Category Archives: Rehab

Ben Affleck: addiction superhero

I have to confess I am not a Ben Affleck fan. I tend to avoid movies that have him in it. However, right now I am giving him a standing ovation.

You may have seen his brief, but poignant Facebook statement about his recent stay in rehab. In case you missed it, here it is:

“I have completed treatment for alcohol addiction; something I’ve dealt with in the past and will continue to confront. I want to live life to the fullest and be the best father I can be. I want my kids to know there is no shame in getting help when you need it, and to be a source of strength for anyone out there who needs help but is afraid to take the first step. I’m lucky to have the love of my family and friends, including my co-parent, Jen, who has supported me and cared for our kids as I’ve done the work I set out to do. This was the first of many steps being taken towards a positive recovery”.

This may seem trivial, but what is amazing about his post, is how positive and how lacking in shame it is.

I’m so tired of the celebrity rock bottom/rehab/trite confession to Opera cycle. Addiction is a medical issue, a disease of the brain and a mental health problem. It is not a moral issue and we really need to stop treating it like one. This is not unlike other celebrities issuing statements to let people know have sought treatment for Lupus/breast cancer/Diabetes. But when it comes to addiction, celebrities are usually hounded and shamed into admitting they have an alcohol/drug problem. This has not been helpful to ordinary people who suffer from the same illness. Shame stops people seeking treatment when they need it. Hiding our disease in the myth of anonymity/secrecy keeps everyone sick. His honesty, straightforwardness and lack of shame, gives everyone else permission to do the same.
Ben Affleck has treated addiction like the disease it is, may others follow.

Congratulations, you’re on your own – guest post

A fabulous guest post from Joy Anderson on what the hell happens when you get out of your 28-day rehab.

You’re Out Of Treatment. Now what??
What ARE the Options???

I wrote up this list and commentary from real life concerns during and after my stay in treatment – the topic was never really explored…enough.

So you’ve finished treatment. You completed your 28 days, the 90 days, maybe a whole year. So now what? Here are some questions to carefully consider and some insight in to how things really are.

Image courtesy of nenetus at

Image courtesy of nenetus at

● Will you go “home”, to your family of origin or a marriage or other relationship?
● Would you stay in the area where you went to treatment?
● Do you want to live in sober housing, ½ way, ¾ way?
● Do you like communal living and can you abide by the rules?
● Could you handle living independently or with a sober roommate?
● Do you need a little more time in an environment with accountability and structure (UA’s, Curfews)
● Where are you in your your recovery?
● How stable are you?
● Do you want or require IOP services, therapy services?
● What sort of elements do you want in your new living environment?
● What are your resources – financial, transportation…?
● Do you have a pet?
● Do you have any health concerns?
● Do you want to be with people in recovery that are your same age?

Will you go “home”? To your family of origin?
Is a marriage or other relationship waiting for you to come home?

Is going home right out of treatment the best decision for your long term recovery goals? Lot’s of people struggle with this. Even though the pull of getting back to “normal life” whether with a spouse, kids, parents etc…this decision needs to be explored and a lot of times, despite that pull, the folks who make the decision to sort of extend their Intensive OutPatient Treatment have better success upon returning home.
Stress is the number one relapse trigger and people don’t realize that it takes months to adjust to life without drugs or alcohol as a crutch to deal with our upsets, anxieties and fears. Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome can last for up to 18 months – in some cases longer. It’s best to position ourselves in the most structured, supportive environment possible. Play it safe in the beginning even if your partner or family doesn’t understand. They may send a message of struggle while you are away but while you are healing and changing, you need to stay put.It’s like trying to walk on a broken leg when the cast was just put on a week ago. You need to recover and it will benefit your loved ones as well as yourself in the long run. We have to start thinking in terms of short term sacrifice for long term success. They’ll thank you later, and they’ll be stronger for it too. Everybody wins.

Will you remain in the area you received treatment?
Lots of people will decide to stay in the area they got clean because that’s safe and familiar for them. They’ve created a circle involving sober peers, sponsor, mentor, life coach – what have you, meetings, home group, friends hopefully some exercise and of course FUN and social time . It’s a delicate balance, especially in the first year, so maintaining this combination of things is vital to long term recovery. The odds are against us statistically. But there’s more help than ever now and making a smooth transition back into life among peers and will proper support makes all the difference.

So let’s say you’ve decided to stay put. Now what?
Again, it’s not easy to face the world right out of treatment. You’ve been in this bubble, this protected, monitored environment. You’ve cleared your head, learned something about yourself, tackled some demons and hopefully started to work some sort of a program. Most mainstream treatment centers promote the 12 step Fellowships. Just 80 years ago alcoholics were locked away in mental institutions, regarded as hopeless cases. Now, we have SO many options.

Sober Housing: ½ way, ¾ way, ⅞ way….
There are so many different scenarios to choose from in regard to what type of living arrangement you might choose after treatment. Consider that while in the inpatient and intensive outpatient stages of treatment there is still a tremendous amount of structure and accountability. Curfews, random or weekly, sometimes daily scheduled UA’s, room searches, rules and restrictions, required 12 step meetings, therapy sessions, house meetings and so on. It can be a bit much. It requires that each person be honest with themselves about what level of structure they need and for how long if they are to be a success in this new way of life. Change is hard and doesn’t come easy in most cases.

The Real Goal
Most of us need help and support to stay on the course. We take a long hard deep look at who we are at the core, review the damages caused by our negative behavior and engage in a life long journey to keep our side of the street clean, trust in a greater good that doesn’t find it’s origin in what we alone want and finally, to do right by our fellow man. Simple principles of Life – 12 step driven or not. I digress…

Sober housing or “transitional housing” is a great path to take for many people on this journey of recovery. These sober living homes offer a great bridge to life in sobriety. Often, help creating resumes, job hunting, transportation to interviews and getting around to meetings are available. It’s important to stay connected especially early on.

The difference between the ½ way to a ¼ way is simply less restrictions. Every establishment is different. Choose wisely. I ‘ll start with the lower end of the scale so we all have something to look forward to. The “flop houses.” These are properties owned by an individual or group that typically has an arrangement with the IOP related to the treatment center that the client is coming from or in some cases and independently IOP program. Either way, this typically involves 3-5 nights a week of 3 hr groups and 1 private therapy session per week. Curfew is anywhere from 8pm-11pm on weekdays and 10pm – 1am on weekends, required attendance to 12 step meetings, acquisition of gainful employment , random drug screening and other requirements as individually decided per each organization.

A ¾ way arrangement can be slightly more lenient with fewer requirements and again and we step down to less and less restrictions. Some places allow for couples and children, some even allow for pets. The cost of all these variations can range from free rent in exchange for involvement in the IOP program to weekly rent. Rent can range from $100- $300 per week depending on location and amenities. Some sober living homes do not require much other than paying rent on time. At the end of the day it all boils down to how badly the individual wants to stay sober. This is a very important choice to make in positioning oneself for maximum success.

Image courtesy of numanzaa at

Image courtesy of numanzaa at

There are other things to consider while considering entering into a transitional sober living environment; there are a few that have always stood out to me the most. Can you successfully navigate daily life with these imposed rules and restrictions? Don’t forget, in most cases, following this avenue geared toward long term recovery is voluntary. There are rules to follow but there are no bars on the window. Clients are free to come and go so long as they play by the rules. Some folks are compliant, others not so much. A lot of this has to do with why they are there – what is their intention? It there a sincere desire to reboot life and utilize the structure to color in the lines or are we just trying to stay on the page. There are scenarios for both – and both can work. Is the client there by force – are there legal ramifications if compliance is not met? If the client has gone to treatment and subsequently entering in to sober living under threat of family pressure rather than support, this can be dangerous. Like sobriety, the individual has to want to do things differently.

For me, transitional living was breeze. I lived communally for years and travelled on the road for years as well. “Just a band of gypsies we went down the highway…” For us it wasn’t so much “rules” it was just the things we had to do, the tasks that had to be accomplished for the group to have what it needed, for things to remain clean, organized, keep everyone fed, and so on. Everybody did their part and on down the road we went like a well oiled machine. But one bad seed in the group and the whole mojo would be off. In transitional living it is much the same way. There are chore lists, house meetings, shopping trips for communal and personal items. Everybody contributes in one fashion or another and a really beautiful sort of balance can be achieved.

Now, generally speaking in the case of your average halfway house where the current trend is family funded 20 somethings, utopia is far off. Entitlement and laziness overtake common consideration, personal responsibility and the common goal. A small percentage of people stick with what they learned in treatment. Not the trimmings for the best chance of recovery. After staying within a structured environment for a while, hopefully we have the hang of a lifestyle without drugs and alcohol at the center. A daily healthy and balanced routine it’s time to “get on with it!” Some find it helpful to make this transition over the course of just a few months, others a year or more. I have a very good friend with over 5 years of sobriety. A single mom, she put herself in to a, 18 month program where she could have and raise her daughter, obtain the level of care she needed, and transition slowly back into mainstream life. She is a living success to this type of plan. She is a miracle. It only works if your motives are geared to the proposed outcome. There are never any guarantees.

So if all you want is a semi-safe place to reside and lots of freedom to do whatever the hell you want, whenever you want don’t spend too much time shopping around – anywhere will do. If you want to position yourself in a way for continued success, choose wisely, ask a lot of questions, and most of all, know what you really want out of your recovery and what it will take to get there in these early days of getting a handle of the new lifestyle you’ve chosen.

Joy Anderson - dog lover, Cure fan and all round fabulous person.

Joy Anderson – dog lover, Cure fan and all round fabulous person.

Joy Anderson born in West Palm Beach, FL
My name comes from a friend my mother was visiting in the hospital when she was pregnant with me. The lady said to her, “This baby will be the joy of your life!” the rest is history.
I am a child of the 80’s: I miss Swatches, Rick Springfeld, The Cure, Van Halen – I could go on forever. There was no more awful era fashion-wise (think Miami Vice) and none more filled with great cheesy incredible stuff. Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Beetlejuice….The music and the movies absolutely shaped me. Yes, I’m a geek. Where the lack of self, lack of confidence, increase in poor judgement came in I’ll never know. The goon of addiction hooked me one day and I was on board for years and years.
Not anymore – sober, happy, well employed using my skills and education to do what I do best write and network.

Robin Williams – an everyday tragedy

‘But he was so loved….’
That’s what I’ve heard them most since Robin Williams’s tragic passing. As well as ‘successful, respected, rich, he had everything…’
‘How could he kill himself?’
How indeed?
The question is not how could someone with ‘everything’ kill themselves but rather how can depression be that powerful? That in the face of mass adoration and high regard can someone feel so alone, that the only solution they can see to their pain, is to take their own life?
Because that’s what happened here, despite Robin Williams having ‘everything’ and clearly being loved and adored the world over, his depression was far more powerful.

Yep, depression is that powerful.

The details of his death have yet to emerge but it’s well documented that Mr. Williams was an alcoholic and addict who had achieved long periods of sobriety. He also admitted to recent relapses and struggles which he sought help for.
Alcoholism and depression often go hand in hand. Alcohol works as a depressant on the central nervous system and will therefore cause depression. For many people this is fleeting for others the depression takes hold.
In many ways this is a chicken and egg scenario; does depression cause the sufferer to drink or does drink cause the depression? Who knows and it really doesn’t matter. What matters are mental health problems like depression need to be treated very seriously.
If Robin Williams’s death can teach us anything it is that depression has enormous power. It is hard to comprehend that a man who had access to the best help possible still succumbed to it. Suicide is the last very desperate act of a desperate person. To be suicidal means to have an absence of hope, or any belief, or faith those things could get better. It is a very dark tunnel with no light.

My first feeling when hearing of someone committing suicide is to be angry. I’m angry at them for choosing such a drastic solution, I’m angry at the legacy they leave behind, I’m angry at how selfish and thoughtless it is. I’m angry at the pain they will cause their loved ones. I’m angry even though I know that the black wall of depression was so deep and so impenetrable that Robin Williams truly believed this was the best solution for everyone. When you are that far in the hole it’s very hard to consider the effect your actions may have on others.

It’s also a myth that celebrities suffer from addiction and alcoholism more than the average person. The only reason we think this, is because a celebrity death or downfall due to addiction is always publicized. I have had clients from all walks of life, teachers, bankers, and housewife’s. Addiction and mental health problems do not discriminate, it’s just that when a teacher from Idaho or a house-wife from Cambridge over-doses or kills themselves no one but their immediate family and friends knows about it But all across our country there are people secretly struggling with their own black hole. Some make it out, some don’t. The world is a much sadder place without all of them.

If you or someone you know is suicidal then please contact the national suicidal hotline on: 1800-273-8255

Relapse is not a dirty word

Image courtesy of Naypong at

Image courtesy of Naypong at

We need to talk about relapse.
Relapsing on alcohol and drugs is a very uncomfortable subject for the recovering community. Because relapse can equal death for some people. For others it means more loss, grief and pain.
No one wants to relapse; I have yet to hear anyone describe it as a pleasant experience. Yet so many people do and we need to talk about that.
Relapse can be part of the recovery journey and I don’t think it’s helpful to blame and shame people who do relapse. No matter who they are, they need our love and acceptance, not our judgment.
There can be a slight competitiveness to being sober, we measure sobriety in length of time. But as my friend Carrie Armstrong points out, it’s not the length of your sobriety, but the width and depth too. It’s about the quality of the sobriety you have today and the work you put in to maintaining and enhancing that quality, not just how many years you have.
Because sobriety never comes for free.

Of course, I would prefer it if no one ever relapsed because I hate seeing the pain that comes with it. There are many paths that lead to relapse and they all contain dishonesty. The actual act of relapsing with drugs and alcohol is usually the conclusion of a whole set of behaviors that have preceded it. It is the final result of a process, that starts, in how someone thinks and feels. When an addict in recovery, consistently doesn’t take care of their emotional and spiritual wellbeing, the risk of them relapsing is high.
I see no difference in this, than when someone with heart disease or diabetes just slowly slides into complacency and starts eating the wrong foods or not exercising and skipping their medication.
What happens when they do this? Well, they relapse.
A diabetic may end up in hospital; a heart disease patient could collapse at work. This emergency usually brings the necessary attention that they have not been taken care of themselves.
They are not blamed and shamed.
They are given help, support and treatment.
It’s just not the same for addicts and alcoholics. When they relapse, they are shamed by the services that treat them, but also by their own recovery community.

Because of the misguided use of anonymity the recovery community can be terrified of the public hearing or seeing anyone relapse. We have created this culture of secrecy where anything to with alcoholism, recovery and relapse must be kept hidden and covered up. I don’t believe this is very helpful. Relapse doesn’t show that recovery doesn’t work, it demonstrates that like any disease relapse happens when we stop doing what we need to do to take care of ourselves.
If we want alcoholism accepted as an illness, then we have to accept that people relapse.

I believe that relapse is part of the recovery process just like any other disease. I think you’ll find that most disease sufferers take a little while to get it right and make mistakes along the way. Of course there is risk involved and of course relapse in any disease can lead to death. That is just the reality of living with a chronic illness.
We have to be responsible for our own recovery today and every day after.
I applaud anyone who relapses and has the courage to get back up and ask for help again. I think we could all learn a lot from the courage and humility that demonstrates.

Non-addict looking addicts.

Today we heard the tragic news, that the talented actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman had passed away of a heroin overdose.

Another one.

Just as we were getting over the shock of Corey Monteith’s death, another ‘non-addict looking addict’ has overdosed.
Just like Corey, Phillip Seymour Hoffman just didn’t look like a junkie. He just looked so ‘normal,’ and ‘middle-class,’ he had ‘everything.’
There were no train wreck pictures of him or reports of his bad behavior on film sets. He consistently turned out excellent work.
Apart from the recent reports that he had gone into rehab, no one would ever have know that he had been struggling with addiction.
But he was a drug addict and guess what? It is more common for a drug addict to look like him or Corey Monteith, than it is for them to look like the homeless street bum that everyone imagines.

Addicts live amongst us. I hope that doesn’t shock you, but we are capable of being addicted and being pretty high functioning. We are your friends and your neighbors, we have careers and responsibilities, we look just like everyone else.

But we are addicts and we are struggling for lack of treatment, lack of resources and lack of compassion. Treatment doesn’t always work first time, like many diseases repeated, consistent treatment attempts are needed.
Sometimes the disease is stronger. The blackness in our souls demands relief and faulty brain chemistry pulls us towards instant pleasure, until we find a solution that works for us, we will always crave chemically induced oblivion.

I’m listening to the reports on TV as I write this and I keep hearing the same thing, ‘but he was so talented, so in demand, so successful, he had everything.’
Yes, on the outside he did. It’s very common for addicts to be very successful in many areas of their lives. It often looks like we have ‘everything.’
But success isn’t enough; external accomplishments do nothing to heal internal pain or fix our brain chemistry.

More is never enough.

It’s really too early to speculate on the circumstances that lead up to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. The details may come out or we may never know why addiction won and recovery lost this time.
If anything can be learned from this tragic loss, it is the understanding that addiction is alive and well and living next door.
And more, much more needs to be done about it.

Communication is about the response you get.

It’s tempting, when we have been misunderstood or have inadvertently caused hurt to blame the other person.
They’re stupid, they didn’t listen, they didn’t try to understand.
It always seems easier to try and make the other person wrong, so we can sit more comfortably in our own righteous indignation.
But that doesn’t really work for me anymore. It’s not a path that leads to serenity and connection.
What I love about recovery is the opportunity I get to grow. Just when I think I’ve got it sorted an A.F.G.A (Another. F**king. Growth. Opportunity) comes along…
Experience has shown me, that my most delicious growth usually comes from when I f**k up.

Communication is about the response you get.
Which means it is not the fault of the listener if you have been misunderstood.
It’s not up to them to listen ‘harder or better.’ The responsibility lies with the communicator to asses, what and how, they are communicating.
If you pay attention to the responses you get from people, you will get a clear picture of whether you are the hitting the mark or not.

I didn’t hit the mark yesterday.

Yesterday, I posted a blog about Elizabeth Vargas, I thought it was a pretty good blog post and was really proud of it. I published it and got a very mixed response. That’s ok, some posts of mine have done that before, I appreciate not everyone agrees with me and I like constructive feedback.
But this time I also hurt someone who has been a great supporter of mine and that stopped me in my tracks.
What had I communicated? Why had I done such a bad job? Why didn’t I see that before?

What I thought I was commenting on, was the timing of Elizabeth Vargas admitting she was an alcoholic. Not that she was the first public person to ever admit she was one.
I thought we were witnessing something ground breaking. That someone in the public eye had chosen to treat their alcoholism like breast cancer and discuss it from the word, go.
But sadly I was wrong.

It seems that Elizabeth Vargas was being pressured by the press and she didn’t choose to discuss her alcoholism publically. She was forced to.
The truth is, I think I was seeing what I wanted to see.
Unfortunately this is just another case of another celebrity being shamed by the press into admitting their alcoholism or addiction problem.

That itself should have been the story.
We don’t see public figures shamed or pressured into admitting they have diabetes, cancer, lupus or Parkinson’s.
But alcoholism is still seen as moral or character failing rather than the disease that it is.
The shift that I had imagined to take place, was one where someone could say;
‘I’ve just discovered that I’m suffering from the disease of alcoholism, that is why I have been behaving the way I do. Luckily there is effective treatment so I’m very hopeful I will be able to get better.’
In the same way people can currently say; ‘ I’ve just discovered I have breast cancer, that is why I have been feeling so under the weather. Luckily there is effective treatment and I’m really hopeful I’ll make a full recovery.’
Because there is so much shame still attached to the disease of alcoholism I thought another brick in that wall had been dismantled.

That’s what I thought Elizabeth Vargas had done, which is why I compared her to Ellen DeGeneres. I do see a lot of parallels with the gay community and their struggle for acceptance and understanding.
But the truth is (as someone pointed out to me) we are all ‘Ellen.’ Including every celebrity that has spoken out about their alcoholism and addiction, this has made the path just a little bit easier for ordinary folk. And when I speak out, I make it easier for my neighbor or friend at work to ask for help.

That is why communication is so important.

From Betty Ford and continuing with so many others (there are just too many to list and I don’t want to leave anyone off) people in the public eye have continued to bravely discuss the diseases of alcoholism and how it affected them. If they hadn’t have done this, I would still have to live in shame, afraid that someone will find out, I suffer from a disease the American Medical Association recognized in 1956.
Thanks to these pioneers, I don’t have to be.
But we have a long way to go.
No one should be bullied or pressured into saying they are an alcoholic, this just reinforces the misconception that alcoholism is something to be ashamed of.

Image courtesy of bigjom /

Image courtesy of bigjom /

So thank you for all of your responses it made me reassess what I was communicating and I need to tell you I was wrong in my assertion and I apologize for that and for any offense that was caused.
But most of all I need to thank you for the opportunity to grow.

Why Elizabeth Vargas has given the recovery movement its ‘Ellen’ moment.

There is a website called ‘After Ellen’ that is dedicated to the representation of lesbian and bi women in popular culture. The ‘Ellen’ they are referring to, is comedienne Ellen DeGeneres who came out as a lesbian in 1997.
It was a defining moment for the gay community.
DeGeneres had been dodging questions and rumors about her love life for years. It was pretty obvious she was gay, but back in the 90’s this was not something a entertainer as popular as her was prepared to say publically.
It would be career suicide.
She would be labeled as that ‘lesbian comedienne’ or ‘dyke actress’ and mainstream TV wouldn’t touch her again.
Despite the enormous personal risk, Ellen refused to live her life in fear and shame for being who she was.
She was a lesbian, she loved women, that was her truth and she couldn’t live her life any other way.
Well you know what happened next.

Seventeen years later, Ellen is one of the most popular and well-loved entertainers in the industry. She is an attractive, authentic and hilarious person who happens to be gay.
What Ellen did was transformational for the gay community, she threw the door open for ordinary gay people to live in truth too.
Before Ellen this just wasn’t possible.
This one deeply personal and brave act had a ripple effect that touched everyone.

Enter Elizabeth Vargas, who has just done exactly the same thing for the recovery community.
Elizabeth publically announced in the most dignified manner, that she had an alcohol problem and was seeking professional help.
Take a second to absorb this.
Elizabeth hasn’t done anything original here, plenty of celebrities have publicly admitted they are alcoholics or addicts.
What is important here is when Elizabeth did it.
Elizabeth wasn’t ‘outed,’ there have been no pictures or salacious stories of her drinking behavior. She didn’t volunteer this information because she was cornered and wanted to get the press of her back.
She did it exactly the same way Good Morning America presenter, Amy Robach just announced she had breast cancer.
She treated alcoholism as the disease it is. Nothing to be ashamed of but something that needed professional help to be addressed.
She did it, as it was happening to her, not after her sobriety has been established.

What Elizabeth Vargas did was huge.

In many ways this is not about the celebrity it’s about the moment. Many public figures have discussed their alcoholism and addiction issues and how they got sober. Because of this, they have normalized it for ordinary people. They have paved the way for someone like Elizabeth to discuss their treatment for alcoholism, as it was happening. Just like, if she had been diagnosed with cancer, diabetes or lupus.

There is a momentum in the recovery community and we are refusing to be secretive about our addiction and recovery any more.
All of that, has led to this moment.
Announcing you were an alcoholic and were going to seek treatment would have been the equivalent of career suicide for anyone before. If people go public about being in recovery, they do it after they have established some sobriety, not as they are about to go into treatment (unless forced to like Lindsay Lohan).

Until Elizabeth.

This is the moment where everything could change for those suffering from the disease of addiction.
By normalizing the recovery process right from the start, Elizabeth has been an example of what the future could be like for us.

Ellen DeGeneres’s coming out made it easier, not only for celebrities to come out, but more importantly she made it easier for your next door neighbor, or your buddy at work to come out.
Ellen made being ‘gay’ a normal, regular thing. She gave it dignity, she refused to be ashamed of whom she was and became an example of what is possible, when one is brave enough to live their truth.

And Elizabeth has done the same for us.
In treating her alcoholism with frankness and dignity, she only invited admiration and respect into her life. No one has judged her for being a drunk or a lush; instead she has been given empathy and understanding. Elizabeth refused to be ashamed and because of that she has earned a tremendous amount of respect.

So thank you to everyone who has spoken publicly about their addiction and thank you Elizabeth, you may not realize what it is you have actually done. But from this day forth, we may refer to the battle for more tolerance, understanding and better treatment for addicts and alcoholics as ‘Before Elizabeth’ and ‘After Elizabeth’ moments.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut /

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut /

Because you have shown us how it can be done.
We are not alcoholics because we have some character flaw or moral failing. We just have a disease that needs treatment.
So maybe, from there, my next-door neighbor or buddy at work, can be honest and frank about their addiction or drink problem and admit they were getting help years earlier than they may have done before. Instead of skulking in the shadows and making up excuses for their behavior, maybe they can finally be honest and be treated with the same respect and understanding.
Maybe, finally, the world can see alcoholism is a disease like any other, and can be treated as such, right from the start.

‘After Elizabeth,’ recovery is never going to be the same again.

There is a follow up to this post here. I didn’t get this right and have followed up on how in a subsequent post.

Visible Recovery Treatment Centre

Simon Bowen used to be a homeless drunk who heard voices in his head. Fast forward 10 years and he is welcoming local politicians to the opening of his treatment centre Visible Recovery in Adelaide, Australia.

From L to R:- Dr Roly Vinci (Medical Director), Hon John Dawkins MLC (Liberal Party Whip), Hon Ian Hunter (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs), Ken Lodge ( Director), Simon Bowen (Managing Director) Duncan McFetridge MP (Shadow Health Minister), Steven Marshall MP (Leader of The Liberal Party and Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister),  Hon Mark Parnell MLC (Leader of the Greens SA). Photo taken by Sue Lodge.

From L to R:- Dr Roly Vinci (Medical Director), Hon John Dawkins MLC (Liberal Party Whip), Hon Ian Hunter (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs), Ken Lodge ( Director), Simon Bowen (Managing Director) Duncan McFetridge MP (Shadow Health Minister), Steven Marshall MP (Leader of The Liberal Party and Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister), Hon Mark Parnell MLC (Leader of the Greens SA). Photo taken by Sue Lodge.

Visible Recovery offers 12-step residential treatment in programs ranging from 28 days to 12-months. They aim to provide a safe, professional, therapeutic environment where men and women can end their addiction and regain their health and lives back.

There is a desperate need for treatment beds in Adelaide, so Simon and his team decided they wanted to try fill some of the gaps they saw in treatment services. They currently have 12 beds and their goal is to establish Visible Recovery before opening a separate clinic for clients exiting the prison system.
Simon and his team offer a free initial assessment and encourage potential clients to go home and think about making the commitment to treatment before being admitted. This is because they don’t want to persuade anyone to get sober, they know their method works and they want clients to take responsibility for their recovery by choosing treatment.

My editor Annemarie Young (who is a native Aussie) visited Visible Recovery on her trip home over at Christmas and was really impressed with the facilities and the warm welcome she and her husband received.
Having opened and run my own treatment centre in the UK I know from personal experience just how hard it is and how much work goes into running a facility. Simon is a testament to what is possible when someone works a recovery program and puts sobriety before anything else. Now he is taking that knowledge and experience to help others.

Visible Recovery by Emma Rieger

Visible Recovery by Emma Rieger

Visible Recovery admitted it’s first patents on the 6th of January 2014 and I want to wish them them the very best of luck for the future. If you are an alcoholic or addict in South Australia and are looking for help then I recommend you give Visible Recovery a call.

No payment was made for this post.

Why we need Sober High Schools

I started getting into bars and drinking at 14. By 15 I was smoking pot, at 16 I had left home and was dropping acid. At 17 I snorted speed and coke and by the time I was 18 I was having 20 panic attacks and extreme anxiety every day.
I just about made it through school, my grades were in the toilet. I couldn’t wait to leave and get a job because I wanted to make money so I could party even more.
This was a long time ago (OK, back in the 80’s, you do the math) and I had never heard of sobriety let alone rehab or a sober high school. I can’t imagine what a difference they would have made to my life.
I remember being 17 years old and suicidal. I would stand at the side of the road and look at the bus coming towards me and try to rustle up the courage to step in front of it. I knew something was very, very wrong with me.
I really didn’t want to die, I just didn’t know how live and I had no idea where to get help.

After 12 years of hell I finally got sober. It was a close thing, I nearly died either by putting myself in dangerous situations or because I was often suicidal. I have no idea why I’m not dead or wasn’t raped or attacked. I thought I’d permanently impaired my mental health but I managed to escape that hole as well.
I was one of the lucky ones but so many are not.

I’ve spent a lot of my professional life working with teenagers and they really are the most incredible group to work with. With the right help they still have a real shot at turning their lives around and overcoming their problems to lead happy and successful lives.
I know, I’ve seen it.
We have to invest in our children.
Sober High Schools can make that difference, they can take a life destined for destruction and put it back on track.
Addiction isn’t a behavioural problem or even a choice. It’s a response to an internal condition.
It’s a cry for help.
And we MUST respond to it.

Kristen Johnston - SLAM NYC

Kristen Johnston – SLAM NYC

Which is why I want to support Kristen Johnston’s efforts in bringing a sober high school to New York City. Instead of explaining why this is so important, I’m going to ask you to watch this brief video. And then if you want to help by owning a very cool ‘Gut’s T-shirt (and who wouldn’t want a stoned Kristen Johnston across their chest) to support SLAM (Sober Learning and Motivation). You can buy one here. Today there are 30 Sober High Schools flourishing across the United States and yet not one of them is in New York City. After Kristen gets her way (and she will) and starts one in New York, I’m going to ask her to campaign for one in London. In the UK the last rehab dedicated for teenagers closed a few years ago. It really doesn’t matter where these kids are, they need our help. If you have been touched by addiction, please think about what you can do to support them.

Recovery Rocks – Chip Somers

Chip Somers is the co-founder and CEO of Focus12 Treatment Centre in Bury St Edmunds UK. Focus12 was the first treatment centre I worked in, and it really did teach me everything I know.
Focus12 Treatment Centre
It’s an inspiring place, where no matter what they have done or how low they have gone, addicts and alcoholics are treated with the utmost love and respect.
For 16 years they have been putting lives and families back together.
Although they get lots of support from their patrons Russell Brand, Boy George and Davina McCall. As a charity they are always need to raise extra funds which is why I’m donating 15% of the proceeds from my book: ‘Why you drink and How to stop: Journey to freedom’ to help support the marvellous work they do.

One of the highlights of working at Focus12 is seeing all the former clients and families at the annual reunion.
I’ve attended these over the years and it’s extraordinary to see how former clients have turned their lives around. People change so much physically when they get clean and sober, that I often see former clients and can’t physically recognise them.
When an addict or alcoholic gets clean, it not only transforms their own lives, but the lives of the people who love them also.

I read about the statistics of recovery all the time and they paint such a miserable picture of failure. The percentage of failure is high, and yet when I go to a Focus12 reunion I see hundreds upon hundreds of people whose lives have been transformed.
So something’s working.
In fact, it’s working so well that Focus12 have had to regularly move the reunion to larger venues because they don’t accommodate all the people who have got clean and sober there.

There is a plaque on the wall when you enter Focus12 and it sums up the phillosphy of it’s program and the ethos of it’s staff:
“Treat a man as he were what he ought to be and you help him become what he is capable of being”

When you know Chip it’s hard to believe he was a hard-core addict who lived on the streets and would do anything for his next hit of heroin.
I’ve only known him as a respectable and humble recovering addict. Since getting clean and sober several decades ago he has tirelessly helped addicts and alcoholics turn their lives around

I’m so glad I can share some of his story here.


1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
I was supposed to be looking after my daughter who had come to me saying she was hungry.
This was quite difficult for her to do, she was 8, I eventually managed to borrow a tenner of someone and went straight away and bought drugs with it.
Came home a few hours later to find my daughter crying and frightened as I had not only left her alone but without food too. I had met a few people in recovery by then so this action hit home hard.

2) What was your ‘moment of truth’ or ‘clarity’ that prompted you to get sober/clean?’
Doing Step 1 in treatment and seeing clearly for the first time in my life the way that my drink/drug use had devastated every area of my life and never benefitted me in any way.

3) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
Good. A bit scary, I found social situations hard but I was so thrilled not to be using and having to hustle every day.
I felt a huge weight lifted from me.
I was desperately self obsessed but everything was novel, every experience was new and I started to realize I was not a piece of shit. People were kind to me and identified with me – that was very important

4) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
I have life. I have an amazing career. I have left a legacy of good things. I have a stable home. I have an amazing marriage.
I have incredible friends. I am never alone. I travel freely. I am the man I always wanted to be.

5) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
“You’re not useless! You’re actually quite a capable man and people like you for you’

6) What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober/clean?
That it is OK to be flawed. That actually knowing about my flaws and almost finding them humorous has relieved me of trying to be perfect and of course failing all the time. I have learnt I am kind and responsible with a gift for being able to inspire other people

7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?

Keep it Simple.
One day at a time.
Stick with the winners

8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery rocks because if you are in recovery you can do anything you want to do. You can see the world, discover new things every day and be a feeling being part of society and at times, at peace with yourself.