Online help for addicts toiling with resolutions
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Article The Toronto Star - January 1, 2009
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"Reproduced with permission - Torstar SyndicationServices"
Waterloo therapist says his new Web
program offers aid, anonymity to people with problems
Now that New Year's Day is upon us, everyone is flush with determination to make and keep new year's resolutions: eat less, drink less, smoke less.
Living up to those desires to lead a better, healthier life is difficult at the best of times, but it can be almost impossible if you have a serious addiction. It's not just a matter of willing your bad habits away, it takes serious work, says Waterloo-based psychotherapist Paul Radkowski who has won an award from the International Association of Addictions and Offender Counselors – which is a division of the American Counseling Association – for his work.
So beginning tomorrow, addicts here and around the world can sign up for help through Radkowski's recently started online recovery program. The cost is a minimum of $15 (U.S.) or pay what you can for the first three months of the six-month program – an attempt by Radkowski to pay it forward in these times of economic stress. The program usually costs $149 a month.
"I wanted to give back and make a difference," said Radkowski, who has a psychology degree and master's degree from Wilfrid Laurier University.
Radkowski has seen in some of his patients the emotional toll losing a job in uncertain economic times can have and so he wanted to bring "some sense of hope and resources to people" with addiction issues.
Radkowski and others define an addiction as any behaviour you cannot stop that has destructive consequences. And the Internet provides a new way for people to seek help with anonymity. According to Radkowski about 70 per cent of Canadians who have addictions don't seek treatment because of the stigma associated with the illness.
With the new year ahead, Radkowski feels it's a great time to offer the online addiction recovery program because people are keen on making a lifestyle or behavioural change. "Without support, guidance and accountability, resolutions wane," he said. "A lot of people live online and if it's a choice between watching porn, gambling or gaming or engaging in healthier choices in a recovery program, I hope people would choose the latter."
He said a good thing about the online program is it's 24/7. "It's immediate and accessible and there's no judgment. No one is turned away. Addictions and mental health issues don't rest or sleep."
So what do you get for your investment? There are seven downloaded video sessions as well as weekly personal emails from Radkowski and a series of homework assignments, the psychotherapist said. Some of the areas touched on in the lectures include discussions about the impact of addictions physically, mentally and emotionally as well as how they affect relationships.
Radkowski also encourages those signing up for help to go see their family doctors if they have a substance abuse issue, particularly because of withdrawal symptoms and complications. He also recommends they reach out to 12-step programs as well for accountability and support. Currently, Radkowski has about three-dozen people enrolled in his program. He often gets emails from people in the middle of the night. "That's when the stuff is really hitting the fan."