Breaking free from meth

Program helps clients escape cycle of abuse


Craig resident Sharyn Sanborn fell into the same trap that snares so many -- she tried methamphetamine.

A year later, she was battling addiction and legal problems.

She didn't like the road she was on. She wanted to stay out of trouble. She wanted to get clean.

She wanted her life back.

Craig Mental Health helped her make that happen.

The center counsels people like Sanborn by using the Matrix program, a series of classes and therapy sessions designed to curb addiction. The program was developed at the Matrix Institute in California.

"It was a lot of work," Sanborn said. "It helped me tremendously. It's pretty intense."

The Matrix program uses enhanced and intensive outpatient treatments. Some patients come in on their own; others are ordered to participate by the court.

Erika Schmitz, substance abuse coordinator at Craig Mental Health, said the program can help patients battle addiction, but the decision to stay clean is their own.

"There's no way of knowing who will do well in the program," she said.

The first step in getting clean and sober occurs during the early recovery skills session. The session addresses the client's feelings, exploring what triggers the desire to abuse a substance, and mapping out a road to recovery. It is a process that is both mental and physical, as the subject's body learns to live without the drug, Schmitz said.

"Substance abuse is like an injury, without the wound," she said. "There are chemicals in the brain that need physical recovery time."

The next step in the process is attending sessions with the relapse prevention group.

Here, the discussion is on how different things affect the recovery process, such as work, relationships and truthfulness.

Schmitz points out how important honesty is when getting clean. Substance abusers begin being dishonest early in the abuse phase, and they need to re-establish trust with friends and relatives, she said.

Another part of the relapse prevention is nutrition.

Physical healing begins with nutrition, a part well received by clients because the improved diet makes them feel better, Schmitz said.

Early recovery skills involves eight to 10 sessions, and the follow up relapse-prevention groups involve 33 to 35 sessions. The cost for sessions is about $15 per hour, but funding can come from the individual, social services or other options worked out by the court.

"We don't like to turn people away," Schmitz said. "We will work with them and work out a payment plan."

A special women's recovery group is available to address women's issues. Women's recovery group director Tracey Lathrop said providing women with a support network is critical because women are more likely to use a substance in secret.

"There is a lot of pressure on women to be perfect," Lathrop said. "Our discussions are all about women's issues. It's an incredibly dynamic experience."

Support sessions focus on group therapy with topics chosen by the clients. The groups are coed and last one hour, and cover topics such as daily problems that affect the recovery process.

Sanborn graduated from the program at the end of April. She credits the Matrix program with breaking her meth addiction.

"I went six hours a week, and they keep you focused and accountable," Sanborn said. "Recovery has to be the priority in a person's life."

Anyone can walk in off the street and get started in the program, Schmitz said.

The trick is to wrap your mind around recovery, she said.

"The minute you admit you are powerless when it comes to the substance being abused, you take the power back," Schmitz said.

For information about substance abuse programs, call Craig Mental Health at 824-6541 or visit the office at 439 Breeze St.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or

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