What Boneheaded Bureaucrat Came Up with This Shit?

Okay, so I am a client at camh (Center for Addiction and Mental Health) attending their Evening Health Services (EHS) program. I’m currently in “Phase 1 – Getting Started.” This is *their* description:

Purpose: Ongoing evaluation and preparation for the Intensive Phase of Program

* There is no set time that individuals remain in this phase of treatment. The decision to move client’s on to the Intensive Phase is based on individual evaluation and agreed-upon goal choice(s).

Everything’s groovy so far. Now, we come to the whole goal choice thing. Here’s what they say again:


CAMH programs are based on the idea that participants have the most success when they choose their own substance use goals. A clear, detailed goal statement is one of the most important tools for gaining control over your substance use. Many people enter the program having already decided that the only realistic goal is not to use their substance or substances of concern. Others may not have made a final decision. Some people try out a goal just for the time they’re in the program (called a “treatment goal”).

Generally, abstinence is the recommended goal for any of the following circumstances:

  • Legal problems (i.e. a mandate not to use a substance)
  • Medical complications (i.e. liver damage, negative medication interactions)
  • Family or relationship problems
  • Work problems
  • Risks having to do with certain activities (i.e. driving or operating machinery)
  • If you have a family history of dependence on a substance
  • If you have not had periods of successful moderate use in the past
  • If your assessment indicates a high level of dependence on the substance
  • Pregnancy

The benefits of an initial period of abstinence include:

  • Improved thinking ability
  • Better at learning and testing coping skills and strategies
  • Lower tolerance accompanied by improvements in physical health
  • Increased likelihood of succes in achieving long-term moderation.

Moderate use goals are most effectively stated when they consider the following information:

  1. Maximum amount per day (i.e. no more than 3 standard drinks per day).
  2. Maximum number of days in any one week (i.e. no more than 4 days per week).
  3. Maximum weekly quantity (i.e. no more than 12 standard drinks per week)
  4. The form of the substance (i.e. avoiding hard liquor)
  5. High-risk situations (past circumstances that have caused major negative consequences or consistently led to loss of control).
  6. Situations in which use may be relatively safe (i.e. with trusted friends or family)
  7. Duration of “experiment” (the number of weeks over which you will assess whether this goal is suitable for you).

If you take into account all of the above information, your chances of success in arriving at the goal that’s right for you will be better. In the absence of a plan, people tend to struggle, become frustrated and are more likely to give up.

All typos and punctuation issues are theirs.

This all seems pretty straightforward, yes? Well, when I’m in the group, I get this feeling about a “hidden agenda” for abstinence. I asked about it last week: “Is a goal of harm reduction really realistic for me?” For an answer, I got an equivocal statement about how harm reduction was alright, but really most people find that abstinence is the way to go, plus it’s very unlikely that after you’ve been using addictively to go back to just recreational use.

My brain heard that as ‘harm reduction is okay, but we’d really rather you quit’, which is fine with me. After doing the whole AA thing and then actually quitting on my own, I am firmly in the harm reduction camp (for my own stuff). As long as that’s okay with them, I’m good.

So this week in group, we had some time at the end so I asked for a clarification of the process to moving to the next phase.

Phase 2 – Intensive Treatment

* This phase runs for 7 1/2 weeks (2 days per week). Individuals will not be accepted if they cannot commit to the full duration of this phase. Client’s do not continue to attend the Getting Started Group once they have begun the Intensive Phase of Progam.

I asked about the process: how is it determined when you move up, yadda, yadda, yadda. I was told by the therapist that “you have to have an approved goal” as well as being seen as committed to the process by attending Phase 1. She gave me the goal choice paper that is quoted in its entirety above.

So imagine my surprise and confusion when another client in the program and spoke up and said “What she’s not telling you is that harm reduction only applies to alcohol. It’s a political thing. You can’t use any other substance in the intensive program. I got kicked out for that.” After a fair bit of asking pointed questions, I got the information I was looking for:

To qualify for the Intensive Treatment phase, you have to commit to abstinence from all illegal substances for the 7 1/2 weeks of treatment. Alcohol is the only substance to which “harm reduction” applies.

In and of itself, this is no big deal. I had already determined that a period of abstinence would be fine for myself. What really gets my goat and pisses me right off is this:

Nowhere does it say this and therapists are not allowed to directly express this policy to clients.

Yes, you read that right. My therapist has instructions from “upper management” at CAMH to not reveal this information to her clients. It took a while to get that sorted out too. The therapist was clearly walking a fine line over what she can and cannot say to the group. What the fuck have these people been smoking? At least one other client was asked to *leave* the intensive treatment group because she set her goal to harm reduction and it was not deemed sufficient. She felt like a failure. Talk about an event that can trigger using drugs: ‘Hey honey, I got kicked out of my drug treatment group because they forgot to tell me the secret rules for membership.’ These people are causing harm to their clients by this ill-conceived policy.

I am seriously considering not returning. How can I trust a therapist if I *know* she is intentionally withholding information about the very program I’m participating in on orders from upper management for reasons I’m not entirely clear on. How can I trust anyone there? What the hell have these people been smoking?
Honestly, this is one of the most fucking retarded things I have run across. People get really stupid when it comes to drug policy. I thought Canada was better than the U.S. in this regard, but it appears to be just as duplicitious.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Deconstructing Dinner / Deconstructing Abstinence


I have of late been doing a lot of research into what and how I feed, and nourish, my family. I came across this podcast which is actually quite well done. If reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” doesn’t do it for you, listening to “Deconstructing Dinner” will definitely give you an education into what we eat.

Honestly, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that vital services, such as medical treatment and our food supply, are much too important to be left to the mega-corporations, with their goal of profits first.

Tonight however, I am too tired to get into long discourses on the dangers of industrial food. Tonight was group night and I am truly weary. I’m struggling with myself as to what my “goal” should be: abstinence or recreational use. You think the answer might be obvious, but it’s not to me. I have an idea of what I “should” do (abstain completely), but that is coupled with an intense distrust of any and all statements that begin with the word “should.” For now, social smoking of pot is acceptable, but I think I need to hold firm on the “no buying, no smoking alone” rule. Everyone tells me that once a person has used in an addictive manner that it is “extremely rare” to go back to casual use.

I’m no stranger to the uncommon and unusual, so I’ll take my chances, for now. There is room for a set period of abstinence, but I am quite loathe to committing to an ongoing, never-ending abstinence. So there. Nyah. Hmph.

My Life: Table Formatted — Part One, Childhood

Born in Detroit, Michigan (November)
Molested by my paternal grandfather, per hazy memories recovered in my late 20s.
Mom takes me for my first visit to a psychiatrist because I am “too hard to handle.” Diagnosis: extremely intelligent.
My grandmother, Margaret, starts my education in race relations.
“This is coffee. It’s black. This is cream. It’s white. When you mix them together, you get brown, which doesn’t go with anything.”
Starting in third grade, I was responsible for getting my younger brother (age 5) on to the public bus after school, home, and fed. I was to clean the kitchen and prepare dinner. I wore our housekey on a string around my neck.
I start getting my first beatings from my mother. Punched in the back, slapped across the face, whipped with a belt. Stuff like that. Once, she threw a frying pan at me. It bounced and hit the wall and the handle broke off.
I don’t remember much from these years. It’s probably a blessing.
“The Twinkie Incident”
I was supposed to clean out the freezer. Being 11, I didn’t get to it right away. My friend Caroline was at our house for dinner. My mother opened the freezer and went ballistic when she saw it wasn’t cleaned out. She started pulling frozen food out and throwing it at me. She hit Caroline in the back of the head with a frozen twinkie. I stopped inviting people over to my house.
My brother and I win a trip to Florida to visit my grandparents. I remember the “It’s a Small World” boat ride driving me insane, the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse being the coolest thing on the planet, and my grandfather pushing me down over the edge of the bed when no one else was home and dry humping me for what seemed like an eternity. I never let myself be alone with him again.
Ask Dad if I can play with the makeup in his bedroom, thinking it belonged to his girlfriend. Dad tells me that it’s his makeup—he’s planning on having sex change surgery. “So I’ll have two moms and no dad?” “Yep.” “Does this mean I can play with the makeup?”
Tell my seventh grade teacher that my dad wears women’s clothes. That night, she calls my mother to tell her that I am spreading lies in school.
Accepted as a student as Renaissance High School, an experimental public school dedicated to gifted children. I applied at my mother’s insistence. This probably saved my life.
Discover my father’s copy of “Justine” by the Marquis de Sade. Find it an incredible turn on. For some strange reason, equating pain with love doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch for my brain. Go figure.
Car accident, broken collarbone. Start high school looking like a linebacker because I have to wear the crazy brace thing to hold my shoulders back. Nothing like beginning a career in a new school looking like a freak.
June Honors Convocation. Awards Received:
Academic Honor Roll
Metropolitan Detroit Science Fair
National Mathematics Association of America Math Competition (3rd Place)
Language Fest, Oakland University (1st Place)
I also sang First Soprano in the choir.
Attended Introduction to Engineering at Wayne State University during the summer of 1979.
First suicide attempt, two weeks before Christmas. I spent six weeks in the Child Psych Ward of Mt. Caramel Mercy Hospital. Yes, that includes Christmas Eve. I got a day pass for Christmas. I could see the smoke stack of my high school, two blocks away.
Attended Physics Laboratory Experiments Course, Wayne State University, Saturday mornings, Spring 1980.
June Honors Convocation. Awards Received:Academic Honor Roll
Last time:
During one of the beatings I received from my mother, I snapped. She was choking me around my neck, slamming my head against the refrigerator, and screaming “I hate you! I wish you’d never been born!” I was yelling “Stop, stop, stop.” She stopped, put her hands on her hips, and sneered, “Why, what are you going to do, hit me?” I said yes. She slapped me. I decked her and knocked her on her ass.That was the last time my mother physically assaulted me.That night, I ran away from home. I didn’t deserve to live in my mother’s house after hitting her.
15 As part of the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program, I attended the Michigan State University Advanced Pre-Engineering Summer Program. I received Certificates of Achievements for the following:
Completed Math 081-082
Highest Test Score
Expository Paper (my first technical writing!)
Computer Science (programming in Fortran IV)
Member, National Honor Society
May Honors Convocation. Awards Received:
Academic Honor Roll
Michigan Youth Arts Festival Writing Award
Scholastic Writing Awards Contest Commendation
Honors Graduate
Certificate of Merit, National Merit Scholarship Program
Renaissance Scholars Program, Physics, Oakland University, June-July. I recreated Michael Faraday’s experiement on how a strong magnetic field changes the polarity of light.
Free at last!
September: flew to Albany, New York to begin my freshman year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Major: Physics. Merit Scholarship Recipient.

What’s Wrong with Industrial Food: Viruses as Food Additives

If you ever needed a reason to avoid “ready-to-eat” meats, here’s one for you. The FDA has just approved viruses as a food additive.

[link to CNN.com article]

The special viruses, called bacteriophages, are meant to kill strains of the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium, the Food and Drug Administration said in declaring it safe to use on ready-to-eat meats prior to their packaging.

…Consumers won’t be aware that meat and poultry products have been treated with the spray…

…The viruses are grown in a preparation of the very bacteria they kill, and then purified. The FDA had concerns that the virus preparation potentially could contain toxic residues associated with the bacteria. However, testing did not reveal the presence of such residues, which in small quantities likely wouldn’t cause health problems anyway, the FDA said.

All righty then. Pre-packaged lunch meats are full of all sorts of nasty chemicals and preservatives anyway. Apparently, that isn’t sufficient and we need to spray it with viruses (virii?) as well.

I won’t be feeding my kid any bologna or other lunch meat, ever. How can this mix of toxins, viruses, and preservatives possibly be good for us?

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ll just slice some meat off of the roast chicken I made on Sunday (or the roast beef, or the roast turkey) and make a sandwich out of that. At least I know what’s in it!

Last but not least, remember that this is the same Food and Drug Administration that brought us Vioxx. The same FDA that insists that if it a product could prevent, cure, or mitigate a disease or condition, it must be a drug. (For example, those who sell calcium are prohibited from mentioning that it reduces the risk of bone fractures.) The same FDA that sent letters to cherry distributors saying that when health benefits are mentioned, the cherries then become “drugs” that are subject to seizure.

The same FDA that allows meat manufacturers to use carbon monoxide gas mixtures during the packaging process to prevent discoloration of meat. This discoloration is an indicator that the meat is spoiling due to bacterial growth. Oh yeah, that’s why they have to spray the meat with viruses. And thus we come full circle.

Really sick.

Acute bronchitis.


[cough cough cough]


I rest now. We’ll see whether it is viral or bacterial–I’m on antibiotics, but most bronchitis is viral, so I’m sure they’re doing dick-all except contributing to the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.