“Heroin is just a symptom of addiction. Heroin is probably the most serious and deadly symptom, but it is addiction that makes people want to isolate and escape,” recovering addict Randy Cable, of Lucasville stated. “Their family pushes them away. The community said you’re garbage, and there’s no place for you.”
Cable added that real change comes with hope and compassion.
Cable attended Valley schools as a child. There, he was an intelligent student who made straight A’s, he explained. His life was off to a good start, but that would change.
“Growing up, my parents were decent parents and my school was a decent school, but I still felt isolated,” he commented. “I felt isolated from my friends, my peers and my family. The pathos that forms an addict is based on alienation.”
Cable said that even as a kid, he was engaging in addictive behavior.
“There’s a lot of speculation that genetics and environment leads to addiction, including behavioral addiction,” Cable explained. “When other kids wanted to go to football games, me and my friends would go vandalize the neighborhood. Vandalism was one of my first passions. So, I already had other habits that were addictive in nature before I ever picked up drugs.”
When Cable did start using drugs, he says it fulfilled needs he had struggled with throughout his life.
“When I did pick up drugs for the first time, it triggered the reward center in my brain and automatically made me feel connected to the people I was around,” the recovering addict stated. “With drugs, you feel connected with other people you’re using with. Then, overtime, the people become less important and the method of the connection becomes more important. Using drugs makes you feel connected with yourself and the world around you. Then, it replaces the need to be around people.”
Cable, like many people, started using what he refers to as “starter dope.”
“I had already been experimenting with common gateway type stuff — pot, alcohol, psychedelics, that type stuff,” he explained.
Then, in 1999, while attending Shawnee State University where he studied plastics engineering, Cable was in a car accident. From there he was prescribed pain meds and was quickly hooked. Cable was visiting a pain clinic in South Shore, Ky., and was being prescribed highly addictive pharmaceuticals. He was using both hydrocodone (such as Lorsets) and oxycodone pain medications (such as OxyContin) as well as benzodiazopins (such as Xanax).
He explained that he tries not to mention specific drugs because he feels it further isolates addicts when they segregate themselves or each other because of type or amounts of drug use.
After years of drug use, Cable started developing his criminal resume. He first got his prison number in 2004 for possession on pain killers. In 2008, he returned to prison for committing a burglary. The final stay was in 2011 when he was charged with shoplifting but also had other pending charges. Rather than going directly back to prison, the court decided to send Cable to Septa Correctional Facility in Nelsonville.
“It’s not a very good substance abuse treatment place,” Cable commented. “It’s more like a work camp with a little bit of behavior modification.”
He remembers the day his life changed. Though he was standing in a prison yard, it was the view of the sky that impacted him most.
“I was walking along the prison. The violet over the clouds contrasted with the dark blue sky against the concertina wire. Never in my life have I looked at the sky and felt an appreciation for it,” Cable remembered feeling.
He had always been a self-loather, believing he didn’t deserve a better life than his prior existence.
“I started thinking maybe I can change my life, and I felt more free at that moment in prison than I ever did out there running and gunning and chasing dope,” Cable said.
Cable then joined a 12-step program.
“I always thought that a 12-step recovery meeting was something people did in prison to occupy their time and something people did on the streets to get their paper signed for court,” he explained.
This was different than he expected, however. People were coming into the prison and donating their time to help others through the program without anything for doing so. This got Cable’s attention. He has since been sober six years. After his release, Cable dedicated his time to helping others like those who helped him. He recently finished his last assignment for his associate degree in human services and is starting his bachelors. Though he is going to specialize in addiction treatment, Cable says he also focuses on general psychology and counseling, stressing that addicts need addiction treatment as well as mental health/therapy.
Cable also works in the recovery community though he says work isn’t service and service is a priority in his life. He reaches out to help anyone he can, including hitchhikers he picks up.
“I did a lot of walking in my active addiction, so I know what it’s like,” Cable said, finding unity with all he meets.
Through his personal experiences and education, Cable has gained several insights and says that the solution to this problem will come through hope, compassion, education, recreation, detox and treatment.
With a lack of education, many people believe opinion.
“A lot of people believe their opinions are fact,” he stated.
He explained that those people who believe addiction is a choice discount medical research, stating that addiction has been treated as a disease by the American Medical Association since the 1950’s and it’s treatment has been covered by insurance since the 1960’s.
“People think it’s (addiction) called a disease to escape responsibility and accountability, but that’s not accurate. People call it a disease so that they can see they aren’t morally repugnant people. People call it a disease so they can have hope that they can get better,” the addict clarified. “I think too much time is spent on semantics — what addiction is or isn’t. Well, it is a crisis right now, and that’s the best way to approach it, as a crisis and through education and understanding.”
Compassion is also key. People have to keep hope in themselves, each other and their community, and they can’t become apathetic.
“Saying there isn’t a solution prevents finding a solution,” Cable said.
He added that counselors have a better success rate when employing empathy. Though he understand the community being frustrated as they have things stolen and see how the drug problem is affecting their hometown but he stressed that popular opinion that addicts should be denied Narcan and left to die is not conducive to recovery.
“It’s unrealistic to think that everybody in the community is going to display empathy,” Cable commented as he stressed that he believes empathy to be important for change.
“We need to realize that addicts are mothers, daughters, sisters, grandparents.”
Next, Cable explained the need for better prevention efforts, stating that there needs to be evidence-based programs in school that employ research applications.
“D.A.R.E. is not evidence-based,” he stressed. “It has few positive outcomes, many negative outcomes. It doesn’t work. It didn’t work for me. It doesn’t work for most people,” Cable stated.
He added that D.A.R.E. is so popular and still utilized solely because of name recognition.
Cable explained that better programs offer life skills training, problem solving and skills that help teach youth to be productive members of society rather than disconnecting and dropping out of society.
Youths also need recreational activities.
“In Iceland, they lowered teen alcohol and drug use by opening recreational centers for two hours a day after school mandatory, so the kids had activities that made them feel proud of themselves and helped them connect with peers and better enjoy life,” Cable cited.
Though the local community has many options for treatment, detox centers are lacking. Addicts often are denied admission to such treatment centers when medical detox is necessary because such centers are not capable of serving these individuals.
Cable stressed a need for specialized detox centers that are ran by those trained in dealing with addiction.
Treatment options are important as no option works for everyone.
“I’m a big proponent of absence-based programs, Cable said. “As far needle exchange programs and stuff like that, I don’t think they are the giant evil force some people think they are. I don’t think they are just giving free needles to junkies.”
Cable explained that harm reduction programs do exactly that. They don’t aim to solve the problem. Needle exchange programs aim to reduce spread of disease.
“Essentially, Narcan just saves people’s lives. It’s not supposed to help anybody beyond that,” he said, explaining that Narcan is only a life-saving tool like CPR.
Change comes through hope. Though that is limited with all the lives being lost to overdose and reports of many more non fatal overdoses, Cable assured that people are recovering.
“This is a huge problem, and anytime you face a big problem, you can’t get intimated. You have to essentially chip away at the problem,” he commented before quoting Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement:
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
In his own recovery, Cable has found hope as he raises his two daughters and recognizes that he would be dead or in jail without his recovery.
“The hope is that any addict can stop using drugs, lose the desire to use, and find a new way to live… as I have,” he said. “Portsmouth may have an epidemic drug problem, but it also has a strong and vital recovery community. If you’re out there struggling, there is help and hope for you.”
Editor’s note: This is the sixth story of a 16-week series, coming out each Friday, on the heroin epidemic.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.