It was 1998. Frustrated by experiences that traditional addiction treatment wasn’t working, but still unaware of how serious treatment failures were, several of us had tried to implement an improved program for addiction treatment at a college where we taught. Finally, we decided to establish our own organization. I happened to have stationery named after Tasha Kiowa, a female wolf and valued member of my family, so I said, “We’ll name the organization, T.K. Wolf Inc.” And we began.
One of us was a long time licensed substance abuse counselor and Indian elder who conducts ceremonies. I’d been told that adding Native American spirituality and culture to counseling would improve the success rate for clients. Our third partner had established a native theater locally and was herself a playwright. Early on she held play rehearsals in our office space. As an educator and researcher I added to the abilities of our team. While T.K. Wolf was an Indian organization, our programs were open to all races and religions from the beginning. We held workshops, classes, cultural events, ceremonies, and offered counseling.
A year later I realized that what we were doing—“state of the art” addiction counseling—wasn’t working. Our results were terrible. At that point I didn’t know how low typical success rates are. We would later learn that four years after treatment only four to seven percent of addicts are sober! At ceremonies, most people chain-smoked, prayed earnestly, and returned to drinking and using again. I was astounded to learn that addiction counselors were themselves relapsing. My theories and research on human nature seemed useless when it came to addiction. I said that we couldn’t continue doing what we were doing when it wasn’t working. If we couldn’t get better results, we’d have to stop.
Meanwhile, our organization was popular. People liked coming to our classes. Native American spirituality is attractive to many—especially those disenchanted with their own religious traditions. People came to counseling. We co-counseled, which, by giving varied perspectives, works well. But our clients with addictions were not getting better. As a long time professor and researcher, I knew it was unethical to use methods that didn’t work. I’d left the addiction expertise to our addiction counselor since that was his area of expertise. I learned that for him, low success rates were the reality and why so many addiction counselors left the field. As I attended professional meetings for alcohol and drug counselors, I learned that we were not alone.
We would come to learn that a form of electro-medicine, cranial electrotherapy (CES), had been used for the treatment of addiction for decades. There had been double and triple blinded published research studies from numerous universities and institutions on the success of such treatment. We learned that these treatments were FDA sanctioned for the treatment of stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, addiction, and pain. By 1980, CES treatment for addiction had success rates of 80 percent after seven years. The research had been done in Europe and the US in a variety of universities and institutions. Yet addiction treatment centers seemed unaware of this research.
From the beginning, we carefully documented CES use by clients in order to demonstrate its effectiveness. At that point we added another staff member who had education and experience in electrical engineering and health care. We then learned about addiction nutrition and research that showed why it was so important for clients to change their diets and stop smoking in addition to use of other addictive substances. We saw that people first begin to improve on CES and that they could then change their diets accordingly.
We researched the genetic origins of alcoholism and other addictions and the relationship of relapse to irritable brain waves. We learned that clients need to continue using CES to keep their brain waves normal. Increasingly, people came to us addicted to prescription drugs prescribed by their own physicians, leading us to warn that these drugs, not street drugs, were becoming the drugs of choice. We also had clients contacting us from across the US who had been failed by “name brand” addiction facilities, but now succeeded with CES and addiction nutrition.
Soon we began seeing connections between alcoholism and Type Two Diabetes so often suffered by the same people. That caused us to research the relationship and publish the article, “Killing Us Slowly: The Relationship between Type Two Diabetes and Alcoholism” (Native American Times, 2001)—now found on numerous internet websites. Medical school students and health professionals began to write us, asking us for more information and references.
From the beginning, T.K. Wolf has responded to problems of American Indians that were not being successfully or appropriately addressed. For some time we had also said that American Indians are the “Miner’s Canary” for problems that later become common to other groups as well. Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes were becoming a terrible problem for Indians by now with related hypertension and heart disease. We began asking schools to take soda pop and candy machines out of schools and examine the nature of diets fed to school children—long before these concerns became widespread in the US and world population. Soon we were to see young children with severe obesity and Type II Diabetes—formerly an “adult” disease.
We would come to see that the origins of a variety of diseases, once survival adaptations, were attempts by the body to respond to stresses of famine and starvation. With excess food, it was no longer healthy for the body to preserve fat for use by the body in times of want. Likewise, with excess growth of plants such as tobacco, once ceremonial drugs now were available in amounts sufficient to become addictive.
Meanwhile, along with high levels of alcoholism, nicotine addiction, obesity, and related diseases, we observed the serious statistics of American Indians: the highest levels of violence of all groups—mostly non-Indian against Indian. These included the highest numbers of sexual assault, battering, stalking, and homicide. As background, American Indians have experienced many losses over a few hundred years—lives, homelands, livelihoods, religious beliefs and practices, languages and culture. These have caused intergenerational post traumatic stress. We have been fortunate to have a licensed professional counselor and art therapist had joined us to work with clients. Her expertise, especially with children, helps us work with entire families of abuse.
At first we referred victims of domestic violence and stalking to other agencies that were especially designated to respond to these problems. But increasingly, we were told by client that they weren’t obtaining the help they needed and that the organizations didn’t appear to understand the nature of stalking. Some time in 2004 we began researching the phenomenon of stalking, learning the serious nature of the crime, how extensive it is, and that perpetrators of the crime are rarely arrested or imprisoned. We would come to learn that stalking is an addiction as well. The perpetrator becomes addicted to his or her dopamine and other chemicals and the more the stalker stalks, the worse it becomes. We would come to learn from recent physiological research that other “behavioral addictions” such as pornography, shopping and gambling (casino and investment trading), and have similar biological basis in once adaptive behaviors.
From the beginning we have sought out specialists, experts and researchers, to inform our work. I first learned about possibilities of electro-medicine from a media report. I contacted the researcher involved. We have continued that pattern in all of our work. We have also sought to work with other organizations and institutions to expand understanding of the different areas. More recently, we have responded with brain science to the challenges of saving dying languages so important to the cultural practices of the tribes.
Increasingly we have been invited to present our cutting-edge research at a variety of conferences and giving professional guidance to those requesting help across the country. Our work has been published in journals, books, on the internet, and most importantly in native media so that those facing the problems have access to knowledge important to them. The challenges of Indian Country have taken us in unexpected directions and we assume that will likely continue.