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Thursday, September 10, 2015


As far back as anyone alive today can remember, alcoholism and drug addiction has been a polarizing issue. Is it a choice, a personality defect? Or is it a disease, which requires professional treatment? 

I recently came across an interesting article in the New York Daily News. It details a conversation about whether or not alcoholism is a disease. To this author, it seems archaic to think that the disease model of addiction is still up for debate. However, the dialogue below illustrates the mindset of many.

I've posted it here:

------- Start of Article -------

BILL: ”You know what's wrong with men in America?” a just-divorced woman I will call Louise recently said to me. “All this talk about alcoholism or drug addiction being a ‘disease’ - which is just politically correct blue sky crap put out by people like you and my ratty ex-husband. Why can’t they Just Say No?”

DR. DAVE: What did you tell her?

BILL: Well, Dave, she caught me in a kind of moral bind. I have nothing against calling alcoholism or drug use a disease. Shame and guilt never got anyone sober. But I prefer the term "addiction" - maybe it’s deadly, but you did it to yourself. You didn’t catch it by kissing the bartender. So let me turn the question around. Why do you call it a disease?

DR. DAVE: In l956, the American Medical Association officially said alcoholism met three standard criteria for being declared a disease. First, it had an identifiable set of symptoms. Second, it followed a predictable and malignant progression if not treated, and third, it did respond to treatment. What this meant was that the insurance industry - not markedly a bastion of politically correct blue sky crap - agreed to pay for treatment, just as if you came down with diabetes.

Today, Disease Concept Treatment, or “DCT," is the overwhelming therapy of choice in the health care professions. On top of that, ongoing research studies in top line medical journals consistently show that DCT outperforms other approaches.

BILL: But Dave, even Alcoholics Anonymous itself says alcoholics suffer from a “character defect.” What’s so scientific about that? Doesn’t that sound like we suffer from a moral flaw, a weakness of will power and/or character?

DR.DAVE: I’ve learned never to get into an argument with any of you AA Big Book Thumpers when you quote steps to me. The actual language is a mish-mash of Jungian psychology, the Episcopal Church and 100 newly sober Midwestern drunks. Bill, your quote from Step Six has no medical meaning.

BILL: Doc, you just made my point. If the 12 Steps of AA are not medical science, why should anyone enter a long-term counseling program built on this Midwest spiritual beef stew model?

DR. DAVE: Well, let’s put the argument in terms of everyday life.

BILL: Where wives like Louise finally tell the drunk husband, “We all love you, but your boss is going to fire you and I am taking the kids and filing for divorce - unless you go to rehab for alcoholism.”

DR. DAVE: Right. Now, let's say I have 904 spouses and/or employees just like Louise and her husband. And after rehab, I require all of them to continue to go to AA meetings, weekly aftercare counseling and submit to random urinalysis.

BILL: And if they drink or use, they are fired on the spot?

DR. DAVE: No, we know at least 10% will relapse and need longer or more intensive treatment.

BILL: Most of whom - I remember from my days working at a rehab - would welcome help so as not to lose family or jobs

DR. DAVE: Right. Now, after 5 years, how many of the 904 do you think would successfully complete their treatment - following weekly health counseling and whatever you want to call AA meetings?

BILL: Five years? I have heard most programs are lucky if half are still in recovery after six months! Hardly a kind of medical treatment I would be proud of.

DR. DAVE: Whoa there, the right answer is that over 75% are in recovery. That statistic comes from the McClellan Study and was done on a national sample between 2000 and 2007.

BILL: Impressive! But let’s go back to where we began: What is there about this study of 900 drunks that would lead Louise (or me) to believe that requiring rehab, AA and group counseling is a scientifically valid medical decision?

DR. DAVE: Because those 904 drunks and drug addicts came from referral programs in 49 states - and every one of them was a physician going through their state’s required medical intervention process. I don’t think the definition of a medical program can be any better than one wherein all the subjects are physicians and surgeons themselves.

---------- End of article ---------------

It's a shame that everyone who perpetuates the stigma of addiction, due to a lack of understanding, doesn't have Dr. Dave to patiently educate them on the disease of addiction. Treatment isn't our only challenge, awareness and education are paramount in the bigger-picture battle against this complex disease.


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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Thursday, August 27, 2015


Being diagnosed with any disease or disorder is at the very least troubling and can be utterly devastating. Most of the time it is rather definitive and you prepare yourself for health maintenance or full recovery. The doctors tell you what you need to do to "win the battle."

Alcoholism and Addiction do not have such clear instructions. You aren't given odds. You aren't given a manual. In fact, the diagnosis is extremely tricky. The trip to the doctor isn't triggered by new symptoms, it's only spawned by a self-admission. An admission by someone whose judgement has been clouded by the substance they are abusing. It's extremely complicated. 

If you are able to admit this very difficult reality to yourself and family, how do you get better? If your doctor has diagnosed you with Diabetes, you take insulin and watch your diet. If you have cancer, you prepare yourself for the battle of your life and undergo whichever treatment plan that will help you survive.

When you're an addict, you don't always have the support from friends and family. What's more is that there is no judging cancer. Nor does anyone belittle diabetes. But people often judge addiction. There is a stigma - it is the black sheep of diseases. Many still believe it is a matter of choice, despite what the research has shown us regarding the disease. Many do not regard it as a serious medical condition, despite the declaration by American Medical Association (AMA) that alcoholism is a disease, all the way back in 1956.

About a week ago, I was contacted by a college friend, named Becky. She was expressing concern for a mutual friend, Chris, who she and some others suspect has a drug problem. She reached out to me on the basis of my experience working in the substance abuse field.

She told me the stories and described the shifts in his behavior. Based on what I heard, it seemed reasonable to think there was merit to her suspicions. So I decided to have a closer look.
I asked Chris to coffee. He blew me off three times. I wasn't surprised.

I then reached out to a few friends of his. They agreed that he has been acting strange lately and suspect some form of drug abuse.

Ok, now what? I really don't know his level of problem, nor am I close enough to him to definitively say whether or not he has a problem. I don't feel I have a right to call his parents and I don't really know who should confront him on this recent change in behavior.

Not long after, I had another conversation with Becky, the friend who originally expressed concern. She asked me to look into an intervention and since I know plenty of folks who work in this field, I said I would.

I spoke to a reputable interventionist who described the process and it is exactly what he and his family and friends need. Then the interventionist described the checklist for the intervention (you can view it here). And then the price. That was the moment, We had to ask ourselves, "now what?

None of us involved in the discussion is blood-related to Chris. In fact, most of us have drifted apart since college. It wouldn't be my place nor Becky's, to organize such an undertaking. The friends who are close, don't seem as concerned, or perhaps lack understanding of the serious nature of addiction.

The interventionist described things such as having an admission date, travel fees, writing letters, and of course the overall cost of the intervention and rehab. That's not exactly how it usually goes on television, where a group of friends arrange a circle of chairs, guy walks in and they express their feelings. He listens and agrees to stop abusing alcohol and they live happily ever after.

Nope. The real process is well-orchestrated, intensive and reliant on several factors. One of those factors involves a price tag ranging from $4,000 - $10,000, plus travel expenses. That's not even including the scheduled admission date into inpatient rehab, which can cost as little as $18,000 for the recommended length of stay, and up to $70,000 at 'luxury' facilities.

So again I ask, we know it's a problem, now what? 

My only conclusive advice to Becky, is to reach out to his parents. It's difficult, but a good start. We're lucky Chris has caring parents, who if informed about this issue, will do everything they can to get their son the help he needs. It's a complex disease and even more complicated to self-recognize symptoms. For others who do not have family support, it can be an endless cycle of denial.

If you see a friend or family member losing control of alcohol consumption or drug abuse, don't be shy. Talk to a family member, or call for help. Take the first step for the ones you love.

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, July 6, 2015


Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat has been recognized as Platinum by Optum for a second year in row. 

HEMET, CA, AUGUST 9th, 2015 — The acute inpatient behavioral health unit of Hemet Valley Recovery Center (HVRC) & Sage Retreat has once again been recognized by Optum as a Platinum acute inpatient behavioral health facility as measured in Optum’s Achievements in Clinical Excellence (ACE) program. Of the more than 650 acute inpatient facilities participating in ACE, HVRC & Sage Retreat was one of only 69 to receive the Platinum recognition for 2015, and one of only the 23 to achieve the Platinum distinction for a second consecutive year.

Begun as a pilot program in late 2013, ACE is a measurement program that correlates Optum’s vast resources of claims and admissions data to help identify and recognize those acute inpatient facilities that deliver both effective and efficient care.
“There is a tectonic shift occurring in healthcare today in which the emphasis is being placed on improving the quality of patient care while reducing overall costs, especially within acute inpatient facilities,” said Deb Adler, Senior Vice President, of Optum’s Specialty Network Services. “What we’re seeing is momentum away from the traditional fee-for-service model and toward a pay-for-value system,” she said. According the Adler, the shift to a pay-for-value system is why Optum, with its vast resources of data, has been able to position itself out front of the curve with programs such as Achievements in Clinical Excellence, or ACE. 

HVRC & Sage Retreat was presented with Optum’s Platinum distinction based on clinical data collected by Optum throughout all of 2014. Optum looked at specific criteria, such as readmission rates and average length of inpatient stay, and compared Shawnee Mission’s data to that of other regionally-based facilities. Of the several key data points examined, HVRC & Sage Retreat's exceeded all metrics.

“I believe HVRC & Sage Retreat truly represents the epitome of what outstanding behavioral health care services can and should be,” said Dr. Rick Jimenez, National Medical Director, External Health Plans at Optum. “Recognition of this type is not handed out lightly, and it’s really a credit to the staff of HVRC & Sage Retreat that they are part of this very elite class of inpatient facilities - for a second year in a row, in fact.

Steve Collier, RN
“We are extremely proud and honored to have received this second consecutive Platinum distinction,” said Steve Collier, Executive Director and Co-Founder of HVRC & Sage Retreat. “I think it’s truly a well-deserved acknowledgement of the great work being performed by our team here at HVRC & Sage Retreat. “When a provider refers a member to our facility, they know that client is going to receive excellent care. That’s the bottom line. And that is the kind of trust we’ve built with our referring sources over the years. And receiving Optum’s Platinum award for a second time in two years serves to underscore our commitment to both our referring providers and members seeking treatment. 

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, June 5, 2015


The following is a letter from the parents of Sean, who lost his life on February 21st, 2015 at the age of 31, to heroin overdose...

If you only knew how much we love you and how much more often we wish we could tell you. If you only knew that we were biting our tongues, trying to give you the time and space you needed. If we only knew what was really happening...

If we only knew that you were crying for help. If we only knew how much you needed us.
If we only knew then what we know now. If we only knew what we should have done... If we only understood more. If we only knew to learn this much about addiction sooner, and not after it was too late.  

If we only knew that you were powerless to your awful disease. If we only knew it was steering your every move. If we only knew that it was behind everything you did that hurt us. If you only knew we would always forgive you. If we only knew you that just couldn't forgive yourself...

If you only knew how much we regret not doing more. If you only knew how much we want to turn back time. If we only knew that we didn't have much time. 

If you only knew how much we are hurting. If you only knew how many people love and miss you. If you only knew that everyone has forgiven you. Look around this church here today. The pews are filled. They are all here for you and they all love you.... If you only knew all of this just weeks ago, you would have saved yourself, and we would have been there to help.

If you only knew and if we only knew, you'd be sitting with us. At home. Not lying in a casket, bereft of life. We miss you and love you dearly, Sean.

- Mom & Dad


Addiction isn't merely the self-inflicted problem of the user. It's a family disease. It's a friend's burden and responsibility. It's a societal epidemic. And it DEMANDS our collective attention.

Knowledge is power and the key to beginning the journey of recovery. Education is our only combatant to this complex and deadly disease. If you notice changes in the ones you love, don't sit idle. You can help them. TAKE THE FIRST STEP. 866.273.0868. hvrc.com

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, May 15, 2015


She doesn't care what you look like. She doesn't care about your ministry or how much money you make. She doesn't even care about how you treat her. She'll take your soul, just as she has with all of her victims, And she has been busier than ever.

There is heroin epidemic in this country and it is sweeping through all communities - not just poor and urban areas. The biggest culprit? A trusted source - Doctors who are overprescribing painkillers.

There has been more stringent regulations set for prescribing these meds, but the damage has already been done. Once users cannot obtain the prescribed pills, they turn to heroin. Overdose deaths have gone off the charts.

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more addicts are substituting one opiate for another resulting in an alarming rise in deaths from heroin overdose in the United States, with the most significant increase occurring between 2010 and 2013.
They also note that death rates from heroin overdose have actually quadrupled since 2000.

Furthermore, in 2013 alone 40,000 people in the United States died from some form of overdose. That means drug poisoning was the leading cause of injury-rated death in the country. The leader in this category? You guessed it: heroin.

The report presented by the CDC also demonstrates that heroin doesn't discriminate for age, sex, nor race:

Men were 4 times more likely than women to die of overdose, but there were still over 1700 women taken by this epidemic. The highest rate of overdose demographic: non-Hispanic white persons aged 18-44. And every region in the US experienced a rise in heroin-related deaths.

What's even scarier is that it doesn't seem to be getting any better, anytime soon.

According to a recent study conducted by Columbia University that was published in the journal Injury Epidemiology, the drug overdose epidemic in the United States will actually peak in 2017, at about 50,000 annual deaths.

Education and awareness are our most powerful combatants to this deadly epidemic. It must be understood that prescription painkillers aren't safe, just because they are authorized by doctors. If we don't come to realize the danger of this epidemic soon and increase the availability of both education and treatment for this killer, she will never stop.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, addicts of all opiates have the benefit of receiving acute medical detoxification care in a hospital setting by ASAM certified addiction physicians.

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, April 10, 2015


Each year I spend a few hours of my New Year's Day at my grandfather's house in Philadelphia. Most of my family shuffle in and out at various times throughout the day. He and my grandmother live on Broad Street in the heart of South Philly. To the unfamiliar readers, this is prime party real estate for New Year's Day. In the City of Brotherly Love, we have something called "The Mummer's Day Parade." To some this is celebrated as unique to our city and its culture. To others it is somewhat frightening. Wherever you sit, if you're a Philadelphian you are most likely roaming the city streets, spending time at various open house parties - and of course, many are drinking to excess.

I only see my grandfather once or twice per year. That's certainly not enough, I'll admit. Part of the
reason is being too busy. Partly, it's because the situation is easier to ignore. Either one is a poor excuse.

Everytime I see my grandfather, he is drunk. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. It saddens me to witness this - and it's just twice per year. To most of my other family members, it's accepted. He's set in his ways and things will never change. The truth is, I believe that statement. And that thought makes me feel hopeless.

Too often, our elderly are forgotten and dismissed. Sure they're often cared for by their children, but mostly cared for in the same way a nurse would care for a patient. We make sure they eat well. We help them get around. We run their errands. In my case, I carry my grandfather up his stairwell twice a year.

But this level of caring isn't nearly deep enough. We need to care for them as we would with anyone we love, indiscriminate of their age or lifelong habits. We need to be open to teaching them, and not dismissive.

Our elderly are not "old dogs." They are capable and often willing to learn new tricks. 

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Alcohol and prescription drug problems, among adults 60 and older is one of the fastest growing health problems facing the country. Yet, the situation remains underestimated, underidentified, underdiagnosed, and undertreated.
According to the

Health care providers tend to overlook alcohol or drug problems among older people, mistaking the symptoms for dementia, depression, or other problems common to older adults. Older adults are more likely to hide their alcohol or drug use and less likely to seek professional help. Many relatives of older individuals with substance use disorders, particularly their adult children, are living in denial or ashamed of the problem and choose not to address it.

Even in elderly care facilities, the problem is overlooked and undertreated.

According to statistics from University of Pennsylvania Health System, 2.5 million older adults are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and nearly 50 percent of nursing home residents have alcohol-related problems.

Not only are the symptoms of elderly alcoholism and drug abuse often confused, the effects of drinking and substance abuse are exacerbated by a faster metabolism process. Our seniors become impaired much easier and faster than younger adults.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the American Geriatrics Society, people 65 or older are engaged in risky drinking if they consume more than seven alcoholic drinks per week or more than three drinks on a single day. It is highly recommended that the single-occasion drink limit should be no more than two drinks for men and one drink for women.

For all of these reasons, we need to stop dismissing our elderly. Let's not shut them out and push them in. Let's open our minds and open our doors. It is important to provide age-specific care to the senior population that will address their issues with a personalized approach. With the proper treatment, seniors can recover from addiction and build a strong community of support through 12-step programs coupled with appropriate therapeutic and medical support as needed.

After all, it should be noted that older men and women experience the highest rates of recovery of any age group following treatment. So we really just need to help our aging loved ones get to that point without dismissal or ignorance. We have to help restore their lives. The Golden Years, for many is the greatest period of life.

I think I'll give grandma a call and ask her if I can drop by the next time my grandfather is sober. It's been too long for me, or any of us, to let him go forgotten and dismissed.

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

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we understand how to treat and care for the older adult community, with our specialized Prime of Life track. If you or a love one wants to restore a life, the time is now, and it is just one phone call away.

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

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Sunday, April 5, 2015


When I saw the headline from E! News read: "Wilmer Valderrama and Demi Lovato are taking their relationship to the next level," I immediately thought to myself, they must be engaged, right?

Alas, they aren't quite there. I guess we'll all just have to carry on with our mundane lives for now. It turns out E! was just overly excited about the couple's announcement to work on a film together. Everyone in the know agrees - when that date comes, when Wilmer and Demi decide to tie the knot - it will be an important day for both.
However, shouldn't we really take time here to acknowledge another, more important date? Demi Lovato just celebrated her three-year anniversary of sobriety. This is after all, a blog about recovery, not gossip.

We are constantly inundated with news of celebrities entering rehabilitation facilities, relapsing, reentering. We hear about the plush surroundings and amenities within the opulent walls of their exclusive luxury rehab centers. We hear of the outlandish demands and requests, all of which are accommodated - given the ridiculous amount of money spent on these "programs."

Celebrities have in many instances, made a mockery of recovery and subsequently have given the rehab business a bad name. Or at least one taken less serious than warranted.And so it's nice to read about a young starlet who is serious about her recovery. A woman who has made a commitment to staying clean and sober. A woman who is willing to share her story of hope.

For Lovato, like most - getting here wasn't easy.

In her early teen years, she could not go 30 minutes without cocaine or alcohol and also suffered from eating disorders and self-harming. But now that lifestyle is merely a remnant of her past. The 22-year-old former Disney Channel star thanked her loved ones over Twitter for their encouraging support writing: 'I never knew sobriety was possible for me.'

Three years ago, Demi was overcoming her struggle with substance abuse and alcoholism but most of all 'an addiction that made her a manipulator and a liar.' She was 19-year-old and at the height of her Disney Channel fame, still reveling in the mega success of her 2008 teen TV film Camp Rock.

'I couldn't go 30 minutes to an hour without cocaine and I would bring it on airplanes,' she confessed in a tell-all interview in 2013.

'I had all the help in the world, but I didn't want it. When I hit that moment I was like, "it's no longer fun when you're doing it alone,"' she recalled. 'That is alcoholic behavior, it's no longer I'm young and rebellious and out having fun, it was, wow, I'm one of those people. I got to get my act together.'

She was sent to rehab in 2010 after allegedly punching female backup dancer Alex Welch. The songbird had three months of inpatient treatment at the Timberline Knolls residential centre in Illinois. Demi learned that she had been using all her addictions – the drugs, alcohol, self-harming and her eating disorder – to give herself a false sense of control.

'I was working to this grueling schedule and while I couldn't stop the momentum of that, I believed, wrongly, that my addictive behaviors were something that I was in charge of.' In addition to her immediate family members, her longtime love Wilmer Valderrama was right by her side motivating her to live a more healthy lifestyle.

We commend and applaud Demi Lovato and wish her a long and healthy life in recovery.

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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