800 interventions. 35 years. When you speak to Don Sloane, Founder and Owner of Recovery Care Partner, you have no doubt that you’re speaking to someone who knows and understands substance use disorder and addiction intimately.
Don is a man in long term recovery and knows all too well the reality of this daunting statistic: one in ten Americans suffer from a substance use disorder. Nearly every family is touched by the disease and we have all seen it play out in our own communities. This is why Don has dedicated his career to helping families and businesses learn that addiction is not a curse but rather a disease and that through intervention there is hope and a path to recovery.
This April, as we acknowledge alcohol awareness month and substance use challenges at large, we interviewed Don about what he wishes more people knew about substance use disorder, what he views as warning signs that you or your child might be struggling, and what to be aware of when you’re researching treatment options for you or your loved one.
1. This April marks alcohol awareness month which presents an important opportunity to focus on this specific substance use issue. What do you wish more people knew about alcohol addiction?
In 2017, 65,000 lives were lost to opiates. Over 80,000 lives were lost to alcoholism. The opiate crisis is tragic, but it’s also important not to overlook other forms of substance use that are taking lives: alcohol addiction is the third leading cause of death in America after cancer and heart disease. It is the most treatable, but also the one with the fewest number of people seeking treatment and care. The reason is multi-layered. Alcoholism is tightly wound in decades of stigma; it’s deeply personal, cultural, psycho-emotional and because there can be a genetic predisposition, it’s often linked to generational use and is embedded in the fabric of families. The hidden tragedy is that substance use, like alcoholism, not only impacts the person who has the disease but it can have a particularly powerful ripple effect. It’s estimated that seven to eight people in a person’s community (peers, friends, family) can be directly and adversely impacted by someone who has an addiction.
2. What about alcohol addiction in young people?
There really is no distinction between alcoholism and addiction other than the drug of choice. For some, they may only use alcohol, others may use prescription or street drugs or some combination of both. Regardless of the drug of choice, addiction is an addiction. Roughly 10-20% of people use only alcohol in an addictive way.
What we do see is that for the 10% of the population that is genetically predisposed to substance use disorder addiction they tend to first present in late adolescence or as college-age adults. This time in life can be a key turning point. If there is a co-occurring disease that a young person is already struggling with, this can trigger or ‘turn on’ the addiction once they reach a certain age or face specific pressures – of which there is no shortage once a young person leaves home, goes to college or enters into the workforce for the first time.
3. What are some warning signs that your adolescent or young adult child may have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol?
This is best explained by recalling one of the most common things I hear from parents and families – a parent will come to me and say, “Don, my kid was an honor student with a full scholarship to play sports at X school,” (or something along those lines), “Now, I feel like I don’t know them anymore. Are we crazy here? How can they not see this?”
4. Does someone (a young adult, adolescent or adult) have to drink daily to have an alcohol use problem?
The short answer is no. The long answer is that there is a continuum between what we see as alcohol or substance ‘use’ and what we consider alcohol or substance abuse: the disease.
There are people (90% of the population, in fact) who use alcohol, who even self-medicate or soothe with alcohol, but who don’t suffer from an addiction.
Then there is an invisible line on that continuum — and it can sometimes be hard to see where that line is — where an individual crosses from having the ability to choose to drink to losing the option or choice of using. At that point, the substance use becomes chronic and progressive in nature. A key characteristic of the active disease is that it starts to manifest with adverse impacts on your life – at school, at work, at home. In this way, it is completely possible that someone can have an addiction but only drink three times a year, but when they do, they end up in jail or in the hospital. On the other hand, you could drink a glass of wine — or many — daily, and not be considered an addict at all.
5. What do you think makes the structure/philosophy of Recovery Care Partner particularly helpful for young people and families struggling with addiction?
Treatment professionals know how to effectively treat this disease (and there are strong statistics that indicate that it can be treated – a survey conducted on doctors who underwent a strict treatment plan in 2009, found that 80% were still abstinent after 5 years). Our approach (and that of places we are confident referring to and working with like The Dorm), is to recommend three key parts of establishing a sustainable recovery: participation in a 12-step program, an accountability structure and random screening. I would add to that: love, compassion, clarity and firmness. By clarity and firmness, I mean that it is possible to love your child/friend or partner to death if you don’t know how to draw the line and establish healthy boundaries and limits. Compassion can be saying, “We can’t have a relationship right now if you refuse the help you so desperately need.”
6. What challenges do you see in the field of substance use, addiction and recovery care, particularly as it relates to young adults today?
• Marijuana. As marijuana becomes legalized, we’re seeing more and more young people using it than ever before. And many individuals don’t know that marijuana can ‘switch on’ mental health issues and even psychosis (for those who have a genetic predisposition). People forget that though alcohol is legal it remains the third biggest killer in the United States; just because something is legal doesn’t mean it can’t be harmful.
• Many families struggle to realize that the entire family unit might need support, not just the individual in isolation. Plucking a child from their dorm, or life, and sending them to treatment, only to return them to the same situation and dynamic, is nonsensical. I’m encouraged to see more service providers that keep families involved through family therapy or that go so far as to have them live with a child during therapy as part of a family restructuring.
7. On the flip-side, what makes you optimistic about supporting individuals in need today versus when you started Recovery Care Partners in 2009?
There is always, of course, a lot to be optimistic about, but right now the most glaring shift I’ve seen versus ten plus years ago is how much therapy and recovery programming has become big business. Many providers have opened up that simply have deep pockets. The treatment industry is estimated to be worth $35B in the United States and there are many groups and investors willing to take advantage of this and have acted irresponsibly. I see many, many families who have spent their hard-earned discretionary money with a treatment center, only to be left more fractured and desperate than before.
The good news is that there are plenty of ethical and value-based providers, many of whom are members of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) who has started lobbying on Capitol Hill in the hopes of enacting change and encouraging more oversight.
8. It’s an important point and a worrying trend. What recommendations do you have for families and young people who are trying to find legitimate and value-based care for addiction?
A few things:
• Trust your gut – I truly believe that you know when you’re being ‘taken for a ride’. Does the person on the other side of the call sound like they are interested in providing care, or taking your money? If one of the first or second questions they ask is, “What is your insurance?”, hang up. Plain and simple.
• Speak to your community and to individuals who have gone through what you have. Oftentimes, they will become the biggest advocates for the resources that have worked for them. Look up resources on Al-Anon or ask around in your 12-step groups. Also, look up providers on SAMHSA and NAATP that have been more thoroughly vetted.
9. Anything else you want to share that we didn’t already cover?
I do want people to know that there is hope — no guarantees — but plenty of hope.
When people look for treatment, be it for cancer or heart disease, they don’t hesitate or pause to seek out care or help, even if there is a 50% success rate. For many reasons I’ve covered, this is not the case with substance use addiction, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
And, please stop Googling. The best step is to seek out professional support. It’s there, I promise you.Learn More
If you are in recovery, it may feel like no one else is in the same boat, especially if you’re young. However, if we know anything about addiction, we know that it is incredibly wide-reaching. In fact, it is estimated to impact about ten percent of the population. That’s why it is so important that addiction, and recovery, be represented in the media- and be represented correctly. We certainly know that substance abuse can be misconstrued in the media through glamorizing and rationalization, but luckily there are some books, movies and more that provide an accurate portrayal of what it is like to be addicted to drugs- and what it’s like to get clean.
One of the irrefutably best books about recovery is a memoir called Dry by author Augusten Burroughs. Burroughs, who achieved memoir success with the popular book Running With Scissors, strikes again in this accurate depiction of addiction, recovery and relapse. With his trademark wit and laugh out loud humor, Burroughs paints the story of how he developed an alcohol abuse disorder and how his co-workers insisted he be sent to rehab. After rehab, Burroughs describes the trials and tribulations of early recovery in shocking accuracy. Furthermore, Burroughs describes a painful relapse, but writes without pretense, judgement or dishonesty. The book is a look not only at the (recovering) addict themselves, but the relationships they have with those around them and how alcohol abuse can alter, and strengthen them.
Another popular book about addiction is called A Million Little Pieces. Told in a heart wrenching furious manner, a Million Little Pieces entails the journey of the author, James Frey. However, after parts of the book were later found to be untrue, the book changed from a memoir to a novel. While there was a lot of outrage over this perceived inaccuracy, whomever the story describes, it speaks pretty truely of the struggles and emotions experienced in recovery, and in treatment in general. In treatment, Frey suffers through a root canal without pain medicine and the trials and tribulations that accompany falling for another addict in early recovery.
As far as movies, there are also a lot of good options that reflect addiction and recovery. One popular choice is 28 Days, starring Sandra Bullock. In it, Bullock stars as a hard-partying city girl who inadvertently ruins her sister’s wedding by being messed up. She then enters a 28 day rehab. At first, she is skeptical of those trying to be sober, but after falling out of a window in an attempt to grab pills, she begins to consider the fact that she may need to. However, the journey to recovery isn’t so easy or straightforward.
While movies and books are a good source of inspiration, they can’t be the only tool in your toolbox in terms of recovery. This is where addiction counseling and intervention specialists come in. Recovery Care Partner can help you source the recovery counseling and guidance you or a loved one may need.Learn More
You may have heard of heroin or other opiates, but have you heard of fentanyl? This lesser known drug is having a serious impact. The newest drug to hit the streets has completely reignited the opioid crisis and is more deadly than any drug cops have ever seen. It is a driving force behind overdoses all over the world, and country.
So where did fentanyl get its start? Well, fentanyl began its reign in British Columbia. In 2016, British Columbia declared a public health emergency due to the rampant overdoses experienced in the region. They also started a website called fentanylsafety.com. However, this unfortunately did not stop the drug from growing in popularity and spreading to other parts of the country.
So what is fentanyl composed of? Well, it’s a pain reliever so it is an opioid similar to morphine or heroin. Except it’s a lot, lot stronger. In legal settings, it is administered in a patch for really bad, chronic pain, such as in the case of cancer patients. But the fentanyl that is coming from overseas bears almost no resemblance to the legal, medical form. It is about 50 to 100 times stronger than medical fentanyl.
It is the strength and insidious nature of fentanyl that leads it to claim so many lives. People began to learn of the danger of fentanyl several years ago. Around the time it was gaining popularity in British Columbia, a photo by the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory was released. It show two vials, one with a lethal dose of heroin and one with a lethal dose of fentanyl. The dose of heroin clocked in at 30 milligrams, while the lethal dose of fentanyl was only 3 milligrams. Basically, the tiniest scoop can kill you. The picture served to represent just how dangerous and insidious fentanyl can be.
Fentanyl is changing the lives of everyone involved with it. Obviously, addicts and their families are completely ravaged by the fentanyl, but the police and first responders are even having to change their practices in response to the drug. There have been several incidents in which officers have been injured due to contact with fentanyl. In 2016, a police officer in Jersey had to go to the hospital simply because he breathed a small portion of the fentanyl. Because of this and other incidents, police officers are currently using protective gear like Tyvek suits and respirators. This is because fentanyl is so dangerous and so strong that even touching or breathing it in could result in overdose or death. Naloxone, or narcan, as its often known is also a big part of first responders’ jobs in the current opioid crisis. Naloxone works to reverse the effects of overdose.
If you or someone you know is addicted to fentanyl or another drug, the time for help is now. If you are looking to have an intervention in New York or the DMV area, Recovery Care Partner is the best place to go.Learn More
“How did my days go? Well, I’d wake up each morning, that is if I even got sleep the night before, which was doubtful unless I had as much heroin as I needed, which never seemed to happen. I tried to never have less than two bundles (each bundle has approximately 1-1.5 grams of heroin in it, a collection of 10 bags, varying some state to state) on me at all times, but that was pretty unsuccessful. I’d spend all night blowing up my dealer’s phone. Then the misery, sickness and insanity of withdrawal would set in. Then I’d drive the 1.5 hours round-trip distance from Morristown to Paterson (both cities in New Jersey) to buy a brick (5 bundles, or 50 bags), which would only last me two days max.”
Mike says all of this in the way you’d talk about someone you didn’t know well whose dad had died: with resignation, sympathy and detachment.
Mike is one of 2.6 million Americans who suffers from Opioid Use Disorder. The criterion for an individual to be diagnosed with Opioid Use Disorder (as stated in the current DSM-5), includes manifestation of at least two of the following in a 12 month period: opiates are taken in larger quantities than intended, consistent desire to cut down use (to no avail), large quantities of time spent to obtain, use and recover from opiates, use resulting in failure to fulfill obligations at school, work or home, using despite social/interpersonal problems caused by use, social, occupational and recreational activities given up to pursue opiates, use of opiates in situations which it is physically dangerous, continued use despite sustaining a physical/psychological issue due to the substance, increased tolerance to opiates and lastly, withdrawal, by which the user has withdrawal symptoms that match with those listed in the DSM or they use opiates to relieve or avoid withdrawal.
Mike says his use encompassed all 12 of the criterion. Surely, the habit and schedule he mentions had to arouse some attention from his loved ones.
“I would have to turn the GPS off my phone when I was making those trips to Paterson. My parents could see where I was with the Find My iPhone App and if they saw that I was in Paterson, they’d know that I was buying heroin and there’d be trouble. So on the way back from buying heroin, I’d pull off to the side of route 80 in the shoulder and shoot 7 bags right there to stop withdrawing, then I’d race back home while nodding out on the highway, frequently waking up while I was driving, which was incredibly scary.”
But after all the anticipation, all the build-up, all the lies for proper execution, all the danger he put himself in, it still wasn’t enough for Mike.
“When I got home, I’d do another 3-5 bags, smoke cigarettes, watching netflix alone in my room all day. I was incredibly sad and lonely and my life was going nowhere. I felt close to no one, I’d steal from my parents- not even when I needed money, just in anticipation that I would need it soon. I also sold heroin to get mine for free. Everything I did was for or in pursuit of heroin. I only left my room to sell or buy drugs.”
Like the criterion for Opioid Use Disorder mentioned, Mike’s use drastically cut into all facets of his life.
“I had a horrible job in the fast food industry, horrible hygiene, horrible relationships with my family and horrible mental health- I had a really bad temper and abysmal self-esteem.”
But there is hope, Mike now has 9 months sober after getting clean in a long-term treatment center, followed by living in a halfway house and filling his life with sober supports and AA.
“I came from the lowest point a human can be- sickness, mental illness, criminality, despair, to having a love for life, for my family and friends, for myself and for God- all with the help of treatment, AA and those around me. I truly think that if I was able to overcome my affliction, there is hope for anyone.”Learn More
Here is one thing to remember about going into and out of recovery. It is impossible to be successful doing it on your own. Sure, there are times where we have to apply what we’ve learned on our own, but that implies that we learned that knowledge from somebody else. Whether it is family, friends, or sober counseling staff in recovery, you will need to learn and use the support you have been given (even if we don’t even realize it is there for us).
We often think that we know everything there is to know about ourselves. We can expect certain things from our brain and our body. But As life continuously shows us, that is totally untrue. We discover new things about ourselves every day that we are challenged. And while in recovery, we find positive challenges everywhere. For instance, we cannot simply stay within recovery for the rest of our lives. We must be able to allow ourselves to move on from a treatment center. We will have to go back out into the world, rather than hold onto recovery care management staff as a crutch. We have to accept the challenge of personal growth. Because being separated from the world is not living. One has to apply the skills they’ve learned from sober counseling and other staff members in order to actually live addiction-free.
Now, although the idea of trusting someone with your journey to recovery may sound comforting to some, it may not to others. It may seem like the scariest thing, due to fear of not knowing what treatment will look like. How do I know that these sober counseling advisors know what they’re talking about? How can I trust recovery Care Management that they will always take care of me when I need them to? There are many reasons why you can trust our recovery care management and sober counseling staff. If you would like to check out some of our testimonials, they can be viewed here. But one of the reasons that we doubt our future is because addiction seems like such a big, overpowering force. It is like a blackness that always is able to manipulate us when we try our hardest to resist.
But that is why Recovery Care Partner cares. We know exactly what it is like, and we want you to be able to live free once again. We offer several treatment plans available to meet your needs where they are. But that starts with trusting your mentor and friends in recovery. But before that, it starts with telling those who you need to know what you’ve been going through. Addiction may seem like a scary thing to bring up, but if it is from those who unconditionally love you, then you will have nothing to worry about. IN fact, you will have plenty to hope for.
For more information on our treatment services, sober counseling, and recovery care management staff, please feel free to contact us here.Learn More
An intervention refers to a lot more than just a meeting to tell someone that they have a problem. It is a support system for your friend or loved one who has been dealing with a self-destructive compulsion (in this case, drug or alcohol addiction). The goal of the intervention meeting is to convince the person that they need help and should be open to seeking it. However, with the person being in such a sensitive state, an intervention needs to be handled carefully. It is not meant to be done off-the-cuff without any planning. One of the best ways to make sure that the intervention is performed properly is through a professional interventionist. Here are some of the main qualities that you’ll find with an intervention specialist.
The role of an Interventionist
A professional interventionist sets up the meeting with a customized approach. They do this by talking to the loved ones of the person in order to determine what kind of approach is best. Some require a stern, more direct approach. Others work best under a calmer, more sensitive form of communication. But in either case, the interventionist advises that everyone communicate from a place of love. A selfless, clear-headed approach to the person will make a huge difference.
Picking the right people
A big part of picking the right approach is picking the right people. An intervention is not a party where anyone the person knows can come. It is a place of support for the person who is addicted. This means that the only people present should be those who can understand, support and love this person. It may seem hard to leave out someone else, but if they pose any threat or unnecessary stress, then their presence wouldn’t bring any support.
Provide guidance to the people
Although the chosen family and friends know the person best, they are still not professional intervention specialists. That is why they require preparation and guidance for how an ideal intervention is supposed to move. It is like a play, where everyone has to learn his or her role in the play. However, it is not as stressful as memorizing lines. The only real requirement of everyone is to know their specific purpose and support the person. Some people don’t even have to say anything. They can just sit there to let the person know that you are there for them.
Love and support
At the end of the day, an intervention specialist is meant to help the person who is under the control of drugs/alcohol. And yet, that help means balancing both stern truth and loving support. The interventionist is a professional, but they are nothing without the support of the family and friends of the person. For more information on our services and practice, please feel free to contact Recovery Care Partner today.Learn More
Many people have a misconception about recovery. They seem to believe that the core process of recovery is sheer willpower. The key to sobriety is simply white-knuckling your way past any sort of addiction. This is not only unappealing but also untrue. Our Recovery Care management team offers a more hopeful and reasonable means of recovery. Although practices of willpower are surely a part of the journey, it is not what gets one through the struggle. What we need is proper addiction education on how our bodies and minds uniquely respond to drugs and/or alcohol.
Cut it at the roots
Addiction is like a tree. If the tree is giving us bad fruit (addiction), we try to cut it off by the branches. This is futile since it does not get rid of the source of the fruit. The branches just grow back. The bad fruit returns. In order to get rid of the fruit permanently, we need to cut it off at the roots. And those roots go deeper than we realize. That is why personal addiction education is so crucial.
Manipulation of the brain
We often fail to realize is that the addictive substance is not the problem. It is how our brain responds to the substance. Drugs and alcohol are not dangerous in of themselves. The danger comes when they are applied to our brains. When a drug like cocaine enters the brain, it manipulates the brain’s usage of natural chemicals. It increases the chemical messenger known as dopamine. Dopamine is known as a “happy hormone.” Dopamine is good and necessary for healthy living. However, cocaine excessively builds up the dopamine between the nerve cells, causing a high. This is not a proper delivery of dopamine and leads to addiction. Many other forms of drugs and alcohol manipulate the brain and body. But one has to ask, why do we even need that excessive amount of dopamine? What are we trying to avoid? This goes back to the origin of the need for the substance.
The desire for the substance
As many discover during recovery, the reason for many addictions is traumatic experiences or personal dilemmas. Drugs and alcohol tend to make facing these problems much more bearable. Now, everyone is different. But for many people, addiction treatment has more to do with the psychological reasons for the substance, rather than the substance itself. That is why our Recovery Care management is here to help you reach the therapeutic goal of personal understanding. We help you get to the core of your reasons for the substance, whether it be personal trauma or other experiences. And once you are able to confront that, your recovery becomes a whole lot more accessible. It may not be easy, but with loving support, it is far more than just possible. It is hopeful.
Further ResourcesLearn More
When it comes to the road to recovery, there can be many roadblocks or moments of despair. These moments can be tough and hard to overcome. It might seem like recovery is just a pipe dream and that our body and mind is forever attached to our addiction. But no matter if you are haunted by heroin or alcohol, it is seriously possible for the addiction to be defeated. With the guidance of our recovery care management, a sober companion, and/or sober escort, it is important to carry a few reminders to help stay focused on your end goal.
Mistakes are not in vein
Often one of the things that we dread while in recovery is the appearance of a relapse, emotional/anxiety attack, or any other kind of bad circumstance. We feel as though that we should not have done whatever it is we did in order to actually move forward. But a horse ride isn’t over when you fall off the horse. It is over when you give up and decide not to get back up on it. Support from your sober companion and recovery care management will certainly be here to accept and encourage you despite any mistakes and struggles.
Recovery takes time
As implied earlier, this is a journey involving roadblocks and learning. Recovery is not a speedy process. We are essentially reworking our lifestyle and mental inclinations to live healthier away from the traps of the addictive substances. To do that, we must have take steps ahead in their proper time, and allow the body and mind to move away from the addiction.
Asking for Help is good
Sometimes we can find ourselves believing that we are advancing if we have to ask for help. Yes, there comes times where we will have to find the strength in ourselves, but if we need help then we need help. There is no shame in that. It is the help that we receive that allows us to find the strength to handle any future struggles.
One of the biggest pieces of inspiration we receive in recovery is from those who know your struggle. If you would like to hear more about meeting with our recovery care team members, a sober companion, or any other friends along the way, then please give us a call. We are here for you and your future of freedom.Learn More