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The Terrible Consequences of Alcohol Addiction

“We alcoholics are men and women who have lost the ability to control our drinking,” we read in chapter three of Alcohol Anonymous’ Big Book. One such man is Joshua Cagney, the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of New Paradigm Recovery.

Traditional AA members will tell you that active addiction offers only three possible outcomes: institutions, death, or recovery. Sadly, Cagney is familiar with all three. Although he has survived the disease and been sober since November 2003, he is responsible for the death of another.

He caused a terrible car accident 19 years ago, operating his vehicle while intoxicated. Cagney was subsequently convicted of involuntary manslaughter and received an eight-year prison sentence of which he served seven years, two weeks, and one day.

The prevalent daily theme for Cagney is the tragedy his drinking caused. “I wake up each morning and think of José and his daughter who is now over 30 years old. She is out there somewhere and she’s spent more than half of her life without her dad because of my choice. I think of José’s wife, Juana, and what it must have been like to raise a daughter on her own and having had to deal with the sorrow of not having the man she loved being with her.”

Cagney’s own life was full of unfamiliar challenges, too. “The world that I came home to was remarkably different from when I caused the wreck,” he said. Before going to prison, Cagney had an IT job but computers and other electronic devices were quite different seven years later. He had trouble finding a place to rent since background checks could now be done online in minutes.

Family life had moved on, too. Cagney’s sister had married her boyfriend and they were expecting their second child. “The world kept moving while I went to prison,” he remembered.  Yet Cagney readily acknowledges that whatever consequences and sacrifices he’s made pale in comparison to those faced by the family he affected.  

Before the car accident, Cagney failed to realize what alcohol misuse does to a person. One of the immediate effects is impaired judgment and slowed reaction time leading to hazardous behaviors such as driving under the influence (DUI). As an example, Cagney never even hit the brakes after running a red light that night. “If I hadn’t been drinking that night, the accident would not have happened,” he knows now. Cagney feels certain that alcohol and drugs don’t just make an accident a possibility but a probability.

Dangerous risk-taking is one of eleven symptoms listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, also known as DSM-5, used by US physicians and psychologists to diagnose alcohol use disorder (AUD). The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a treatable, chronic medical disease: “People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”

Cagney continues to carry a heavy burden as a result of the harmful consequences that arose from his severe alcohol use disorder. As co-founder and COO of New Paradigm, he endeavors to help others with addiction avoid the mistakes he made in his life. His example shows that recovery is always possible, you just have to find the courage to pursue it. “If you need help, don’t let pride, fear, or shame stand in the way of asking for it,” is Cagney’s advice today.

Addiction is a complex disease and only a careful individual assessment can determine the best treatment options. Drug or alcohol misuse is often indicative of an underlying mental health disorder, that may often co-exist with trauma. New Paradigm Recovery provides expert dual diagnosis treatment for many co-occurring disorders, in addition to trauma care. 

The foundation of our clinical care philosophy is to treat the whole person. At New Paradigm Recovery, we offer individualized and comprehensive addiction recovery services that create the possibility for physical, mental, and spiritual healing from damage left in the wake of drug and alcohol addiction.

We understand the insidious and pervasive nature of addiction and seek to help affected families find recovery, not just the clients. Give us a call to find out about treatment options. We can be reached 24 hours a day at (703) 214-5888.

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