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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


It has been one week since the tragic suicide death of actor/comedian Robin Williams. And while there has been a groundswell of support from his loved ones and fans taking to social media, the death has also exposed a dark side to these outlets.

Among the highlights of Facebook and Twitter: Fans expressing thoughts and prayers, as well as commemorative messages, quoting his infamous movie quotes, such as "Oh Captain My Captain!"
A Scene from the movie, Dead Poets' Society

The bad: Well, the bad has just been flat out ugly.

Williams' daughter, Zelda, was bullied off of Twitter by Internet trolls, who decided to post phony photos of her father with bruises around his neck. Her signoff: "I'm sorry. I should've risen above. Deleting this from devices for a good long time, maybe forever. Time will tell. Goodbye."

There are also reports of scammers trying to take advantage of the situation.

"Social media posts are being provided linking to video claiming its unreleased police footage from the time of his death or information where you can see is last words before he died," said Caitlin Driscoll with the Better Business Bureau.

They call it “click-jacking,” because if you click on the links, it takes you to somewhere you don’t expect. “If you do click, it will either likely lead you to a video player – where it asks you to download the latest version in order to view the information – you’re really just downloading a virus,” said Driscoll.

Robin Williams, circa 2013
“Or it may take you to a survey that you have to complete.” “By doing that – they’ll have your information that they can sell to companies for solicitations and you’ll just end up being put on a number of different spam lists,” Driscoll added.

As if the news of one of the greatest comedic actors of our time taking his own life wasn't sad enough.

One week later and many of us are still reeling from his shocking death. However, the media attention is loathsomely centered on Cyber-pariahs - those who choose to spew hate and look for ways - any way to pilfer data and dollars from people.

What we should be remembering, what we should be taking from this tragedy, is a message of awareness and recovery. Our good friends at Pavilion Recovery said it best in a recent Facebook post:
"Tonight we learn about the passing of Robin Williams. It strikes us once again how this disease doesn't care how talented, famous, beautiful or rich a person is. We do not know what caused his passing....but we do know that this is a man who was strongly committed to his sobriety. After 20 years sober, he relapsed - and sought help. When he felt himself slipping again - he sought help before he picked up that first drink. He was open and honest about his recovery. As his family asks that people think about the laughter and joy of his life, it seems only appropriate that the recovery community celebrate his recovery and his willingness to share his journey with others. Williams said he had spent years thinking he could handle his alcohol problem on his own.
"But you can't. That's the bottom line," he said. "You really think you can, then you realize, I need help, and that's the word."
So instead of searching for grotesque footage, images, or unreleased information for the purpose of rumor mill and gossip, think of your loved ones. Think of those who may need your help. No matter how much they seem to have, depression and addiction never discriminate. What they really may need is support from those whom they love.

Take the First Step. Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website. Hemet Valley Recovery Center Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.Related articles

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Thursday, August 7, 2014


America used to engage in wars that had a clear beginning, end, and most importantly, purpose. Remember that? Then there was Vietnam. Then there was Iraq. The war on terror. I can't begin to identify the familiar components of something linear in these examples. Even more befuddling is the almost century long War on Drugs

We have heard the declaration from Nixon, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. War on Drugs. War on Drugs. War on Drugs. War on Drugs. (yawn).

By now, we should recognize that this is a war that we cannot win. Drug abusers are crowding our courts, hospitals, and prisons. They should be in the care of treatment experts. Learning. Understanding their disease. However to no avail, we have spent years and billions of dollars incarcerating the user. We have focused most of the effort on criminalizing drug use. This blogger is NOT in favor of legalization of drugs. This blogger is in favor of focusing more effort and more funding on treatment, rehabilitation, education, prevention and reinsertion of the user into society. Our efforts to eradicate the supply of drugs have failed. Drugs are still readily available. In fact, many would argue the only beneficiaries of our longstanding war on drugs are members of organized crime, traffickers, and drug dealers.

Let's examine at another approach... The Portuguese Plan.

The following is an excerpt from an online New York Times article from March 17th, 2014:
(read the article)

"In 2000, Portugal decriminalized the use of all illicit drugs, and developed new policies on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and reinsertion. Drug use is no longer a crime, but it is still prohibited. Possession of what a person would use in 10 days or less is no longer a matter for the courts. Users are referred to Commissions for Drug Addiction Dissuasion, which educate them, discourage them from consuming drugs and help them find treatment. The idea behind the new law is that drug addiction must be addressed as a health or social condition. While critics of the law warned that drug use would swell, it has not risen. We have seen significant reductions in H.I.V. infections and in overdoses, as well as a substantial increase in new patients seeking drug treatment. Much of this reduction in the harm suffered by drug users, I believe, is due to the commissions' outreach, treatment programs and measures to protect users' health. Police and customs authorities continue to suppress trafficking, but they now have added resources that were once allocated to pursuing users."
Again, this blogger is NOT in favor of legalization. Decriminalization as you have just read, is NOT legalization. However is it necessary to have such stiff penalties for the user? Drug trafficking and drug dealing should remain a serious criminal offense, but going to jail for a small amount of marijuana is excessive. And costly. The punishment does not match the crime.

It's time America stops looking at the drug user as sinful and morally defective. The government has publicly acknowledged that addiction is a disease, so it's time to implement a drug policy which reflects this concept. Focus on the demand side. This war may have no clear beginning or end - but it's time we focus our purpose. To help our addicts get well again. We can only better our society through the prevention, education, and treatment of the user.

Take the First Step. Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website. Hemet Valley Recovery Center Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014


Josh Gordon may be forced to miss the entire 2014 season 
Last week, while Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon was awaiting a late July suspension appeal hearing for a failed drug test, he was arrested on a DUI charge. Another troubled athlete who just can't seem to figure things out. Arrest on top of arrest. Ho hum. Business as usual in the NFL.

However, a number of stories have arisen due to Gordon's most recent incident. Several athletes and public
figures are commenting. In the past, one might expect these comments to follow a theme of disappointment, frustration, or even anger. But today, the soundbytes carry a much different tone. Support. Redemption. Understanding. Awareness. These are the words of the new NFL. When one of its brethren falls victim to substance abuse, expect to be now be enlightened.

For instance, former NFL player Cris Carter released a statement, drawing on his own his experience when he too battled addiction early in his career. He feels that the Browns, like the Eagles did to him, should release Gordon.

"My situation was very, very similar. If I'm the Cleveland Browns -- and it's gut-wrenching for me to say this -- I really think that the only thing that's going to help the kid is if they release him."

"We're dealing with addiction. We're dealing with a disease," Carter continued. "If Josh had cancer we'd put him in a treatment center. And right now that's what we need to do for him. But no one wants to do the hard thing. Everyone wants to keep coddling him, the same way they did him in high school, the same thing they did him at Baylor, where he had problems. Eventually it's going to blow up. Now it's blowing up in the National Football League, and his career is in jeopardy."

If Josh had cancer... Cris Carter just REALLY let us know that addiction is a serious disease.

Soon after, Michael Irvin chimed in. He disagreed with Carter's recommendation but too is highly supportive of the treatment process:

l-r: Cris Carter, Michael Irvin

"The people start thinking that you have insight on the situation or the issue or the problem so when you come out and make those kinds of comments and you're not in his sessions with his professional help, you don't know what's going on in those sessions, then you're being irresponsible," Irvin said. "I was a bit disappointed Cris Carter made that statement."

He went on to add:

"Now, isolation for Cris may have been the best thing. Separation, for Cris, may have been the best thing. For Josh, maybe it's the worst thing."

Treatment sessions. Isolation and separation. Disease of addiction. These are former NFL players, using the words of a clinician. Today's NFL is very aware of this complex disease.

Even the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu, a rookie last season, had pearls of experienced wisdom to share:

"No one could tell me anything when I was going through it; I had to figure it out for myself. Hopefully he will get the point," Mathieu said. "Hopefully he will get the message, but most of the time it takes for people to hit rock bottom for them to start believing in their self and start seeking help. A lot of people can reach out to you but that doesn't mean you always take that help and take that advice. He just has to want it for himself."

They say Honey Badger fears no man (well at least hall of fame broadcaster Brent Musburger thinks so). His comments, however sound very much like Step One - Admission. Powerless. Help. These are the words of a new addiction aware NFL. We have come a long away from an awareness standpoint.

Take the First Step. Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website. Hemet Valley Recovery Center Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

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Monday, July 7, 2014


The addiction professional community is sick and tired. We don't want to hear about how addiction is a choice - because it isn't.

I want my readers to step outside their normal patterns of thinking. Take a moment to remember your last Fourth of July Holiday. How did it go? I'll illustrate mine: We gather around a pool, we barbeque - it's a celebration of independence, meat, various salads and of course alcohol. It's clockwork - it happens every year. It's familial. It's America.

Now imagine you're an addict. I am. So if you're not I'll describe it for you. My Uncle Billy mans the grille. He's a master - he can cook for 50 hungry folks and get the temperatures correct. He isn't a chef. He's a plumber by trade; but the man can navigate a BBQ. These type of events are typically centered on three things: Food, Family and Fun. The last component largely depends on who you are and where you are in your life. Kids have fun with games and splashing around in the pool. The adults - at my family gatherings, anyway - have fun by drinking alcohol and catching up. Again, I'm an addict and I'm no kid. I can't take my eyes off of the cooler and I feel like my entire family knows it. They know I have a problem. Most of them don't know I have a disease. Most of them wouldn't look twice if I grabbed a cold one.

The lack of understanding addiction isn't their fault. For those who are not directly affected by this disease - that is, those who are not addicts, usually aren't exposed to the research on addiction. Take the grillmaster, Uncle Billy. He can have a drink, two drinks and stop for the rest of the afternoon. He's perfectly content. That's how alcohol should be used -like anything else, in moderation. But me, I have no "off switch." I've tried to have one or two drinks. I usually wind up in a dangerous situation after countless libations.

My Uncle Billy has said things to me such as, "have a drink with me, what's the big deal. Have one and we'll go home." He doesn't understand it doesn't work like that. That once triggered, the disease needs to be fed incessantly. That the first drink is never the only drink. It is only the first... of many.

What I am experiencing right now as I stare at this cooler are the symptoms of the disease of addiction - otherwise known as cravings. For people like Uncle Billy, cravings do not exist. He makes a choice and can stick to the limitations he sets. For me, I think about the substance often. I obsess over it when it's around. Cravings tell me that I know I'm an addict and I need to be aware of how to control and treat my symptoms. Uncle Billy knows he has a cold when his throat is sore, he is congested and develops the sniffles. My symtoms are my cravings. They let me know I'm an addict.

Nearly 23 million Americans - almost one in 10 - are addicted to alcohol and other drugs. I wonder how many understand their cravings and how they work? I'm lucky that I know I have a disease. I'm lucky I understand my cravings. I'm lucky I know how to answer the question: "Why not just have one drink?" 

Take the First Step. Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website. Hemet Valley Recovery Center Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014


The May/June edition of Counselor Magazine is featuring an article written by Sylvia Dobrow, BS, MPH, ABD, Group Facilitator and Chemical Dependency Counselor, Hemet Valley and Sage Retreat.

The article is entitled, "The Hidden Epidemic: Substance Abuse in the Elderly." In this interesting four page piece, Sylvia discusses The Four Subsets of Aging Addicts (Early-Onset Alcoholics, Late-Onset Alcoholics, The Baby Boomer Generation, & Prescription Drug Abusers), Barriers to Diagnosis (both Endogenous and Exogenous), Screening, and Types of Treatment.

A sneak preview:

There is a secret epidemic that targets those who are alone in their homes, suffering from health problems associated with both age and drug use: the elderly. Today, 13 percent of the total United States population is over sixty-five years of age and 17 percent of this population abuse drugs (Blow, 1998). In 1998, the US Department of Health & Human Services predicted that by 2030, 20 percent of the US population will be over sixty-five and as many as one in four of those older adults will be addicted to drugs.

To read the full article, visit https://www.counselormagazine.com.

Take the First Step. Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website. Hemet Valley Recovery Center Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

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Friday, June 20, 2014


Much like the Super Bowl here in the U.S., the FIFA World Cup can take over a city for its duration. The Super Bowl is one game held on one Sunday. The World Cup runs for an entire month and for that period the host city (in this case Rio De Janiero) is transformed into a Dionysian agora of constant partying. It also brings tourism and consumerism and with that, increased drug trafficking.

The world cup is no different than other blockbuster commercial events - it brings out the best in performance, talent, and fandom and the worst in human behavior. Sex, drugs and well, you know the phrase. The widespread hysteria can be overwhelming and cause people to do very stupid things. For instance, Jose Diaz Barajas, a known Mexican drug lord, purchased plane tickets in his own name to go view world cup soccer. He was arrested. A man accustomed to hiding so much that he is undoubtedly an expert, got caught up in the moment and got sloppy.

That may have been the only positive with regards to the World Cup's effect on the drug trade.

Although he was caught, there are thousands getting away with capitalizing on the event to fuel the drug trade in Brazil. They are making money - as much green as perhaps the Brazilian rainforest can boast.

Namely it's the drug cartels in Peru and Bolivia - two of the world's top producers of cocaine. They have been drooling over the bountiful market being served up next door by the World Cup in Brazil and they are sending huge amounts of the drug to their giant South American neighbor.

"Brazilian traffickers know that during the World Cup, controls are lax and they are preparing for a veritable festival of cocaine consumption," said Jaime Antezana, an expert at the Catholic University of Peru.
Since the start of the year there has been a huge increase in the number of so-called "drug flights" by small planes from Peru carrying cocaine to Bolivia. From there, it is transported over land to Brazil.

"Brazil is now the world's second largest consumer of cocaine, but during the World Cup, it is expected to overtake the United States and become number one," Antezana said.Brazil has Amazon frontiers with Peru, Colombia and Bolivia that are virtually impossible to control. These are the world's top three producers of coca leaves, the drug's raw material, and cocaine itself.

It's good to know we're still number one in the world at something.

Take the First Step. Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website. Hemet Valley Recovery Center Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014


Last week, we read the story of Frank and his struggle with chronic pain and addiction to painkillers due to fibromyalgia. When Frank suffered his injury and was later diagnosed with the chronic disorder, he did what most of us would do - he waited for the doctor to tell him what's next.

A day after chronicling Frank's battle, I read the story of Katie Pumphrey. Katie just swam 15 miles across the Potomac River. Katie also suffers from chronic pain, stemming from fibromyalgia. However, Katie chose to stop waiting for the doctor. Maybe the magazines in the waiting room are outdated. Whatever reason, Katie isn't taking her instructions from a doctor, nor a clinician.

She now prepares to cross the English Channel in August of 2015 - something that fewer people have crossed than have climbed Mount Everest. It has been a long strokepath to get here.
Washington Post

When she was about nine, Katie's right shoulder began to hurt. Everyone thought it was tendinitis from swimming. But the pain would mysteriously appear in different parts of her body - one day in her back, another in her hips, another in her ankles. It traveled up and down her spine, making it difficult to breathe. It left her nauseated.

There were countless MRI exams, visits to rheumatologists, physical therapy, massage. She spent her teen years on a regimen of painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and anti-seizure medication.

When she was finally diagnosed, it had little to no meaning; this mysterious disorder isn't curable. It is one which can only be managed. Pumphrey decided to handle the pain her way and stopped waiting for doctors to tell her what to do.

"I kind of made this pact with myself," she said. "And I just said: 'Okay, it's not going to be in control anymore. I'm not going to be in pain anymore."

Pumphrey decided to take her pain and push it to its limit and manage it through overcoming it - through mind, body and spirit. She focuses her energy on her training and open-swim events. She isn't dependent on pain medication and she is living her life on her terms.

"This is someone who has taken quality of life into her control," said Christopher L. Edwards, a medical director at Duke Pain Medicine, "She's not waiting on a doctor. She's not waiting on a clinician. Shes taking it upon herself to give herself quality of life."

Katie is an exception to the rule. Most of us wait for the doctor. We aren't naturally inclined to swim channels or climb mountains. My friend Frank listened to the doctor - it's what you're supposed to do. He got hooked on painkillers. Although he's ok today, he had a long road back and still does. Recovery, as we know, is a process.

At Hemet Valley & Sage Retreat we aim to help everyone with addiction to pain medication manage their pain through a multitude of treatment methods and activities. We try to help everyone find their own inner Katie Pumphrey... and live life on their own terms.

Take the First Step. Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website. Hemet Valley Recovery Center Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

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