By Cici Nye
Friends, family members and Church leaders have a bit more help when it comes to counseling loved ones struggling with addiction.
“The Waterfall Concept: A blueprint for addiction recovery” is a new book by counselor Roger Stark. Stark returned to school in his 50s and began the healing process to work through an addiction of his own. He now has his own counseling practice based out of Vancouver, Wash.
“Addiction is a cutting and baffling disease,” Stark said. “It’s really complicated and difficult for clinicians to understand. If you’ve ever been through [addiction], it’s a little easier to understand. This concept of a waterfall was a way I taught relapse prevention.”
Stark feels like he’s gaining a lot more in his life by being a clinician.
“People come to me thinking I’m helping them,” he said. “Invariably, I come away feeling like I’ve been the one that’s been helped. It’s healing. It’s service.”
Scott C. Steffensen, associate director of the neuroscience center at BYU, specializes in the research of the neurobiology of addiction and offers some more insight into the disease.
“Something in the brain is changing in association with addiction,” Steffensen said. “Our job is to find what is changing and hopefully what is going wrong. We know what neurons and neurotransmitters are affected. We just don’t know how to change it.”
Steffensen’s lab is guided by a quote from Elder Boyd K. Packer’s October 1989 General Conference address.
“It is my conviction, and my constant prayer, that there will come through research, through inspiration to scientists if need be, the power to conquer narcotic addiction through the same means which cause it … I plead with all of you to earnestly pray that somewhere, somehow, the way will be discovered to erase addiction in the human body,” Elder Packer said.
Steffensen understands that the euphoria connected with feelings is a quality deeply connected to the human experience.
“God created us with pleasure built in,” Steffensen said. ” Unfortunately if you erase addiction, you will likely erase our normal pleasures. Those positive feelings are for our benefit to survive in this world, but these pleasure centers can become dysregulated as people take them to the extreme. We have the technology today to block many addictions but patients wouldn’t take them because they blunt normal pleasures.”
According to Steffensen, there is one death every day in Utah Valley related to pain killer abuse; this statistic is higher than the rest of the country.
Poro Burman, a senior from New Dehli double-majoring in psychology and neuroscience, has been a research assistant in Steffensen’s neurobiological lab for two and a half years.
“The drive to find a cure [for addiction] fuels me to keep doing the research,” Burman said.
Stark had a final piece of advice for those who may feel there’s no way out.
“One of the casualties for people struggling with addiction is hope,” Stark said. “They keep slipping … and really need help staying quit. There is hope. You can do this. It’s hard and complicated, but if you marshal together the right resources and rely on Christ, you can do this.”