At SpringBoard, we pride ourselves in having a team that is truly passionate about helping others. In addition to the academic training needed to succeed in treating drug and alcohol addiction, we possess first-hand knowledge of recovery from substance abuse.
Our dedicated team is committed to helping you or your loved one navigate the road to life-long recovery. So we thought that you’d like to meet them! As we continue our series “Getting To Know Our SpringBoard Recovery Staff,” we talk with Steve Laats, our Senior Director of Business Operations.
An Interview with Steve Laats, Senior Director of Business Operations
Getting To Know Our SpringBoard Recovery Staff
What attracted you to work at SpringBoard Recovery?
The nucleus of the company is a group of passionate and like-minded individuals that are all wanting to help provide the best treatment to people suffering from addiction. This truly sets the pace for a great culture and a staff of individuals that want nothing but to see everyone succeed.
This was just the type of company that I wanted to be involved in. My background and passion seemed to align with the company’s very quickly, and I knew it was the right place to be at.
What brought you to work in this industry?
For over 15 years, I had kept my recovery separate from my professional life. It was not until I reached a certain point in my recovery and my career did I make that leap of faith into this industry.
I had gained a lot of professional knowledge in several industries that are great assets when it comes to developing a treatment center. Combining my experiences being in recovery with my professional knowledge, I felt that I could really help create a life-changing experience for people in treatment.
What would you consider to be your top 3 accomplishments while in this industry?
Being part of a program that has truly given people a new lease on life is, for me, by far the greatest accomplishment.
How long have you been working in the addiction recovery industry?
In your opinion, what’s the most important aspect to achieving addiction recovery?
Willingness. Everything I knew when I was using is not applicable while in recovery… I had to learn that I didn’t have the answers; I needed to be willing to listen, learn, accept, and do something different than what my best thinking was telling me to do.
The Power of Willingness in Recovery
Addiction treatment has been found to rarely work successfully when it has been forced upon someone – without their cooperation. For example, in Portugal, where drug possession has been radically decriminalized, those that have been caught with illegal substances are, instead, offered access to treatment resources.
Many willingly accept the offer, and Portugal can chalk up yet another success in its long-term plan to battle, or, at least, get a grip on the nation’s drug addiction problem.
However, there is no penalty, none whatsoever, if that same person refuses. No prison sentence, no fine.
The addiction treatment industry has long accepted the need for “willingness” to be an intrinsic part of future patient outcomes when it comes to treatment. An unwilling patient becomes, at the very best, an unwilling drug addict in recovery. That temporary situation never lasts long, especially if the patient is more willing to actively relapse than stay clean and sober.
Willingness – complete, unerring willingness – is key to achieving long-term sobriety while in recovery. While recovery can become an actual pleasure for many, it undoubtedly still takes a huge amount of willingness to push through the weeks and months of early sobriety.
To achieve the aim of long-term sobriety, we need to have an abundance of willingness in the following aspects of early recovery:
- Willing to experience profound discomfort: The prospect of entering a rehab treatment center for an extended, often unknown period of time will make anyone uncomfortable, especially when they understand they will be denied the only thing that currently makes them feel “ok.” Well, their idea of being ok, at any rate.
- Willing to to listen and learn: Addicts are intensely stubborn human beings. However, it is essential to have the willingness to take direction in early sobriety from those who have achieved it long-term.
- Willing to trust the unknown: At the beginning of recovery, the thought of even staying sober for a week seems an impossible feat – forget a lifetime. However, and regardless that we have failed at every prior attempt to stay sober on our own, it is vital to trust the process. A person in recovery does not need to understand why the program works – only that it does.
If possible, please briefly describe your own journey to recovery; for example, what was your drug of choice, and what motivated you to get help?
I had a lot of childhood trauma that stemmed from death and the loss of loved ones. I started using at a very young age – 13 years old to be exact. I was addicted to meth, alcohol, and anything else that I could get my hands on at age 14.
My life went out of control quickly and I became a cancer to my family and society within no time.
My decisions were so detrimental that I was homeless by the time I was 17 years old. Ultimately, I hit a bottom that shook me to the core, and I was able to get clean when I was 18 years old. I knew that I was on the path that would lead me to some kind of institution or, eventually, death, and I had to make some kind of change.
The Dangers of Adolescent Methamphetamine Abuse
Adolescence is a crucial time for the physical and mental development and maturity of a young person, especially for the normal development of the brain’s structure, connections, and cognitive pathways.
In medical terms, the adolescent’s brain undergoes a number of processes, such as “dynamic synaptic reorganization” – as the brain matures, it reorganizes its synapses (the junctions between cells) by either eliminating them or enhancing them, and “myelination,” the process of forming a myelin sheath around a nerve to allow nerve impulses to move more quickly and efficiently.
These processes are vital to the brain maturing correctly – however, potent and addictive substances such as methamphetamine (or meth) can have a destructive impact on these occurring correctly.
In fact, the chronic use of meth can produce persistent neuronal damage, especially in teenagers and adolescents.
The regions of the brain where this damage occurs are associated with both inhibitory control and the preference for delayed gratification. Therefore, if an adolescent abuses meth, they are already at a greater risk of consistently relapsing after treatment and their addiction will be much more severe compared with adult drug users.
Methamphetamine & Prescription Stimulant Abuse Among U.S. Adolescents
Meth is a stimulant drug that radically boosts brain activity, and it is available in many forms, ranging from the illegal “street” version – crystal meth – to prescription medications for narcolepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and weight loss. It’s a powerful stimulant, too – meaning medical versions can be dangerous and addictive when misused or used for an extended time.
Additionally, it’s possible to build a “tolerance” to these drugs; therefore, if your adolescent requires increasingly higher doses of the same prescription medication to maintain the same effects, it should be considered a sign of dependency.
Between physicians’ prescription stimulants and crystal meth bought on the street, an estimated 86,000 U.S. adolescents (between the ages of 12 and 17) were affected by meth addiction in 2017 alone.
Street Meth / Crystal Meth
Crystal meth, normally purchased from drug dealers as a rock-like substance, is produced in cheap and dangerous illegal labs, even family kitchens, and most commonly smoked, allowing the drug to enter the bloodstream more quickly and so affect the brain.
However, when purchased off the street, the buyer has no idea what has been cut into the drug prior to selling. In recent months, fatal drug overdoses across the U.S. have spiked dangerously – primarily, because fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, and up to 50-100 times stronger than morphine, is now being regularly mixed into drugs such as meth, heroin, and cocaine.
For adolescents who have previously used prescription stimulants, eg. Adderall or Ritalin, changing to crystal meth can put them at a higher risk of overdosing, due to popular misconceptions that they are similar. Therefore, using street meth that, unbeknown to the user, has fentanyl cut into the substance, places them at an even higher risk of overdose and death.
How Meth & Its Abuse Affect the Brain
Meth’s primary effect on the brain is the over-stimulation of particular pathways that are responsible for regulating energy, focus, and mood, which results in a rush of euphoria and heightened alertness, making individuals feel happier, with fewer inhibitions and far less concern about the consequences of any actions. Such highs directly encourage the user to engage in risky and impulsive behaviors – for example, underage drinking, unprotected sex, crime, or physical assault.
Furthermore, as with most illegal drugs, the brain is fooled into releasing far more dopamine (the “happy chemical”) than normal. This “reward system” not only provides the “feel-good” effect – it trains your brain and body to want to do the identical things that produced these effects, again and again, ie. addictive behavior.
Because the peak of a meth high lasts only a few minutes, and it then quickly ebbs, users will often take more of the drug within a single session of using, creating a “binge” habit necessary to extend the high. However, this bingeing results in a far more drastic “come down.”
This abrupt, stark contrast between the extreme high and extreme low only strengthens the dependency – to keep using the drug.
Tackling addiction is possibly only one component of recovery. How important is it to treat any co-occurring disorders that may exist?
Getting clean is a huge life change and an accomplishment for anyone that is suffering from addiction… and it is the foundation of everything positive in life. However, true freedom is when you are able to accept and address any co-occurring disorders along with your addiction.
Our country is currently under a lot of stress right now – from the coronavirus pandemic to the unforeseen economic crisis that has come with it. How does all this affect addiction rates – firstly, in general, secondly, here in Arizona, and, lastly, at a local level?
As a country, we are in a situation that we have never faced before. Everyone knows someone that is suffering from addiction already, and the accessibility to get addicted to substances is easier than ever.
You take someone that is in an altered state of being and add a huge dose of change, fear, and isolation… you get an accelerated eruption of issues in our society and individuals that may not have been present before. A cycle begins where people try to deal with these situations themselves, and self-medicate and isolate, which can quickly lead to thoughts of impending doom.
If someone is actually able to stop what they are doing and reach out for help, they are often met with huge obstacles. No money… no insurance… navigating a difficult health-care system when you are truly begging for your life can be devastating.
This situation can put people into a deadly cycle of using and helplessness/hopelessness. Addiction rates are increasing at a staggering measure, and the pandemic has monopolized our healthcare system’s attention. This is a recipe for disaster that we will be dealing with long after the pandemic is gone.
Note: You can read our statement on how we have implemented the necessary CDC recommendations, and more, to ensure the health and wellbeing of our valued clients, their families, and our own staff here.
What would you personally say to someone with a drug or alcohol problem (or has a loved one with a problem) who is considering getting help?
Just go and get help… hold on and know that if you don’t use for 5 minutes, that can turn into 30 minutes, which can turn into an hour, and that will turn into a day. Sometimes that is all you can do… hold on for 5 minutes at a time.
When you tell someone you just met that you are in the addiction treatment industry, what are the three most common questions you get asked?
Most people tell me that they know someone that has gone through a treatment program before. Then, they usually ask what is the most common substance people are going to treatment for – followed by what brought me to get into this industry.
How do you respond to people who say that “treatment doesn’t work”?
Everyone is on an individual path… and when someone is not ready to address their addiction and any other underlying issues on a daily basis, they are probably correct. Treatment only works when you go and learn, participate, and apply the tools taught by the treatment facility.
What do you do to unwind and relax after a hard day at the office, and did any of this stem from your own addiction recovery, eg. yoga, mindfulness, etc?
I stay active as much as possible with my wife and dogs… Finding adventures, and always staying close to people that inspire me.
– With thanks to Steve Laats for his excellent and honest responses to our questions.
- Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/people-with-drug-addictions-forced-into-rehab
- Merriam-Webster: https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/willingness
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
- healthychildren.org: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/Pages/Stages-of-Adolescence.aspx
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892678/
- Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/drug-tolerance
- National Survey on Drug Use and Health: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2017-nsduh-annual-national-report
- Foundation for a Drug-Free World: https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/crystalmeth.html
- Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326219
- Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/dopamine-effects