George – A true story of mental illness from Centerstone Research Institute, Nashville, TN
The onset of serious psychotic symptoms was sudden and dramatic for “George,” a 51-year-old man living with schizoaffective disorder. In George’s compromised reality, a mental “Star Chamber” was holding him on trial for crimes too terrible to fathom. These florid hallucinations left him wandering the streets shouting at unseen forces out to destroy him. Due to his hallucinations, George was unable to physically care for himself, refusing showers and fresh clothing. Although kind hearted and mild mannered by nature, people avoided the scary-looking “crazy” man. George’s only real support was an older brother who let him sleep in a dilapidated trailer behind his house. George avoided the outside world as much as possible. A small disability check kept him locked into a dreary existence.
Through Centerstone, George was invited to participate in research studies sponsored by Centerstone Research Institute and Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital. One study investigating higher doses of injected Risperdal® Consta® proved to be almost immediately beneficial for George. In six week’s time George’s delusions were dramatically diminished. The accusing voices in his head hushed to the point he had to strain to hear them, and most days they were simply gone. George himself came to see that the “Star Chamber” and the voices were not real. With support from Centerstone’s case management team, George is now on track to move into his own supported-living housing. The once wild-eyed, unshaven man is now transformed. George now smiles easily and lights up any room he enters. While sad about the years lost in a delusional maelstrom, George is determined to focus on his future and the greater promise it now holds.
Amylin – A true story from Centerstone Research Institute, Nashville, TN
In 2003, “Amylin,” a young mother in rural Tennessee, was addicted to methamphetamine. After she started manufacturing it at home to maintain her addiction, she lost custody of her children. The loss of her children drove her deeper into despair and even more meth use, which resulted in a prison sentence and permanent damage to her heart. Because of meth, Amylin lost everything: her freedom, her children, her job, and her health. However, because of Amylin’s will to change and the efforts of Centerstone Research Institute to provide evidence-based treatments, everything was not lost forever.
After a 2-year prison stay, Amylin was released and entered a local drug court where she was sentenced to a 90-day inpatient treatment program. Following her inpatient treatment she was mandated by the court to continue her treatment in an intensive outpatient program. Amylin was referred to the Methamphetamine Evidence-based Treatment and Healing (METH) Program at a Centerstone clinic in Tullahoma, TN.
Made possible by a federal SAMHSA grant secured by the Centerstone Research Institute, Centerstone’s METH program provided comprehensive, evidence-based and community-based treatment services for adults who abused meth and other emerging drugs. The program also helped increase community awareness and education concerning prevalence, risks and effective treatments. The METH program, following the Matrix Model, gave services to each participant for 16 weeks, including 3 group sessions per week and individual therapy. It taught participants effective strategies for treating meth addiction and techniques to help them remain drug free after the program was completed.
Amylin entered treatment at Centerstone in December of 2006 and, without missing a session, successfully completed the program the following April. A key lesson that Amylin learned was how to recognize her triggers to use methamphetamine. Amylin stated, “This program helped me learn ways to recognize triggers and how to properly deal with them. I know that when I think about using or crave meth I need to talk to someone, ‘play the tape forward’ and think about the consequences of using, or go to meetings.”
The METH program helped Amylin realize that she could no longer interact with people using drugs or go to places where drugs were being used: “I know now that I can’t go to those places with old friends. The METH Program gave me alternatives to be aware of.”
From her first-hand experience Amylin now educates everyone that she meets about the effects of drugs and alcohol. She routinely participates in Centerstone panel discussions, sharing her powerful story about the consequences of drug use.
Through her volunteer work with Centerstone, Amylin has made a positive impact not only in her own life, but in the lives of therapists and other program participants. The strategies she has learned from the program have helped her overcome her addiction and remain drug-free. Because Amylin has changed her lifestyle and now has tools to deal with her addiction, she completed her probation sentence, is employed, has regained full custody of her children and has remained drug- and alcohol-free for more than five years. Her health has also improved with heart medication and routine visits to a cardiologist. Amylin’s story is one of courage and hope, reminding us that recovery is always possible even in the most difficult of circumstances.