“Did you know that rates of depression, anxiety, and insomnia have TRIPLED since 1980? What the heck is going on with us in this country? Are we all just addictive personalities, is it a matter of overdiagnosing, or is there something else? Suzanne Somers explored those questions and more on this week’s episode of her CafeMom Studios YouTube show, Suzanne Somers Breaking Through.
Somers sat down with addiction specialist Dr. Rick Sponaugle to talk about why it seems like some people have “addictive brains.” As we all know, being addicted to gambling, drugs, shopping, or even “good” things like working hard can be linked to brain chemistry. But there’s something else going on here that you may not have guessed.
Dr. Sponaugle talks about how we’ve seen a major change in brain chemistry in the last 30 years due to antibiotic use in poultry and cows, as well as city water. Sucking out bacteria sounds like a good thing, but what happens when we ingest so many antibiotics that the good bacteria in our guts is eliminated? Gut toxicity. Which can lead to all of those awful mental health challenges that so many Americans are taking prescription meds for. Craaazy!
This isn’t to belittle real mental illness at all — which Suzanne and Dr. Sponaugle note can certainly be an inherited imbalance — but it does seem important for us as a population to realize that our food and our drugs could be seriously affecting our stomachs and our brains. And a few diet tweaks (eating organic meats, drinking highly filtered water, etc.) might make all the difference.
On the outside, 36-year-old Stephanie looks perfectly normal. But this single mother of four has a secret. “I’ve been taking Vicodin 12 years now,” she says. “Nobody ever would realize that I’m addicted to painkillers. I lead a normal life. I get up, I go to work, I pay my bills, I do everything I have to do. I started taking the Vicodin for legitimate menstrual cramps, and that feeling was a little euphoric. And if I took two, then, OK, I got a little bit more laundry done. Then the Internet came. I could just take them and take them and have more shipped.
“I became completely addicted within the last year,” she explains. “I don’t feel anything from the painkillers anymore unless I don’t take them. A normal dosage would be five milligrams. I take about 30 10-milligram pills a day, the equivalent of almost 60 pills a day. On a typical day, I take four pills before I get out of bed. And then I get my son up, I get my coffee, I get him breakfast, I take three more. Then I get everybody off to school, myself to work, and that’s when the cycle of three pills pretty much every three hours begins. When I get home and things are stressful, I would take more.”
Since Stephanie started keeping track of how many pills she takes she has watched the number go up. “I’m spending about $500 a month on the painkillers. I do my job as a mother, and I do my job as an addict. I do them both very well.”
She starts to cry. “You know, ‘junkie’ is a horrible, dirty, disgusting word, and that’s how I feel. I want the painkillers to go away. I want Stephanie back. It’s been so long, I don’t even know who the real her is. I cry all the time. I’m just so tired of being ashamed. Sometimes I just lie on my bathroom floor and I just sob. I worry about dying. I know that I’m killing myself a little bit every day. Dr. Phil, my secret addiction to painkillers has taken over my life. Can you please help me before it’s too late?”
“There was a time you would get high from it,” observes Dr. Phil, “but now, you don’t even get that. They’re only significant to your experience in their absence.”
Stephanie agrees, explaining that she has tried to quit on her own and has even purposely arranged to run out of pills during the weekend, knowing she couldn’t get more until the following week. But she’d always wind up giving in to her addiction. “I got so sick … and I started to sweat. And I started to get horrible pains in my head and in my stomach, and I just got so ill that I had to go to the doctor. And because I do have some legitimate medical things, they wrote me a [prescription.]”
Pointing out that Stephanie takes four pills before she even gets out of bed, Dr. Phil says, “As you sit here right now, you’ve taken 10 of those pills … So, we’re not talking to you, we’re talking to the drug.”
“I suppose, yes. Absolutely,” she says.
“Tell me why you’re here today. Why here? Why now?” Dr. Phil asks.
“I don’t want to do it for my kids. I don’t want to do it for my health. I know that I’m killing myself literally every single day,” says Stephanie.
“Why have you given yourself permission up until now to do this?” Dr. Phil asks.
“There was a period in my life where really I couldn’t have cared whether I lived or died,” says Stephanie. “I was going through the end of a bad marriage. And you know, I was just I guess self-medicating just to make that part go away.”
“You have four children. You don’t have the right to not care whether you live or die. Do you understand that?” he asks. “You’re taking anywhere between seven, 10, 20, 25 of these pills, and then you’re getting in that minivan and driving on the street with your kids in the car. You don’t have the right to do that. And you know what else? My family’s out there on those streets! … Just because you decide you’ve got a crummy marriage doesn’t mean you can get in a 5000-pound missile under the influence and drive around the kids in the neighborhood.”
Dr. Phil continues: “What happens if you wake up, and one of your children is sick? I mean, really sick, and you’re jacked up on Vicodin? You think you’re going to be thinking well, making good decisions, responding well? Have you deluded yourself into thinking that you’re a high-functioning addict and so it’s no problem? What you are is a junkie.”
“The same as someone in an alley who’s taking pills that they steal from a store. You’re just smart enough to do it over the Internet. But there’s no difference in the effect that it has on you and there’s no difference in the fact that you are robbing your kids of their mother and you don’t have the right to do that,” says Dr. Phil.
“And by the way, how much money do you make a year, just roughly?” he asks.
“About $22,000,” she says.
Dr. Phil turns to his previous guest, Susan, who works as prostitute and worries that she won’t be able to take care of her kids by having a normal job. “About $22,000 a year, and she’s raising four children. It can be done,” he tells her.
He turns back to Stephanie. “You’ve got yourself in a real pickle, but I am going to help you. And I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to offer you a plan of intervention beginning right now. Today. OK? And you can take it or leave it —”
“Take it,” Stephanie interjects.
“But I will not negotiate,” says Dr. Phil. “I have some representatives here from Florida Detox and they’re going to accompany you to the airport, and you ain’t going home. You’re going to Florida. You’re going to Florida Detox where there is an amazing program that can detoxify you from this drug in your body in about three hours.”
Stephanie cries. “Thank you,” she says.
Dr. Phil expands on what she can expect from the Florida Detox staff. “They’re going to do some psychological testing for you to make sure that you’re where you need to be. Then you’re going to go under a general anesthesia, and your body is going to get treated to detoxify you cellularly so you don’t go into all the reactions that you’ve been having. And then they’re going to monitor you for a day to make sure that your body is doing what it’s supposed to do to get these drugs out of your system.”
Dr. Phil reminds her that there is no easy fix. “This is a lifestyle. I am going to search your house. We are going to kill all of your Internet accounts. We’re going to make people know who you are so you cannot get these drugs, alright? Because it just absolutely cannot happen.” As for her kids, he informs her that Choice Care Nannies will provide a fully-screened nanny to assist her father in taking care of her children while she’s gone.
And finally, Dr. Phil introduces Stephanie to a surprise guest. It’s Dr. Ireland, a pastor from a church that she has visited.
“I know you,” she says as he joins her on stage with some final words of support.
“Stephanie, first, I want you to realize that secrecy and darkness is the basis for being trapped,” says Dr. Ireland. “And when you let the cat out of the bag of your addiction, it now frees you to get healing and walk through a process to wholeness. And our church family, we’re 5,000 people behind you. We’re going to help you.” He offers to help Stephanie with childcare, personal counseling and with her faith. “I just want you to know we’re there for you.”
Dr. Phil Refers Another Inspired Wife and Mother to Florida Detox
On October 28, 2005, the Dr. Phil show featured a follow-up story of Stephanie’s successful treatment from Vicodin at Florida Detox and how another wife & mother was inspired by her story; and took action to help herself, and her family.
“My life is a living hell,” says Cara. “I am addicted to painkillers. I have been taking too much Vicodin since 2003. I have been suffering from chronic pain for over four years. When my husband went to Iraq as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the stress of that made the chronic pain more intense. I’ve been reduced to what feels like a junkie.”
“I currently buy all my medication online,” explains Cara. “It’s very easy to do. I think what I’m doing is probably illegal. I don’t want to think about it.” Cara knows that her addiction is taking away from her role as a mom. “The other day, I wouldn’t even go to lunch with my son because I was waiting on a delivery.”
But everything changed when Cara saw the previous guest, Stephanie, on the show. “I recorded the show. I just watched it over and over again. Stephanie inspired me because her story was mine. I had a light bulb moment when Dr. Phil told Stephanie about Florida Detox. I could see that there was a way to get help. I was ready.” As Cara packs her bags, she explains, “In a couple of days, I am leaving to go to Florida Detox. I’m sick and tired of the pills running my life. I fear that if I continue down the path that I’ve gone, I will lose my husband, my children, everything.
“Cara speaks with Dr. Phil after returning from Florida Detox. She has been clean for two weeks. “I am doing my best. I feel so much better. As Stephanie said, once the chain is lifted, you have the freedom to get well. And that’s where I am right now,” she says.
Dr. Phil reiterates to Cara and Stephanie the importance of meetings. “I have to say to both of you, sobriety is a lifestyle, it’s changing the way you think and feel, what you breathe into your life. It’s every aspect of being different, and those meetings are a critical, critical part of that. I don’t think you have a chance of success if you don’t start making that a lifestyle. If you have to get a babysitter, whatever you have to do, you have to take care of your children’s mother. And I do not believe you can do it without meetings.”
Dr. Phil informs Cara that Florida Detox is going to waive her fees. “That’s one less pressure you’ve got.”