In this episode, Zach is joined by Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn. Dr. Mikal-Flynn, works in the field of trauma, focusing on building resilience and growth in the aftermath of trauma. Her research brought forth a unique system guiding survivors of trauma, including addiction and dependence, through recovery and ultimately toward posttraumatic growth (PTG). She and Zach will explore her research and findings, and how Post Traumatic Growth can play a role in addiction recovery. Following Dr. Mikal-Flynn, Zach is joined by Paul Wyman and Sherry Rahl. Paul is a US Air Force Veteran and is currently serving in his third term as Howard County Commissioner. Paul also volunteers as the President of the Board of Directors for Turning Point and he is proud of receiving the Sagamore of Wabash award. Sherry is a Navigator/Stabilizer Coordinator for Turning Point and has roughly 5 years of experience in the field of recovery.
Welcome to Recovery Radio by Landmark Recovery with your host, Zach Crouch. In this program we’ll discuss the root causes and treatments of alcohol and substance addiction, speak with experts in related fields, and help navigate the road to recovery.
Now, here’s the host of Recovery Radio, Zach Crouch.
Zach: Hi. I’m Zach Crouch and you’re listening to Landmark Recovery Radio, your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. You can find us online wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to subscribe to get the most up-to-date information from leading experts.
We have guest Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn joining us on the show today. Dr. Mikal-Flynn works in the field of trauma. She focuses on building resilience and growth in the aftermath of trauma. Her research really did bring forward a unique system guiding survivors of trauma including addiction and dependence through recovery and ultimately towards posttraumatic growth.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show today.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Thank you very much for having me. I really appreciate being able to speak with you and your audience and share some of the things I found out about moving through trauma.
Zach: I’m looking forward to getting into this. Tell us a little bit about your background. How’d you get into this field of addiction recovery and perhaps even the trauma aspect of it?
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Right. Clinically, I am a nurse practitioner. That’s what I did from a clinical standpoint but then went back to school later and earned a doctorate studying this. In general, the reason that I got involved in this was for me, actually July of this year was 30 years ago I died and had 22 minutes of CPR to bring me back to life.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: At that point in time, I already was a nurse practitioner. My husband and I we’ve been married now for 40 years. We were married, had three children. It was a swim accident. My kids were on a swim team and I don’t remember any of this but it was a fun adult relay in the middle of their swim event. I’m very active and I grabbed my husband, a couple of friends and said, “Come on. We’re going to swim this. We’re going to win this. I’m going to swim last because I’m the fastest.”
I finished at the side of the pool that was 13-feet deep and I guess I did finish. I don’t remember, but as soon as I touched the wall I sunk to the bottom of the pool. My husband pulled me, realized I wasn’t coming up, pulled me to the side of the pool, dog-paddled me to the side of the pool and luckily there were several parents there who were doctors. I received 22 minutes of CPR poolside and then was Life Light-ed to a hospital.
What happened, kind of fast-forward through all that, as I said I’m clinically a nurse practitioner so I’m involved in the nursing medical community. I’m also extremely active physically. One of the things that was most frustrating to me when I was coming back was to be told everything I could never do anymore. It painted a pretty bleak picture, 35 years old at that time painted a pretty bleak picture of what my life would be like. When I’ve asked about if I can run. “Oh no, you won’t every run anymore.” Can I swim? “You won’t do that.”
I had tremendous cognitive delays because of the extended CPR and I was pretty much a mess. Struggling through that and again, I’m really fast-forwarding this, but over time getting to the point of extreme desperation and depression and grief and how am I going to get out of this, whatever really over time prompted me to say, “Wait a second. Why are we only looking at the bad things here? Why am I always being told what I can’t do? Why am I not being told what I can do? Why aren’t we focusing on a productive aftermath?”
It just got me into this trajectory of stopping to only look at what things have taken away instead of what you have been given as a result of going through this. I did go back to work as a nurse practitioner. Actually one time I was looking at a series of x-rays with a colleague of mine of a patient that we had. We’re trying to figure out over time because we’ve actually had that one week and two weeks and four weeks and six weeks.
I’m looking at these series of x-rays and we’re trying to figure out could we take this person out of their cast, could they go to physical therapy, whatever. I was just staring at these x-rays for a second and I thought, “Oh my gosh. Look at this. When you first get broken, first time you have a fracture, it’s ugly.” Actually a week or so later it gets uglier. That’s not abnormal. That’s the healing process causing the inflammation and the swelling, all this stuff.
As you look at it more, you set it right, you put it in the right place to heal, you start to see the fracture healing together and then by four to six weeks or so, you actually see a line there and you always will know when you get an x-ray somebody will say, “Did you have a fracture in your tibia because I can see a line there,” and say, “Yes.” It just hit me. Oh my gosh, this is what people do. They go through [Inaudible][06:04] and it gets worse at first then you feel things appropriately.
You start to see that and the thing that’s the most important is if things are laid down correctly and healing occurs, the risk of you breaking that, fracturing your bone in that same place it’s minimal. You can fracture your bone but not there. I went, “See. If we do this internally, why aren’t we not moving on that, why are we not moving forward with that?”
I just started seeing patients of mine, whether they were dealing with addiction dependency or other variety of issues and I could see people who went through horrible things. Not only did they survive, but they actually thrived and not in spite of what happened but as a direct result.
I started looking at that and then I went back, I went to study at Samuel Merritt I went back to school to earn a doctorate and that’s what I studied with my doctorate. I interviewed a variety of people. I do have quite a bit of experience with addiction dependency on a personal level with several family members who have dealt with that.
I started thinking about addiction dependency and what I call that strength-based care or resilience-based care, growth-based care on them really early on because I would say, especially when I…I’ll kind of talk about some of the work I’ve done specifically in that realm. I would look at them and say, “Man, you really need to realize how strong you are because not a lot of people have put themselves through it. You put yourself through.”
Zach: Let’s talk about that. I want to ask you a question, Joyce around that because I think that…a couple of things came up for me as you were talking, I was thinking about your experience with the pool at least. It sounds to me that has been an impetus for your growth for fueling your passion for obviously being in this field, but not everybody has that happen.
You see some people where at least, we’ll just say in feeling or facts they feel they are kind of almost behind the eight ball because of some experiences or a multitude of different experiences that were traumatic for them in nature and many people don’t get past that. What’s the major difference you see within yourself and people like you that either consciously or not they said, “I want to beat this?” “I’m going to walk again. I’m going to swim. I’m going to get back on the horse.”
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: I’m really glad that you brought that up. A couple of things just right off the top of my head that I think about is people don’t recognize; they think that those situations are endpoint, not beginning point. They don’t recognize how they can use those and they can get stuck in that because my passion, I passionately believe that we have the capacity to move productively through traumatic experiences and not overnight but over time when given the right situation which the mindset about that is huge.
I’m going to give you an example. A lot of work I’ve done around addiction dependency has been I’ve had the opportunity to work with Salvation Army and in an adult rehab center. I’ve worked with them for over three years. When I would start to talk about this concept of growth after trauma or resilience-building or [Inaudible][10:19] and all that and utilizing the system that I created called Metahab or Metahabilitation meaning going above and beyond restoration.
I don’t like the word ‘rehab’ or ‘recovery’. I think it’s limiting. It’s very limiting. It only kind of addresses maybe you moving through the baseline, but I think people grow past baseline and become way stronger. When I would start to work with these men, I’m telling you, I would talk about what they could do, how they could move through, how strong they were and I was seeing their eyes like somebody told them that they were worthy.
Somebody suggested to them that “You know you have a lot of good things in you” and didn’t just focus on what was wrong with them but focused on what is right with them. I’ll tell you the two things that I see over and over and over again with people who do well and this is critical. What I saw in those men and what they told me time and time again is ‘you gave us hope.’
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: You gave us hope. There’s a sliver of hope that we hung on to that we could have a life that we could use what we did in the past as a method to grow and become better. The other thing, too is and this is so key. They found a way to give back. They found a way to be of service. When you instill hope in people and not foolish hope but real hope and when you identify that ‘you have something to give, you have something to give back, you can do that’, to me those are game-changers.
Those are game-changers for people. It starts to build in them the sense of gratitude and the sense of ‘I have something that I am important’ that they can move past feeling guilty about everything and instead focus on again, the focus is always on what you can do, what you have learned, where you want to go, and what can you do to build yourself. There are three things. There’s hope, giving back. The other thing, people who did well surrounded themselves with the right people.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: They just surrounded themselves with optimistic, not foolish optimism but optimistic, positive people who held them accountable and they knew loved and cared about them. Those three things I think are just key that I have seen not only in a personal level but in the research I’ve done and the people I’ve worked with.
Zach: Is it in your experience, Joyce working with this population – people who have substance use problems that they have had trauma in their history and I would say significant trauma in their history?
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Oh, yes. There’s no question about that. There’s no question that when you go back the reason that they even got involved in substance abuse was to find some way to get away from the trauma that they experienced, some way to medicate that trauma and they started with that. It’s interesting you say that because when I studied this and looked at this and worked with people, it’s become very apparent to me even as a clinician.
For example like smoking. I don’t even remember. I’ve been in clinical practice for 30 years. I don’t ever remember people going, “Yes. I started smoking when I was 25. I started smoking when I was 40.” No, people don’t do it. They started smoking when they were 12 and 13 and 15 and that’s the thing. I think the same thing with drugs and alcohol. There’s a variation for that but you look back people, started using pretty early on because they’re going through that adolescent period or the young.
I know in your website you bring up the notion of ACES and that full situation where people are going through traumatic experiences and not being given guidance and the support to, as I say use those experiences to become better and stronger and instead it kind of takes them out. You see with significant alcohol and drug use, this started early on to mend, to try and deal with early trauma. For sure, there’s no question in my mind.
Zach: I want to focus, turn the conversation a little bit towards your research. Walk us through, if you would the research that you did and not only that, the results you discovered regarding resilience and growth after trauma.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: When, as I said I started noticing obviously not only in myself but others, I just started seeing that everywhere – in movies and books and every place that people went througho the steps. I went into doctoral research to study this aspect of human behavior. Again, why do people do that? What I tend to focus more on was not so much why do people do this because why is the motivation. There are so many motivations. I know you’ve talked probably hundreds or more of people and sometimes the motivation is unique in some way.
I like to deal with the motivation but what I wanted to look at more was how did they do this. How did they do this? How did they move towards the acclimation? How did they move from this point in time when things were just bad, whatever? I interviewed people, just garden variety – neighbors, friends, whatever and I just said, “Tell me your story,” with everything from spinal cord injury to addiction dependency to cancer to all sorts of variety of traumas.
I just kept hearing things over and over again and it made sense to me. You know these people did not do this in a haphazard way. There’s a system. There’s a system here.
Zach: There’s something strategic about the method of growing past the trauma. Is that what you’re saying?
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Yes that you see that they did this and then they did this and then they did that. It was pretty consistent through these varieties of trauma. As I said, I’d already created the word Metahab or Metahabilitation so I need to apply that. I created six stages or I identified six stages of Metahabilitation that people go through.
You can really actually see them a lot within the context of other recovery programs that basically the first stage of Metahab is the acute recovery stage. People are just kind of like “What’s going on?” It’s a very hot stage. People are getting acute treatment. People are kind of moving through the big bad stuff going on.
The second stage I call the turning point; whenever somebody’s really recovered through a significant traumatic event including addiction dependency, I’m going to tell you they’ll be able to say, they can pick the day, the minute, the moment where they decided, “I’m moving forward. I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I don’t know exactly how this is going to happen, but I am choosing to move forward.”
Once they make that choice they go into the third stage, what I call treatments where they get into both complementary and traditional treatment modalities and spend a lot of time and effort moving through that. After a while, they kind of need to just show. Stage four is adaption and adjustment where they for the moment kind of adapt and adjust to what’s happening at that time and then they can relax.
Stage five, they reintegrate. They get back into life. In some way, they get back into life. Stage six is about posttraumatic growth, resilience-building and really taking on life. That’s when they look back and say, “It’s not that I wish this hadn’t happened to me, but in a weird way I’ve learned so much about myself and I’ve gotten so much better as a direct result of going through that.” Yes. You see when I bring that out to people…
Zach: I want to ask a quick question. As you were mentioning those stages, I was thinking to myself. Have you seen some sort of common themes, at least among the people that you worked with where there’s a certain period of time, it’s not always going to be the exact amount of time but maybe weeks, months, pretty common that people stay at a particular stage? I think you mentioned like the acclimation stage.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Yes. I think again, it depends upon to me in general when I kind of look at people go “What’s the time frame you’ve seen people go through this,” and I always say I see them move through this in about 18 to 24 months. You see them consistently moving forward but you see that time frame. What has them move through again is the direction because this is a strength-based system that constantly engages them. There are paths that they need to do to move through each stage and it constantly pushes them and moves them into something that’s productive.
That’s the thing that when they look back and see how they’ve moved on, see how they’ve grown, see how they’ve accomplished things. Again, in stage four where they do have the kind of adapt and adjust and relax, we talk about that as a really important part of the process. You do have to sit back and think about what does this all mean. What does this mean in my health? Where did I come from? Where am I going? That type of thing.
Zach: When you get to be able to have that as something that you are able to reflect on as a person that’s probably been through a lot to not have to continue to put yourself and others for that fact through this process of pain and degradation but you get to a point where yes your life’s pretty stable right now and you have the choice to kind of reflect and decide and make really conscious choices on what you want to do next.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Right. It’s interesting, too. I’m always very, again trying to acclimate. I see the negative but I say it’s even like when I deal with veterans for example. I know that there’s this negative space and we can’t take that away. When you’re going through addiction dependency, when you’re dealing with soldiers who are coming back, whatever, there is going to be a time when there’s the depression and grief and everything.
I say, “I’m sorry. I wish I could take that away. I cannot but that is part of the process. However, we will not leave you there. We will come and get you because then you need to move forward, but you have to honor that part of the healing process. You can’t just say you got to get over that. No. You got to use it and incorporate it into your healing process.” I think that calms people down, too because you’re going to be.
Everything we’re going through now is I teach people the Metahab system. When I worked with Salvation Army, adult recovery system and I’ve incorporated this workshop, we use the Metahab system. It’s actually a system that you can incorporate on a variety of levels with different disappointments, struggles, and challenges that you go through. It’s the mindset that you adopt immediately upon engaging in a negative or troubling situation.
‘How did you go’ is a strategy. It’s a full-on strategy of how to basically attack that. You always come out, you can come out being bigger, stronger, better, more enlightened, all that.
Zach: Would you say that this is or in general kind of talking about today the idea of growing past trauma that it is a lifelong process of, I would say continual growth, transformation, and renewal?
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Oh, there’s no question about it. Once you, again you sort of adopt to that mindset, that growth mindset kind of that we’re getting into. That is something that just takes on basically a life of its own. Again, it’s not that…I’m feeling very good about how I came through my specific situation but life goes on. I’ve been married for 40 years. I have three children. We went through adolescence with them. We dealt with some issues.
Life is going to happen. You’re going to see that go on, but when you start to adopt strategies around that and also you become stronger. You go to negative places. It happens but you don’t stay there that long and you can move through better because you understand at a very deep level life’s meaning, the meaning of trauma in your life, how to utilize that in a productive, positive way, how that can add to you.
Again, not where it takes away but it’s that. Especially now, I look at people all the time who are asking me, “What are you doing now with COVID situation,” or whatever because also when you really break it down, there are some differences in how you handle an acute trauma versus how you handle more chronic trauma.
The other thing, too is to bring forth and the idea is you’ve mentioned people who have lived with and loved and cared for people who are going through addiction dependency, these secondary trauma survivors, the vicarious trauma survivors. Research is very clear that they, too can experience growth in the aftermath by the way they care for themselves and how they take a focus on themselves in terms of using this experience to grow, to develop, to become more resilient.
Zach: Good stuff. As we’re winding down, can you talk to us a little bit more about posttraumatic growth and how that ties into addiction recovery?
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Okay. Perfect. Yes. I always like to make sure I give credit where credit is due and so I did not come up with term ‘posttraumatic growth’.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Yes it is. It’s good. That term actually was coined by two researchers and psychologists at the University of North Carolina, Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun. I’ve used it. They came up with the term ‘posttraumatic growth’ and have identified basically five dimensions of that. When you think about your own growth, think about this when I mention these dimensions; they see that people in the aftermath.
It is not the trauma that brings the growth. It is the engagement with the trauma. It is moving with the trauma; therein lies the growth and development – posttraumatic growth. They see people feeling a greater appreciation of life. They see that their relationship become warmer and closer and they identify those as being important. They feel an increased sense of personal growth and strength.
Zach: I love it.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: They notice definitely a spiritual development in people that they engage in that and they take on new possibilities. That’s their work in terms of posttraumatic growth and looking at…
Zach: In another way is that they’re able to take risks. They’re able to put themselves out there it sounds like, too.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Yes. It’s really that their dimensions that go with that. When you talk to people, when you hear people’s stories, you just say, “Tell me your story,” and you just listen, you start to hear these things that “Oh yes. Look at they’re doing that and they mentioned their spirituality and they mentioned how they got back with family members and they mentioned how those relationships are stronger,” all that.
Utilizing these events to bring forth posttraumatic growth is the gift. It’s the blessing. In my line of work, in my mindset, it’s very hard for me not to look at it in any other way. Again, I don’t want to be foolish about this or not respectful of the pain in what people have gone through. When I work with people I go, “Where are you going to take this? Where are you going to take this trauma? What are you going to do with this?”
There’s a choice in that and then I help them move through that in a more productive manner so that they can grow and become stronger as a direct result of going through that.
Zach: Wow. I would say that the activities that you and I participate in are, and I don’t mean this in any sort of religious way are sacred activities when it’s done.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Oh yes. Oh yes.
Zach: Blessings to you to continue to treat work that you’re doing as well.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: I was listening to some of the other lovely podcasts and I just have to say I just learn so much when I was listening. I love it but I just think you hear over and over again the people that you’re talking to they develop almost a ministry. It’s their life’s work. What they went through, they got through but now it informs them and they just want to be of service. They want to be of help to other people.
Zach: It has transformed their life because what I know about and to quote Henry Allen who is [Inaudible][29:53] most people do get into the line of work that we are in, the helping profession are what he would call one of the humors. I think that how could you make this something that’s beyond just a paycheck. Obviously it’s not.
The really good therapists that I know they absolutely look forward to the journey each and every day that they step into their chair. They sit on their chair across a family, a person, whoever that is because their life has been transformed and it’s a way to give back.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Yes. It’s funny when you say that, too because I’m a professor at California State University, too. I’m a professor there and I deal with students going through things. Sometimes I just sit with them in my office. I go, “Just tell me what’s going on,” and listen. I just look in their eyes and I go, “Look at me. You got this. Do you understand how strong you are? You got this.” You can just see changes in people immediately when you just remind them of their strength and how they got this.
It’s almost emotional because when you’ve been able to do that and you’ve been able to be present with people in really desperate situations and you’ve been able to engage with them on that level to help them in any way to start to find that sliver of hope and to move forward, man you really do it. It’s an emotional experience very clearly. Yes.
Zach: This has been just a delightful conversation, Dr. Mikal-Flynn. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. This has been very…
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Awesome. Would you allow me to…
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Talk about to just give you my website?
Zach: That will be fantastic.
Dr. Mikal-Flynn: Yes. I do have a website and my first book is called Turning Tragedy Into Triumph Metahabilitation: A Contemporary Pathway for Recovery and Rehabilitation. I have workbooks and all sorts of stuff that people are interested in moving through the stages of Metahabilitation. You can go to my website at drjmf, that’s my name Joyce Mikal-Flynn, drjmf.com.
They can go there and pick that up and also I have a new book coming out that’s just will be released in April of actually 2021 that I’m very proud of. It’s called Anatomy of the Survivor: Building Resilience, Creating Growth after Trauma. That will be coming out soon but you can see some information about that on my website. Thank you for letting me talk about that and letting people know where they could go to get some help.
Zach: You’re listening to Landmark Recovery Radio, your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. You can find us online wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to subscribe to get the most up-to-date information from leading experts.
We have guests Paul Wyman and Sherry Rahl joining us on the show today. Paul is a US Air Force veteran and the owner of the Wyman Group. They are a real estate firm in Howard and Tipton Counties. He’s currently serving in his third term as Howard County Commissioner and previously served as a County Councilman. Paul volunteers as the President of the Board of Directors for Turning Point and he is proud of receiving the Sagamore of Wabash award.
Sherry is a Navigator and Stabilizer Coordinator for Turning Point and has roughly five years of experience in the field of recovery.
Paul and Sherry, it’s a pleasure to have you guys on the show.
Sherry: Excellent to be here.
Zach: Glad to hear.
Paul: Thank you. Thank you so much, Zach. We appreciate you having us today.
Zach: Good to have you on. Paul, tell us a little bit about how you got started in the field of addiction recovery. Can you share us a little bit about your story, your background?
Paul: Yes, you bet. Back in the fall of 2017, our community was experiencing a record year in terms of overdose deaths in our community. I was kind of looking around and thinking that the community we could do better. I organized an opioid summit of community leaders from across the board, from elected officials to superintendents of schools, chancellors of universities, business leaders, non-profit leaders and we all came together as a community, had a very hard honest conversation about where we were regarding the opioid crisis that was before us.
I’m not one to just have a meeting to have meetings and so really was more of a call to action in what we would do together. From that meeting, community leaders locked arm in arm and we went to work and set up some sub-committees, if you will and really started to identify what were the challenges before us and how are we going to tackle them.
One of the biggest gaps in questions that kept coming up with people in our community was they just didn’t know where to go get help. Families didn’t know where to begin the process. It seemed overwhelming and who do you call and we’re running into roadblocks and those sorts of things. From that conversation, we birthed an organization called Turning Point and decided we want to be able to answer that question with one simple response.
Next time somebody says, “Where do I get help? Where do we begin the process,” we could just then, the community then responds, “With Turning Point.” What Turning Point is the non-barrier, easy access point in our community for anybody suffering from addiction or mental health or a family member could call on Turning Point. It costs no money. You come in. You sit down. You’re going to get loved on.
We’re going to become part of your story and then we’re going to start connecting people to the resources they need to begin that road to recovery and become part of our recovery family. That’s kind of how it all started.
Paul: Unfortunately in my family it’s kind of personal as well. I know many families have experienced people that have suffered from addiction and overdose and those sorts of things. Between the personal side and the side of a community, that’s how it all came together for me.
Zach: That’s fantastic. I appreciate that, Paul.
Sherry, tell us a little bit about Turning Point. How do they get involved with community? A little bit about your background, too would be great.
Sherry: I used to run another non-profit which was Project Access which dealt with medical and mental health. That’s kind of when I received a call from Paul Wyman who said that we really needed to get a non-profit up and running to be able to help those with mental health conditions as well as substance abuse in our community because of the overdose death rates that was rising. Thank God for Paul’s leadership and our board’s leadership because today we’re up and running.
We started in May 1st of 2018 is when the door opened but at that point the phones have not even been plugged in and we had a line at the door ready to be serviced and ready and waiting for help. It was exciting and fun. Today, we are at 1,900 calls coming in a month to be able to service those that are calling in saying, “My son, my daughter, my dad, my mom need help. We would love to bring them to you so we can see what we can do.”
As a Navigator and a Stabilizer, our team, professionals that Paul has done so well to put together with our board is we want to wrap as much recovery capital around that individual as they come in and support those family members as well. We do not want the children forsaken or the parents or the grandparents that are raising those grandchildren. We’re really here for the whole family. This is exciting because that’s when the real help comes in.
Sherry: We need to help everybody in the system. I know Paul when we originally met one of his biggest things was we are not going to forsake. If this child is suicidal, we’re not going to forsake Johnny over here that’s not getting any attention because Suzy’s getting it all. That’s been a big care and concern for all of us is that every family member is valued no matter what their input into the crisis is.
Zach: I want to say something about that real quick, just briefly share.
Zach: I think you bring up a really great observation, a really good point because…I want to highlight something that I think that as a person in the field of recovery, in the field of treatment I think as an industry we can sometimes do the family a disservice. What I mean by that specifically is that yes, you have a person Johnny coming to treatment. Johnny’s been great. He’s getting sober. He’s getting his life back together and there’s a plan in place for after he gets done with treatment.
What’s going on with the family? I think that that’s something that in order to have success and I’m talking about just treatment here. I’m talking about what you guys are doing, too. The systemic approach to treating addiction really needs to happen because on our end at least, if you get a person geared and ready to step into a new life and the family is just sort of like great but what happened with us we’ve been punched in the mouth by this thing repeatedly for years and we need help, too.
We need help on how to draw boundaries with him, her. We need to learn how to engage this person after they’ve been sober. We don’t really have a clue on how to live with this person because all we’ve known forever is just chaos. I appreciate. I really do appreciate what you brought up there. I wanted to just mention that, but continue please.
Sherry: Zach, I really appreciate you mentioning that because I think that’s where the difference is really being made with inside Turning Point is with the board’s values and what Paul is bringing to the table as a leader and the community surrounding us as a whole.
The culture shift that needs to happen is we have to care about the whole family because even when Johnny comes back from treatment a different person if we don’t choose to look at him differently or her differently as the new person and accept and love them where they’re at, how can we move past all of that stuff that happened?
Yes, I realize it was real but that’s where we have worked with Overdose Lifeline and Overdose Lifeline has a program called CRAFT. That’s C-R-A-F-T. That’s a Community Reinforcement Family Support Group and those meetings are happening all around the state. In fact, we have one here locally at a cafe.
With that, we can help those loved ones that are the parents and the grandparents by setting those boundaries, by taking them through a 12-Step workbook to help them recreate what that home, what that family unit needs to help with as well as helping themselves get into counseling and the things that they may need to stabilize.
Zach: That’s great. Paul, question. I want to come back to something that you said earlier. You mentioned that you really did want to engage the community leaders in this problem when it first started. I was curious when you began to have those conversations. Was there any and from anybody for that matter that you’re talking to, sort of denial about the scope of the problem?
What I mean by that is yes, maybe people they want to help but maybe now that you look back you think to yourself, “Man, this is a lot bigger and it’s going to take a lot of effort than we ever thought and good thing that these people didn’t know about that then because they might not have engaged the way that they do now.”
Paul: Sure. I’ll tell you. I think there was some denial prior to the summit but getting everybody in the same room and everybody hearing the same message and what I mean by that some of the speakers that I had lined up for the summit for example, one was the coroner. I really had him lay out in detail what the current situation was in our community.
Zach: That’s brilliant.
Paul: I had Jim McClellan from the State who, for lack of a better word was appointed as the drug czar by Gov. Eric Holcomb. I’ve known Jim for years and he was kind enough to come and make an appearance at our summit. He talked about things at a state level and the magnitude of it and what our portion was here in Howard County.
We also had a couple of people speak who were in recovery so that everybody in the room not only understood the magnitude of the problem but then they could see that there really was hope that if we all went to work there could be more people like the two people who were sharing their story about being in recovery.
I think by the end of that meeting, the reason everybody really locked arm in arm was because they understood the gravity of the situation. They wanted to see a change. They wanted to see a difference. Literally within a year, we experienced about a 25 percent reduction in overdose deaths.
Paul: It was pretty amazing. Now this year with COVID that brings its own challenges as you could imagine. For the first year now in three years, we’re seeing an increase in our overdose deaths because of the second quarter when everything went on lockdown. As you know, isolation is the worst thing in the world for people who are addicts. That isolation really hurt during the second quarter. We saw a spike and we responded as quickly and as best we could but that’s a very difficult moment.
Now that things are getting back face-to-face and people are coming back, we’re seeing a huge reduction again. It’s really important as an organization to be here during those times of crisis and be there for the families, as you mentioned throughout this process.
Zach: That’s incredible, 25 percent. Sherry, you mentioned that you guys you’re receiving 1,900 calls. That’s a tremendous amount of volume of phone calls. How do you guys handle that? What are the calls like? I’m sure they’re pretty varied.
Sherry: Yes, they are varied. They’re anywhere from somebody who is chronically ill mentally such as schizophrenic, bipolar, off their meds, homeless living in tents and just needing to get the care that they deserve. When they call, we assess them. We have a mental health assessment we do over the phone. We basically rank the need and then we basically put them into an appointment to get in.
We have a lot of walk-ins on a daily basis, probably five or six a day now. We do a mental health assessment. We have professionals here on staff. At that point then once we assess them then if we need to see them right away, we get them in a chair and get them in an office privately. We believe in second chances. We believe in third and fourth and fifth chances because we know that there is a relapse rate. We know who they are.
When we get them clean and get them to detox and then they’ll come back and they will engage with our licensed peer recovery coaches. That is a wonderful process that Paul has added. Actually he and Dr. Oliver wrote a grant to the state and the state said, “We’ll approve it for two years.” We brought on Jamie Whitaker who had worked with the Department of Mental Health. He has coordinated licensed peer recovery coaches on staff now. We have probably a staff of around six now.
Zach: That’s fantastic. I think that recovery coaches are invaluable for people. They really do function as a sort of strategic person in the overall scope of a person’s recovery especially people early on in the process of recovery.
Sherry: It’s valuable, very valuable because with what Paul and the board have really put together here is with the navigators and stabilizers to wrap around that recovery capital but then engage them with that peer recovery coach that then walks the recovery out with them overcoming all of the barriers that are presented to a recovery in that first 30, 60 days.
We have what we call WRAP classes which are Wellness Recovery Action Plan classes and those are held three times a week. They only have to attend ten to one but we teach on trauma and how we respond to trauma.
Zach: There you go. Yes.
Sherry: Going through some of those things that become barriers that come out in counseling and then how do we overcome the obstacles of mental health and the flow through the counseling process and that is a big piece because you’re right. The peers have been there, done that. That is invaluable to that recovery to know that they had the same issue and they overcame it so therefore I can, too.
Zach: You brought up…it’s a word that gets thrown around a lot. I want to make sure our listeners are clear about it. You brought it up twice so far. What is recovery capital?
Sherry: Recovery capital is resources that will help a recovery to stay strong in that. That means okay I need a place that I can lay my head at night and get good rest that is a safe environment. I need to have the counseling and the mental health or an intensive outpatient therapy. I need to have the peer recovery coach. That’s a piece of capital that is invaluable. I need to have a cellphone that I can get and take care of and make sure that I have so that we can contact them when something goes awry or they leave where they’re at.
The other thing is insurance. It’s a big component. The pay source to the mental health or to the treatment has to be connected. We are experts in the insurance area where we can connect that dot for them because that’s paperwork heavy. It’s cumbersome. You have to have your ID, your social security card, your mail. We want to make sure that we hand-hold them through that process.
It’s really invaluable case management before case management is a paid item. That’s why this had to be a non-profit and that’s why we have to have grants or fundraising because they need that before they have insurance. They need case management before.
Zach: Paul, I want to come back to you started two boards. You created them. What was your role as Howard County Commissioner? What did that look like?
Paul: Sure. As a County Commissioner, obviously part of my concern is seeing the overdose deaths and as a leader in the community certainly wanted to do something about that. As a County Commissioner, it was natural for me to rally county government, city government, and the private sector. What ended up happening out of the opioid summit because of the number of people that were at the summit from all walks of life, we were able to form the board and create this non-profit organization with public-private partnership.
Government put money in. The private sector put money in. That’s how we got our doors opened. When I say everybody was all in, everybody was all in working side by side. That’s how we were able to get it done and to this day we’re still funded as public-private partnership. I think that’s one of the reasons we’re having such great success.
Zach: I want to express also thank you for that. Thank you for your leadership in that particular part of the country. Here’s the thing. This question is for both of you guys. What would share maybe one piece of important advice with our listeners about how to get access to mental health or addiction recovery treatment or help? What would you say? What would be the first steps that they would take?
Paul: Are you talking about it from an individual-who’s-suffering standpoint or getting access because of the work that we’re doing at Turning Point? Which way are you referring?
Zach: That’s a good question. Yes, I would say kind of like if there is a family member maybe they’re looking for someone for their loved one but also as a patient, person at a disadvantage.
Paul: Sure. Individuals who are suffering or their family members because as you mentioned earlier, look families are going through this. For many families, the world is on fire when you have an addict living in the household. It creates many challenges for mom and dad. I’ve seen families where mom and dad have been married for 25 and 30 years and it was a wonderful marriage and then all of a sudden the son or daughter is in addiction and all of a sudden that marriage is having problems.
That’s part of our whole wraparound concept is we got to get mom and dad into counseling, too and help them through this or little Johnny’s over here and he may not be saying anything but boy, he sure is watching all that’s going on around here. We got to make sure we take care of him and get him some help as well. The whole family concept so anybody can call in for any of these types of services.
From our standpoint, what people in our community realizes it costs no money to call Turning Point and come in and get help and what the big thing in our community of people I believe have come to learn about Turning Point is when you come in our door you’re just going to get loved on. We’re going to become part of your story I think Sherry mentioned earlier, such a judgment-free zone.
When people literally come in, they have no concept of what all these opportunities for help are. We’ve got access to all the resources and we make those connections. One of the biggest things about the resources to us is Sherry and her team they’re always out establishing these relationships with these resources.
A lot of times people might have tried to call the resource directly themselves and ran into an obstacle. They didn’t have their insurance in place right or they couldn’t get an appointment for four weeks or they couldn’t be seen. They hit that obstacle and they just quit. In our case in Turning Point, Sherry and the whole crew have gone out and established these relationships with these organizations.
Now when Turning Point calls, the other end answers, “Turning Point’s on the phone. They said they got somebody that needs us now.” We get it now because of our relationship we’ve established. We’ve busted through those obstacles. We have dedicated appointments at the hospitals and different places like that. We’re worried of a plug people and we get them help right away. To me it’s about access, no cost, come in and then the second component of it is relationships and boy, have we worked hard to establish those relationships.
Zach: I think that’s critical, man that piece around relationships because for so long many of these folks who come into your doors and in our doors at Landmark and also I want to say I appreciate the no shame kind of piece that you talked about. You’re not going to be shamed up and down by coming to Turning Point; same at Landmark. You’ve made a courageous decision to engage help.
From what you’re talking about at least, I think that one of the things that comes to mind about the people that you’re seeing because if you guys started in 2018 and you’re getting 1,900 calls coming in, is there a need to expand your services at this point, too?
Paul: We are. That’s the other great point. We just got approved for another grant and we’re in the process of bringing on a couple more navigators now. On the Pick Yourself Up side – the peer-to-peer program that Sherry was talking about earlier, in that program itself we started to realize a lot of these folks that are in our Pick Yourself Up program have children and some of their children have been addicts. We have addicts that are in the school system and those sorts of things.
We said we’re doing this for adults. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be doing this for children. We wrote a grant for the state of Indiana to do what we’re calling the Reach program for the kids to reach these kids who are suffering from addiction. State just approved that grant. We’re getting ready to hire a few people now that are going to be solely focused on kids in our community who are suffering from addiction and then be able to connect to them and their families as well.
We’re going to have the Pick Yourself Up program for adults, the Reach program for kids. Wherever there’s a connection between the two, they’ll be connected. If we just have a kid and their family is not connected then we’re still able to help the kid in our community as well. We are growing leaps and bounds but thank God that people are recognizing the work we’re doing and the grants continue to come in. The donations continue to come in and are enabling us to do this work.
Zach: As we kind of wind down here now, Paul or Sherry how do people find out more about Turning Point?
Sherry: Basically, they definitely can just give us a call at (765) 860-8365. That’s the number to call, folks if you do need to get connected to the right resources. Just to say a word to those that are in addiction or mental health, know that Paul and I love you. First and foremost, you need to know you’re loved right where you’re at right now and also whoever’s listening, you deserve a second chance.
Zach: That’s right.
Sherry: You need to reach out and give somebody a call and start making the connections. You are welcome to call us at Turning Point at (765) 860-8365. I want to say that Landmark Recovery is remarkable. They have served many of our clients and do an excellent job at what they do. Our rep reached out to us and we immediately got connected. They are very personable and ready to love on you as well and get you into the recovery that you deserve.
To the loved ones of the addicted and those that are dealing with suffering from mental health issues, I want you to know that there’s help for you and we have the Overdose Lifeline curriculum called CRAFT. We know when the meetings are around the state. We’ll be happy to share those with you. You can give us a call as well. There’s always the samhsa.gov website, the S-A-M-H-S-A.gov website that can connect you to a lot of mental health and addiction resources. We are here to serve.
The one thing, Zach that I think that we have a lot of work to do across America and the State of Indiana is we’re shifting a culture. We’re shifting the culture to say listen, no more stigma.
Zach: Right, right. We’re not going to knock or hate on someone that comes in and needs a knee replacement or help for their diabetes. Why wouldn’t we do the same with someone seeking out help?
Sherry: That’s absolutely correct, Zach.
Zach: This has been great. Paul, Sherry, I appreciate your time. This has been a really helpful conversation. Thank you both.
Paul: Zach, thank you. I appreciate it very much. You guys have a great day.
Sherry: Thank you.
Zach: Thank you.
Listen, if you know someone struggling with an addiction and are searching for answers, visit us at landmarkrecovery.com to learn more about substance abuse programs that are both saving lives and empowering families.
Until next week, I’m Zach Crouch with Landmark Recovery Radio.
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Oct 23, 2020
Posted in: Podcast