I’m going to start this story off with something that happened to me on the 3rd of December. Originally, this was going to be a piece about what hasn’t worked in the treatment of Addiction and Mental Health. It has now turned into something quite different. After extensive investigation, I feel that this development solidifies my opinions and concerns about the troubled state of recovery. All of this started with an innocent inquiry as to the progress of my writing.
My roommate wanted to read the posts on my blog, so I told him to google my name and it should be there. He clicked on a link and then asked if I was really the author of what he found. Curious, I went over to see what he was talking about. I was more than confused by what I was looking at. It was an article on a website for a faith-based treatment center, aptly titled “Oklahoma Mother Thankful To God For Helping Son With Recovery From Addiction.” The post included both of our names, quotes from my mother, and even some details from the night I overdosed in April of 2008. There was something disturbingly familiar about the whole thing. Seeing that it was posted on May 19th of this year, I immediately looked at my calendar. I had been in town (I was still living in Austin) a few weeks before to speak with my ma for the Oklahoma Outreach Foundation. Slowly, the pieces began to come together. I recognized the quotes because I had read them before. I searched my email for the article my mother sent me the same week we spoke. My suspicions were confirmed. Ken Raymond penned the article, and it was published on the 2nd. The articles were almost identical. This discovery was only the beginning.
Normally, I wouldn’t have paid any more attention to this theft of intellectual property. However, this new site closed their post with “He has now been sober for the past three years and acknowledges that his Christian faith played a significant role in his recovery.” That’s when I got a bit angry. If anybody knows me they can attest to my faith in a “Higher Power.” I’ve never hesitated to talk about what the God of my understanding has done for me. All that being said, I have never claimed to be of any one religion. Don’t get me wrong, religion can and does do wonderful things in this world, and I respectALL paths of faith. The best way to describe my belief is with the old adage that religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell, and spirituality is for those who have already been there. All of that aside, the fact remains that an entity used my story, and falsely molded it to fit their philosophy to inadvertently profit. It was at that time that I began my intense information binge on the institution.
The Road Less Travelled aka The Christian Treatment Center is located just South of West Palm Beach in Lake Worth, FL. I found that it is a branch of The Treatment Center which shared the building, but not necessarily the same mode of recovery. They are thirty day programs where the patients spend the first part in detox (ranging from three to fourteen days), and the second being inpatient treatment. They have 125 beds between the two programs, each of which costing $16,500. That’s an average price for an “upscale” thirty day program. However, I haven’t heard of a rehab that split the recovery and the detox. It would seem that the people who would need to be in detox longer (chronic alcoholics,benzo/opiate addicts) would get less time in the recovery process. Thirty days are a very short amount of time for a true alcoholic/addict to really grasp what treatment has to offer. For instance, it takes between three and four weeks for brain to begin to rebuild its damaged cognitive capabilities. I have seen longer. The “haze” brought on by abstinence from chemicals doesn’t just go away after detoxification.
I’m sure they have helped plenty of people, and I have no right to say that it wouldn’t work for some. I am basing my opinion on my personal experience. Being a real alcoholic I needed 4 months of treatment to be in a place mentally and spiritually where I was able to go out into the real world and work on my sobriety. Again, it’s not my place to say what can and cannot work for others. The treatment program isn’t what I take issue with in this case. My problem leads us right back to the post that started this whole thing off.
Once I had begun my investigation it was like opening Pandora’s Box. One thing led to another, andeach new somehow worse than the last. Each site has a blog, and the Treatment Center has a “press release” section. Upon further inspection, I found that an alarming number of their entries had employed the recently controversial “cut and paste” form of journalism. It wasn’t hard to find the similarities using software that checks for plagiarism across the internet. Establishments such asWebMD, Fox News, and even the University College London were all victims. I found that the Treatment Center is a paying member of TransWorldNews/WooEB company which is a news mining search engine. Now, I’m sure there is some kind of loophole in this whole nonsense that provides a safe haven for companies that are using other’s intellectual property for their own monetary gain. Here’s how it could work. Based on certain keywords my account will be sent a number of articles from different sources. I then could cut and paste these articles on my TransWorld account, changing a few details just to be extra shady, and then further post them on my personal blog or site as my own. Any link will go back to my account at TransWorld, and unless there’s further investigation it will seem legitimate. If I were questioned by the source, I could put it off on TransWorld, and visa versa. My website remains untouched through the layers of anonymity, and then my company presents itself as a well versed source of expertise.
Again, all of this could be just on the border of illegality, but just not crossing it. The biggest thing I take issue with in this whole debacle is the execution of creepy business practice. Not only did this rehab post articles without proper citation, but they used the same technique to create their program itself. On the main page of their website there are five tabs that feature borrowed material. The tabs are titled Alcohol/Drug Detox, Alcohol/Detox Rehab, Pain Management, Do I Have A Problem, and Find Your State. Even their treatment philosophy is strikingly similar to another Palm Beach rehab calledRecovery Road. Now, I understand that all of this might still be legal no matter how sketchy it is. It doesn’t really matter to me. I’ve found that corruption will never change without public awareness and action. All of this is a slap to the face of the sick and suffering.
A severe lack of originality, a low treatment to cost ratio, even lower staff to patient ratio, little accountability in aftercare, and unethical business practices are all part of unsuccessful treatment programs. The awful truth is that this facility is just one of the countless others who prey on the weaknesses of Alcoholics/Addicts and their families. This is happening all over the country, and has gone largely unnoticed. Maybe it’s because we have become accustomed to dishonorable business procedures. The product, however, is not an iPod but a human life. The focus shifted from the need to help the sick to the worship of the ‘bottom line.’ I have seen zero evidence that the Treatment Center andCompany do not belong in this category.
People need to know what is happening, especially those looking for a way to recover. The money grubbing impostors operating under the guise of salvation should know that their reign is nearing an end. I take solace in the fact that there are so many who have survived this system and are demanding change. Whether it be the reform of legislation, the creation of accessible treatment options, or the elimination of stigma. Things are going to be different. The only question I have is “how can I help?”
All through this week I will be continuing with the “Early Recovery” series. The next installment will be about what hasn’t worked and why. The reasons behind why institutions like this were ever allowed to exist.
Allow me to end this entry with a quote from the great Carl Sagan:
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. The bamboozle has captured us. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
More to come soon…
It’s hard to explain what takes place in the brain of an alcoholic in early recovery. Imagine being locked in a room filled with televisions from floor to ceiling, each one tuned to a different channel with the volume at full bore. The bombardment of noise barely allows you to hear the thoughts in your own head. All the while, you are aware that one of these TVs is broadcasting a message that will lead to your escape from this surreal prison. The inability to sift through the cacophony and focus on salvation would only perpetuate the reality of hopelessness. This is exactly like the battle taking place inside the mind of the untreated alcoholic/addict.
This is the power that this disease can hold over those in early recovery. Walk into any newcomer’s meeting (AA, NA, CA, faith-based recovery. It doesn’t really matter.), and see the sad, sober eyes of some in attendance. Men and women who have lost so much that they have nowhere else to turn. Believe me, this is a hellish existence, and will stay that way until they take a vital step. Maybe for the first time in their entire life they are ready to honestly reach out and ask for help. The realization that everything they have tried has failed, quickly sets in. Finally, they surrender. This is an extremely powerful moment in the life of an alcoholic/addict. A glimmer of optimism shines through, and something begins to stir within them. They are now faced with an intense desire to do whatever it may take to end their pain. This is just the beginning of their epic journey into recovery.
I wish I could say that it all gets easier after this experience, and that the hard part is now over. This is not the case. The disease of alcoholism is still in control, and will ceaselessly remind the poor soul that relief can only be found in using. The lucky ones white-knuckle it through the night and make it to another meeting the next day. Often, holding on to that tiny sliver of hope they felt the day before is the only thing that kept them sober. Sadly, this is not always enough and they return to the life that caused them so much misery.
This is only a brief portrayal of the torment that takes place mentally the first few days of recovery. The situations described earlier serve as a grim reminder. All over the world there are people suffering in a similar way as you read this. Not only the addicts, but also those who love them. There are very few people who have not been affected by this disease in one way or another. So, why is there such a stigma looming over Alcoholism and Addiction? This disease has gone misunderstood for far too long, and the time has come to demand change. The recovery of a loved one or even your own may depend on it.
In part 2, I will get into the current state of the recovery community. What hasn’t worked and why.