Secrets, Lies and Double Lives

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” (Sir Walter Scott, 1808).

Perhaps you read the best-selling book The Woman in the Window by author Dan Mallory, writing under the pseudonym AJ Finn. Apparently Mallory got caught up in a tangled web after creating a false persona in the editing field. He lied about his professional skills and experiences, falsely stating that he had earned a PhD from Oxford. He fabricated lies about having brain cancer on a university application and told the same to publishing colleagues. He wore an eyepatch claiming to lose sight in one eye after an operation on a brain tumor. His cancer provided an explanation for long work absences. His brain tumor “sort of cleared up,” baffling co-workers. Although his family was alive and well, he claimed that they were all dead as an explanation for his grades while completing his master’s degree.

When Mallory’s lies were discovered, he admitted that he never had cancer, and had used the illness to cover up for a mental illness. He was ashamed of his bipolar disorder and kept it a secret. He stated that depression, delusional thoughts, morbid obsessions, and memory problems forced him into periods of absence from work. Assuming that he is finally telling the truth, this doesn’t explain his unnecessary lies about his family and accomplishments.

Did you watch the movie Catch Me If You Can? It is based on the life of Frank W. Abagnale, alias Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams, and Robert Monjo. He was one of the most famous con men, forgers, imposters, and escape artists in history. Among his many personas, Abagnale co-piloted a Pan Am jet, masqueraded as a supervising resident of a hospital, practiced law without a license, passed himself off as a college sociology professor, and cashed more than $2.5 million in forged checks, all before he was twenty-one.

Why did he do it? In an interview he said the following, “It begins with my parents’ divorce and its dramatic effect on me. I ran away and suddenly found myself a teenager alone in the world. I had to grow up very quickly and become very creative in order to survive. But what started out as survival became more and more of a game. I was an opportunist, so when I saw an opening I asked myself, Could I get away with that? Then there was the satisfaction of actually getting away with it. The more I got away with, the more of a game it became a game I knew I would ultimately lose, but a game I was going to have fun playing until I did.”

It turns out that many people will lead a double life based upon secrets and lies. Lots of people have fantasies of being wealthier, more accomplished, or more admired than they currently are. False personas bolster the ego. But when deception is taken to the level of a dual life it can damage relationships, careers, and lead to criminal consequences. This behavior can spiral out of control, creating high-risk situations that are dangerous to themselves and others.

Are these signs of mental illness? Not necessarily. You don’t have to have a mental disorder to lead a double life. Consider people who make a living out of having a secret life such as spies, undercover police, and certain military personnel. They mean no harm.

If not mental illness, why do people create a life of deception? Both Abagnale and Mallory give clues as to reasons people might live a double life: shame, a need to survive, opportunity, and the enjoyment of playing a game and the satisfaction of playing it well. Some people are just greedy hedonists who believe they feel entitled. Personal pleasure is their primary life objective. They may not intend to hurt other people, but don’t get in their way. They may feel that rules don’t apply to them and that morals are more fluid than set.

My heart goes out to the innocent partners or family members who find that they have been betrayed. They may be entirely surprised to learn of this double life after years together in what they thought was a stable, honest and open relationship based upon trust. Perhaps they didn’t know that their partner gambled, was a substance abuser, was sexually unfaithful, committed fraud, or was hiding money in multiple accounts. The betrayed partner will never trust the same way again.

The truth is that some people are so good at secrets, lies and deception that there is little you can do to protect yourself. You may find yourself the victim in a tangled web. Deception is fostered by secrets. I recommend that you seek social support and voice your suspicions rather than be bound by secrets. You don’t need solid proof of wrongdoing. Close relationships should be based upon full disclosure. If you suspect that your partner is hiding something, talk it out rather than be silenced.

Do you suspect someone is leading a double life? Protect yourself if possible.


Do You Take Direction?

I am writing this column from LA, where I am visiting family. Getting to LA from Galena, IL is not an easy task. I left home at 4:30 am to find parking near O’Hare and make a 9:30 flight.

While on the long drive to Chicago at an early hour, with insufficient sleep, I was not an especially attentive driver. My car beeped once, then displayed a message “Do you want to take a rest?” My reaction alternated between “Is my car talking to me?” to “What does my car know that I don’t know?” I didn’t realize that my driving was at all impaired. Then my mind processed this information with the pros and cons of stopping to rest. I needed to make a flight, wasn’t sure how much time I needed to find parking and take a shuttle, and I wanted to avoid Chicago traffic. I ultimately chose to pull over for a Chai Latte mixed with cold air and was immediately refreshed. At that point I congratulated myself for being smart enough to take direction from my smart car.

This made me wonder whether I am normally one to accept guidance from others.

Author Gretchen Rubin developed a framework to describe how we respond to expectations. She identified four tendencies that explain why we act and why we don’t act in many situations. These are:

The Upholder: “I do what others expect of me and what I expect from myself.”

The Questioner: “I do what I think is best, according to my judgment. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it.”

The Obliger: “I do what I have to do. I don’t want to let others down, but I may let myself down.”

The Rebel: “I do what I want, in my own way. If you try to make me do something, even if I try to make myself do something, I’m less likely to do it.”

So, my process of debating whether to follow guidance from my car, seemed to indicate that I am a questioner. I had to process the cars advise with my own judgment. However, upon taking the “Four Tendencies” quiz, my primary dominant tendency is Rebel. I thought this was probably inaccurate, but my sister, as only a sister does, provided a number of examples of my being a Rebel. Upon reflection, it does seem to be an apt description of my dominant approach to life.

Many people cannot follow instructions in spite of their best intentions, whether it is assembling furniture or learning how to use software. In fact, the more intelligent people are, the less likely they are to follow instructions.

If you want to understand your own tendency toward expectations, take the quiz at

Are You Comfortable with Clutter?

We are a materialistic society. Americans love to acquire consumer goods. Even after purging our belongings in garage sales or donations, we tend to replace these possessions with newer, more fashionable items. Americans have a hard time gauging the extent of our belongings because of the size of our living spaces. The average size of American homes in 2018 was 2,641 square feet, about double that of Japanese homes.

Marie Kondo is the author of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” It is now a Netflix reality show directly in opposition to “Hoarders.” I only had to watch one show to become motivated to get organized. At the conclusion of the first show, I immediately organized my dresser drawers. Yesterday, I tackled my old photos. Although I love this new approach, I wonder if it is sustainable. Or, do we return to our set point after a length of time? Marie Kondo promises that you will never return to clutter again.

So the question is “Can people change?” The answer is yes, and no. We can change our habits and behaviors but our personality tends to be rather fixed. Personality is a pattern of thoughts, behavior and feelings that make up who we are. It is partly genetic, partially formed by early childhood experiences, traumatic events or from deeply held values. Once formed, personality doesn’t change dramatically.

The clean-freak will never be comfortable in a dirty house and vice-versa. Tidy people feel most at ease when their external world is organized. It gives peace of mind, helping them feel lighter and freer. On the other hand, more relaxed people might feel that a home that resembles a doctor’s office waiting room is sterile and cold. For them, Marie Kondo’s methods might increase stress, rather than inner peace.

Personality can be influenced by a break in your patterns – by new life changing experiences or trauma – but only so much change is possible. Motivation, effort and repetition are required to change. One needs motivation in order to make lasting change. You have to want to change in order to avoid negative consequences or achieve important rewards. Change requires effort to place yourself outside of your comfort zone. Repetition builds new pathways in the brain so that new patterns are more solidly formed. Otherwise, people tend to go back to their set points.

Marie Kondo would have you sort through your belongings, keeping only what sparks joy. In order for this to be a sustainable change, we need to look at the reason you are unhappy with your clutter. Is there an underlying depression, shopping addiction, or some other kind of unhealthy relationship with material things? If so, you will likely find your home cluttered again in short order.

Although you can’t change your basic personality, you can and should change the aspects of your personality that you are unhappy with. If you are not happy with your attachment to material things, give Marie Kondo’s method a try.

Are People Inherently Good or Bad?

We read of mass shootings, hate crimes, terror attacks, and violence in the news almost daily. We also read of acts of kindness and beauty. What kind of people are we? Humans are capable of unspeakable horror, and are also capable of the highest form of altruism. We’re a complicated species–both moral and immoral as our environment and physiology dictate. Think of a bell curve with most people somewhere in the middle.

Paul Zak, PhD and professor says the biological answer to this question is that we have evolved behaviors that increase our chances of survival and reproduction. He says “When in a stable and safe environment with enough food in our bellies, having a biology of morality sustains our place in the community of humans who help ensure our biological imperatives. In highly stressful, resource poor environments, we’ll step on whoever is in front of us if it helps us survive.” The exceptions to this rule are the roughly 5% of the population on either end of the spectrum. The rest of us vacillate between good and evil.

Recent studies demonstrate that our initial instinct is to help others in need. The vast majority of people, when faced with simple, clear ethical choices, choose good over bad, and even good over neutral. Society rewards altruism. Our parents, educators, and institutions teach us to share, be polite, and consider others.

But some people are mostly bad. Studies show that 2% – 4% of men and .5% – 1% of women have antisocial personality disorders. Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of socially irresponsible, exploitive and guiltless behavior. It is chronic and lifelong for most of these people.

Why does it matter whether we think people are naturally good or bad? Messages of good and evil influence how we process the world around us, making us optimistic or pessimistic, hopeful or frightened, stressed or relaxed. Our physiology is triggered to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Stress is associated with health issues, such as heart disease and sleep deprivation. Chronic stress can even shorten your life.

Messages of good and bad influence our daily choices and risk taking behaviors. If we believe in the goodness of people, we are more likely to take risks that could potentially put us in harms way. On the other hand, we may be enriched with new experiences.

If we are quick to label some people as evil, we won’t consider the source of their behavior. We might mislabel fear, illness and desperation for evil. Desperation is a natural consequence of abuse, poverty, or illness. We may find that alleviating the source of desperation changes “bad people” to people who have unmet basic needs.

So where do you fall on the good or evil, moral or immoral spectrum? And, how does your view of whether people are inherently good or bad effect your outlook and life choices?

Feeling Safe Is Not the Same Thing as Being Safe

One of our top human needs is security. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, the first two tiers of human needs are physiological and safety needs. Physiological needs include basic requirements for human survival such as food, water, shelter, and sleep. Safety needs give us protection from elements, security, order, stability and freedom from fear. Maslow proposed a hierarchy of needs in which the basic needs must be more or less met prior to meeting higher level needs of love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

Therefore, it is no surprise that we go to great lengths to feel safe. We spend a good deal of time, energy and financial resources on security. This may be in the form of national defense, home security systems, data security, transportation security, guns for personal protection or building a border wall.

But here’s the deal. We can be secure even though we don’t feel secure. And we can feel secure even though we’re not. The feeling and reality of security are related, but not the same.

As a personal example, I am tempted to build an outdoor fence so that my dogs can run free and unsupervised while I remain inside the comforts of my house. A fence would make me feel secure, but the fence does little to protect my pets from coyotes who can jump a six foot fence. I would still need to supervise them as a measure of protection.

The reality of security is mathematical, based on probability studies of risks and effectiveness of countermeasures. It is a calculation of various factors such as crime rates and personal habits. There is no such thing as absolute security, and any gain in security always involves some sort of trade off. For example, statistics show that more than 530 people were murdered in Chicago in 2018, yet I am unwilling to wear a bullet proof vest each time I visit.

Bruce Schneier in his blog The Psychology of Security, explains that humans are hopelessly bad at making good security trade offs. We get it wrong all the time. We exaggerate some risks while minimizing others. Things that can go wrong are the severity of the risk; the probability of the risk; the magnitude of the costs; how effective the countermeasure is at mitigating the risk; and how well the risks and costs can be compared.

The human brain is wired for fight-or-flight reactions based upon the primitive emotional centers of the brain. This area assesses risk and reacts immediately which works great in some situations, such as being faced by a tiger. Schneier believes the world is actually more complicated than that. “Some scary things are not really as risky as they seem, and others are better handled by staying in the scary situation to set up a more advantageous future response. This means that there’s an evolutionary advantage to being able to hold off the reflexive fight-or-flight response while you work out a more sophisticated analysis of the situation and your options for dealing with it. We humans have a completely different pathway to deal with analyzing risk. It’s the neocortex, a more advanced part of the brain that developed very recently, evolutionarily speaking, and only appears in mammals. It’s intelligent and analytic. It can reason. It can make more nuanced trade offs. It’s also much slower.”

In trying to assess risk, we are best served by utilizing both areas, the emotional and the rational centers of our brain. Take your time, slow your immediate reaction, gather all relevant data. Don’t confuse the feeling of security with the reality of security.

What’s Your Story?

The current state of your life is a result of the stories you tell yourself, about yourself. For example, if you have a story of not being good enough, this narrative will likely play out in aspects of your life – your job, relationships and social life. To change your life, you need to change the limiting beliefs you have about yourself.

Think for a moment of your self limiting beliefs. Many of these beliefs start with “I’m not . . . ”; “I can’t . . . ”; or “I’ll never . . . ” Our thoughts seem to repeat over and over, and the more they repeat, the more believable they seem. They can follow themes for short periods, years or even a lifetime. You may seek confirmation for these beliefs and dismiss events that don’t confirm your belief.

There are schools of therapy and mindfulness practices dedicated to the eradication of negative self talk. For example, Narrative Therapy is a process of ‘re-storying’ your beliefs in more productive ways. The premise is that human beings are constantly interpreting things to make meaning of our experiences. The stories we have about our lives are created through linking certain events in a particular sequence across a time period, and finding a way to make sense of them. This meaning forms the plot of our story. Therapy helps the client create a new narrative about themselves.

According to the Dulwich Center, a clinical practice that specializes in Narrative Therapy in Australia, we all have many stories about our lives and relationships, occurring simultaneously. For example, we have stories about ourselves, our abilities, our struggles, our competencies, our actions, our desires, our relationships, our work, our interests, our conquests, our achievements, our failures. The way we have developed these stories is determined by how we have linked certain events together in a sequence and by the meaning we have attributed to them. Narrative therapy theory suggests that there is no “objective reality” or absolute truth. What is true for us may not be true for another person, or even for ourselves at another point in time.

Thoughts are not facts. They are simply electrochemical impulses in our brain. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) recommends that you not believe everything you think. It is not the event which causes our emotional distress and behavioral reactions, but the meaning we give that event that results in particular emotions and behaviors.

Elisha Goldstein, author of Uncovering Happiness, recommends that we put some space between our reactions and our thoughts. Watch your thoughts come and go instead of treating them as facts. If you’re stuck on a negative thought, ask yourself – Is it true? Is it absolutely true? How does this thought make me feel? What would things be like if I didn’t hold this belief? Examining thoughts in this way creates space for a new story to develop.

Want to test out the idea that thoughts are not facts?
• Pick a thought that feels factual to you (e.g., ’I am not very good at my job’ or ‘I’m a great friend’)
• Rate the thought on a scale of 1-10 based on how factual the thought seems (1 = absolutely false, 10 = absolutely true)
• Write down the thought and its rating. Put it in your pocket.
• Rate that same thought again tomorrow and over the course of several days (especially apply attention to it after you experience incidents related to it)
You will likely notice that how factual the thought seems will fluctuate moment to moment, day to day. It becomes apparent with practice that what we see as factual in the thoughts we have is not always trustworthy.

In summary, thoughts are not facts. You are not your negative thoughts. There is more to you than your self limiting story. Believe that it’s only a story and create a new narrative.

Are You in Need of Redemption?

We are all fallible human beings. Humans display equal capacity for good and evil. I believe that most of us have exhibited thoughtless or purposeful acts of harm to another. As a mental health and substance abuse counselor, I have met many people who live with guilt, regret, and a fixed perception of themselves as deeply flawed in some way. They cannot forgive themselves and believe that they are not redeemable. Perhaps they can stop a painful loop of self-recrimination by learning from fiction writers.

Have you heard of a “redemption arc?” It refers to the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a plot in a fiction story, film or book. The character begins as one type of person and gradually transforms into a different sort of person in response to changing developments in the story. Since the change is often dramatic and leads from one personality trait to it’s opposite trait, the term arc is used to describe the sweeping change. An example might be someone who changes from being a pleasure seeking hedonist to someone who finds meaning and satisfaction in helping others. Another example, from film, is Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. His character begins as a misogynistic chauvinist who changes his view of women after playing the part of a woman. He becomes a different, more likeable character.

There are actually formulas for developing these plots. In the first act the character faces an incident which serves as a turning point or call to action. In the second act, the arc develops as the character learns new skills, new capabilities and the raising of self-awareness. In the third act, the character gains a new sense of whom they are becoming. The emphasis shifts from the learning of new skills or the discovery of dormant capabilities to the awakening of a higher level of self awareness, which then becomes a new character trait.

The villain is not easily or quickly forgiven for all the wrong they’ve done. They have to undergo notable character growth before being forgiven. Redemption isn’t a change from evil to good but is instead a change of heart followed by daily efforts to do good. It is a hard path and takes time and effort to form into a new character trait.

Alex Lickerman, MD, wrote an article on redemption in, January 16, 2011. He states “The path to redemption is difficult but not impossible to follow. We must fully recognize that we’ve done wrong; fully accept responsibility for having done it; determine never to do it again; apologize to those we’ve done it to (if appropriate); and resolve to aim at improving ourselves in the general direction of good. To dwell unduly on the past negates the idea that we can change and improve ourselves in the future. We can’t escape the effects of our past causes, of course, but we can aim to be transformed by them in a way that strengthens the good in us.”

Your past wrongs can be redeemed.

Replace Your New Year’s Resolution with a Vision of Purpose

Have you set your New Year’s resolution yet? The tradition of New Year’s resolutions dates all the way back to 153 B.C. January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. Janus had two faces — one looking forward, one looking backward. This allowed him to look back on the past and forward toward the future. On December 31, the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past. The Romans also believed Janus could forgive them for their wrongdoings in the previous year. The Romans would give gifts and make promises, believing Janus would see this and bless them in the year ahead. And thus the New Year’s resolution was born!

The beginning of the year is a great time to get focused on what want from the year ahead. The most common resolutions are losing weight, doing more exercise, quitting smoking and saving money. Sadly, most resolutions fail within the first few weeks of the new year. Research has shown that half of all adults make a New Year’s resolution. However, fewer than 10% keep them for more than a few months. In fact, one study showed that 50% of people who make a resolution, abandon it before even starting.

Resolutions are not as powerful as goals because they lack accountability and measurement that move you toward a desirable outcome. SMART goals may get you further. In order to achieve a SMART goal, you should make the resolution Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Limited. Psychologically, we tend to move toward a goal once the goal has been set.

Resolutions tend to focus on what you want. Goals tend to be something to accomplish. But why stop with either a resolution or a goal? How about being vision-focused? According to authors Brett & Kate Mckay (Visions Over Goals,, a vision is a broad idea of living your fullest ideals. Having goals or a vision isn’t an either/or proposition. You should have both. However, goals lack deeper meaning and a vision provides purpose and significance. If we want to live a flourishing life, we need to become vision-focused and put our goals into the context of that vision. They warn that we don’t confuse the tool for the blueprint.

Visioning is a tool for life direction whether it is personal or professional. Kate Miller, counselor, holistic coach and colleague says “Vision is about the ‘Why’ not the ‘What.  Through visioning we can set an intention and as we keep our attention on it, it provides direction.” I attended her visioning workshop last January and found it tremendously helpful. In that workshop I was able to contemplate my highest values and examine whether my behavior is in alignment with those values. Unlike resolutions and goals, visioning is not necessarily about obtaining anything. It’s about a shift of consciousness in your ‘being’. Visioning is a guided process utilizing a series of questions to reveal a higher ideal for one’s life. It also uncovers blind spots to surrender and gifts to celebrate.

I recommend that you attend Kate Miller’s “Vision for 2019 Workshop” on Sunday, Jan 13th at Prairie Ridge of Galena from 1:30-4:30 pm. Register online at

It’s Tax Time – Are You a Cheater?

I have a friend whom I perceive as a highly ethical person of good character. I was surprised to hear him casually say that he does not report all of his income on his taxes. It made me wonder how someone can strive to uphold their moral standards in some areas but not in others. Why do people willfully and flagrantly violate our tax laws?

It turns out that 30 to 40 percent of Americans won’t pay all of the taxes they owe. Aside from honest mistakes due to the complexity of tax laws, there are also intentional evasion, nonpayment, and underpayment.

Lots of people think it’s not morally wrong to cheat because they are suspicious of taxation and believe taxation itself is wrongful. Or, that tax revenues are being used for unwise purposes. Or, they think “everyone is doing it.” Therefore, it’s okay for them to do the same.

Rich people are the biggest offenders. They are far more likely to cheat on their taxes than poor or middle class people, according to social scientists Alstadsaeter, Johannesen and Zucman. The richer you are, the more likely you are to cheat big time on your taxes. The ability and probability to hide assets rise sharply with wealth. These scientists estimate that the top 1% hide 25% or more of its wealth from tax collectors in offshore holdings. They have the resources of tax evasion services by specialized banks and firms of lawyers. Cheating is easy to justify when you cast yourself as a victim to this kind of unfairness such as you think you are leveling the playing field, not cheating or restoring fairness.

Most people would agree that cheating is morally wrong, including cheating on taxes. One study by Lisa Shu, researcher, demonstrated that when people think they can get away with cheating, and they also think it would be worthwhile to cheat, they are often motivated to do so.

But here’s the rub. People want to consider themselves to be honest. Other research building on Shu’s study found that when people are reminded of the importance of being honest, they alter their behavior not to cheat. For example, participants in one study were first asked to recall as many of the Ten Commandments as they could before they took a test. Another study asked college students to sign their school’s honor code before a test. They were reminded of the ideals of being honest. It was also found that changing the wording from “Please don’t cheat” to “Please don’t be a cheater” changed behavior. The switch to “cheater” called to mind how the participants wanted to think of themselves as honest. Another study stopped participants from cheating simply by having them sit in front of a mirror. When given a moral reminder, it is hard from most people to cheat. People don’t cheat as much as they can get away with; rather they cheat up to the point at which they can continue to believe they are good people.

We shouldn’t cheat on our taxes, not because we necessarily care about the IRS, but because we care about being people of honesty and integrity.

Please Consider Donations to People Who Suffer from Addiction

Alcoholism and drug addiction is a progressive disease that can ultimately destroy a person’s life including their finances, their career, their family and if untreated will lead to death. While there may be some aspect of choice in taking the first drink or doing the first drug, alcoholism and addiction are considered diseases in the medical community, because of how your brain reacts to these substances and the progressive, chronic nature of addiction.

Is Addiction a Disability? Although drug addiction sometimes impairs a person’s ability to work, disability benefits will not be approved on the basis of addiction alone. Even though the effects of substance abuse may prevent the addicted individual from maintaining employment, Social Security does not consider it to be disabling until it causes irreversible medical conditions. This does not mean that you cannot win approval for a physical or mental condition that was caused by a drug addiction. As of 2018, there is not a listing for addiction, but you can still qualify for disability benefits by meeting the criteria of any of the listings for impairments caused by substance abuse: brain damage, liver damage, gastritis, pancreatitis, peripheral neuropathy, seizures, depression, anxiety disorder, or personality disorder. If the SSA determines that your illness would go away if you stopped abusing drugs, the SSA will deny your claim.

Although Social Security does not grant disability benefits based upon addiction alone, there is good cause for charitable organizations to fund people who suffer from the disease of addiction or to addiction treatment programs. Generally speaking, behavioral healthcare which includes both mental illness and addiction, is under funded. Overwhelmingly, Americans hold more negative attitudes toward people who suffer with drug addiction than toward people with mental illness. Negative attitudes translate into lower support for treatment and fair policies for this segment of the population.

According to Norman Sartorius, psychiatrist and professor, behavioral disorders probably carry more stigmas (and consequent discrimination) than any other illness. The stigma does not stop at the persons who are suffering from a stigmatized illness. Their immediate and even remote families often experience significant social disadvantages. The institutions that provide mental health care are stigmatized. Stigma reduces the value of the persons who have a mental disorder in the eyes of the community and the government. Medications that are needed in the treatment of mental disorders, for example, are considered expensive even when their cost is much lower than the cost of drugs used in the treatment of other illnesses.

Not all persons who suffer from the disease of addiction are disabled. Many high functioning drug-addicted people contribute to society in meaningful ways. In order to make a determination of which individual addicted person is most suitable for charitable giving, I recommend the use of an ASAM assessment and the use of RANT to determine risk and need level of a person who suffers from addiction.

ASAM, American Society of Addiction Medicine, defines a set of criteria for treatment placement, length of stay and transfer/discharge of patients with addiction and co-occurring conditions. Utilizing ASAM, clinicians are able to conduct a multidimensional assessment that explores individual risks and needs, as well as strengths, skills and resources. It matches impairment with intensity of needed treatment services.

RANT, the Risk and Needs Triage, is a tool utilized in criminal justice to determine which types of drug offenders are best suited for which types of programs. It classifies offenders into one of four risk/needs quadrants. RANT measures such things as age of onset of criminal activity or substance use (early onset of substance abuse indicates more brain damage and predicts higher levels of life impairment); prior failure in substance abuse rehabilitation; unstable living arrangements; unemployment; and chronic medical and mental health conditions. These conditions are indications of addiction disease symptoms. High risk, high need persons are especially suited for financial assistance.

People in recovery from addiction often need a helping hand to get back on their feet. Denying or limiting funding at critical junctures of an addict’s life can lead to relapse or death. Given the current opioid overdose death epidemic, more funding opportunities are needed. As you consider year end charitable giving, please be the helping hand.