Wellness: Holistic Recovery From Addiction, with Dr. William Jacyk

Viewers of “Intervention Canada” may recognize the beautiful Muskoka landscapes of the Greenestone residential addiction treatment centre, as it has been featured on that show on multiple occasions. Parvati Magazine spoke with physician William Jacyk, who is the Senior Clinical Consultant to the Greenestone clinic, responsible for program development and design, education of staff and residents and clinical mentoring and staff development.

Parvati Magazine: What inspired you to train as an addiction physician?

Dr. William Jacyk: I had some personal family experience growing up which was very negative, and I had a very judgmental attitude toward the problem. After medical school, I had my own experience and then was inspired to look at the problem as a human condition (“disease”).

PMAG: Why do you think people who have experienced trauma are more likely to struggle with substance abuse issues?

WJ: Survivors of traumatic experiences are often left with some intense emotional reactions which are not adequately expressed or soothed at the time of the trauma because the focus is usually avoiding greater harm or death. Unfortunately, these emotional experiences are recorded and stored in the brain and can emerge after the danger has disappeared. These “delayed emotional reactions” have been perceived as abnormal and, therefore, as symptoms which should be suppressed rather than processed. Many such survivors learn to “self-medicate” and continue the process of denial despite the emotions re-appearing repeatedly. Others may actually enable this to continue, with statements such as “you should be over that by now”, till the first awareness that there are unresolved traumatic experiences is a diagnosable addiction.

PMAG: What does Greenestone do to help people dealing with addiction and how does a holistic approach help in this?

WJ: A large component of our program involves proper education as to the nature of the problem, and what a successful program of recovery can accomplish. The goal in a holistic approach is to restore the body, mind and spirit to a balanced state so that we are in the best possible state to manage stress (whether internal or external) in a positive, creative way, so that we are constantly building more and more resilience. When we handle stress by suppressing the symptoms or avoiding the problems, we are squandering an opportunity to grow more and make ourselves even more vulnerable to illness of all forms.

Our program emphasis is on balance and structure. The structure helps our bodies to heal and recover. The physical aspects focus on proper restorative sleep, nutrition and exercise. The intellectual component includes correct information as to the nature of any disorder and addressing our needs appropriately. Emotionally, we need to learn to use our emotional energy to develop wisdom and discernment when presented with stress as well as learning how to celebrate our successes so we can become confident and trustworthy. Spiritually, we must honor and respect our values and principles and we must also have a mechanism of reconciliation and forgiveness so that we continue to take risks and grow rather than be hampered by our mistakes and failures. Finally, the human condition obliges us to learn how to live with each other retaining the principles of respect, dignity and honor without being afraid of constructive conflict and disagreement. In the Greenestone program, these are referred to as the “Five Intelligences”- Physical, Emotional, Cognitive, Spiritual and Relational.

Discontinuing the substance use or addictive behavior is only the preparation for developing a healthier, balanced and fulfilling lifestyle. The real work begins with letting go of the instant sense of relief that substance brings, feeling and responding to the pain or discomfort and allowing it to become part of our wisdom of the experience. The phrase, “learning to accept life on life’s terms” reflects the work of recovery. Having the discernment and courage to change what is in our power to change is the challenge of recovery.

PMAG: What is the most inspiring thing you’ve witnessed in this work?

WJ: The countless people who have the courage to keep trying to achieve both physical and emotional sobriety, despite many pitfalls and challenges, are a constant inspiration. They remind me repeatedly how precious and sacred our lives are and can be.

PMAG: What advice would you give someone who is questioning whether they or someone they love may have an addiction?

WJ: See an addiction as an illness that is treatable. Be angry with the problem and not the person. Give support to someone struggling with addiction if they are on a path of recovery, but be careful not to support the addictive process. Human beings actively suffering from an addictive disorder are not capable of maintaining a healthy relationship and the addictive process can deplete the energy of a partner.

Bill JacykDr. William R. Jacyk, MD, FRCPC is a physician, educator and researcher who brings over 30 years of experience in treating addictions and conditions that often co-occur with substance abuse. Prior to coming to Ontario, Bill was an Associate Professor in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba teaching hospital, St. Boniface General Hospital. He specialized in Substance Use Disorders in Health Professionals, Pilots, Air Traffic Controllers and First Responders as well as other safety-sensitive occupations. He has published research identifying the issues of alcohol and prescription drug abuse in the elderly. Dr. Jacyk joined Homewood Health Centre in 1999 with the express purpose of developing a program specifically for seniors and subsequently was also instrumental in developing a comprehensive program for those who suffered concurrently from addiction as well as Posttraumatic Stress. Bill joined GreeneStone 12 years later to further develop an evidence-based concurrent disorders program in the healing environment of GreeneStone.

Dr. Jacyk advocated for individuals who have suffered childhood, adult, domestic and occupational trauma and for several years was the chairman of the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness. He was recognized for his contribution by receiving the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. He is a member of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, the National Coordinator for treatment and education for NavCanada and the Senior Clinical Consultant for GreeneStone.