Sometimes I can go several months between seeing a patient because he or she is on another provider’s schedule. It’s one of the nice things about our office – that all of the providers can get to know each other’s patients.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of following up with two wonderful men who both completed alcohol detoxes at the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine just over a year ago.

I had seen both of them in the first few months in their early periods of recovery, and they were both doing what they were "supposed to be doing," and getting along okay. Physically, they were both feeling better, although Brent (name change, duh), in his early 40’s found that he had gained quite a bit of weight, particularly going after sugary foods and carbs.

He was a bit anxious as he still had some court issues ahead, including weekend jail time. And Brent is a respected, oxford-shirt wearing professional. He had never experienced the inside of a jail – until that pesky DUI. Needless to say, he was highly motivated to check off anything on the list that might reveal to the judge what an upstanding citizen he was. He was seeing a counselor and attending an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), volunteering at a homeless shelter, and he was coming to our office monthly for Vivitrol® injections – a long-acting form of naltrexone.

He has now reached a year of sobriety and while many of the activities he was doing after his DUI were more fear-inspired, it was amazing to hear him describe the state of his current life.

He is sleeping 8-9 sound hours a night. He has been promoted at his job and reports that the CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), originally "used" on him by his counselor, is something that he now uses to help the co-workers he manages to solve their work-related issues. He has lost over 30 pounds and is a regular at the gym.

He has returned to playing his saxophone, long discarded and languishing in the attic. Perhaps most importantly, his relationship with his wife has never been better. He is happy.

Meanwhile, Jim (that’s right, not his real name either) is about fourteen months into recovery. Jim is a retired professional, dare I say, a former big shot with lots of connections and experience. His drinking really accelerated when he retired and he was determined that his retirement years were going to be spent enjoying his wife, his children, and his grandchildren. That’s when he came to the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine for alcohol detox.

Jim is quiet. He is often looking down during conversations, and what I quickly learned is that he is always deeply listening. He listens, he processes, and maybe he will speak. If he chooses to speak, it’s measured and relevant, perhaps bordering on the profound. (That may be a tiny stretch since I am very partial to Jim. I often find myself writing down things he says, to use as blog-fodder.) I am reminded of the quote attributed to Gandhi: “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

That would be Jim, improving upon the silence.

Jim, too, has done his "homework." He goes to one-on-one counseling, as well as group meetings weekly. His counselor has come to count on him as a leader in the group sessions, enough so that recently when the counselor couldn’t be present, he asked Jim to take over the group session!

Jim was open to recovery meetings early on, even though aspects of the meetings were not necessarily aligned with every one of his beliefs. He continues to attend both AA, NA, and Smart Recovery meetings, remaining open to any ideas or ways of being that will enhance his recovery. He particularly enjoys Smart Recovery meetings and is now doing the facilitator training program. It is on his list to explore a Refuge Recovery meeting, a Buddhist approach to recovery from addiction.

All of the providers and staff at the Coleman Institute are so gratified and humbled to bear witness to the transformations our patients’ experience. Seeing these two guys certainly made my day.

If you or a loved one are contemplating a life free from alcohol or opioids, please give us a call or request a callback and let us help you get started safely.

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP


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