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It’s finally July and Grand Rapids has blossomed into the bright, bustling community I love. Families are spending evenings on the porch… watching kids draw with chalk… grilling all manner of meats and veg. These days, it can be easy to slip into a habit of mid-week drinking, what with holidays and get-togethers and a general need for “something refreshing” (it was 92 degrees the last time I stepped outside).

They didn’t drink like everyone else…

A friend of mine has told me stories about “those certain friends” her kids hung out with in college. As they reached adulthood, it was easy to spot the ones “who didn’t drink like everyone else.” There was an urgency with those certain friends. A complete disregard. An ornery twinkle in their eye, both dangerous and intoxicating (excuse the pun). They stood out… they kept drinking when everyone else just wanted to go to bed. It was almost desperate… They pushed it. Consistently.

Those Certain Friends…

According to addiction disease progression, there’s a lot at play here. Our physical bodies can work against us to foster a growing substance use disorder (SUD). Those certain friends may not experience hangovers. Their tolerance may be naturally higher than others. And they are energized by their substance, not bogged down.

This early in the game, it’s difficult to tease out the consequences. “Euphoric recall” kicks in (one remembers telling a killer joke, for example, not shattering a crystal wine glass). Physical dependence and withdrawal necessitate regular and habitual use (waking at night, “hair of the dog,” etc.).

Can We Predict the Onset of a SUD?

So, is it really possible to “predict” the onset of an SUD? It is, actually. Well… sort of. It’s not an exact science (it has more to do with common sense). In my work, I see a pattern of history, environment and mental health:

Self-concept, including level of confidence, self-efficacy, decision making skills, and self-talk. Are there life circumstances or health issues impacting my self-concept? How am I dealing with this?

Genetics. Up to half of an individual’s risk of developing a SUD may be due to a genetic predisposition. For more info from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), click:


Education or prior exposure. We can’t know what we haven’t been taught, after all. How did my parents and peers model substance use? What language did they use (if any) to describe it? What are my learned behaviors? (And how were they reinforced over time?)

Environmental factors, including those at the family, community, and societal level.

The Power of Prevention

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), symptoms that signal a SUD surface 2 to 4 years before the disorder grabs hold. Early interventions (“coordinated, specialized efforts”) improve an individual’s chance of beating the disease before it becomes unmanageable. In fact, cost-benefit ratios for early participation range from 1:2 to 1:10. This means a $1 investment in treatment now yields $2-10 savings in healthcare, legal, and occupational costs later.

There are four components to addressing a SUD at its source: promotion, prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Promotion. To create an environment supportive of sobriety. At this stage, the individual learns tools to combat abusive or unhealthy behaviors.

Prevention. Ideally, this would occur before the onset of a SUD. Efforts reduce the risk of the disease developing further.

Treatment. Offered to folks who meet criteria for a SUD diagnosis.

Recovery. Services that support sustained sobriety from a substance.

Changing behaviors…

Those certain friends probably would have benefited from early intervention. Because once we begin to contemplate a problem exists, we can work towards change.

Change comes in several shapes and sizes, and may include adjusting one’s environment (workplace, living environment, peer group) or assessing knee-jerk responses to certain stimuli (how do I tend to cope?). Folks may also choose to analyze the root cause of their substance use. Often, my clients identify the need to “fill a void.” A void that existed before being introduced to substances. What was your upbringing like? Are there messages or behaviors you tend to reenact? Depth psychology isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth being open to. Especially for folks with a trauma history.

Any way you shake it, I’m just glad you’re taking a closer look at your behavior. If you’ve noticed your substance use “isn’t like everyone else,” it may be time to try something new. Sanford House offers residential and nonresidential treatment programs depending on your needs and schedule. Reach out today for more information…

The post Addiction – The Power of Prediction and Prevention appeared first on Sanford House.

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Chandeliers and leaded glass… The entryway – Sanford House at John Street for Men…

We’re back with our Limelight Series.  Asking the Sanford House therapists questions to illuminate everything from their favorite journey to what they know to be true about addiction treatment. It’s sort of a parlor game. And in fact, we have several parlors to choose from… Our treatment centers are all located in lovingly restored, historic homes in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Group Room Two – first floor parlor John Street for Men… Painting of Empire Bluffs by Kathy Mohl

Meet the Team…

The most important relationships our clients (and their families) will cultivate while in treatment and beyond, are those with their individual counselors and with the therapists who lead the many groups they will attend. Our goal with Limelight is to demystify addiction treatment and introduce our team of therapists. We want to share some “interesting” details about the folks our clients will be spending time with while at Sanford House.

We hope this makes the experience feel a little more personal… a little less scary. Limelight: Claire Victoria Graves, LPC, CAADC, AcuDetox Specialist

Claire in her office – Sanford House at John Street for Men

1. What is your treatment philosophy – those things you know to be true about addiction therapy?

I believe that addiction stems from maladaptive coping skills. I also believe that stigma is one of the greatest impediments to getting better. So, helping our clients to develop the skills to deal with triggering events, without resorting to drugs or alcohol, is vital. Honesty, and of course family can make or break a person’s recovery…

It’s about teaching the difference between large consequences and small consequences. (Sips coffee) I really like coffee, maybe a little too much, but what is the harm, the consequence, of having a few cups of coffee every morning? And for someone in recovery, the consequence of drinking or using?

2. How do you personalize your work?

The personal approach is very important. To meet each client “where they’re at”, get through to their cognitive thought processes – the story they tell themselves about themself. I accept every client for who they are. And we create a mutual relationship.

3. Why did you become a therapist?

I had some personal mental health issues as a teenager. And I was handled so badly… Therapy felt judgmental – like I couldn’t dare to tell the truth for fear of reprisal. It made me appreciate what therapy could be. Had my therapist known how to get through to me – asked the right questions – there would have been a very different outcome.

And I have always been fascinated by how the brain works…

4. What is the key to success in recovery?

I think you have to be plugged in to the recovery community. The rest goes hand in hand with what I’ve already said. A person has to figure out where their vulnerabilities lie. Make productive choices. Find connection and help within the family system. And how they view themselves is very important. Are they feeling shame, or the effects of a disease?

5. What are the biggest pitfalls/triggers to relapse?

Number one is isolation and being afraid to ask for help. Also, failing to understand that cravings are symptoms not frailties. And, if there is a lapse – giving up instead of moving forward. Not being able to get past the shame…

6. What is the “fun” part of your job?

I spend most of my time at John Street for Men. And getting to hear the “stories” is an interesting part of my job. It always amazes me that the world is out there and things happen and we all see it so differently. In addiction treatment, co-occurring disorders are common. Culture, trauma, life experiences, etc. impact how we see things. So the holistic approach – looking at the entire person is key. We all have such different perspectives and I love that!

7. And the most challenging?

When one of my clients doesn’t believe they have the worth to get better. When shame is too great and I can’t seem to get through to them. Or when the family system is poisoned – and I feel like I might be dooming them to return to a negative environment.

8. What is your most marked characteristic?

I guess I’m “quirky”. And I try to use creativity and humor in my work (and everything I do).

9. What type of books do you like to read?

Books in my field on: shame, self-concept, perceptionism… Is it too cliche to say Brene Brown? Or the classics, like Hemingway… Wait – my favorite book is Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides… that’s a great book – I’ve got to read it again…

10. What is your motto?

I’m not sure if these are mottoes, but I use these phrases a lot with my clients – and they’re words to live by…

Not my monkey, not my circus…  Good things and bad things will happen…

11. What is your favorite journey?

For eight years I have been on the roller-derby team, the Grand Raggedy Roller Girls. It’s been by far my favorite journey. I have traveled with them on the circuit, and I have learned so much. In fact, I use roller-derby as a basis for some of my process groups. The value of non-verbal communication, teamwork, getting along with women from all walks of life and keeping your eye on the prize – even when it’s tough…

12. What makes Sanford House unique in your opinion?

The culture at Sanford House allows each therapist to approach their job uniquely. In so doing, we can meet every one of our clients as separate and distinct – with truly individualized therapy.

The post Limelight: The Sanford House Therapist Interview 2 appeared first on Sanford House.

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One of the things I love most about being sober is the notion that it’s a wickedly rebellious act. It is! Think about it. 

An alcohol soaked world…

We live in a world that is literally soaked in booze. Every social occasion, gathering, celebration, achievement, commiseration, high point, low point and Friday night is marked with alcohol. It is freely sold in numerous stores around our neighbourhoods. It is advertised left right and centre, hailed as a wonderful liquid libation that helps you win friends and influence people.

From a very young age we are told through marketing messages, and shown by our friends and neighbours, that drinking booze is the best way to relax, celebrate and grieve. We’re told that we deserve it. It’s normal and everybody is doing it. And we believe it. We go along with it. We drink and we drink and we drink.

Having fun till you’re not…

I certainly did anyway. I drank enthusiastically and regularly for over twenty years until the wheels really started to fall off my habit and I sank into a deep, dark pit of addiction.

Then I did the unthinkable, or at least the very rare. I decided to remove alcohol from my life completely and re-frame myself as a sober person. In other words, I decided to walk around this booze-soaked planet of ours never touching the stuff. Given almost all of the people around me regularly drink alcohol, I am the rare exception. I really do feel like a rebel by not ever touching the stuff.

Radical? Counter-cultural? Sober?

Quitting booze is an incredibly counter-cultural, radical move.

I love thinking about sobriety this way – that it’s a rebellious act. For me it puts a great positive spin on the situation. And given I have always identified as being a bit naughty, sobriety appeals to the rebel in me.

I often feel like people are looking at me with sympathy for what they think I’m missing out on, or perhaps in recognition for the hell I’ve been through to get here. But little do they know that inside my head not only do I not feel like I’m missing out on anything (having completely reshaped my thinking about alcohol and now seeing it for the expensive, destructive, waste-of-time drug that it is), I feel incredibly powerful and awesome.

In truth I feel like a complete bad-ass. They shouldn’t feel sorry for me, they should envy me!

Outside the alcohol industry’s sphere of influence…

Because, aside from the fact that I am living my best life, being healthy, clear-headed and grounded all of the time, I am also dancing freely outside of the powerful alcohol industry’s sphere of influence. I am immune to their seductive messages. They don’t sway me, I just see them as glossy lies.

I love wearing my alcohol-free status like a badge of honour. I love the fact that I am going against the grain by being a non-drinker. The inner rebel in me who used to see drinking as a form of rebellion, now sees sobriety as the ultimate form of rebellion. Yet this lifestyle choice has much more rewarding side-effects.


And for an article in the Daily Mail on Lotta Dann: ‘It was like looking into a black abyss’: Mother-of-three, 46, who battled alcoholism for 24 YEARS reveals the ‘horrifying’ moment that made her finally quit drinking.

The post I Am Wickedly Rebellious (Sober) appeared first on Sanford House.

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Human suffering is all around us.  We learn of untold trauma—sexual abuse, bullying, domestic violence, early and sudden deaths of loved ones, exposure to combat, life altering injuries, etc. It makes us wonder how individuals survive and move on to live life.  We are inspired by heroic stories of survival and healing.

The Secretly Wounded…

But what we don’t realize, is how many walking wounded are among us. We don’t know, because they don’t tell us. They don’t tell for many reasons, but for males, not talking about it, is considered “manly.”  It is erroneously believed that real men don’t burden others with their problems. They suck it up and deal with it on their own.  In fact, the mark of “real man” is one who is heroic enough, tough enough, man enough to face and endure traumatic incidents unscathed.  And if scathed, he suffers in silence and is awarded a badge of honor—a man’s man.

Iconic Images – “Real Men” Endure Trauma…

You’ve seen the iconic image of the soldier emerging from the rubble of battle—bruised, battered and torn—but still standing, ready, able and willing to fight the next battle.  These ubiquitous images and unwavering narratives of masculinity promote an edict for men to live up to. Real men endure trauma. They are tough enough, and man enough to stand strong, not complain, put it behind them, and soldier on in life.

The hidden, yet stronger and more insidious message is: weak men crumble, complain and don’t pull themselves up by their boot straps.  For most men who experience traumatic incidents, the most damaging aspect of the trauma isn’t the incident itself. It’s what they tell themselves about how they respond to the trauma. And the deleterious impact it has on their mental health, their relationships, their life!

Salving the Pain

Although we award a wounded soldier the purple heart, he may suffer for life with a pickled liver as he salves his pain and sorrow with bourbon and gin.  Although a childhood sexual abuse victim later in life achieves an award for sales, his shame accumulates and foments in lonesome, duplicitous and compulsive sexual encounters.  And although Bill swore he’d never be like his dad, the man he watched batter his mom, he finds himself saying and doing things unimaginable to his wife and children. Because men aren’t given the tools or permission to talk about their pain, so many are prone to act it out—pass their pain on to others—or suffer in silence and addictions.

We are often attuned today to how sexual abuse or domestic violence can be traumatic. But we underestimate the strain on men’s humanity when having to endure toxic male socialization.  This male training is often intentionally inflicting pain and suffering upon young men as a “lesson” in learning to be tough and resilient.

Boys Learn from Their Fathers…

Boys may learn from their fathers that crying is for babies, or for girls. They are told to stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.  Young athletes may suffer yet endure hazing rituals to earn their status as an accepted team member only to perpetrate the same rituals when they become senior team members.

Although males in general are told they need to be tough, athletic, in control and powerful to fit into the man-pack, a lot of boys and eventually men don’t fit in. They secretively suffer in silence, believing they aren’t man enough.

Although deemed normal in decades past, this extreme type of male training is now deemed traumatic.  It creates and fosters a pact among men to not only agree to endure it, but concede to not complain about it – not talk about it. To do so is tantamount to admitting you’re not man enough. So, the code of silence is written indelibly into the man-pact—an ancient code of behavior men agree to follow.

Trauma Extracts Its Toll

No matter how tough you are, trauma exacts a toll on your humanity, your soul.  It invades your mind, emotions and body. It becomes an emotional tumor only shrunk and eradicated by acknowledging it, talking about it, and expressing the unexpressed feelings that were either ignored or muted.

If not dealt with directly, trauma will haunt us in what has been coined as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Although one may not officially meet the criteria of PTSD, a lot of men carry around some level of unresolved trauma from a distinct incident or experience. Or they may experience the existential trauma of growing up in the toxicity of rigid male socialization.

And depending on your race, era, sexual orientation, class and genetics, you may have experienced more trauma than those who find themselves at the top of the male hierarchy protected from the trickle-down abuses inherent in male posturing to prove one’s superiority and dominance.

Men’s “Bad” Nature…

We see and read about bad and tragic male behavior—shootings, domestic violence, suicide, sexual aggression, criminal behavior, addictions—and assume it is part of men’s bad nature like tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes in physical nature.  There is little discussion in how toxic male socialization actually is traumatic to the humanity in males.

This unspoken trauma is not talked about, but seen vividly in how males possess the propensity to act out feelings. To pass their pain and unresolved trauma onto others.  And if not onto others, to themselves by holding painful feelings inside and medicating them with alcohol and drugs.

Until we begin to have a conversation on what healthy and fit masculinity looks like in the new millennium, we will continue to mindlessly set up the next generation of males to fail.

The suicide rate of males is now 4 times that of females…

… and 79 of the 81 recent mass shooters have been male. Males are struggling with failure to launch at a higher rate than females, while females have surpassed males as college graduates.  The work-place, and college campuses are demanding that males show up with compassion and respect at the forefront of their “personhood”, rather than their untethered sexual interests. We must look at how to raise our boys to be fit for the new millennium. It will include greater levels of emotional and relational intelligence to function and thrive.  

Walking Wounded…

Unfortunately, today, we have many walking wounded men suffering with covert depression, imprisoned in addictions, or with externalization disorders—acting out their pain and trauma onto others.  Some even look like they have it all, and then surprise us with sudden and inexplicable suicides. For most men, talking about feelings, revealing vulnerabilities, asking for help are acts of weakness.  Men are sadly stuck in pursuing the pinnacle of masculinity—self-reliance, stoicism, control—at the expense of their own humanity and those of others.

In my work with men, they often begrudgingly come into counseling feeling coerced by a loved one or looking for a quick fix.

The mere act of being in counseling or asking for help is experienced as shameful, so they want to do it secretively and quickly.  What some men discover, is how much strength and courage it takes to be vulnerable and share their feelings and life with me or their group members.  They experience the healing powers of disclosure, of being seen and heard. The traumas they endured are acknowledged, and the support and care they receive doesn’t weaken them but strengthens them.  They become stronger from the inside out and find strength in openness and community not in their isolation and silence.

It is difficult enough to endure, heal and survive from trauma when it is known, acknowledged and addressed openly with the help of professionals, but it is virtually impossible to heal when we as men can’t name it and won’t talk about it… RF

Raising boys to speak from their hearts…

The most pernicious and pervasive trauma for males is learning and living out this toxic lesson of manhood—real men make it on their own and the ones who don’t are weak. We can end that trauma today by raising boys to remain connected to their hearts, while giving them permission to be in connection with others beyond just sexual encounters.

We can help males today pursue their full humanity while not sacrificing their masculinity. And men can end the deadly and insidious killer of emotional and spiritual life—silence and isolation—by speaking from their hearts and being in a life-giving recovering community.

The post Toxic Masculinity – The Hidden Trauma in Men’s Lives appeared first on Sanford House.

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The front group room at Sanford House at John Street for Men

There is a strong correlation between trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and addiction. Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds our ability to cope. PTSD is a mental health disorder that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. For example, sexual assault, a natural disaster, combat, a life-threatening event, or the death of a loved one may cause PTSD.

Self-Medicating Trauma

As a society, we tend to ignore, or not recognize the affects trauma has on us. And when we do recognize trauma, we often prefer to deal with those intense and unregulated emotions through self-medication. It is not surprising. It seems like self-medicating with drugs or alcohol might be the easy way to “numb” ourselves from feeling anything.

Because, doing the healthy, proper, therapeutic approach is difficult. There is no quick fix. Therapy causes us to look within ourselves and process all the intense emotions we’ve been suppressing with drugs and alcohol. And the longer one has been suppressing trauma, the harder and longer the process will be to heal and recover.

Therapy for Healing PTSD…

During group therapy sessions at Sanford House, counselors instruct our clients how to deal with trauma in healthy, manageable ways. I teach an interactive journaling session on “Traumatic Stress and Resilience”.

Interactive journaling is a guided writing process that combines spoken language and written language. It is designed to elicit personal reflection. The treatment-relevant information is presented with appealing graphics. And there are many structured opportunities for our clients to respond to prompts. They really seem to enjoy the course.

Personal Experience

I have served in the U. S. Army, dealing with unit deployments. I have also been an inner city paramedic. These experiences have made me more empathetic to our clients who have experienced trauma. And because I can relate on a personal level, I am able to give advice born of life experiences.

And helping our clients process through their trauma in unique and beneficial ways is what I am all about. I help them to understand that plumbing the root of the traumatic experience will generate healthier outcomes than an attempt to mask the pain with an addictive substance.

The post PTSD Awareness Day: The Correlation Between PTSD & Addiction appeared first on Sanford House.

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The decision to get help for a substance use disorder can be a very scary prospect. In fact, the “unknowns” are a deterrent to seeking addiction treatment. So, at Sanford House we try, through our website, videos and marketing materials, to describe how the treatment experience will feel. Because, when you know what to expect, it’s not nearly as frightening.

Meet the Therapy Team…

The fear factor is probably the reason one of our most popular sections on the website, is Meet Our Team. This is where our clients and their loved ones get an introduction to the Sanford House staff – those people with whom they will be sharing their life for weeks or even months.

Introducing “Limelight”

The most important relationships our clients (and their families) will foster while in treatment and beyond, are those with their individual counselors and with the therapists who lead the many groups they will attend.

And so, over the next few weeks we present “Limelight” (a sort of Proust questionnaire). Where our therapists will answer a series of questions that illuminate everything from their taste in books to their greatest accomplishment at Sanford House. We hope you enjoy getting to know our clinical staff…

Limelight: Rae Rabideau, MS, Therapist

Rae on the porch at Sanford House at John Street for Men

1. Why did you become a therapist?

I wanted to be in the social work field from the time I was fourteen. I loved that there were names for what I was feeling – that help was available. But, I come from a long line of addiction. And addiction therapy was about the last thing on my radar I thought I’d be passionate about. I got a job at Sanford House as a Residential Supervisor through a family member. At the time, I was very pregnant and writing my Master’s thesis. Rae Green (Sanford House Founder) convinced me to write my thesis on gender specific addiction treatment. And the rest, I guess you could say, is history.

2. What is your primary focus? What makes your therapy style different?

I was so relieved when I realized that our clients are just like the people I want in my life. This work is so rewarding… I focus on relapse prevention planning; shame; and family therapy. And because of my family history and the fact I no longer feel discomfort when having “that discussion,” I am empathetic to our clients’ concerns.

3. What is the key to success in recovery?

Treatment goes by faster than most people think it will. And, planning for after treatment is key to success in recovery.

4. What are the pitfalls/triggers to relapse?

The three things to avoid in early recovery are: unstructured time, boredom and isolation. I work with clients to develop a detailed plan prior to leaving treatment to promote success in recovery. If there is blank time we work together to add some ideas and suggest new things to try.

5. What other factors affect recovery?

Shame is something everybody experiences. It’s a universal emotion and a harmful one when not addressed. At Sanford House, clients explore their own shame triggers and they learn about the “anecdote” to shame.

Also, addiction affects the whole family system. It’s a family disease. Participation in family therapy is highly encouraged at Sanford House. We believe that a strong support network is a critical component to success in recovery and the opposite is also true. Family therapy helps clients and their loved ones begin to rebuild trust and practice open and honest communication. It also helps client’s and their families to get on the same page about what happens after treatment.

6. What is the most fun part of your job?

I work primarily at Sanford House at John Street for Men. And I love getting to know the guys – joking around. I also love to make John Street a place where our clients want to be. When someone enters treatment, it’s like the torch is passed and our clients seem proud to show the new guy around…

7. And the most challenging?

When it feels like, for whatever reason, a client is leaving treatment too soon. Especially if I know they would benefit from a longer stay…

8. What type of books do you read in your spare time?

I have a small child… When I read for pleasure, it’s always nonfiction. Brene Brown?

9. What is your greatest achievement as a therapist?

My most rewarding achievement is helping to launch the John Street alumnae group called “Sons of Sanford”. Because I feel so strongly about community and filling unstructured time, the alumnae group is a great way for our clients to keep in touch, bolster each other and provide meaningful activities in recovery.

10. What is your motto?

Nothing changes if nothing changes. And our House Manager, Rod Townes, says something at our John Street graduation ceremonies I like a lot. He says, Today the rubber meets the road… and you better have good treads on those tires…

11. Anything else?

Yes. This feels good – it’s a good fit. I am excited to go to work every day.

The post Limelight: The Sanford House Therapist Interview appeared first on Sanford House.

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The deaths by suicide of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade last week, brought mental health and suicide to the forefront. Perhaps that is the only positive that can be gleaned from the tragic and avoidable loss of such robust, talented people.

When Celebrity Shines a Light…

In the celebrity magazine Us Weekly, there is a feature called: Stars – They’re Just Like Us! Full color photos depict movie idols doing mundane things, like walking dogs or shopping in farmer’s markets.

I thought of that catch phrase when I heard about Anthony Bourdain’s death. Because, his suicide seemed personal. And more difficult for me to take. Maybe it’s because he is such a national treasure – so visible. Or maybe because he has always seemed vulnerable and dark beneath the happy-chappy bravado.

In any case, back-to-back celebrity deaths have shone a light on the growing problem of suicide in the United States. Stars – they are just like us – isolated, depressed and disconnected.

Increase in Suicide Rates in the US

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the US suicide rate has increased by 28% in the 17 year period from 1999 to 2016.

There is no single factor that explains the increase in suicide deaths. And it’s not just a mental health issue. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says, “A combination of individual, relationship, community and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide.”

And the CDC Study on Suicide Risk and Protection sites “suicide risk factors” as:

  • Family history of suicide or child maltreatment
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • History of mental disorders and clinical depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Isolation, loss, hopelessness
  • Physical illness
  • Impulsiveness, aggression
  • Barriers to accessing mental health facilities
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of stigma
Learning to cope with loss and process difficult emotions is essential in suicide prevention.  A “safety plan” and connectedness are key…

The death by suicide of someone as beloved as Anthony Bourdain begs the questions, “Why?” And, “Could it have been prevented?” The CDC says, “Protective factors buffer individuals from suicidal thoughts and behavior.” We can only assume that Bourdain’s “protective factors” failed him. And that life just became too painful.

The CDC “protective factors for suicide” include:

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical and substance use disorders
  • Easy access to clinical interventions and support
  • Family and community support – connectedness
  • Ongoing mental health care support
  • Development of skills in problem solving and conflict resolution

Most people who are suicidal do not want to die. Reaching out to those who are suffering could save a life. Let someone know you are available and treat them with respect and compassion. 

Vonnie Woodrick     i understand love heals   1.800.273.TALK

The Connection Between Addiction, Depression and Suicide

Mood disorders, like depression, are often co-occurring with substance use disorders. In fact, about 20 percent of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder also have a substance use disorder. And about 20 percent of those with a substance use problem also have a mood disorder, or depression.

When high anxiety strikes, those who suffer often self-medicate to ease the pain. But, it’s a vicious cycle, not an end solution. And although depression isn’t the only reason for suicidal thoughts, it is certainly a major factor. Depression was a debilitating condition for Anthony Bourdain. And he was a recovering heroin addict who continued to drink alcohol.

Alcohol and drugs are the worse possible “medication” for depression. According to the Anxiety Association of America (ADAA) one problem will often make the other worse. But there is help available. Treatment includes therapy, medical assistance such as antidepressants, and connection with support groups and community.

One of My Favorite Episodes…

In one of my favorite episodes of Parts Unknown (2014), Anthony Bourdain goes back to Provincetown, Massachusetts where he had his first experience with heroin. In a support group at a storefront called the “Recovery Project” he shared his thoughts about his addiction.

He looked tanned and healthy, but so present and vulnerable (and knowing what we know now) it brings tears to your eyes. He says:

The first time I shot up I looked at myself in the mirror with a big grin. Something was missing in me, whether it was a self-image situation, whether it was a character flaw… There was some dark genie inside me that led me to dope… Anybody could find themselves very easily in that situation. I looked in a mirror and I saw somebody worth saving or I wanted to at least try real hard and save. I look back on that and I think about what I’ll tell my (seven-year-old) daughter. That was daddy, no doubt about it. But I hope I’ll be able to say that was daddy then, this is daddy now. That I’m alive and living in hope.

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown

Would that it were true… I am grateful however, that someone so forefront in the public eye, someone who has brought such pleasure to many, did not die quietly. It helps to mitigate the stigma that still clings to those with mental health disorders. It shines a light on a growing problem and allows us to speak up and offer help, to those who live with the “dark genies” of depression, addiction and suicidal thoughts.

The post Anthony Bourdain: Shining a Light on Suicide, Addiction and Depression appeared first on Sanford House.

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The Second Floor Sitting Room – Sanford House at John Street for Men…

Sanford House Founder Rae Green sat down with WZZM13’s Val Lego to talk about addiction prevention. She answered the questions: When does alcohol and drug misuse evolve into the disease of addiction? And what are the warning signs of an addiction in the making?

With Understanding, There is Hope… Click the photo below to see the entire interview:

Addiction is the inability to make a decision to not use. Negative consequences are no longer a deterrent… and it can take years before it starts to catch up with a person. But with education and understanding, there is so much hope…

Rae Green – Sanford House at John Street for Men

The post Addiction Prevention – WZZM 13’s Val Lego & Sanford’s Rae Green at John Street appeared first on Sanford House.

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Recently, I was asked to present on the topic of “Processing Grief” to a Families Against Narcotics (FAN) meeting in Grand Rapids. As I stood in front of the room, I looked into the crowd and saw grief staring back at me.

Grief and Loss to Narcotics…

I experienced an internal tug of war… Here I was presenting on grief when I felt the room was already so deeply affected by it. Before my presentation I learned that 14 new families had recently come to FAN because all 14 had lost someone to narcotics within the past month.  And they were all present in the audience.

Grief is identified as: deep distress, cause of suffering through unfortunate outcomes and bereavement. (Webster, 2018)

The above words are only the seed to help make sense of identifying why we are grieving. The process has more depth. And most importantly, we need to understand that grief is not a linear process.

And grief is not the same for every person…

The grieving process is not the same for every person. Each individual experiences grief differently. There is no cookie cutter version of sorrow or a “how to” guide in processing. Grief can be experienced from a physical loss, such as a person. Or an internal loss, such as loss of identity, autonomy or belonging. 

After much research Kubler-Ross (2005) identifies “stages of grief” as:






These stages are commonly misunderstood as a “one fits all” process. In actuality they are not. They are intended to help make sense of what a person is experiencing while grieving – individually.

Their is no “Order” to Grief

The order of these stages is not an actual order either. Some people start at depression and others may experience their grief process by going between anger and depression for a while. Acceptance is commonly understood as an “acceptance of this new normal”. But, it is not necessarily an acceptance of what happened. You just start to live a life that may be integrated with good and bad days.

Dayton (2005) also identifies stages of grief in living a life in recovery. These stages are identified as:

Emotional Numbness

Yearning and Searching

Disorganization, Anger and Despair

Reorganization and Integration

Reinvestment, Spiritual Growth and Renewed Commitment to Life

Someone in recovery may experience Kubler Ross’s stages of grief, Dayton’s or a combination of the two.

Other Symptoms

While experiencing grief, we cannot dismiss other symptoms as well. Grief stirs a lot of emotions and physical ailments that may go untreated. These may include:


Sleep Deprivation or Difficulty Sleeping







Loss of Appetite


When looking at these symptoms separate from grief, they appear to be symptoms that would affect someone’s daily living. Adding grief to these emotions can certainly cause one’s daily routine to be affected.

Survival Mode…

We know each person processes grief differently based on past, physical and psychological make up, personality etc. Most importantly, our brains are designed to keep us in “survival mode” throughout life. In order to do so, our brains respond with an automatic reaction to our emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration or confusion. This is because our automatic survival mode strives to “think for us”. It causes us to respond automatically rather than from our rational and logical thinking.

And this may induce a response that is fueled from our emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration or confusion. We may look back at how we responded and wonder what we were thinking! The fact is, we were not thinking.

Traumatic Grief

If the grief being experienced is from a traumatic experience, a person may not be able to talk about it. Their verbal processing is literally not able to function. The brain has gone into survival mode and is protecting them from processing an experience, because they are not ready to process yet.

Trauma disrupts the stress hormone which affects our processing. The Broca’s area which includes verbal processing goes off the radar because our minds have decided they need to protect us whatever it takes. Rather than processing our information our minds just respond immediately (Van Der Kolk, 2014).

Sanford House at John Street for Men…

As an Art Therapist at Sanford House, I lead a weekly grief group for men. During this group, we talk about how both “stages of grief” are applicable to their recovery. Several people explained they felt as if they had to go through Kubler’s stages before working through Dayton’s and that they were just starting Dayton’s stages of grief while in treatment. While the group focuses on coping skills and resiliency, we also create a group art piece.

The process helps the men to experience putting into practice ways to find clarity through chaos – in situations and emotions. One of our groups painted a picture together. In addition, a story was created and the group shared how they felt about the image:

Art Title: Funny Farm


Lord of the Flyrings on drugs.

Where everything is colorful and nothing makes sense.

There is no start and no end.

Just controlled chaos in a box.

Through this creative process, the group was able to proceed with a verbal discussion about the chaos, mentally and physically, they were experiencing while processing grief. It allowed them to let go of things that can’t be controlled, begin to sit comfortably in the mess, and find ways of gaining clarity when feeling loss, distress and confusion.

If You are Experiencing Grief…

You may be reading this and experiencing grief yourself. I understand this can seem like a lot of information. When I looked at the crowd at FAN, I was not sure how much information was being retained. So I concluded with some universals to live by.

And if there is anything you should take away from this article, it’s this:

It’s okay to be sad.

Tears are like visitors making camp in your life and they will come and go throughout your life.

When you feel broken it’s because you have been resilient, you loved with all you have and that can hurt.

You will have good and bad days – it’s okay.

There is no need to feel guilty when you have good days. That does not dismiss your loss. And your bad days do not dismiss the fact you also have good things in your life too.

Your grief does not have to dishonor having joy in your life too, you can have happiness and you can still have sadness at the same time.

You just have to make it through. No one said you have to be good at it or make it through gracefully. Just make it through…

The post Processing Grief – Recovery From Loss appeared first on Sanford House.

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Yesterday, the Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) handed out its 2018 awards. The awards recognize excellence in restoration projects within the city’s historic districts. Congratulations to the Greens, and Sanford House Addiction Treatment Centers for taking the honors for  “Outstanding Residential Preservation Project”. Also, special acknowledgement went to Alec Green for his role as Project Manager for the restoration of John Street. 

Grand Rapids’ historic neighborhoods and landmarks define the character of the City and who we are. Preservation protects our shared history, and promotes a sense of place and a high quality of life… Grand Rapids HPC

Thank you to Rhonda Baker and the Historic Preservation Commission for this nod to our efforts!

Defining the “Character” of Our City

Sanford House at John Street for Men

Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women

Restoring Homes and Lives…

Our philosophy has always been to adopt historic and iconic architecture in Grand Rapids, as the backdrop for our addiction treatment facilities. However, we came about our first venture by pure happenstance. A wrong turn onto Cherry Street in the Winter of 2014. And a few months later, we found ourselves in the middle of a daunting and exciting historical renovation project.

Saving this 1847 structure became our passion. Our restoration efforts completed, Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women serves as a home for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

What a difference an army of restoration experts makes!

The pillars are brought back to life…

The Carriage House – before and after…

And Our Story Continued…

In the summer of 2016 we became the owners of the Hazeltine Mansion, also located in Grand Rapids. Perched on a rise overlooking the city, this once grand structure, built in 1891, was broken and worn-out, but full of the remnants of its prior glory. We opened Sanford House at John Street for Men in September of 2017.

John Street “before”

The basement exercise room

The basement under restoration…

The dining room

Dining fully restored…

And so it goes. Reconstruction. Renovation. Rehabilitation. Restoration. Renewal….

Our facilities themselves are a source of inspiration. We have restored these beautiful places so that our clients can do the hard work of treatment in a motivational space… Sanford House Founder, David Green

The post Sanford House – Awarded Outstanding Residential Preservation Project! appeared first on Sanford House.

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