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Saturday, January 30, 2016


AMC's hit series, Breaking Bad provided many of us with a peak into the horrors of meth use. However, unless you see it for yourself, you cannot fully understand how ugly this drug really is. I unfortunately, can say that I have witnessed, first hand the devastation meth can reak.

Let me tell you the story of my friend Chris...

I first met Chris in my freshman year at college. We were randomly paired to be roommates. It was
indeed an odd coupling. Here I was, a lanky long-haired slacker from Southern New Jersey, unsure of what I was really doing at a university. And here is Chris, a driven, confident, overachiever. In our first few days on campus he had already volunteered to assist in the local mayoral campaign. I was intimidated. I thought to myself: I'm lost compared to this guy. I haven't even considered a major. Chris came to college as valedictorian of his high school under his belt. I came in with loose jeans because I had forgotten to pack a belt. I may have been awarded "most likely to fall asleep during class."

Surprisingly, we got along very well. In fact, we remain friends today, nearly 15 years later. While in school, we didn't remain living together for all four years, but had mutual friends and kept in touch. After graduation, Chris immediately acquired a great job with a promising career. He landed with a large, nationally-recognized consulting firm. I started a little more slowly but nabbed an entry-level position at a small marketing company with room for growth. Given our college career, this contrast was no surprise. Chris always reached for the stars. I reached for the next keg beer.

Of course we grew apart somewhat and lost touch in our mid-twenties. It often happens with college friendships. However, we saw each other at an alumni function about five years ago. We exchanged the good news of our lives. I was doing well - married, and somewhat financially secure. Chris had recently come out as a gay male, met someone special, and became an executive-level employee at his firm. Things were ho-hum for us both and it was good to catch up. I wasn't surprised at all by his success.

Some years later, Chris and I coincidentally wound living in the same city, merely blocks from one another. Upon recently discovering this, we agreed to reconnect. I recall being nervous about telling Chris of my divorce.

Before I could even broach that touch subject, Chris came out to me again. Only this time, it was about his meth abuse.

I was astonished. Not this guy, I thought to myself. I can imagine 1,000 others with whom we graduated turning to hard drugs before Chris. When the initial shock of the confession wore off, I saw Chris as friend in need. I knew he was struggling, but I also know that he is capable of greatness. With the support of his friends and family, I figured we can help him through this difficult time. I decided to spend as much time as possible in the following weeks. In hindsight, this was not enough. Boy was I wrong about that and I regret not insisting an inpatient program for Chris sooner.

I'll go back to the TV show, Breaking Bad. The way it depicts meth abusers is somewhat accurate and well-done. However, when you see a close friend in the throes of a meth addiction, it isn't compelling and interesting like a TV show. It's downright terrifying and confusing.

It's confusing because that person you know disappears in the obsession of his or her drug use. The once driven, earnest executive, becomes a manipulative liar - feeding false stories to his friends and family to mitigate the level of his problem. Everything he says and does is deigned for you to feel better about his situation. So that you let your guard down. So that he may be soon left on his own to use again. It's a scary metamorphosis.

Meth users often experience a severe “crash” or physical and mental breakdown after the effects of the drug wears off. Because continued use of the drug decreases natural feelings of hunger, users can experience extreme weight loss. I saw this in Chris. He was 60-pounds lighter than the last time I saw him. Negative effects can also include disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased aggressiveness and irritability. Other serious effects can include insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia. In some cases, use can cause convulsions that lead to death. In my weeks with Chris, he displayed all of the symptoms. I knew something drastic needed to occur, but I wasn't sure how to force the action.

Last week I received a desperate call from Chris. He was rambling incoherently and spoke with paranoia and fear in his voice. I rushed over to him but really didn't know what to do when I arrived. Seeing "the crash" of meth first hand was a wakeup call. My friend can't do this on his own. He needs professional help. I fed him, stayed up the entire night as he came down and drove him to his parents' house in the suburbs. A temporary solution.

A few days later and another horrifying episode. This time, I decided to call an ambulance. Chris was even more paranoid and more incoherent as the the previous relapse. We went to the emergency room and then later, to the psych ward at another hospital. He remains under their care now, and is looking to enter an inpatient program.

For Chris, it is one of three outcomes: recovery, jail, or death. He is lucky he has a chance at recovery. Many never get this opportunity. Many have permanent brain damage and some have convulsions, which lead to death. Meth is a drug that can take hold of anyone, even the fittest and strongest of beings.

Chris has a good support circle of family and friends. We all hope he puts in the work and chooses recovery and restores his life. We all know that for our beloved friend, it's recovery, jail, or death. It's now or never.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Saturday, January 16, 2016


I was driving home from work the other day. Same route, same timing. Nothing unusual about this mundane sliver of my day. I was approximately five minutes from touching down on the homefront, when I pulled behind a small stationary sedan at a red light. The car donned a bumper sticker that read:  "REHAB IS FOR QUITTERS."

At first, I thought nothing of it. I've seen worse jokes decaled on T-shirts and coffee mugs, some pushing the envelope on racism, sexism, and agism. But then I considered the addict in recovery who might pull up behind this car, or even worse hear this joke directed to them in conversation.

This "quitter joke," seemingly innocent to many, is at least irritating and for the most part, impertinent.

To the recovery community, this joke is downright insulting - the equivalent to any other offenseive duratory slur. Even the really bad ones. We do not have to name them here. In our ever politically correct society, certain words have become taboo. These words, which we all know, can lead to public backlash, probation or even termination when used carelessly in public forums or workplaces. These words and phrases are so forbidden, I'm even afraid to scribble them here, in the purest academic and intellectual sense.

Do you think anyone would be fired for uttering the joke, "Rehab is for quitters?" If you have witnessed someone get penalized for this joke, in any way, please share your experience.

Back to the topic of the uber-taboo words: It has taken great evolution and understanding as a society to move toward eradicating these from our lexicon. When we are young we hear these words. Most of us are  exposed to irascible figures who spew such terms of hate. Some of these people don't realize they are guilty of an offense. Perhaps they were born of an unaware generation or lack sensitivity due to their upbringing. Our hope is that as we grow older and wiser, we learn not to use these words and spread the message. We strive to correct others who use them ignorantly and explain why it is offensive. Education on the subject is key. We all know that no one should call a disabled person a "retard." Nor should anyone call a Hispanic person a "wetback." And we should all come to recognize that no one should call someone in recovery from substance abuse a "quitter."

Why is that when an alcoholic in recovery refuses a beer, it is more common for us to call that person "a quitter," than calling a diabetic who refuses candy, "no fun?"

It's like calling a cancer patient "baldy," or a pregnant woman, well pregnant. You deserve that slap across the face. The same goes with the "quitter" joke.

Recovery from substance abuse is one of the most difficult diseases to overcome. 50% - 90% of those new in recovery will relapse, even after rehabilitation. Imagine you are diagnosed with a disease that has no cure, but only a challenging and arduous recovery. Oh, and your biggest obstacle to this recovery is yourself. Your uncontrollably obsessed brain, your dependent body, and your entire social stratosphere are all against you. And the daunting truth is that most people do not understand this disease and might view it as your own moral failing, or a choice to reject self-control. No one judges a cancer patient. No one admonishes someone managing cystic fibrosis.

So the next time, you see or hear the joke, "rehab is for quitters," remember that it is offensive and derogatory. Put it in the same box as the other taboo terms we should be omitting from everyday communication.

Afterall, admitting that you are powerless to your addiction is the complete opposite of quitting. It is the beginning of a potentially new and better life. It deserves your support, not your lame jokes.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Friday, January 8, 2016


The New Year is a time when people make all types of resolutions. This is because waking up on the 1st of January is like getting a clean sheet. People want to do things a bit differently than the year before. A common resolution for people to make as the clock strikes midnight is to quit alcohol. Such a change can bring many benefits to the life of the individual. For some, it will mean escaping a life of misery. Unfortunately most people do not keep their resolution to quit alcohol for long. They may have reverted to their old drinking patterns within a matter of weeks. There are things that people can do to increase their chances of being successful with this resolution.

Motives for Giving Up Alcohol in the New Year 

These are some of the most common reasons people may decide to give up alcohol in the New Year: 

* The most common reason for why people decide to give up alcohol is that they are worried about their current level of consumption. Such people may not yet have developed any of the symptoms of addiction, but they just feel uneasy with the amount they are currently drinking.

* If people are already addicted to alcohol they may decide that the New Year is a good time to end their misery.

* Those overweight individuals who are serious about shedding the pounds in the New Year may decide to eliminate alcohol. This will mean that they will avoid consuming all those empty calories that are found in alcoholic drinks.

* Many individuals decide to give up alcohol because they just want to live a healthier life. Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for a great deal of ill-health and disease.

* Some individuals who want to follow a spiritual path may decide to give up alcohol for the New Year. Practices such as meditation will be almost impossible for people who abuse alcohol, because of the impact the alcohol has on concentration levels.

* Some people just give up alcohol because of boredom. They have been spending too much time in bars or drinking at home and want to experience something new in the New Year.

Good Reasons to Give Up Alcohol 

People do not need to have developed serious alcohol problems before deciding to give up alcohol.

These are some of the good reasons for giving up alcohol:

 * If people continue to abuse alcohol, it can lead them into physical and psychological dependence. Alcoholism sucks all the good out of life. If the individual is unable to escape the downward spiral, it will lead them to insanity and death.

* Alcohol intoxication means that the individual loses a degree of self-control. This is because their inhibitions are lowered. This is one of the great attractions of alcohol because it means people feel more sociable, but it is also the biggest dangers. It can mean that people are more likely to engage in foolish, risky or illegal activity.

* The individual does not need to be addicted in order to begin developing alcoholic liver disease. It is believed that 90 percent of all heavy drinkers will develop fatty liver, the first stage of alcoholic liver disease.

* Alcohol can cause a lot of damage to the heart. Those who drink excessively are at risk of developing alcoholic cardiomyopathy, which can also increase blood pressure. It is believed that 2 percent of all coronary heart disease is caused directly by excessive alcohol intake.

* Excessive alcohol consumption increases the likelihood that people will develop diabetes.

* Drinking too much can cause alcoholic lung disease.

* Alcohol abuse can have a devastating impact on mental health. It can lead to serious problems such as depression. Most cases of suicide involve people who have been drinking alcohol prior to the act.

* When people drink too much, they do not have time for hobbies and other forms of entertainment. This means that life can begin to feel a bit unsatisfying.

* If people abuse alcohol, they do more than just harm themselves. They also usually inflict pain and suffering for their friends and family. It is not necessary for the individual to be a drunken tyrant before alcohol begins to harm their relationships.

* Alcohol can be expensive, especially if people regularly go to bars. During a night on the town, a heavy drinker could easily spend a couple of hundred dollars. This money could be better used to buy a nice car or go on an exotic holiday.

How to Stop Drinking Alcohol in the New Year 

The problem with New Year resolutions is that people tend to give up on them by the time February comes. It takes a real effort to make such resolutions and stick to them.

These are some tips for increasing the likelihood of staying away from alcohol in the New Year:

* Those who have been abusing alcohol for a long time they may be at risk of withdrawal symptoms. These can make life uncomfortable for a few days, but most individuals only have to put up with mild symptoms. Anyone who has ever had a seizure while attempting to quit alcohol in the past will need to be medically supervised while going through the withdrawal period. It is recommended that heavy drinkers seek advice from their doctor before going through withdrawals alone.

* Heavy drinkers may find that they need support when giving up alcohol. There are a wide variety of resources when they can find such support. Not only are there fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous, but also online communities offering support to anyone trying to quit alcohol.

* Many individuals have found that practices such as mindfulness meditation can be a great help when giving up alcohol. This simple practice allows them to deal with cravings without succumbing to them.

* Keeping a journal can be a good idea for anyone who is attempting to quit alcohol. This not only a way of tracing progress, but it can also keep the individual committed to their goal. While trying to quit, most people go through a period in which their commitment begins to waver. Looking back over their journal entries can remind them of their hopes and dreams for the future.

* Modern technology has provided some great resources for people who are trying to quit alcohol in the New Year. Those who have an iPhone or iPad will find that there are a number of useful apps. There are also similar applications available for Android devices.

* If people are coming from a serious alcohol addiction, attending rehab may be the best way to ensure success in their recovery. An impatient program will give the individual the opportunity to stay in an environment that is conducive to escaping addiction. During their stay they will be able to develop the skills and knowledge they need to build a good life away from alcohol.

* Giving up alcohol will often mean saying goodbye to or spending much less time with drinking buddies. It is no longer a good idea to spend time in bars. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, if you spend too much time in a barber shop, you will eventually get your hair cut. In order to increase your chances of success, it helps to find sober friends and spend more time with them.

* If people normally spend a great deal of time drinking, they will suddenly have an excessive amount of time on their hands when they become sober. If people become bored, they will be tempted to return to alcohol. It is therefore vital that the individual develop new hobbies and interests that do not involve alcohol.

Alcoholics and Rock Bottom

It is often claimed that alcoholics need to hit rock bottom in order to escape their addiction. This idea often gets misunderstood to mean that the individual needs to lose everything before they can get better. This type of thinking is not only wrong, but it is also highly dangerous. The individual does not need to lose anything in order to put an end to the alcohol abuse. The rock bottom only refers to the point where they have had enough. This is sometimes described as an elevator descending down into hell. It is up to the passenger to decide where they want to get off. Some people have a high rock bottom, where they lose very little. Other people will take the elevator all the way down to the bottom. This is where insanity and death await.

No Need to Wait Until After the New Year to Stop Drinking 

There is no requirement for people to wait until after the New Year before enjoying the joys of sobriety. The best time to quit is right now. The problem with waiting for a special date is that the individual may no longer have the motivation to quit when that day arrives. Those who have a serious alcohol problem will only be adding additional suffering to their life by waiting. New Year can be a good time to embrace sobriety, but it is even more enjoyable to be sober for the New Year.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Friday, December 11, 2015


Some say Donald Trump is bold. Some might believe, because of the conviction of his rhetoric, he is passionate. Many feel his views are outlandish and unrealistic. However people feel about The Donald, during this wild presidential campaign, he has at least been convicting regarding immigration, banning muslims, and his motion to "build a wall," to prevent people from entering the country.

One thing the Donald has been consistently inconsistent about, is the legalization of marijuana.

Donald Trump has once again switched his views on marijuana, this time by softening his stance on the subject and supporting legalization at a state-by-state level.

The Republican presidential hopeful confirmed his position on the subject this week while at a political rally outside of a casino in Reno, Nevada. He also urged the government to use Colorado’s legalization of marijuana as a litmus test to analyze the benefits and dangers of this approach.

"I think medical should happen—right? Don't we agree? I think so. And then I really believe we should leave it up to the states,” said Trump. "And of course you have Colorado. And I love Colorado and the people are great, but there's a question as to how it's all working out there. That's not going exactly trouble-free. So I really think that we should study Colorado, see what's happening."

Trump, who has openly stated that he doesn’t drink and has never used drugs, has long been a supporter of medical marijuana. However, he firmly opposed legalization as recently as this June.

"I say it's bad. Medical marijuana is another thing, but I think it's bad, and I feel strongly about it,” he said during the CPAC Conference. "If [Colorado] votes for it, they vote for it. But, you know, they have got a lot of problems going on right now in Colorado. Some big problems."

His stance on the subject remains a far cry from his position on drugs decade ago. In 1990, he said during a luncheon in Florida that the United States should legalize all drugs and use the funds from sales to educate people on the dangers of drug use.

"We're losing badly the war on drugs," he said during the luncheon. "You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."

Everyone has the right to vote for whomever they want. Even if it is the polarizing Donald Trump. However, if legalization of drugs and overall drug treatment policy is an important issue, The Donald might be a vote that goes up in smoke.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Monday, November 30, 2015


For millions, it is the happiest time of the year. The holiday season is a time when Americans spend time with family and loved ones showing appreciation, gratitude, and love through gatherings and gift giving.

It is also the time of countless parties and excessive consumption. For most, it is an impossible task to fulfill every party invitation. The obligations are plentiful and calendar overlap often occurs. Some take priority. Some are even mandatory. So you pick and choose. Sounds like a problem hardly worth complaining.

However, for the addiction recovery community, the holiday season is a loaded gun. In fact, it's more like a minefield. And the first leg of this deadly obstacle course is Thanksgiving.

"Turkey Day" is so high-risk for over-indulgence in alcohol that it has been named as the single highest alcohol-consumption day of the year. But Thanksgiving is only the first in a series of potentially high-risk situations the the addict must face. Shortly after comes the holiday work party, then the party of a friend. As Christmas Day approaches, more social gatherings - most of which serving alcohol - fill the calendar.

"Around the holidays, alcohol abounds at parties and family gatherings," said David Buys, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. "Being around alcohol and others who might be 'old drinking buddies' could drive temptation higher."

Not only is the socially-accepted abundance of alcoholic beverages during the season presenting a high-risk situation, but so can the prospect of seeing family members.

"Some people may be estranged from family and friends, leading to a sense of loneliness," said Buys, who is also a researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. "If families are together but have strained relationships, arguments and underlying stress may cause people to drink at unhealthy levels," explains Buys.

The time of year isn't only risky for relapse, it is also responsible for far too many deaths.

According to the CDCexcessive drinking is responsible for 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year; 3,700 of those deaths were linked to alcohol dependence. The holiday season is the superbowl of excessive drinking.

For all of these reasons, the addict must enter the season with a plan.

"A person in recovery from an alcohol use disorder should avoid situations where alcohol is present," says Kim Kavalsky, a licensed professional counselor and coordinator of mental health outreach at Mississippi State University. "If one can't avoid a party with alcohol, plan to leave early before the drinking begins or attend with others who do not drink or who also are in recovery. It is also a good idea for those in recovery to talk with a member of their support system before and after attending an event where alcohol is present."

Other ways to manage holiday stressors include observing quiet time to reflect on self-care and recovery, spending more time with a support group or therapist, creating new ways to celebrate, finding a spiritual base in the holidays and volunteering.

History has shown that this time of the year is dangerous and even deadly for many. Our thoughts and prayers this holiday season are with all of those struggling with the disease of addiction.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Hillary Clinton has always been a major proponent of treatment over criminalization when it comes to addiction. Now, she is making a priority in her presidential campaign.

CBS News has reported that Clinton unveiled a $10 billion plan in September, designed to fight drug and alcohol addiction. Her plan involves goals for prevention, treatment and recovery, youth drug and alcohol education, increased funding for rehabilitation centers, and improved first responder training. “Tough on crime” laws and policies regarding drug addiction have been tried and they failed.

Clinton has recognized we need a more progressive solution.

“It’s time we recognize that there are gaps in our health care system that allow too many to go without care — and invest in treatment,” wrote Clinton in an op-ed for the New Hampshire Union Leader. “It’s time we recognize that our state and federal prisons . . . are no substitute for proper treatment and reform our criminal justice system.”

Mental health and addiction have been a major part of Clinton’s presidential platform. Her campaign staffers have reached out to experts and leaders in the health community to help Clinton create her plan. That plan also includes building a closer relationship between correctional and public health facilities.

As drug and alcohol addiction remains a problem in America, the country needs plans and programs intended to solve and treat addiction. Currently, the system merely punishes and marginalizes the disease of addiction.


Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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Monday, October 26, 2015


In an undoubtedly industry-changing move, Cigna has announced they are pulling Health plans offered in the state of Florida when the federal Health Insurance Marketplace opens for business on November 1st. They are citing "an exponential increase in fraudulent and abusive" substance abuse treatment practices.

Florida is home to countless drug and alcohol rehab centers and the move will mean that residents of the state will have to choose another insurance provider for their treatment needs - an estimated 30,000 Floridians are currently with the insurance giant. Cigna was known to provide the best in substance abuse insurance. Starting in 2016, they will completely pull out of the state.

“What is certainly going to happen as a result of this is the (addiction treatment) industry is going to get that the payday is going to come to a standstill if they don’t police themselves,” said John Lehman, president of the Florida Association of Recovery Residences. “It’s certainly going to send a pretty loud message that something needs to be done.”

Cigna claims that the largely unregulated South Florida treatment industry has led to a wide range of abuses.

In one scam, for instance, brokers would go out of state to find addicts in need of assistance and arrange to bring them to Florida, sources told The Post. Claiming they were “residents,” they purchased a Florida policy on the exchange.

In some cases, treatment providers and brokers not only guided the addicts through the process but provided them with Florida addresses to prove their residency and paid their deductibles, sources told The Post.

The insurer almost always was Cigna. When the policy kicked in, the addict would be admitted to a treatment center.

But in some cases, no premiums would be paid after that first month, leaving the addict, who might not have known about the deal, the treatment center and Cigna all holding the bag for what could be tens of thousands of dollars in treatment charges.

Some believe Cigna’s explanation for pulling out of Florida’s insurance exchange. This contingent believes Cigna is using accusations of insurance fraud to cover the real reason, which is deflecting blame for their decision not to participate in the Affordable Care Act in Florida.


Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

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