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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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Wednesday, March 11, 2015


The headline of this blog may sound like a contradiction from a circus huckster. Frankly, it is.

But to Pax and Chris Prentiss, the co-founders and owners of Passages Malibu, it makes perfect, lucrative sense. They will tell you that you don't have a disease. They will also tell you that if you spend a month at their posh facility - for approximately $70,000 - you will be cured forever.

85% success rate. Guaranteed. And although the number representing price has gone up, that mystifying success rate has stayed exactly the same. Now we know a few things in the "World of Prentiss":

1. Addiction isn't a disease (despite the American Medical Association's criteria-based definition).

2. They have the absolute cure for this non-disease and wrote a book about it. (so why cure a non-disease?)

3. Their 85% cure rate is guaranteed and has been at the same rate for quite a long time (it's amazing the data always produces the same cure rate figures, isn't it?).

The "World of Prentiss" is filled with promise. And the Prentiss boys know their audience well - the wealthy looking for quick-fix guarantees. A cure for a hefty price is still a cure.

We've all seen their television advertisement - it's a widely run national spot. Camera panning through luscious environs, luxurious pools, overlooking the deep blue Pacific... all voiced over by a nasally voice describing "the cure."

"This isn't a 12-Step program. This works. I should know; I was an addict for 10 years and now I'm not."

That's Pax Prentiss - son of Chris and co-owner of the luxurious treatment center. Together they founded Passages after trying for several years to get Pax clean and sober - through the 'outdated' 12-Step based programs.

They deny each and every tenet of AA and the medical community's disease concept of addiction. Most of all, the father-son duo love to denigrate and at times, ridicule the thought behind step 1 - that we must admit we are powerless to the disease.

In an interview with LA Weekly author Mark Groubert, Chris asks and answers his own question: “Do you know what the first step is? That you are powerless. How silly. We’re not powerless!”

When the author pointed out that his son Pax was certainly powerless when he was battling addiction for 10 years, he shoots back, “Well, he’s not powerless now!”

It's pretty transparent that the Prentiss' are preying on the hopeless and desperate... those who are willing to ignore science, rersearch, and subscribe to this promise of a cure.

After all the Prentiss', neither of whom have any clinical or medical background (Chris is a real estate tycoon; Pax is the son of a real estate tycoon) can't tell patients they have the cure for cancer, cystic fibrosis or diabetes. They'd be exposed as frauds.

However, anyone who has been diagnosed with those diseases will tell you it is a struggle to fight them. Even in remission, cancer survivors must always take measures of prevention to combat relapse. Those living with diabetes must constantly monitor blood-sugar levels and administer insulin. Patients living with cystic fibrosis must take their medications religiously, every day.

Anyone living with the aforementioned diseases would never buy a "cure" from a realtor. For there is unequivocally no doubt these folks haven't chosen to have their disease. What Pax and Chris are proposing in their dismissal of the disease concept, is that alcoholism and addiction is a choice - the very stigma the addiction community has been trying to overcome for over 50 years.

“I will tell you one thing about Chris Prentiss,” explains his former Medical Director Dr. Hamlin Emory, “he is the consummate Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey circus-barker showman. He is not qualified to speak on addiction”

Being in recovery, whether for addiction, or any other diseases - requires hard work, faith and dedication. It also requires treatment and support. You won't find your cure for addiction by paying $70,000 a month to buy lies from a huckster and his son.

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, February 27, 2015


Marijuana has many names. Mary Jane. Pot. Weed. Swag. Ganja - are just some of the old classics. To the addiction treatment community, those who understand the progression of the disease, it's often referred to as "The Gateway Drug."

It's no mystery that marijuana is a starting point for young people. Experimentation stage's clear drug of choice. The addictive qualities or potential dependence on marijuana has been debated for years. Most agree that marijuana is a lower threat than most drugs, especially physically - however psychologically, it is common for users to become highly dependent. So although we don't see many admissions for marijuana addiction, we have learned that it plays a major role in various stages of addiction.

For adolescents, heavy use of cannabis can have serious long term effects on the brain. Thinking and memory suffer and the effects can last a long time or even be permanent. According to drugabuse.gov, a recent study of marijuana users who began using in adolescence revealed substantially reduced connectivity among brain areas responsible for learning and memory. And a large long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38. Importantly, the lost cognitive abilities were not fully restored in those who quit smoking marijuana as adults. Those who started smoking marijuana in adulthood did not show significant IQ declines.

Despite this, marijuana is regarded by many as relatively harmless when compared to other "hardcore" drugs. And it is extremely easy to acquire, even by kids. Easy to get and regarded as safe, non-addictive; no big deal. Brothers introduce pot to their little sisters. Moms and dads share a joint with their older offspring.

And now, several states are moving towards legalization. Colorado has implemented the plan and has reaped the benefits of a state revenue increase. Furthermore, there hasn't been an increase in crime rate. It is up for debate as to whether these two facts point to ultimate success for legalization.

Communication surrounding marijuana is more disarming than ever, and now there is an even easier to get, seemingly safer, synthetic version of marijuana. It's available in smoke shops, bodegas, and convenient stores. The package reads "natural and safe," and it is available for purchase to anyone, virtually anywhere.

It goes by the name of "Spice." And although it is more accessible than the real MJ, it is potentially more dangerous.

Synthetic cannabis comes in many forms. Liquid eye drops, vaporizing devices, e-cigarettes and the traditional smokable substance that resembles actual marijuana. It's being purchased - mainly by teens, and it is leading to ER visits across the country.

Numerous hospitalizations in Michigan prompted the Macomb County Health Department to issue an emergency warning and ban on the sale of these drugs, which are reported to cause hallucinations, aggressive behavior, racing heartbeat, drowsiness, and vomiting.

Synthetic cannabis use has recently resulted in over 150 hospital visits in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, LA in October, prompting the governor to ban the drug in that state. It is reported to cause severe agitation, anxiety, and paranoia; raised heartbeat and blood pressure; nausea and vomiting; muscle spasms, seizures, and tremors; intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes, including suicidal fixations and other harmful thoughts.

Similarly in New Hampshire, Governor Maggie Hassan declared a State of Emergency as a result of overdoses from synthetic cannaboid. So too has the Health Department in New York after a spike in ER visits.

Unlike the real mccoy, "Spice" masquerades as a safer, non-narcotic version of marijuana. In reality, many of the makers lie to its consumers - who are usually unsuspecting adolescents. In fact, with the DEA constantly attempting to pinpoint which chemicals to ban, the makers of the drug, have had to become clever with ever-changing combinations to stay off the agency's list.

Makers of designer drugs that are chemically similar to marijuana’s active ingredient THC—called synthetic cannabinoids or colloquially “synthetic marijuana” or “synthetic pot”—are constantly creating new products to evade legal bans on older compounds. Despite the similarity on the molecular level, these drugs are much more dangerous than marijuana, and have resulted in very serious health consequences including overdoses and aggressive or suicidal behavior in users.

Labels on Spice products often claim that they contain "natural" psycho-active material taken from a variety of plants. Spice products do contain dried plant material, but chemical analyses show that their active ingredients are synthetic (or designer) cannabinoid compounds.

Marijuana is heading towards legalization in many states. This, coupled with the argument that it is less harmful than alcohol and other prescribed medications, communicates a confusing message to our youth. It's legal so it must be safe? No way. But they don't know this. 

When young people see what's labeled as an even safer version of pot, what will they do? Variety can be the spice of life, yes. But this variety... of imposter chemical compounds and designer drugs is a far more dangerous concoction than it's original model.

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, February 4, 2015


There are some people who believe that certain psychological disorders are bogus.

Some believe that we are an overdiagnosed society of excuse- makers, enabled by quacks who make up disorders comprised of catchy buzz-worthy jargon... Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Dyslexia, Bipolar Disorder, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), to name a few.

"I can't study. I like, think I have ADD." 
"Don't screw with me today, you know that I'm totally bipolar."   

The way people casually utter these terms, self- diagnosing very serious conditions is disturbing. It often leads to the dismissal of the disorder by those who only hear about it in this sort of everyday speak. It leads to an eye-roll reaction whenever such disorders arise in conversation.

Part of this misconception is a lack of understanding. Part of it is the lexicon of society.

Of course the fact that certain folks ignorantly describe a simple mood change as bipolar, or a simple distraction as ADD, doesn't mean that they are actually afflicted by the disorder. It certainly doesn't warrant taking them seriously.

However, nor does it mean that these disorders aren't real - because they are very real. If you have ever witnessed bipolar disease first-hand, you'd understand it in a hurry. Seasonal Addictive Disorder (SAD) is another example. No, it isn't just the "winter blues." Most people probably experience a dip in mood. SAD can be much more and for those in recovery, the winter months can be the most trying time of year.

SAD is especially dangerous for people in drug or alcohol addiction recovery. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that drug and alcohol abuse is a common problem among patients who are diagnosed with depressive disorders like SAD, reporting that more than 20-percent of patients diagnosed with any mood disorder are also living with a substance abuse problem. Additionally, NIDA found that more than 20-percent of those diagnosed with a depression disorder abused drugs and alcohol.

What is especially dangerous to those new in recovery, is that they may not be aware of what's triggering their depression. SAD can cause for a strong desire to self-medicate - a temporary fix, that can lead to a recovery relapse. Relapses in recovery can either pose a one-time set-back, lead to a new extended period of abuse, or can very often be fatal.

Overwhelming sadness, numbness, isolation, sleep disorders, feelings of hopelessness, are all symptoms of SAD. It is tempting, if medications are not being prescribed or used properly, for people suffering from SAD and addiction to turn to their old friend - their drug of choice.

SAD and self-medication is a deadly concoction for anyone and most of all, the addict in recovery. Temporary relief of the symptoms leads to a sinking depression once the alcohol or drugs leave the body. This withdrawal is only worsened with SAD and each time an abused substance wears off, the negative feelings are exacerbated, triggering you guessed it - more abuse. It's what we know as "the vicious cycle," and SAD only provides fuel to it.

When those in recovery, especially those new to the lifestyle - lose hope or joy in sobriety, they naturally will miss their addiction and develop strong cravings.

We all feel a little blue when we don't get enough sunlight. It happens every winter and we know it's coming. However, SAD is a real disorder that can trigger a major setback in the recovery process. The good news is, that once the problem is identified, and SAD is diagnosed, it is almost always possible to bring the depression and addiction under control. Light therapy, medication, and other forms of treatment are available. It is imperative for everyone, and especially those in recovery - to be self-aware of the symptoms of SAD.

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.

Some of the possible causes for seasonal affective disorder include:
- Lack of sunlight may lead to a drop in serotonin levels, an important neurotransmitter that is important for managing mood.

- Melatonin levels can also be affected by seasonal changes. This compound is found in the body and affects sleep patterns as well as mood.

- The lengthening and shortening of days can affect people’s biological clock, or circadian rhythm. This can lead to problems with sleeping, which in turn triggers depressive symptoms.

- There may be a genetic predisposition towards developing SAD. It has also been noted that women tend to be more susceptible to it than men.

The symptoms of SAD can include:
- A noticeable drop in energy levels

- Depression

- Weight gain, which is often due to an increased desire to eat foods high in carbohydrates

-  Difficulty with concentration

- Feelings of anxiety

- A desire to seek isolation from other people

- Loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyable

- Reluctance to get out of bed in the morning

- Inability to sleep (summer onset SAD)

- Increased libido (summer onset SAD)

It is important to consider that once people experience these symptoms, medical advice should be sought right away.

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