Surviving Addiction: Our Candid Discussion with Arizona’s Family
During National Recovery Awareness Month (September, 2020), SpringBoard Recovery, located in Scottsdale, were kindly invited into the virtual Facebook live studios of Arizona’s Family, the largest news organization in the Grand Canyon state, for a “Surviving Addiction” special social media broadcast.
Representing SpringBoard were our Executive Director, Alexa Morgenroth, MA., once a former heroin addict herself, now with many years sober, and an expert in Developmental Psychology, as well as our Director of Admissions, Josh Lemieux, again once a former addict (in Josh’s case, it was heroin and crack cocaine), who is actually an alumni of our facility, a former patient who found his long-term recovery with SpringBoard.
Hosting the live event was famous news personality Brandon Lee – a five-times Emmy Award-winning news anchor, the best-selling author of “Mascara Boy: Bullied, Assaulted & Near Death, Surviving Trauma & Addiction,” and a recovering addict himself, having overcome his own nightmare of sexual abuse, opioid addiction and traumatic brain injury.
All of those present on camera during the Facebook live special – “Surviving Addiction” – clearly have their own incredible and inspiring stories of recovery to tell, but the focus here was centered primarily on these topics:
- Ending the Stigma of Addiction
- Partial Hospitalization, Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Program Options
- Additional Therapeutic Activities (such as yoga, kick-boxing, and equine therapy), and
- Post-Care Treatment: Recovery Coaching
Surviving Addiction: Finding Recovery During the COVID-19 Era
In his opening segment of the Facebook live special, “Surviving Addiction,” Brandon Lee reported an ominous new finding regarding substance addiction during this era of the COVID-19 pandemic. More people are currently dying of drug overdose in the U.S. right now, and regardless of difficulty, addiction is still a treatable, chronic disease, than they are those dying from coronavirus itself, and that is before the emergence of an approved vaccine for the virus.
He’s right, too.
Only last month (the same month as this live broadcast), the American Medical Association’s Advocacy Resource Center published its latest issue brief – “Reports of Increases in Opioid- and Other Drug-Related Overdose and Other Concerns During COVID Pandemic.”
The report revealed “an increasing number of reports from national, state and local media suggesting increases in opioid- and other drug-related mortality – particularly from illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs. More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality, as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder.”
In case you were wondering, Arizona is one of those 40 U.S. states.
More and more drug addicts, abusers, mental health disorder sufferers, and recreational drug users are now buying their usual “self-medication” from new and unknown drug dealers – their normal supply chains continue to be disrupted by the pandemic. Many of these people have little or no idea what’s in the majority of these illicit substances. Unbeknown to them, it is now costing more lives. Soon, it well may be them who prematurely end up on a mortuary slab.
The primary reason for this is the use of the highly dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl, which is now being routinely cut into cocaine and methamphetamine supplies, as well as the usual black market opioids, including heroin. In fact, since the restrictive Stay-at-Home orders came into force around mid-March, and compared to rates from January and February of this year, suspected drug overdoses across the nation have risen almost 18%. That’s nearly a fifth.
Brandon Lee also quoted Dr. Cara Christ, the Arizona Department of Health Services’ director, as her department observed an increase in deaths due to suicide and drug overdose during the COVID-19 pandemic. During a news conference, held on July 16, she stated, “We are seeing an increase in drug overdose and in suicides, not just here in Arizona but nationally. Could some of that be associated [with] isolation and loneliness? That was one of the things that we were worried about.”
1. Alexa Morgenroth
First to be interviewed by Brandon Lee was our very own Executive Director here at SpringBoard Recovery, Alexa Morgenroth. Addressing the first topic for discussion – ending the stigma of addiction – Alexa said that the practice of de-stigmatization is plainly evident from Day One of a patient’s arrival at the facility.
Being Refreshingly Human
The facility’s motto, appropriately, is “Refreshingly Human,” and all incoming patients are treated as family – as mothers, as fathers, as sisters, and as brothers. As Alexa said, we “treat everybody like they were our own.” She continued by saying that the coronavirus pandemic had obviously had a direct effect on addiction treatment provision within Arizona and beyond, but SpringBoard is still able to offer the same clinical programming with “safe, in-person meetings” with patients and the facility’s alumni, and all safely within the state’s protocols for such a level of interaction.
“People in recovery need that community of recovery.
They need others to help support them.”
Alexa Morgenroth, MA., Executive Director of SpringBoard Recovery
As she said in her quote below the above image, it is the “community of recovery” – the simple matters of being able to speak directly with those who are supporting a recovering addict, and to establish that personal connection – that is vital to both a patient’s mental wellbeing, and the chances of a sustainable, long-term recovery.
SpringBoard Recovery’s Addiction Treatment Options
When asked by Brandon Lee about the addiction treatment options available to potential patients at SpringBoard Recovery, Alexa answered that there was both a Partial Hospitalization Program (known as PHP), which lasts approximately 6 weeks, and is divided into groups for men or women, and an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for the continuation of prior treatment, or as a stand-alone treatment option for those who are restricted by individual circumstances, eg. working professionals, mothers of children, etc.
Partial Hospitalization Program
PHP is a day program, held in a structured environment within the facility, and the clinical programming for patients is centered on a therapy known as ART, which is abbreviated from its full title Accelerated Resolution Therapy.
ART is an evidence-based focus therapy, only introduced clinically in 2008, based on the eye movements of a patient, and, in that respect, is similar to EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Like EMDR, ART is based on the Adaptive Information Processing model, which clinically states that the reprocessing of a person’s stored memories of originally traumatic events (and other experiential factors to those events) can have a positive effect in the treatment of most clinical complaints, including addiction.
ART is a relatively new therapy which focuses on finding the clear, existing connections in our brains, and uses those very same connections to resolve patient trauma. The therapist running the session will actually direct the patient during ART, whereas an EMDR session is directed by the content uncovered, and so takes longer.
ART therapy consistently provides excellent patient outcomes, with many patients experiencing a positive effect on their post-traumatic stress within only 2-8 sessions. The SAMHSA has also identified ART as a “promising” therapy for disruptive behavior issues and antisocial behaviors; however, many addiction therapists are reporting remarkable success in treating both substance abuse and obsessive-compulsive issues with ART.
Intensive Outpatient Program
IOP is a more flexible program, allowing those who are restricted by individual circumstances, such as working professionals and mothers, to attend addiction treatment in an approved schedule that enables their attendance, eg. during the evening or at weekends. The approach that SpringBoard Recovery takes to help patients find recovery is a “holistic” one, where the focus is equally on the mind, the body, and the spirit.
To this end, the IOP also includes more additional therapeutic activities that combine together to bring the necessary holistic benefits to patients. These therapeutic activities include:
- Equine therapy
- Nutritional counseling, and
- Spiritual advising
Alexa further stated that recovery from addiction should be a fun experience for patients. When patients arrive at the facility, they are all too often without hope, depressed, ashamed and stigmatized, with the view that they are an addict because something is fundamentally wrong with them. They need reminding that we are all human, we make mistakes, and we can get better one day at a time. She continued that it was her fundamental belief that trauma is the gateway into a life of addiction.
2. Josh Lemieux
Josh Lemieux is SpringBoard Recovery’s Director of Admissions, and, just as importantly, is an alumni of SpringBoard’s recovery program, who is able to share his story with those who contact the facility, creating an instant rapport with those in need of help – drug addicts and their families alike.
Josh was addicted to both heroin and crack cocaine, describing it as so powerful it “brought me to my knees, 140 pounds, no fight left in me.” Thanks to SpringBoard’s own clinical programming, he is now 3 and a half years sober.
Josh Lemieux, Director of Admissions and an alumni of SpringBoard Recovery
Josh cites SpringBoard immediately giving him “love, compassion and empathy” when he, like most other patients, felt he had none of those things in his life at that time, having been cut off by his family, no contact with his children, and that his girlfriend had just left him.
In his words, SpringBoard Recovery “showed me love, and picked me up.” It was only through the facility’s clinical program that he was able to get to the root of his problem, and, once that was done, recovery started to happen for him.
3. Michele Canale, “Modern Recovery”
Brandon Lee’s final guest on the live special, “Surviving Addiction,” was Michele Canale, Executive Director and the owner of Modern recovery, an addiction service that partners with treatment centers to provide post-care treatment through the use of recovery coaches. Herself a recovering addict, with 20 years sober, she had previously worked as a clinician within the addiction services sector.
Brandon Lee closed the “Surviving Addiction” special event with the following words:
“We live in the wealthiest country in the entire world. There should never be an excuse. If somebody needs help, if they need to battle addiction, if they need to break the addiction, with our resources, money should never be the preventative thing that stops somebody from getting help.”