affected forever. His children will be grappling with this the rest of their lives. In a lot of ways it is one of the things that defines them which to me just shows that every life that’s lost or people that struggle it’s all really important to have compassion for everyone and understand that these are human beings. Yes.

 

Zach: When he did pass was it difficult for you and others to explain all this to your children?

 

Eilene: It was actually…it was very hard for us to understand the why’s, but being able to tell my kids that, “You know dad was struggling with a drug addiction,” was a relief I think to them because they felt, they realized that they probably couldn’t have done anything about it. None of us really understood the truth of what was happening so there was that guilt.

 

For me I don’t think it relieved the guilt so much because I thought, “I’m an adult. Why didn’t I see this? Why didn’t I push back?” I think that’s been the hard part. I wasn’t able toreally talk about it openly for about a year and a half until I decided to write a story in the New York Times about it because I was afraid and also I was ashamed that we let this happen. I realized it’s not my fault but I have a lot of survivor’s guilt. Even though I wasn’t the one struggling with the disease, I feel like I was somehow party to it.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: I think my own enabling — I took the excuses. I didn’t push back. I didn’t insist he go with me to see somebody. I think I’ll probably have to figure out how to get my head around that as I move forward, too.

 

Zach: I think that you bring up a very poignant piece around survivor’s guilt because this happens a lot where, whether it be drug addiction or someone coming from a family where there’s a tremendous amount of trauma that happened and you end up going up and in finding opportunities to move past that and form, whether it be better relationships or just a better life for yourself or for your kids or whatever that there’s something about moving past that that’s difficult, right?

 

Eilene: Yes. Yes, that’s so true.

 

Zach: It makes sense. It doesn’t make sense on paper like, you want to do better. You want to be a better person. You want to help others. You want to move beyond whatever has held you back. I think it breathes back to that piece that we talked about earlier on attachment where you’re able to only maybe it goes so far sometimes because you feel a loyalty to people in your life.

 

Eilene: Yes. I hadn’t really understood that it was survivor’s guilt because I thought, “Well, it’s not like we were both like in a car accident or something and I walked away,” or a war or like you say, we both survived some horrible trauma. In a way we did.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: I used to feel like everything that happened with my kids or even if I saw like a really pretty sunset when hiking I would have so much guilt that I could see it and Peter couldn’t. I realized that, “Oh, that’s what this is.”

 

Zach: Is this your first book, Eilene?

 

Eilene: This is my first book, yes.

 

Zach: Are there plans in the future to write either articles or books around this topic?

 

Eilene: I hope so, yes. I’m very interested in the questions it raises, the why’s behind it. I understand why once you start it’s really easy to become severely addicted.

 

I understand how it’s a disease and you’re fighting the disease; but there’s that moment when someone makes the decision to start which I find very fascinating because I think there’s so much that underlies that, whether it’s a fact that as a society when things are bleak that’s what we turn to or someone like Peter and the people of his ilk that use that actually have a ton of resources and could go to very beautiful treatment centers and have the money to afford psychological counselling and psychiatrists and have supportive families. Why them, too?

 

I think that why is not something I have satisfactorily answered for myself. I am very interested in kind of what’s going on in our society and what underlies all the addiction. I would like to write more about that. I think it has a lot to do with, I think it’s very complicated but it would be interesting to try to unravel a little of it

 

Zach: In your book, do you describe Peter as I guess did he go to some treatment centers? Were they effective at all?

 

Eilene: He didn’t. I think it would have been terrific if…I wish someone at his firm had pulled him inside and said, “I think you’re struggling with something serious and I really care about you. I want to help you. I want to help you keep your job and keep your life. Let’s work together.”

 

That’s a tall order to ask somebody to invade a colleague’s privacy at a law firm where litigious behavior is on your mind. If Peter could have asked for help, he could have gotten terrific treatment. There are so many good treatment centers in Southern California that he could have gone to. He could have gone anywhere he wanted. I wish he had, Zach, but no, he never asked for help ever.

 

Zach: Got it. Yes, I think you’re right with the fact that someone in his firm or just in general when people have a lot of resources around them that there is a lot of opportunity to continue on this path of you continue on, you continue on.

 

At the beginning of our conversation the lady who had worked her way up through using methamphetamine it’s one of those things where you get praise, you get a sense of purpose. Before you know it though this has become more than you can handle where you can’t stop using the substance. There are so many factors that can be found in your ability to stop.

 

Eilene: In that case there are two schools of thought that sometimes you have to kind of there has to be some horrific consequence. You get arrested. You lose your job. Your spouse leaves you and then you go to treatment.

 

There is a gentleman that is also a substance abuse counsellor. He was the lead investigator of a study done by the American Bar Association in Hazelton about lawyers and depression and anxiety and alcoholism and substance use. He said he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the you-got-to-hit-bottom.

 

I have to say in the interview I did and it was certainly not a broad scientific study, almost everybody that got help there was some really negative consequence. I wonder if that’s something that you see in treatment a lot if that’s what has to happen or no, it’s not the case.

 

Zach: Yes, as we’re speaking about this particular person that was using meth.

 

Eilene: Right.

 

Zach: I think that HR had flagged her that they had noticed some, as you brought up in your questions, there’s some erratic behavior that was going on with her. They really couldn’t identify exactly what it was. I think that where her addiction and in her life with enough parameters at work they had to start to bleed into one another.

 

Eilene: Oh, that makes sense. Yes.

 

Zach: She was having some issues with I think her performance because I think where she was at her work she’s probably gotten promoted and now she’s in a newer level and there’s more responsibilities so she’s probably taking more to deal with the addict part.

 

Eilene: Exactly. Right. Right. You develop a threshold, you have tolerance so you have to do more and more. Right.

 

Zach: I think she voluntarily had done treatment to try to get away from this. I remember when she was in treatment she was grappling with the question of “Do I really want to continue to do this.” “I’m not using methamphetamine anymore but I can’t, I don’t have the bandwidth to perform at the level that they need me to.”

 

Eilene: Oh, that’s so heartbreaking. Right. She set up an expectation where she was going to be able to be almost super human. Yes.

 

Zach: Yes. She was working 16, 18-hour days.

 

Eilene: Oh, yes. Who can do that?

 

Zach: That’s crazy.

 

Eilene: Right.

 

Zach: I know that I’m looking forward to reading your book and diving into this.

 

Eilene: Oh. Thank you.

 

Zach: If people do want to check out the book do they just go to Amazon, Eilene?

 

Eilene: They can or they can go to my website. Amazon’s a quick and easy way. My website has a whole bunch of different ways to order it from independent bookstores and then like Barnes and Noble, Amazon. My website is my name. It’s eilenezimmerman.com. Eilene is kind of oddly spelled but it will probably come up anyway if you spell it wrong. It’s E-I-L-E-N-E zimmerman.com.

 

Zach: Okay.

 

Eilene: The home page has a ton of ways to order it including audiobooks and Kindle.

 

Zach: Excellent, excellent. Before we sort of wind down, I’m just curious. You kind of answered this a little bit, but how do you think writing this book has helped you heal?

 

Eilene: It has been so helpful. First of all I think as a writer I tend to process things on the page. I was keeping kind of a journal while I was going through, I wound up the executor of Peter’s estate and I wanted to be. I felt like it was kind of a way to make sure it was settled right for my kids. I think on some level I thought, “Well, I missed everything that came before but I’m going to make everything right now. I’m going to fix everything up.”

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: That was a tough time, but I kept a journal the whole time because I needed to kind of get it out. Writing the book helped me understand so much about Peter individually and about people that develop addictions especially people that operate at high level in society like white-collar professionals, people in very cognitively demanding fields; not that every job doesn’t demand cognitively but things like technology, finance, medicine, law where you’re really asked to…a lot of it is intellectual.

 

Zach: You’ve got to think.

 

Eilene: Right. There’s a lot of intellectual property there. Exactly. There’s a lot of life and death stuff if you’re in medicine. In finance, you have people’s lives in your hands financially and there’s so much pressure. It gave me a greater understanding of what makes people at the top unhappy or why are they competing or what are some of the reasons why they start using.

 

That really helped me pick kind of get my head around what happened for Peter and develop a lot of compassion for him and for us as a family. I got rid of my anger.

 

Eilene: Yes.

 

Eilene: I was able to get to a place where not only I forgive him but I actually really feel for him. That really helped me; it’s helping me to move on. I don’t think I had quite moved on yet. I need to get it down on paper to figure out what happened and also forgive myself for the things I missed which I feel a great responsibility for. Now I think it really did help. I started graduate school for social work.

 

Zach: Cool.

 

Eilene: I wound up working the first year of my field work with people that were struggling with addiction and a lot of active users, too who are trying to quit.

 

Zach: Hello.

 

Eilene: Oh. Hello?

 

Zach: No. I was just saying hello. I mean that’s…

 

Eilene: Oh. It gaslit. Talk about 360 degrees. Right. You know what? That gave me an understanding of a whole different population. Those people were very poor. Many of them were homeless.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: I loved working with them and also they’re beautiful people who are struggling with an enormous amount of difficult life issues. I think it has helped me heal and it helped me change my own life so those were all good things.

 

Zach: I’m curious to know just you’re a very accomplished writer. You write for the New York Times. You’ve written a book. There are a lot of folks who come through our program even or just people who need to tell a story themselves maybe for healing purposes or whatever. What suggestions do you give to people who maybe are thinking about writing something — a book or a journal, whatever?

 

Eilene: Right.

 

Zach: What would you say to them?

 

Eilene: I would say that before you sit down to think, “Now I’m going to write the great American recovery or addiction memoir,” if you’re cognizant enough, as soon as you’re feeling well enough start keeping a journal or a diary or a blog even if it’s a blog that you allow your family and friends to read. Don’t censor yourself. Just let it out. Just kind of vomit it up on to the page and get it all out because that’s where the really good stuff is.

 

You do that for several months and you start seeing that story shape and then take a look at what you have. If you think you have something that might be a nice cohesive narrative, whether it would be for a short story or you want to fictionalize it or you want to make a memoir. I think you really have kind of the seeds of something that will be really raw and emotionally authentic.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: I think that’s the good stuff to read. You put it together. You can write a chapter or two on a proposal and then I think the best way, you could certainly self-publish it or send it out to agents. I think I would start by keeping some sort of record in writing of what you’re going through and feeling and experiencing.

 

Zach: Got it. I guess it probably makes sense to, if you’re going to start doing something like that to do it consistently, too, right?

 

Eilene: Totally. That’s the thing. If you don’t want to write and then four months later come back to it because look at all of this mess.

 

Zach: Yes.

 

Eilene: Even if you decide you don’t want to do any more than just have it for yourself, I would imagine when you’re facing a tough time or a dark time and we all go through ups and downs, sober or not. You can read back and see all you’ve overcome and what you went through and understand yourself better. At least that’s how I would do it.

 

Zach: Excellent. Excellent. Eilene, thank you so much for coming on the show today and taking the time out of your day, really appreciate it.

 

Eilene: Thank you for having me here. It’s such a good conversation, Zach.

 

This call is being recorded.

 

Zach: Hi. I’m Zach Crouch and you’re listening to Landmark Recovery Radio, your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. You can find us online wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to subscribe to get the most up-to-date information from leading experts.

 

We have guests Brent Eaton and Reg McCutcheon joining us today. Brent serves as the prosecuting attorney for Hancock County, Indiana. Reg is the Executive Director at Landmark Recovery in Carmel, Indiana. The two will be discussing how the government and addiction treatment centers can work together to serve citizens struggling with substance abuse.

 

Brent will be discussing a new approach Indiana is taking that will allow law enforcement to charge and prosecute individuals who overdose in order to get them into mandated treatment. Our local Executive Director Reg will share his thoughts on how this could impact individuals post-treatment and his hopes for the program.

 

To help moderate the discussion today, Jessica Goble of Landmark Recovery will be joining the conversation. We hope this discussion will bring new light to the relationship between the government and local addiction programs and their shared goal of helping Indiana residents.

 

Thank you Brent and Reg for joining us and sharing your insight on the role of the law in addiction treatment and prevention.

 

If you know someone struggling with an addiction and are searching for answers, visit us at landmarkrecovery.com to learn more about substance abuse programs that are both saving lives and empowering families.

 

Until next week, I’m Zach Crouch with Landmark Recovery Radio wishing you well.

 

It’s conference now. This call may be recorded.

 

Jessica: All right. I’m back on. Do we have everybody?

 

Brent: Yes, we’re here.

 

Reg: I’m here.

 

Jessica: I’m so sorry about that, you guys.

 

Reg: That’s okay.

 

Brent: Despite all of your power I don’t think we can blame you for the tech stuff.

 

Reg: Yes.

 

Jessica: Okay. Let me see. Let me check and see if anything…I really hope that that had been recorded.

 

Reg: Yes. That was quick dialogue, Brent.

 

Brent: Come on, man.

 

Reg: Yes, yes.

 

Jessica: Okay.

 

Brent: I’m just happy to talk to somebody from our neighborhood.

 

Reg: Yes.

 

Brent: It’s nice to talk to people who are relatively close by. I’m up in your community from time to time. It’s a good place.

 

Reg: I’d love to stop by and visit sometime. I’d love to have some one-on-one. I’d love to understand more.

 

Brent: Honestly we’d love to have you.

 

Reg: Yes.

 

Brent: I’d love to have you and to kind of have you see what some of our treatment people and kind of get some idea to the entire system, what it looks like so that if there are ideas that are transferrable or useful we’d love to share it. Ultimately we share the same goal. We just go on from different directions.

 

Reg: Right, right. I think we all want the same thing. What we really work hard to do, Brent is include the family as a cooperative. We can’t heal without community involvement. That’s just really one of our core tenets and our beliefs.

 

Brent: Sure.

 

Reg: We have to get the families involved in our treatment process. We bring them in on Saturdays. We have a whole day of engagement with families with our clients so we can talk about the issues. We can educate the family members on what addiction is and how they are also enablers sometimes when they don’t mean to be.

 

Brent: Sure. Right.

 

Reg: They love their family member, but ultimately what we want to do is we want them to have enough theories with the understanding of the theories because we’ve had those people come in that just one day out of a narc and dose because they went flat and to bring them back and then talk to that family about those theories and what it would mean. We’ve had successes there.

 

Ultimately it’s probably the idea on our side is that is there a way we can engage that probably gives hope and purpose. I have to emphasize the purpose idea, what’s the value of your recovery to your world today. We also deal with some of the underlying issues because sometimes they’re not victims of circumstance. Sometimes they come from pretty wrecked environments which I know you deal with that they’ve got a historical record or kind of a family tree of substance abuse so they do what they know.

 

If we can teach them something else, you can’t un-know that but you all can see hope that maybe there’s some other opportunity and that’s kind of our underlying thing.

 

Brent: You used the word there that is one of my favorites. Recently I had the opportunity to address a direct corporate here locally. The word I tried to use and reference there was the word “hope.”

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: One of the saddest things that I see as a prosecutor on this kind of cases with folks that are in the throes of addiction is their hopelessness and the idea that sometimes no one cares or no one understands or no one’s going to try or that they have no self-worth.

 

We’re fortunate in our community with some of the terms of resources that we have, our treatment team and the relationships we have with local recovery residents is to really take some I guess non-traditional ways to kind of address that fundamental problem. Once you get that kind of sorted out sobriety tends to be a little bit more of a likely outcome.

 

There are a couple of things I did want to make sure I mentioned in that brief amount of time that we had. I understand a lot of the interest and a lot of the concern regarding people not calling. When this subject came up I spent a lot of time talking to some people in the treatment community and some people I’m pretty close to. I kind of went back and forth and it really kind of weighed on me.

 

Ultimately the message from this office is, has been and will be that if you are in place of someone is in need of help immediately or potentially just in need of help because you believe they have a substance abuse problem it is always the right thing to do is to call for help and that is always the right answer.

 

As these issues come a little bit more focused under the terms we’re speaking of here, our further refined position has been there’s specific statutes on point that if you are aware that someone is proceeding to what’s an unnatural death and you know and you’re not calling or that you yourself are in significant danger of criminal liability. There are statues on point that we will want to aggressively prosecute if you were there and you don’t call.

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: That’s certainly a very valid concern and it’s something I kind of heard from a lot of my friends in the treatment community for a long time. I want to I guess be very clear kind on that point.

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: The other thing and I really considered it. I was fortunate enough to spend some time relatively recently in one of the National Drug Court conferences and looked at some of the materials that they had. One of the ideas which was pretty ingrained in me from kind of my years of work there is the idea that you essentially have a few models. You got compulsory or involuntary treatment. You have voluntary treatment and you have coerced which is a leverage or pressure treatment.

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: I don’t have Mr. Marlowe’s data in front of me but my recollection of my materials there is that he did a great job of preparing was that there was a pretty strong preference under that school of thought for the leverage or pressure treatment achieve some of the greatest outcomes on a relatively strong timeline. That’s kind of the direction philosophically we’re coming from.

 

Here in our community the other thing is that there’s just not…unfortunately the best on ramp for high caliber services for people that do have substance abuse problems is through the justice system. There’s not another, frankly for the lot of us is not a lot of choice.

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: Given the choice between sitting on the sidelines and kind of hoping that we don’t have to go to more funerals or taking action to try to do something to stop that, we made a decision we’re going to try to take action to stop it.

 

Reg: Right. Brent, I think that I’d love to read some of that data if you could. I hope we can get together and share some of that data.

 

Brent: I’m trying to get some of that and hopefully I can share it with you.

 

Reg: Sure, sure. Nothing changes to good from bad. It has to. That’s kind of usually what we’re faced with and that’s when either families are tired or the client’s tired or they get put in a spot where [Inaudible][50:52]. Ultimately our fear like we read if it’s coerced then we lose the free will aspect of it because we never resolve the initial issue because fear-based doesn’t always work. It’s just one of those things, fear-based responses. It will never stick because the heart wants to do something else.

 

That’s of course the therapeutic challenge with it in us because the backside is “I don’t care. I’ll do what I want to do.” As soon as they’re out of whatever window we put people in and sometimes they go right back to where they were because [Inaudible][51:37] start all over. It’s almost like they’re going to start over. We want it to stick in a healthy way.

 

That’s why we want them not to be coerced but at the same time be fully invested. That’s part of the program because the ongoing process is we see somebody come in and they won. They’re usually high or recovering or just coming out of a stupor.

 

Brent: Sure.

 

Reg: By the end of our 36-day program…

 

Brent: Not a pretty picture.

 

Reg: It’s not. Here’s the deal. We normalize it. We talk about it. We want them to understand so much that you know about your past and your future as a sober space, but we got to talk about it so they can see themselves turn because we actually have a pitch room they get to see. It says what that day was.

 

Brent: Sure.

 

Reg: They go look in the mirror and see who they are.

 

Brent: Right.

 

Reg: Sometimes it’s about a realization because we have to teach different level of understanding but also ownership because ultimately we want to get them to take responsibility in a way that is more free will but encouraged because there’s a payout. There’s a payout because they haven’t become righteous as a citizen. They’ve become engaged citizens, good taxpayer, etc. because that’s what we want to develop.

 

We have those guys that have drug charges that come in, real drug charges from the things they’ve done and we worked really hard to help them find hope, help them find employment, help them find connected at the next level. We worked with the other residential out-treatment facilities to help them get connected to communities so there’s hope. It goes back to what we talked about earlier of the value of hope and treatment and their willingness to step early into that without all the shame-blame cycle that goes on.

 

That’s really important to us in that community but also in the family because that’s why we normalize it. Not normalize that it’s okay, but normalize and say it’s a disease. It’s an illness. We have to own it that way. What will they do if they had cancer is a question we have to ask. What will they do if they have some other terminal-type disease? It can be and you know that because here’s an Arkan and the other drugs.

 

How will we treat it if it was something like that? We would fight tooth-and-nail to save our life naturally but we want them to fight as well and do the right treatment. That’s part of the approach and the language we use to help us fight for you but you got to fight for yourself. We want to match you at that level continuously.

 

Brent: I understand on the treatment side where you’re coming just as somebody that lives literally down the road from where you all are.

 

Reg: Yes, yes.

 

Brent: I sincerely appreciate the difference that you’re making for the lives of the people of Central Indiana. You said something was really I thought critical. It could be critical for people that will listen is at the end of the day from the criminal justice side, the optimal solution to any situation we come across is the one that which makes it least likely that the given behavior, other behavior is going to repeat. Right?

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: With these types of crimes and these…ultimately at the end of the day [Inaudible][54:55]roughly a hundred years ago, about heroin and more or less these derivatives was going to be illegal more or less since 1924 in Indiana. That said there are also extremes, strong value in the services provided by the organizations and organizations like it to be a strong part of our solution as we look at ways to effectively allocate our resources.

 

One of the things that really kind of bothered me is that we don’t want to, okay have folks that may be picked up on this kind of cases and then go and just kind of rot away in the jail for another term or period of time. That doesn’t do anybody good.

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: If we’re able to create partnerships from the law enforcement side and to the treatment side and work together then both of us are in a position I think to really make an effective difference to kind of keep our communities above water because this is a very, very scary time. It’s a scary time.

 

Reg: Yes, sure it is. Yes.

 

Brent: You mentioned it earlier. Sometimes it’s unfortunate that when there’s really tough situations and really difficult challenges as sometimes when there’s great reserve we begin to look at things in a different way which can then be much more effective. I think that’s hopefully what we’re kind of at the tip of here.

 

Reg: Yes, absolutely.

 

Jessica: For both of you, just a quick question. You both have talked a little bit about your individual roles in your groups. For both of you, what kind of role would you want to see the government work together with treatment centers, what can treatment centers do to support communities like yours, Brent that don’t have all the resources you need? Brent, what do you hope for from different treatment centers that would be helpful for your residents?

 

Brent: You know that’s an excellent question. I really appreciate you asking. One of the things with our, I’ll call it our treatment model with probation in our local justice system. One of the things that was really a game-changer is when we were able to work to essentially purchase bed space. It’s relatively nearby recovery housing places. It provides almost like drive around resources for people that are in addiction.

 

Once were able to get them through the initial period of time in jail and then we could get them to live on the shelter on the way, out of jail and arrange transportation. We could pretty quickly get them in to these what I think is really, probably some of the best recovery housing in the Middle West.

 

The thing is there’s just not, in my view I don’t think that there’s nearly enough of the high-level recovery housing available to the extent that it would be possible to have more relationships like one in our county is fortunate enough to have what some of the local recovery housing places in other communities and across the State of Indiana. I think if those that could manifest even more I think. That would be a tremendous thing for the people here in our state.

 

Reg: Yes, I agree. Yes.

 

Brent: Give us some more beds, man.

 

Reg: Yes, okay. Yes, we’re working on that. Actually we’re building another facility on the other side of Indy there, a 70-bed facility and hoping to have that out by late fall along with the facility we’re currently in which is a 48-bed facility.

 

Just a tangent off what Brent said I would say that our intersection points are our desire for healthy citizens and leading in to that process and finding cooperative moments and spaces because we all care about the same things. We do care and we’re connecting it. That’s the leverage of our conversation.

 

Brent, I’d really love to sit down and talk with you and have a deeper conversation about how we can partner and play cooperative space with you. It’s an opportunity for us to inform, teach, help understand or even have a community impact for that as well.

 

We use a SMART model which is part of the 12-Step program a little bit but really it’s about teaching skills and helping them be self-managers of it and be responsible and accountable and speaking that language in a way that builds citizenship, that builds relationship but also gets them involved in their community in a healthy way.

 

Jessica: I love that. Just a couple of questions; we may have gone over some of these before but let’s…the recording issues. I just want to double-check and make sure we get them. If this is a question you already answered, I’m so sorry. Brent, if you’re comfortable, I know when we talked before you mentioned that Hancock County is really close to your heart. You’re born and raised there.

 

Brent: Yes.

 

Jessica: Can you talk a little bit about how this is a personal thing for you?

 

Brent: Yes. I guess two parts really to bring this message home. This is home. It’s home for me and my family and my kids and my parents. This is the community where I lived potentially all of my life. A lot of folks that are…the people that we go to on these runs are not a number. A lot of these are people that I know from the community. I know their families. In some instances I’ve known them for almost all of my life.

 

Two of them come to mind. There was one about my age that I’ve known, him and his mother reasonably well. Back about year and a half ago he was one of those who passed away and we had to go out to a funeral there with him and his family we’ve known for 15 years.

 

There’s the other side of it. There was really a lot of moral wrestling with myself to think about if this was really a path we want to proceed down or not. I kept thinking. I really want to make sure to do the right thing. It was really hard. It took a long time. I talked to treatment people a lot. Ultimately we decided to move forward.

 

The very first call I got is right in a secret warrant. I read through all the facts and then make sure we have the evidence that we can maybe proceed and after I reached that conclusion, the conclusion of that I looked up and I looked at the name, the name on the document the warrant was for. It was somebody that was from my seventh grade health class, my high school graduate class.

 

At that moment things kind of became clear to me. In that instant I kind of had maybe an ability to intervene to stop the cycle that was a person I’ve known for 30-plus years then or not. Looking at things at kind of a stark way, making the decision to proceed was something I did and I felt that it was clearly the right decision having encountered it in such a personal way.

 

That particular person now is a hundred-plus days sober. They’re transitioning him out of resident treatment facility to kind of a more of transitional housing in the area. They’re working. They have plans which involve not to go in back to the same group of people that they were involved with before. We certainly hope that that success continues.

 

It just really, really hit home when you look at that. Ultimately the question is am I going to do something here or not. We decided to and so far the results in that particular case are promising.

 

Jessica: Overall, Brent if you could kind of summarize for us, what are your hopes for this, these new guidelines that you’ve given?

 

Brent: The hope is obviously number one for a safer, better Hancock County. Number two is to achieve that by achieving outcomes for kind of a portion of the community that I think that a lot of social service organizations missed. Those people are clearly involved in narcotics activity and hopefully try to connect them, be the justice system to resources to help them obtain sobriety and be able to move on to live on happy, healthy, productive lives.

 

That’s what all of us desperately want so we can stop the endless cycle of overdose and hospitalization followed by another overdose until which time it’s no longer a law enforcement or first responder response and it becomes more a response. We want to try to avoid that at all costs.

 

Reg: Yes.

 

Jessica: Yes. Just to re-ask a quick question; Brent, if you could just, one more time for us kind of give us the overview of what this policy or guidance is that you have now worked on with law enforcement, just kind of short description of what this is so we can edit this together from the beginning.

 

Brent: Sure. The kind of directive and the plan is when there’s a call for first responders to what we believe to be an unnatural death is when we approach that and we have reason to believe that that may be as a result of some criminal activity, in this case the ingestion and possession of narcotic drugs then we investigate it that way. From the time of first contact all the way through the system then we’ll be looking for evidence which can lead us to that conclusion.

 

Just to approach it with an open mind and consider that this ultimately may be a crime scene and that what we need to do is we need to look and see where the evidence takes us and what it shows us. Ultimately if there is evidence there and it does support a final probable cause and it looks like there’s the makings of a criminal case then we should aggressively investigate it, pass that information along the prosecutor’s office.

 

If there’s reason for us to move forward with the charges we would intend to do so in hopes of getting the person that was involved out of this kind of endless cycle and hopefully connect to good strong resources relatively safely.

 

Jessica: Wonderful. I guess just the last question for the both of you if both of you want to take this just around this topic; what else do you think our listeners or the public you wish that they knew about and any aspect of this today?

 

Reg: I want to share an idea. Go ahead. Go ahead, Brent.

 

Brent: The only thing I was going to mention is that the solutions to this kind of issue could be highly localized and highly dependent upon the resource I think in a community they have. Ultimately in our community the reality is the best and most effective on ramp tool is effective treatment services through the justice system. Certainly other communities have different scenarios, different things and the other communities got to kind of look at what’s best for them with the given resources they have.

 

Reg: Okay. I wouldn’t leave the idea of this. I want to share a quote. It’s a Simon Sinek quote which I really use a lot about my motive or what I think about things. The quote is this: “You hide against something and you hope it’s not the thing you hate; but when you fight for something you focus on the thing you love.”

 

That’s our community. That’s the people that are having challenges. Neither one of us likes the substance abuse cycle or the substance themselves; but if we fight for the people I think we’re going to have a greater impact. That’s where some cooperative efforts come in. I think from talking to you, Brent I think we could certainly sit and have a great conversation to find ways to help each other along this path.

 

Brent: That sounds great. I look forward to having the opportunity to do so.

 

Reg: Yes, yes.

 

Jessica: Awesome. There’s one more question I can throw out there if you guys want to discuss this and then we can call it a day. I talked to Brent on the phone before this and something that he and I talked through was the interesting, whether it’s stigma or just the understanding the context of things, but the fact that we use the term “overdose” instead of death or something like that kind of is an interesting topic.

 

I’m curious if either of you have thought of the fact that we talk about overdoses instead of death and how that plays out and if that impacts how we look at overdoses or those individuals who do overdose.

 

Reg: From a…go ahead. Go ahead, Brent.

 

Brent: All I was going to say was I think it’s just really unfortunate that in society people talk about overdoses and because unfortunately they’re so frequent it’s…I think it loses some of the power of what it really means.

 

I mean because what it means in the context of what we talk about here it means essentially that somebody has ingested narcotics to the point that there’s an unnatural cessation of life but for a series of miracles of modern medicine this person would be dead. It’s an incredibly serious thing and I think sometimes when we use the phrase “overdose” it takes away maybe from the gravity of what’s really happening.

 

Reg: That’s absolutely great, Brent. I think that what you say is very true. I think in just our narrative alone it has morphed from overdose to someone very ill to the consequence of overdose or to the consequence of overdose which is death.

 

I think we’ve normalized the causal effect but not the result. That would be my answer is that an overdosesurely could lead to death but not all overdoses do and we have to own it a different way. That would be the difference in this narrative in the way we use it, but now it’s normalized that overdose means death.

 

Jessica: Great. I love it. Those are really great descriptions of it and kind of give I think our viewers just a       general understanding of what those terms mean and what they can mean so I think that’s really helpful. Brent and Reg, I so appreciate your time and I thank you for being kind to me even though all my technology had some bleeps on it.

 

Brent: It’s better than what we have here in the prosecutor’s office. Don’t worry about it.

 

Jessica: I’m happy to connect you two by e-mail so you can definitely keep having these conversations.

 

Brent: Please.

 

Jessica: We’re just so grateful, Brent for you wanting to come on and just be open and chat about these things because I think just having this conversation is that important first step for helping all of our communities.

 

Brent: Recently I had the opportunity to address a direct corporate here locally. The word I tried to use and reference there was the word “hope.”

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: One of the saddest things that I see as a prosecutor on this kind of cases with folks that are in the throes of addiction is their hopelessness and the idea that sometimes no one cares or no one understands or no one’s going to try or that they have no self-worth.

 

We’re fortunate in our community with some of the terms of resources that we have, our treatment team and the relationships we have with local recovery residents is to really take some I guess non-traditional ways to kind of address that fundamental problem. Once you get that kind of sorted out sobriety tends to be a little bit more of a likely outcome.

 

There are a couple of things I did want to make sure I mentioned in that brief amount of time that we had. I understand a lot of the interest and a lot of the concern regarding people not calling. When this subject came up I spent a lot of time talking to some people in the treatment community and some people I’m pretty close to. I kind of went back and forth and it really kind of weighed on me.

 

Ultimately the message from this office is, has been and will be that if you are in place of someone is in need of help immediately or potentially just in need of help because you believe they have a substance abuse problem it is always the right thing to do is to call for help and that is always the right answer.

 

As these issues come a little bit more focused under the terms we’re speaking of here, our further refined position has been there’s specific statutes on point that if you are aware that someone is proceeding to what’s an unnatural death and you know and you’re not calling or that you yourself are in significant danger of criminal liability. There are statues on point that we will want to aggressively prosecute if you were there and you don’t call.

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: That’s certainly a very valid concern and it’s something I kind of heard from a lot of my friends in the treatment community for a long time. I want to I guess be very clear kind on that point.

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: The other thing and I really considered it. I was fortunate enough to spend some time relatively recently in one of the National Drug Court conferences and looked at some of the materials that they had. One of the ideas which was pretty ingrained in me from kind of my years of work there is the idea that you essentially have a few models. You got compulsory or involuntary treatment. You have voluntary treatment and you have coerced which is a leverage or pressure treatment.

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: I don’t have Mr. Marlowe’s data in front of me but my recollection of my materials there is that he did a great job of preparing was that there was a pretty strong preference under that school of thought for the leverage or pressure treatment achieve some of the greatest outcomes on a relatively strong timeline. That’s kind of the direction philosophically we’re coming from.

 

Here in our community the other thing is that there’s just not…unfortunately the best on ramp for high caliber services for people that do have substance abuse problems is through the justice system. There’s not another, frankly for the lot of us is not a lot of choice.

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: Given the choice between sitting on the sidelines and kind of hoping that we don’t have to go to more funerals or taking action to try to do something to stop that, we made a decision we’re going to try to take action to stop it.

 

Reg: Right. Brent, I think that I’d love to read some of that data if you could. I hope we can get together and share some of that data.

 

Brent: I’m trying to get some of that and hopefully I can share it with you.

 

Reg: Sure, sure. Nothing changes to good from bad. It has to. That’s kind of usually what we’re faced with and that’s when either families are tired or the client’s tired or they get put in a spot where [Inaudible][01:15:01]. Ultimately our fear like we read if it’s coerced then we lose the free will aspect of it because we never resolve the initial issue because fear-based doesn’t always work. It’s just one of those things, fear-based responses. It will never stick because the heart wants to do something else.

 

That’s of course the therapeutic challenge with it in us because the backside is “I don’t care. I’ll do what I want to do.” As soon as they’re out of whatever window we put people in and sometimes they go right back to where they were because [Inaudible][01:15:46] start all over. It’s almost like they’re going to start over. We want it to stick in a healthy way.

 

That’s why we want them not to be coerced but at the same time be fully invested. That’s part of the program because the ongoing process is we see somebody come in and they won. They’re usually high or recovering or just coming out of a stupor.

 

Brent: Sure.

 

Reg: By the end of our 36-day program…

 

Brent: Not a pretty picture.

 

Reg: It’s not. Here’s the deal. We normalize it. We talk about it. We want them to understand so much that you know about your past and your future as a sober space, but we got to talk about it so they can see themselves turn because we actually have a pitch room they get to see. It says what that day was.

 

Brent: Sure.

 

Reg: They go look in the mirror and see who they are.

 

Brent: Right.

 

Reg: Sometimes it’s about a realization because we have to teach different level of understanding but also ownership because ultimately we want to get them to take responsibility in a way that is more free will but encouraged because there’s a payout. There’s a payout because they haven’t become righteous as a citizen. They’ve become engaged citizens, good taxpayer, etc. because that’s what we want to develop.

 

We have those guys that have drug charges that come in, real drug charges from the things they’ve done and we worked really hard to help them find hope, help them find employment, help them find connected at the next level. We worked with the other residential out-treatment facilities to help them get connected to communities so there’s hope. It goes back to what we talked about earlier of the value of hope and treatment and their willingness to step early into that without all the shame-blame cycle that goes on.

 

That’s really important to us in that community but also in the family because that’s why we normalize it. Not normalize that it’s okay, but normalize and say it’s a disease. It’s an illness. We have to own it that way. What will they do if they had cancer is a question we have to ask. What will they do if they have some other terminal-type disease? It can be and you know that because here’s an Arkan and the other drugs.

 

How will we treat it if it was something like that? We would fight tooth-and-nail to save our life naturally but we want them to fight as well and do the right treatment. That’s part of the approach and the language we use to help us fight for you but you got to fight for yourself. We want to match you at that level continuously.

 

Brent: I understand on the treatment side where you’re coming just as somebody that lives literally down the road from where you all are.

 

Reg: Yes, yes.

 

Brent: I sincerely appreciate the difference that you’re making for the lives of the people of Central Indiana. You said something was really I thought critical. It could be critical for people that will listen is at the end of the day from the criminal justice side, the optimal solution to any situation we come across is the one that which makes it least likely that the given behavior, other behavior is going to repeat. Right?

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: With these types of crimes and these…ultimately at the end of the day [Inaudible][01:19:03]roughly a hundred years ago, about heroin and more or less these derivatives was going to be illegal more or less since 1924 in Indiana. That said there are also extremes, strong value in the services provided by the organizations and organizations like it to be a strong part of our solution as we look at ways to effectively allocate our resources.

 

One of the things that really kind of bothered me is that we don’t want to, okay have folks that may be picked up on this kind of cases and then go and just kind of rot away in the jail for another term or period of time. That doesn’t do anybody good.

 

Reg: Right.

 

Brent: If we’re able to create partnerships from the law enforcement side and to the treatment side and work together then both of us are in a position I think to really make an effective difference to kind of keep our communities above water because this is a very, very scary time. It’s a scary time.

 

Reg: Yes, sure it is. Yes.

 

Brent: You mentioned it earlier. Sometimes it’s unfortunate that when there’s really tough situations and really difficult challenges as sometimes when there’s great reserve we begin to look at things in a different way which can then be much more effective. I think that’s hopefully what we’re kind of at the tip of here.

 

Reg: Yes, absolutely.

 

Jessica: For both of you, just a quick question. You both have talked a little bit about your individual roles in your groups. For both of you, what kind of role would you want to see the government work together with treatment centers, what can treatment centers do to support communities like yours, Brent that don’t have all the resources you need? Brent, what do you hope for from different treatment centers that would be helpful for your residents?

 

Brent: You know that’s an excellent question. I really appreciate you asking. One of the things with our, I’ll call it our treatment model with probation in our local justice system. One of the things that was really a game-changer is when we were able to work to essentially purchase bed space. It’s relatively nearby recovery housing places. It provides almost like drive around resources for people that are in addiction.

 

Once were able to get them through the initial period of time in jail and then we could get them to live on the shelter on the way, out of jail and arrange transportation. We could pretty quickly get them in to these what I think is really, probably some of the best recovery housing in the Middle West.

 

The thing is there’s just not, in my view I don’t think that there’s nearly enough of the high-level recovery housing available to the extent that it would be possible to have more relationships like one in our county is fortunate enough to have what some of the local recovery housing places in other communities and across the State of Indiana. I think if those that could manifest even more I think. That would be a tremendous thing for the people here in our state.

 

Reg: Yes, I agree. Yes.

 

Brent: Give us some more beds, man.

 

Reg: Yes, okay. Yes, we’re working on that. Actually we’re building another facility on the other side of Indy there, a 70-bed facility and hoping to have that out by late fall along with the facility we’re currently in which is a 48-bed facility.

 

Just a tangent off what Brent said I would say that our intersection points are our desire for healthy citizens and leading in to that process and finding cooperative moments and spaces because we all care about the same things. We do care and we’re connecting it. That’s the leverage of our conversation.

 

Brent, I’d really love to sit down and talk with you and have a deeper conversation about how we can partner and play cooperative space with you. It’s an opportunity for us to inform, teach, help understand or even have a community impact for that as well.

 

We use a SMART model which is part of the 12-Step program a little bit but really it’s about teaching skills and helping them be self-managers of it and be responsible and accountable and speaking that language in a way that builds citizenship, that builds relationship but also gets them involved in their community in a healthy way.

 

Jessica: I love that. Just a couple of questions; we may have gone over some of these before but let’s…the recording issues. I just want to double-check and make sure we get them. If this is a question you already answered, I’m so sorry. Brent, if you’re comfortable, I know when we talked before you mentioned that Hancock County is really close to your heart. You’re born and raised there.

 

Brent: Yes.

 

Jessica: Can you talk a little bit about how this is a personal thing for you?

 

Brent: Yes. I guess two parts really to bring this message home. This is home. It’s home for me and my family and my kids and my parents. This is the community where I lived potentially all of my life. A lot of folks that are…the people that we go to on these runs are not a number. A lot of these are people that I know from the community. I know their families. In some instances I’ve known them for almost all of my life.

 

Two of them come to mind. There was one about my age that I’ve known, him and his mother reasonably well. Back about year and a half ago he was one of those who passed away and we had to go out to a funeral there with him and his family we’ve known for 15 years.

 

There’s the other side of it. There was really a lot of moral wrestling with myself to think about if this was really a path we want to proceed down or not. I kept thinking. I really want to make sure to do the right thing. It was really hard. It took a long time. I talked to treatment people a lot. Ultimately we decided to move forward.

 

The very first call I got is right in a secret warrant. I read through all the facts and then make sure we have the evidence that we can maybe proceed and after I reached that conclusion, the conclusion of that I looked up and I looked at the name, the name on the document the warrant was for. It was somebody that was from my seventh grade health class, my high school graduate class.

 

At that moment things kind of became clear to me. In that instant I kind of had maybe an ability to intervene to stop the cycle that was a person I’ve known for 30-plus years then or not. Looking at things at kind of a stark way, making the decision to proceed was something I did and I felt that it was clearly the right decision having encountered it in such a personal way.

 

That particular person now is a hundred-plus days sober. They’re transitioning him out of resident treatment facility to kind of a more of transitional housing in the area. They’re working. They have plans which involve not to go in back to the same group of people that they were involved with before. We certainly hope that that success continues.

 

It just really, really hit home when you look at that. Ultimately the question is am I going to do something here or not. We decided to and so far the results in that particular case are promising.

 

Jessica: Overall, Brent if you could kind of summarize for us, what are your hopes for this, these new guidelines that you’ve given?

 

Brent: The hope is obviously number one for a safer, better Hancock County. Number two is to achieve that by achieving outcomes for kind of a portion of the community that I think that a lot of social service organizations missed. Those people are clearly involved in narcotics activity and hopefully try to connect them, be the justice system to resources to help them obtain sobriety and be able to move on to live on happy, healthy, productive lives.

 

That’s what all of us desperately want so we can stop the endless cycle of overdose and hospitalization followed by another overdose until which time it’s no longer a law enforcement or first responder response and it becomes more a response. We want to try to avoid that at all costs.

 

Reg: Yes.

 

Jessica: Yes. Just to re-ask a quick question; Brent, if you could just, one more time for us kind of give us the overview of what this policy or guidance is that you have now worked on with law enforcement, just kind of short description of what this is so we can edit this together from the beginning.

 

Brent: Sure. The kind of directive and the plan is when there’s a call for first responders to what we believe to be an unnatural death is when we approach that and we have reason to believe that that may be as a result of some criminal activity, in this case the ingestion and possession of narcotic drugs then we investigate it that way. From the time of first contact all the way through the system then we’ll be looking for evidence which can lead us to that conclusion.

 

Just to approach it with an open mind and consider that this ultimately may be a crime scene and that what we need to do is we need to look and see where the evidence takes us and what it shows us. Ultimately if there is evidence there and it does support a final probable cause and it looks like there’s the makings of a criminal case then we should aggressively investigate it, pass that information along the prosecutor’s office.

 

If there’s reason for us to move forward with the charges we would intend to do so in hopes of getting the person that was involved out of this kind of endless cycle and hopefully connect to good strong resources relatively safely.

 

Jessica: Wonderful. I guess just the last question for the both of you if both of you want to take this just around this topic; what else do you think our listeners or the public you wish that they knew about and any aspect of this today?

 

Reg: I want to share an idea. Go ahead. Go ahead, Brent.

 

Brent: The only thing I was going to mention is that the solutions to this kind of issue could be highly localized and highly dependent upon the resource I think in a community they have. Ultimately in our community the reality is the best and most effective on ramp tool is effective treatment services through the justice system. Certainly other communities have different scenarios, different things and the other communities got to kind of look at what’s best for them with the given resources they have.

 

Reg: Okay. I wouldn’t leave the idea of this. I want to share a quote. It’s a Simon Sinek quote which I really use a lot about my motive or what I think about things. The quote is this: “You hide against something and you hope it’s not the thing you hate; but when you fight for something you focus on the thing you love.”

 

That’s our community. That’s the people that are having challenges. Neither one of us likes the substance abuse cycle or the substance themselves; but if we fight for the people I think we’re going to have a greater impact. That’s where some cooperative efforts come in. I think from talking to you, Brent I think we could certainly sit and have a great conversation to find ways to help each other along this path.

 

Brent: That sounds great. I look forward to having the opportunity to do so.

 

Reg: Yes, yes.

 

Jessica: Awesome. There’s one more question I can throw out there if you guys want to discuss this and then we can call it a day. I talked to Brent on the phone before this and something that he and I talked through was the interesting, whether it’s stigma or just the understanding the context of things, but the fact that we use the term “overdose” instead of death or something like that kind of is an interesting topic.

 

I’m curious if either of you have thought of the fact that we talk about overdoses instead of death and how that plays out and if that impacts how we look at overdoses or those individuals who do overdose.

 

Reg: From a…go ahead. Go ahead, Brent.

 

Brent: All I was going to say was I think it’s just really unfortunate that in society people talk about overdoses and because unfortunately they’re so frequent it’s…I think it loses some of the power of what it really means.

 

I mean because what it means in the context of what we talk about here it means essentially that somebody has ingested narcotics to the point that there’s an unnatural cessation of life but for a series of miracles of modern medicine this person would be dead. It’s an incredibly serious thing and I think sometimes when we use the phrase “overdose” it takes away maybe from the gravity of what’s really happening.

 

Reg: That’s absolutely great, Brent. I think that what you say is very true. I think in just our narrative alone it has morphed from overdose to someone very ill to the consequence of overdose or to the consequence of overdose which is death.

 

I think we’ve normalized the causal effect but not the result. That would be my answer is that an overdosesurely could lead to death but not all overdoses do and we have to own it a different way. That would be the difference in this narrative in the way we use it, but now it’s normalized that overdose means death.

 

Jessica: Great. I love it. Those are really great descriptions of it and kind of give I think our viewers just a       general understanding of what those terms mean and what they can mean so I think that’s really helpful. Brent and Reg, I so appreciate your time and I thank you for being kind to me even though all my technology had some bleeps on it.

 

Brent: It’s better than what we have here in the prosecutor’s office. Don’t worry about it.

 

Jessica: I’m happy to connect you two by e-mail so you can definitely keep having these conversations.

 

Brent: Please.

 

Jessica: We’re just so grateful, Brent for you wanting to come on and just be open and chat about these things because I think just having this conversation is that important first step for helping all of our communities.

 

Thank you for tuning in to Recovery Radio. New content for this program is available every Tuesday at 12 NN Eastern Time and 9:00 AM Pacific Time with all episodes available on demand on the Voice America Health and Wellness Channel and through our content partners: iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, and Google Play podcast. Please remember to subscribe, rate, and review so we can continue to create quality content to help save one million lives in the next 100 years. You don’t need to struggle through addiction alone. Live the life you’ve dreamed on the road to recovery.

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