Friday, February 26, 2016


A few posts ago, in the blog entitled, The Meth to the Madness, you read about my friend Chris. The tone of that post was somewhat bleak and desperate. Chris was detoxing from crystal meth abuse, sitting in a psychiatric ward. I had the chance to visit him and it was not the most pleasant environment, to say the least. But the setting wasn't the scariest part of my visit. On my ride home after leaving Chris, I really began to worry. He is under care now, I thought, but then what?

An inpatient drug rehabilitation program was the clear answer, but how? Rehab is expensive, ranging anywhere from $15,000 to $70,000 per month. Chris doesn't have that kind of money, nor does he have any insurance. I've heard of state-assisted programs for low or no cost, but I've also heard some mixed things about the level of care and the environment of these places. I wanted to help, as did others, but no one really knew what to do.

After sharing Chris' story through this blog, a few weeks ago, his angel appeared. An executive at Champion Center, Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat's two-year old sister program, read the blog. She picked up the phone and called me. That conversation was the most hopeful twenty minutes I've had regarding Chris' situation in over a year.

She told me about the possibility of Chris receiving a scholarship for care at Champion Center for virtually no cost. If the scholarship is approved, he would only need to cover a minimal amount for weekly rent and the travel costs to get the center, located in Lompoc, California. CALI-FORN-I-AMEN.

I immediately called and urged Chris to fill out the application contact the intake nurse for an assessment to expedite the process. I was nervous that he wouldn't follow through, but was relieved when he did. A few more of his friends and I started an email chain to discuss the logistics and financials for what we all decided to be a necessary journey. The collective unit came to an agreement and it seemed that this scenario was feasible. It was going to happen, and it was the most optimistic any of us had been for a year of trying to help our addicted friend.

Chris is now under the expert care of addiction specialists in a setting optimal for his success to recover from his disease. A scenario none of us could have ever dreamed a few weeks ago.

Here is an email from Chris regarding his stay thus far. Some of it may sound like a complaint, but rehab isn't supposed to be a vacation. The payoff is in the last paragraph - written in a voice - which Chris' friends and family haven't heard in such a long time...
"Greetings from Lompoc, California.  I’ve been feverishly writing in my journal, but yet again, to this special group, I’m not sure where to start, or how to end.  Funny enough, many of my sessions are the same. 
I’m the lone attendee from the East Coast.  The schedule is tight and rigid:  Alarm goes off at 6:00 AM, Mandatory check-in at Breakfast at 7, (Optional) Morning Walk at 8 AM, Yoga at 9, Group/Individual Therapy from 10-11, 11-12, Lunch 12-1, Group 1:00 – 5:00, Dinner 5:00 – 6:00, Group 6:00 – 8:00 PM.   Many times, we don’t get back to our rooms until 9 or 10 PM.
This is quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  The schedule leaves little time for a break, we go for 6 days straight, and even on the 7th day, if you don’t have a pass, there is a physical activity that takes you through most of the day.
I have the most difficult time surviving sessions with Gina, the Family and Relationships Counselor.  She is the best counselor/therapist I have ever worked with.   So good at her job that when I am right on the brink of having a complete breakdown, she pulls out her iPhone, and starts playing Streisand.
(Gina, let me tell you about the time me and my dear friend Tosti went to Back to Brooklyn…)
Yup, they know about all of you.   So much so, that my roommate told me that I was the luckiest person alive. 
I really am.  I’m sorry that it took me 2,500 miles to realize it.  I’m just so glad all of you dug in your heels deeper, when I tried to run. 
Two and half weeks to go, and there’s more work to be done.  I miss my little Philadelphia street.  I miss my own bed.  I miss the Golden Girls before bed.   This has been a long road home.
On the flip side, I haven’t felt this good or this empowered since I sat in a cold office back in college and concocted a ridiculous plan to host a conference of student leaders in 1997.  I thought that imagination was long gone.  It’s back.  And it’s awesome. 
6:00 AM comes early.  I miss all of you.  More than you can possibly know.   
Until March 10th ... Love, Chris"
On behalf of all of Chris' family and friends, a huge thank you goes out to Chris' angel. And our utmost gratitude goes to Champion Center for helping give Chris the best chance to recover from his disease. Our dear friend has a long road ahead, but there is a road. Only a short time ago, all we could see was a dirt path, winding in an endless circle.

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.

Friday, February 12, 2016


We've come a long way since the days of "Reefer Madness," the 1936 cautionary and highly exaggerated propaganda film, depicting marijuana as a scary and mind-controlling substance. In fact, instead of warning our children of the powerful and dangerous effects of cannabis, we are legalizing the use of the drug in more states with every pass.

But the question of whether or not marijuana is a gateway drug remains... Does smoking pot at an early age lead to the use of harder, more illicit drugs? Is weed a gateway drug?

Well like anything else, there are two sides to the argument. First, it is reasonable to think that early marijuana use can provide a gateway to trying harder drugs. After all, there are almost no heroin users who didn't start their illegal drug use with marijuana, and marijuana smokers are 104 times more likely to use cocaine than those haven't tried weed.

Furthermore, studies in rodents suggest that early marijuana use leads to an increased vulnerability for drug abuse and addiction to other substances later in life. This is also consistent with animal experiments showing THC’s ability to "prime" the brain for enhanced responses to other drugs. For example, rats previously administered THC show heightened behavioral response not only when further exposed to THC but also when exposed to other drugs such as morphine—a phenomenon called cross-sensitization.

These findings are consistent with the idea of marijuana as a "gateway drug." However, most people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, "harder" substances. Also, cross-sensitization is not unique to marijuana. Alcohol and nicotine also prime the brain for a heightened response to other drugs and are, like marijuana, also typically used before a person progresses to other, more harmful substances.

So if we call marijuana a "gateway" drug, shouldn't we also include nicotine and alcohol in this category?

It is important to note that other factors besides biological mechanisms, such as a person’s social environment, are also critical in a person’s risk for drug use. An alternative to the gateway-drug hypothesis is that people who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances like marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol, and their subsequent social interactions with other drug users increases their chances of trying other drugs.

This begs the question, is marijuana the main culprit, acting as a gateway to harder, illegal drugs? Or is is the environment and social factors, which really lead a person down a path of hard drug use?

While there are certainly correlations between the early use of marijuana and later use of hard drugs, these are only correlations. Most people do not start with the hard stuff, such as cocaine or heroin. However, using marijuana before moving on to the harder drug shouldn't be viewed as a cause and effect scenario. Odds are these people may have used nicotine and/or alcohol before the hard drugs also.

Instead of labeling marijuana as a gateway drug, which is essentially a way to place blame on the substance, what should be examined are the underlying psychological or social issues, which lead to a progression of harder drug use. The gateway argument is of the chicken before the egg variety, and specious, at best.

It is of course important to understand how someone has arrived to an addiction - but to fully understand this and work towards recovery - it's not as important to know which drug leads to another. It's most important to know the steps to 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.