There are paintings in her office that represent many things – a creative outlet allowing Linda Bond to channel her inner strength onto a canvas. One colorful painting depicts a journey. She calls it, “Road to Recovery.”
Linda Bond knows that road. She also knows that every road is similar, yet different for every patient she meets.
Bond came to IU Health in November of 2016. Her role as a recovery coach is part of an ongoing plan to address a statewide addiction crisis. The Indiana University Health Foundation recently secured a $1.4 million award from the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHA) to provide peer recovery coaching services at all Indiana University Health emergency departments statewide. The award covers onsite as well as telehealth services, so the coaches will be available 24/7.
Operating on the premise that it takes an addict to understand an addict, peer recovery coaching is a growing service within substance abuse treatment. Peer recovery coaches typically have been in recovery themselves, so they can relate to patients struggling with addiction—including those brought to the ER in the midst of an overdose.
“The recovery coaches work with patients to overcome barriers to treatment and give them extra support. Quite often, this is the patient’s first exposure to the idea of treatment – especially treatment that leads patients to have the most independent lives possible. For us, having recovery coaches available to patients who present with an overdose is another way of reaching out to the community,” said Bond.
Bond’s addiction began as a teenager. She remembers at the age of 15 experimenting with drugs and alcohol. By the time she was 25, she went into a treatment program and managed to stay clean and sober until she was introduced to pain pills. About five years down the road she had a severe Opioid addiction that she said lasted more than a decade. In 1997, she went through the addiction-counseling program she now serves at IU Health Methodist Hospital.
“It was inspiring but I didn’t stick with it,” said Bond. “At my worst I was addicted to cocaine and marijuana. My kids were taken to live with their father and I wasn’t able to have contact with them until I was clean.”
A former college professor, Bond was in and out of treatment programs and at one point was so desperate for help that she said she attempted to take her own life.
A bright yellow Ford Focus with black flames left an impression on Bond. She says that’s about all that she had left of a life once filled with the opportunities as a wife, mother, and educator. She lost it all – her family and her job – and was sleeping in that beat up car, feeling like she had hit rock bottom.
“My family finally made a deal with me,” said Bond. “If I’d go into a longer treatment program and stay in a sober living community they’d pay for it. I did that because I’d lost everything. All I had was the recovery community and the AA meetings I was sentenced to go to every day. “
She eventually reconnected with her two children – now adults, retuned to school for her masters degree in counseling, and began working with addiction recovery programs. She has been sober since June 5, 2011. Through the process she said she’s learned a number of lessons about addictions and also several myths of an addict:
- Myth #1 – The most prevalent myth is that addiction is a moral failing – that it’s a sign of weak character. “Addiction is not weak character; it’s a disease.”
- Myth #2 – Addicts can be treated once and they are cured. “There’s no cure unfortunately. You wouldn’t throw a needle at a diabetic and say go shoot up insulin and you’ll be fine. You wouldn’t tell someone who had a heart attack to go home and do what he or she has always been doing. When you’re in recovery you have to keep up with meeting and connecting with others to support your sobriety.”
- Myth #3 – People will change when they hit rock bottom. “I see people every day who haven’t hit rock bottom but maybe have had some consequences to their actions or it can just be a shift emotionally or spiritually.”
- Myth #4 – Addiction only applies to certain people. “Addiction doesn’t discriminate. People with perfectly normal stable backgrounds have become addicts and alcoholics.”
- Myth #5 – Marijuana is not harmful or addictive. “People seem to believe there is only psychological dependence, but new research shows that there is a distinct withdrawal syndrome, very similar to nicotine withdrawal.”
- Myth #6 – Recovery is only about the individual. “Addiction is a family disease, and often (usually) the family is as sick as the chemically dependent individual. It is vital that the family get help too, whether it be individual and/or family therapy, Al Anon, and/or attending a treatment program’s family component if the person is in treatment.”
— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.