Chooper’s Guide was born on a Saturday afternoon in August 2009, on Pemaquid Beach in New Harbor, ME. Two guys, Tim Cheney and Adrian Hooper, who collectively had been in over 45 substance abuse treatment centers, mental hospitals and detox programs for alcoholism and drug addiction during their former lives, decided that too many drug addicts and alcoholics die or their disease progresses because:
- They can’t find a bed in a local detox.
- They are misdiagnosed.
- They can’t find the right rehab center offering appropriate treatment for their needs.
- Their co-occurring mental illness is not treated concurrently with their addiction.
- They are given inappropriate referrals by clinicians, medical personnel and other addiction professionals.
- They face a host of other roadblocks placed in their paths by the social stigma and shame associated with the disease of addiction.
“To say our respective recoveries from addiction have been a journey is an understatement,” shared Adrian Hooper. “Like most drug addicts and alcoholics, we have our war stories: periods of homelessness, lock-downs in mental institutions, jail, in-and-out of detoxes and rehabs, stays in therapeutic communities, long periods of methadone maintenance, near-death overdoses, $500/day heroin habits and treatments for hepatitis C, among others.”
“Like most drug addicts and alcoholics, we kept trying – over and over and over again – to get a grip on our drug addiction and alcoholism, believing this time really would be the last time we’d go that far off the rails. For both of us, recovery started when we finally accepted we had to do whatever it took to stop because dying was our most likely alternative.”
For Tim Cheney, addiction took hold by age 15. “I took the drug, and the drug took me,” he said. Cheney’s recovery work initially involved long-term methadone treatment and eventually progressed to abstinence (1981) with an avid commitment to a Twelve Step program and extensive therapy with psychiatrists, psychologists and drug counselors.
Hooper’s addiction roared down the runway at age 30. “I used drugs to self-medicate my PTSD, and eventually the drugs and the PTSD took me,” he said. Hooper’s recovery initially involved a long-term stay in yet another rehab center, along with a great deal of Twelve Step program work. But eventually his recovery required having time-release Naltrexone embedded in his abdomen and extensive therapy with psychiatrists, psychologists and drug counselors.
For both Cheney and Hooper, the most significant problem back then was that the treatment field itself did not have access to the brain-and addiction-related research which is now available. As a result, the disease was not understood for what it is – a chronic and often relapsing brain disease. This, in turn, led to repeatedly experiencing incomplete diagnoses and, therefore, incomplete and/or ineffective treatment protocols for their individual symptoms. In the 1960s, for example, treatment consisted of a stay in a mental hospital because addiction was thought to be a psychiatric disorder. In the late 1970s, alcoholism and drug abuse were legally viewed as “volitional acts of misconduct.”
Additionally, the treatment field did not have the latest research which is currently helping all of us understand the key role risk factors play in a person’s developing the disease of addiction; further they realized addressing and/or treating those risk factors is critical in treating the disease of addiction. The more risk factors, the more susceptible a person is to the possibility of “crossing the line” from abuse to addiction.
Five Key Risk Factors for Addiction
- Genetics – If it runs in the family, there may be a genetic predisposition; not an “addiction gene” per se, but genetic differences such as higher or lower levels of neurotransmitters or receptors or the liver enzymes which break down alcohol or drugs.
- Social Environment – Heavy drinking or drug use viewed as “normal” can provide permission for another person in that environment to drink or use heavily. If a person’s brain or genetic makeup is also involved, this compounds the risk for substance abuse and/or addiction.
- Childhood Trauma – If verbal, physical or emotional abuse were present in the early years, this may have “hard-wired” unhealthy coping skills or actual physical brain changes, thus opening the door to substance abuse.
- Early Use – Critical brain development occurring between the ages of 12 and early 20s can make the brain especially vulnerable to structural changes caused by substance misuse.
- Mental Illnesses such as Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, PTSD or Bipolar Disorder – May also cause brain changes and often a tendency to “self-medicate” with alcohol or drugs.
Hooper and Cheney were fortunate. In spite of it all, they did find their way into recovery, and were able to build successful, prosperous professional careers before retiring recently – all of which brings us to their building the Chooper’s Guide website. “Chooper’s Guide is our opportunity to give back, to help others find their way out long before they hit bottom,” explained Hooper. “We built the website to provide addiction treatment professionals and mental healthcare providers with a referral resource to share the latest brain, mental illness and addiction-related discoveries and treatment protocols. Another goal is to help family members and friends find what they need to help themselves and, thereby, help their loved one before it’s too late.”
Their objectives are simple. They hope to expedite the referral and placement process of individuals in need of substance abuse treatment by creating an easily accessed data warehouse of existing accredited facilities and treatment professionals. This resource will increase drug and alcohol treatment referral options and help the family members and friends which are an important group in and of themselves – a group that needs information they can easily use and immediately understand. It will positively impact substance abuse treatment outcomes by facilitating accurate matches between consumers and treatment providers. A primary goal of the service is to get the drug addict or alcoholic off the street and into treatment quickly but, most importantly to save lives!
Chooper’s Guide is an easy-to-use website with a plethora of information. Hooper and Cheney show their generous support of nonprofit programs by providing a free-of-charge platinum listing to 501(c)(3) facilities. Private programs enjoy the same listing for a modest price. In addition to an extensive treatment, prevention and intervention resource directory, they provide a compendium of interesting articles on a variety of addiction topics, an excellent events calendar and a collaborative vendors listing. They are also in the process of developing a diverse and inclusive compilation of premier addiction-related resources. You can find this comprehensive website at: http://choopersguide.com