Reprinted from the front page of the Sunday Boulder Daily Camera, July 26, 2008
By Vanessa Miller
With an award-winning self-help book to his name and an addiction-recovery foundation under his direction, Boulder Countyâ€™s jail chaplain is back from a one-year sabbatical and taking ground-breaking counseling steps to help inmates turn their lives around.
In an age of advancing technology and shifting addictions, Joe Herzanek has started counseling former inmates and their families via e-mail. Heâ€™s also launched a Web site and foundation packed with self-help resources, and heâ€™s penned an award-winning book that dares to answer the question, â€œWhy Donâ€™t They Just Quit?â€
In 2007, Herzanek left the daily chaplain grind of helping inmates work through issues â€” both on a spiritual and physical level â€” to become an author, foundation principal and innovator.
During his time off, Herzanek said he gained renewed perspective and insight for helping people battle addiction, and in his 15th year at the jail, Herzanek has instituted its first 12-step narcotics-addiction class.
Male and female inmates in Boulder County can attend one of five Narcotics Anonymous classes.
â€œWe get about 35 people in each of the five classes,â€ he said. â€œGetting 15 to 20 people is a big number for the jail.â€
The facility offers addiction counseling at the individual and group level, but before the Narcotics Anonymous program, Herzanek said much of the emphasis was on alcohol.
â€œAbout 90 percent of the inmates have substance-abuse problems,â€ he said. â€œAnd the majority are equally or more into drugs than just alcohol.â€
â€˜Iâ€™m here to change my lifeâ€™
As sunlight slipped into the jail through a thin window Tuesday, casting light on the concrete floor in stripes like bars, a circle of navy-clad men read aloud copied pages from the Narcotics Anonymous book.
â€œOur resistance to change seems built in, and only a nuclear blast of some kind will bring about any alteration,â€ one inmate read.
Tuesdayâ€™s group discussion at the jail centered around sobriety slip-ups that often play a role in sending inmates back to jail â€” and how they donâ€™t have to be all bad.
â€œA relapse, if we survive it, may provide the charge for the demolition process,â€ the inmate continued reading.
As in most help groups, Boulder County inmates rounding out the circle were given a chance to share their relapse experiences â€” starting with the chaplain.
â€œFrom age 13 to 29, I used,â€ Herzanek said.
Once he decided to quit drinking and went a time without a sip, Herzanek said, he forgot the power of his addiction. He told the inmates he allowed himself to go to a bar and order â€œjustâ€ one beer.
â€œFive to six beers later, I realized, â€˜This is wrong,â€™â€ he said. â€œPeople forget that itâ€™s the first drug that starts the whole thing over.â€
That resonated with Jason Wahlstrom, 22, who was scheduled to be the first person to graduate from the countyâ€™s drug court. Instead, shortly before he was due to finish, Wahlstrom said he used once, and again, and then let himself go.
â€œI would sneak around like I was being a ninja or something,â€ said Wahlstrom, whoâ€™s been charged with more than 10 crimes in Boulder County, including many drug violations.
â€œThis is a wake-up call,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m here to change my life.â€
Joshua Solis, 39, said heâ€™s learned through distanced loved ones that he canâ€™t handle just a few drinks or hits.
â€œOne is too many, and 1,000 is never enough,â€ Solis said.
Although Marc Falkenhan, 26, said heâ€™s been addicted to methamphetamines since age 13, he told his peers that he experienced true sobriety for the first time in April. He said he lost hold of that abstinence one afternoon in Loveland and landed back in jail.
â€œBut I got my first taste of sobriety, and I liked it,â€ Falkenhan said. â€œI used to say, â€˜I can get high when Iâ€™m out,â€™ but now I know thereâ€™s life out there.â€
â€˜Donâ€™t bail them out’
Chaplain Herzanek said that over the years heâ€™s been challenged to find new and innovative tools to help aid recovery, and the Internet has become a valuable resource.
He and his wife recently started the Changing Lives Foundation, which aims to provide resources for substance abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism and other compulsive behaviors. Visitors to the site also can find specific information for at least 15 different drugs and addictive behaviors.
People in need of support or advice can e-mail Herzanek from the home page. Herzanek said heâ€™s been communicating electronically with more and more former inmates and family members.
â€œI do e-mail counseling every day,â€ he said last week. â€œToday I was e-mailing with a mother whose son was strung out on cocaine. She wanted some encouragement.â€
Herzanek said he often advises family members to stop helping.
â€œDonâ€™t bail them out, literally,â€ he said. â€œStart allowing the consequences of their poor choices to do the work.â€
Thatâ€™s the message at the center of Herzanekâ€™s recently published book that this spring won â€œbest self-help bookâ€ in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Herzanek since has been interviewed by national publications and asked to share his perspective at other facilities. He talks mostly about the notion that family members can help loved ones who are waiting to â€œhit bottomâ€ by â€œraising the bottomâ€ and starting the healing sooner.
Lee Barchan, executive director of the Transitions Recovery Program in Miami Beach, Fla., has said Herzanekâ€™s book is unique in its focus on the families of addicts. He said there are plenty of books to help the recovering person, but â€œvery few speak to those on the â€˜outside,â€™ who want to help, but donâ€™t know where to begin.â€
Visit the Web site of Boulder County Jail chaplain Joe Herzanekâ€™s Changing Lives Foundation at www.changinglivesfoundation.org.
Order copies of his book, â€œWhy Donâ€™t They Just Quit?â€ at the foundationâ€™s Web site or at www.amazon.com.
* Have you â€œtried everything?â€ To learn about individual counseling with Joe Herzanek (in person or by phone) click here.
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