Another Day, Another Overdose, but There is Hope.. Harbor Hall.

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Another Day, Another Overdose, but There is Hope.

Another Day, Another Overdose, but There is Hope.

Overdose deaths in Michigan: What is causing them and what is being done about it.

Article by: Chief Executive Officer – Patrick McGinn – MS, MA, LLP, CAADC, CCS-M

Dark Times

I woke up this morning, turned on the news and discovered that yet again another person has been taken due to an overdose.  I can only assume that this is an opiate type overdose, as that seems to be happening more and more each day.  This past week alone there has been four overdose deaths that I am aware of in Northern Michigan alone.  This is very alarming and leaves me with the question of what is next?

Last week a past resident of Harbor Hall made a post on our alumni Facebook page.  The post was very inspirational and uplifting.  This person stated that he was utilizing all of the tools, was going to meetings and had made excellent connections in the recovery community.  Two days later he was found passed out in the bathroom of his place of employment.  Narcan was administered but he was not revived.  He was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

As I was writing my comments about the recent overdoses, I received a letter from a mother of a past Harbor Hall resident.  In this letter she stated that her son had gained so much and understood what he needed to do to maintain a sober/clean life.  When he left Harbor Hall he was happy, confident and strong.  He had made tremendous growth.  When he returned home he did not continue to actively work on his recovery.  In January he overdosed and passed away.  This mother stated that she has now lost two loved ones to the addiction and her daughter is in recovery today.  I can only imagine the pain that this family is suffering as the result of addiction.

A Deadly Drug

I need to say something about the drug fentanyl as I believe that the recent deaths are related to it.  According to the DEA Resource Guide on Drugs of Abuse (2017 ed).   Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid drug that is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. This drug has been around since about 1959.  Over the past several years there has been a reemergence of trafficking, distribution and abuse of illicitly produced fentanyl.  This has been associated with the dramatic increase of over dose fatalities.  Fentanyl can be injected, snorted, smoked, taken orally, put on blotter paper.  Illicitly produced fentanyl is sold alone or in combination with other substances like heroin, methamphetamine or cocaine and has also been identified in counterfeit pills, mimicking pharmaceutical drugs such as oxycodone. Overdose may result in stupor, changes in pupillary size, cold and clammy skin, cyanosis, coma, and respiratory failure leading to death. The presence of triad of symptoms such as coma, pinpoint pupils, and respiratory depression are strongly suggestive of opioid poisoning.

overdose-300x218 Another Day, Another Overdose, but There is Hope.

Battling Addiction

The disease of addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful.  I have been in the addictions field for over 30 years now and I struggle to understand what the key is to a successful recovery.  There are a wide variety of solutions.  Some say that the 12 step program is the way, others may say it is church and others suggest that cognitive solutions are best.  In his book “Slaying the Dragon” (2014),  William White describes five models of treatment:

  1. The medical model that emphasizes genetics and neurobiological roots to addiction.
  2. Psychiatric model which views addictive behavior as self-medication of emotional distress or psychiatric illness.
  3. Psychological model viewing substance-related problems as consequences of maladaptive learning.
  4. Sociocultural model viewing substance related problems as consequences of a dysfunctional family, or peer socialization.
  5. Spiritual model that views these problems as the result of failed searching for meaning and purpose in one’s life.

I believe, as William White, that they are all true to one extent or another.  Treatment interventions need to be designed to address all aspects of self.

Treatment Success is Different for Every Individual

At Harbor Hall we use our PIES model: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual.  However, when it comes to treatment, we could have the best approach in the world but the individual still needs to make a heart-felt, personal decision to do something different.  Without that personal decision there is no amount of knowledge that will keep a person sober.  Also with the decision is commitment, “are you willing to do what ever it takes to remain clean and sober?”  This is an internal process, there is new learning involved but the process cannot be taught forced by external entities.

Recovery is Like Learning to Ride a Bike… Backwards

The video below is The Backwards Brain Bicycle.  It is about 7 minutes long and it is worth watching.  In recovery treatment, we ask the individual to change every aspect of themselves and to remain that way – essentially re-wiring their brains so that new, pathways are created that support healthy habits.  This video demonstrates how longs it takes for an adult to learn something new, and how easy it is to relapse.

In recovery, we say practice, practice, practice and you will get it.  Then one day something clicks in the individuals brain and we begin to see a change from the old behaviors to new.  When an individual stops, or is inconsistent in his or her recovery process, the return to old behavior or old learning happens very fast.  As in the video, what took eight months to unlearn how to ride a normal bicycle (learning a new habit), took less than an hour to revert to riding the bike the “normal” way (old habits). This scenario rings true about addiction treatment and an individuals ability to change through a process called neuroplasticity. I touched on this a little in a blog post about stigma.

So what does this have to do with keeping people from dying? Quite a bit actually but this is a very complicated problem.

It’s about Saving Lives

cd63c614-9b08-435a-89fe-534cbcda0a10-large16x9_ImportedfromLakana-300x169 Another Day, Another Overdose, but There is Hope.I would be remiss if I did not say something about Naloxone or NARCAN.  Naloxone is a prescription medicine that is used to reverse an opioid overdose and can be administered by injection or nasal spray.

Naloxone is safe and effective and has been used by medical professionals for decades.  Opioids can slow or stop a person’s breathing and Naloxone helps the person wake up and continue breathing.  Naloxone is a tool that can save lives.  Pharmacist are being asked to educate people on how to administer and there is an effort to make NARCAN available without a prescription. (Photo:

Michigan’s Good Samaritan Law

This relatively new, perhaps little known law states that during a drug overdose, a quick response can save a life. However, people illegally using drugs sometimes fail to seek medical attention during an overdose for fear of alerting the police to their illegal drug use.  In order to prioritize saving lives, Michigan passed a Good Samaritan law in 2016.  Michigan’s Good Samaritan law prevents drug possession charges being filed against those that seek medical assistance for an overdose in certain circumstances. This law makes saving lives the priority during a drug overdose, not criminal prosecutions of illegal drug users.

I implore all of us to be vigilant.  This problem effects all of us.  Some more directly than others but it certainly impacts our community as a whole. I do not want to see any more people dying.  I believe that the solutions needs to involve all of us.


Butler Center for Research Articles

Below are two excellent fact sheets to understand some of the research and trends in this ongoing opioid crisis.

Prescription Rates of Opioid Analgesics in Medical Treatment Settings

Prescription Opioids and Dependance

Reflections in recovery during the holiday season.

By: Chief Executive Officer – Patrick McGinn – MS, MA, LLP, CAADC, CCS-M

Harbor-hall-Holiday-_new-e1514126177564-300x262 Reflections in recovery during the holiday season.The holidays are a very stressful time of year for most people, especially for those who are in recovery. The hustle and bustle of the season can create great expectations and feelings of hope, however, the holiday season may also bring feelings of loneliness, frustration, regret, and fear.  For many, the ghosts of Christmas past intertwine with the present.

Yesterday I made a few comments to the residents of Harbor Hall as we go into a long weekend of Christmas. In my comments I noted that we all watch for the person who is isolating, struggling, or just being very quiet.  One client shared that he had not seen his daughter in many years and this brings up strong emotions in him. Another stated that a loved one passed away, another stated that Christmas meant depression.  We want to make sure that those of us that are suffering this session are not alone.

Love is the answer.

Surround each other with love.  We want to make sure that we don’t exclude anyone among our family.  At the same time, it is important for the person in recovery to make new traditions that do not include alcohol or drugs. Practice prayer and meditations, volunteering our time to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, shoveling the driveway or walkway for someone or just being a servant to others with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

All of us at Harbor Hall wish everyone a safe, sober, love filled holiday season.

Talking and Listening

20171122_103634-300x225 Talking and Listening

Recently, the CEO of Harbor Hall, Pat McGinn had an opportunity to record a podcast with the News-Review Podcast. So much more can be conveyed about our organization through the spoken word to an active listener. We are grateful for the chance to tell our story and share our mission. A big thanks to Matt Mikus who facilitated this for us, and for asking some really great questions about our organization.

Photo: Harbor Hall CEO, Pat McGinn (right) during a recent recording of a podcast with Matt Mikus (left) from the News-Review.

Harbor Hall Joins Hazelden Betty Ford Patient Care Network

PCN-Member-LOGO-300x86 Harbor Hall Joins Hazelden Betty Ford Patient Care NetworkPetoskey, Mich. (Nov. 16, 2017) – The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation welcomes Harbor Hall Inc. as the newest member of its innovative Patient Care Network.

“Our Patient Care Network allows us to team up with other leading-edge health care providers like Harbor Hall to help more people and better meet the needs of today’s changing health care world,” said Bob Poznanovich, executive director of business development and community outreach for the national nonprofit addiction treatment provider Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. “It takes the best of what we do and who we are and shares it with like-minded organizations that have the same philosophy and commitment to treating patients and improving outcomes.”

Pat McGinn, CEO of Harbor Hall notes, “The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is the gold standard for addiction recovery. We are grateful for this important opportunity to join the Hazelden Betty Ford Patient Care Network, which will allow us to build upon what we already do and give us more tools to confront addiction in the state of Michigan.”

“Although our organizations differ in size and scope, our mission and clinical practices have philosophically aligned for years,” continued McGinn. “We view this new alliance as validation of our high-quality care for our patients. Being a part of the Patient Care Network, we have an opportunity to connect more people to addiction recovery services and support systems in the state of Michigan.”

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has mobilized its entire organization to confront the opioid crisis across the country. Part of that effort is building collaborative partnerships like this with providers and health care systems to expand the reach of its “COR-12” – Comprehensive Opioid Response with the Twelve Steps – opioid addiction treatment programming.

Last week, McGinn and key leaders of Harbor Hall, including Medical Director Dr. Guy Golembiewski, joined a COR-12 leadership training at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s headquarters in Center City, Minn.

“The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has a long history and culture of knowledge-sharing with individuals and organizations,” said Poznanovich. “Leading healthcare organizations like Harbor Hall that share our philosophy and pursuit of excellence are perfect partners for us as we work together to implement the strategies and systems needed to address this most pervasive of health conditions.”

“This exciting new affiliation with Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a direct result of the dedication and compassion of our Harbor Hall staff. The Patient Care Network provides the support and clinical tools needed for proactive care for our community,” said Harbor Hall Board President Larry Rochon. “It is an honor that Harbor Hall was selected by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. We look forward to sharing experiences, strengths and hope among colleagues and residents throughout Michigan.”

Harbor Hall Foundation Board President Tim Kepford added, “The Harbor Hall Foundation embraces the relationship with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Harbor Hall has proven itself as a first-class treatment facility and the association with Hazelden is evidence that Northern Michigan has the finest substance use treatment venue available. Harbor Hall is a real treasure and one that makes our community a better place.”

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation launched its Patient Care Network – the first of its kind in the addiction treatment industry – this fall. Members gain access to tools, resources and collaborative consultation for their organization’s leadership, staff, patients, families and communities. The initiative has been especially timely given the added pressures that the nation’s opioid crisis is placing on individuals, families and communities. To learn more, visit

About Harbor Hall
For over 43 years, Harbor Hall has served individuals who are struggling with addiction. Treatment programs offered include withdrawal management, residential and transitional living for men, as well as an array of outpatient services for men, women and adolescents. Accredited by CARF International, Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, Recovery Centers of Michigan and a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, Harbor Hall operates with a passion for helping individuals and their families start on the path to recovery from substance use disorders.  The Harbor Hall Foundation was established in 1978 for the exclusive purpose of raising funds so that Harbor Hall treatment centers have sufficient financial resources. If you would like more information about Harbor Hall Inc., please visit For information about the Harbor Hall Foundation, please visit

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. It is the nation’s leading nonprofit treatment provider, with a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center. With 17 sites in California, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado and Texas, the Foundation offers prevention and recovery solutions nationwide and across the entire continuum of care to help youth and adults reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. It includes the largest recovery publishing house in the country, a fully accredited graduate school of addiction studies, an addiction research center, an education arm for medical professionals and a unique children’s program, and is the nation’s leader in advocacy and policy for treatment and recovery. Learn more at and on Twitter at @hazldnbettyford.


Media Contacts:
Jeremiah Gardner, 651.213.4231,

Catherine Sommerfeldt, 231-347-5511,

Why is prescription drug abuse so dangerous? Why is prescription drug abuse so dangerous?Prescription painkillers are powerful drugs.  They interfere with the transmission of nerve signals that perceive pain.  They also produce a euphoric effect that is associated with a “high” feeling.  The most powerful of these prescription drugs are called opioids.  Some common names of prescription opioids are Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin,  Lorcet, Lortab, Percocet, Vicodin.  They are all narcotics and highly addictive.

Use of prescription painkillers can lead to physical dependence (addiction).  The body adapts to the presence of the chemical and if a person stops taking the drug abruptly, withdrawal symptoms occur.  Additionally, the body can build up a tolerance to the drug, meaning that it takes more of the chemical to achieve the desired effects.  Many heroin users didn’t start with heroin, their addiction journey started with prescription narcotics.  More often than not, a person addicted to prescription opiates switch to heroin because heroin is cheaper and easier to get.  Last year at Harbor Hall 37.34% of admissions identified Prescription Opiates as the primary drug of choice with 12.65% Heroin as the primary drug of choice.  Alcohol fell to number 2 for the first time ever at 37% of all admissions.

Some common misconceptions about prescription opiates:

Myth: “These drugs are “safe and OK to use, because a doctor prescribes them.”

Fact:  There are regulations that controls who can prescribe these drugs and when.  The reason is to protect the public because they are not always safe to use.

Myth: “They helped my friend’s pain. There is nothing wrong with me borrowing a few to help my pain.”

Fact:  By sharing a medication prescribed for someone else, you may actually be worsening a health condition.  Also, it is illegal to take medications prescribed for someone else.

Myth: “It’s no big deal.”

Fact: It is important to know that even a single use can be dangerous.  Use can lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Myth:  “If a little bit helps make me feel good than more will make me feel even better.”

Fact:  The physician prescribes the right amount to help you.  Taking more can increase the potential for side effects and can be dangerous even deadly.

The bottom line is that prescription opiate addiction is rising at an alarming rate.

If you have prescription narcotics in your home, there are some common sense things that you can do to keep them safe:

  1.  Always keep your prescription narcotics under lock and key.
  2.  Do not keep them where children and teens can get at them.
  3. Talk to your teens about prescription drug abuse.

Why Giving Back to the Community is Important

 From the Desk of the CEO, Patrick McGinn, MS, MA, LLP, CAADC, CCS-M

“We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.” Sir Winston Churchill

We-also-acknowledge-the-sacrifices-made-for-some-teams-to-300x251 Why Giving Back to the Community is ImportantRecovery is about new opportunities, to discover one’s true potential.  Residents at Harbor Hall often have questions concerning how to connect, fit-in and contribute to self and others.  Part of the recovery program at harbor Hall is to provide opportunities to become involved in some manner. Being involved may include doing tasks such as house chores, volunteering in the community or seeking paid work.  Through our treatment program, the residents gain a sense of pride, self-worth and accountability that may have been lost in active addiction.  Our clients learn that they DO have something to contribute and that their contributions matter. Learning this and engaging in the community is all part of effectively managing one’s life in recovery.

Local Impact of Service Work

The residents of Harbor Hall have been actively involved in the local community for as long as I have been at Harbor Hall, over 18 years.  They are taught that service and servant-hood are key ingredients in living a life in recovery and obtaining sobriety.

Here is a list of how the Harbor Hall residents are taught to give back.  This list is in no particular order of importance.  Below is a list of community partners and service work where the residents of Harbor Hall regularly give of themselves:

  • Women’s Resource Center: Gold Mine Resale Store
    • Two times a week, helping with the heavy lifting and moving of donated items.
  • Salvation Army
    • Two times a week working in the resale shop and bell ringing over the holidays.
  • Manna Food Project
    • Weekly volunteer opportunities.
  • Project Connect
    • Set up and tear down for the event.
  • Camp Daggett
    • Spring and fall clean-up and maple syrup cooking.
  • Speaking events at schools in Petoskey and Charlevoix.
  • Petoskey Chamber of Commerce
    • Volunteers for a variety of events like decorating downtown Petoskey for the Fall Harvest Festival.
  • Set up for several local AA/NA meetings in Petoskey.
  • Provide a great car wash every week during the warm months.
  • Maintain the Harbor Hall campus in pristine condition.

Why Giving Back is Important in Addiction Recovery

Most people in active addiction are takers.  They are self-centered and ego driven.  The actions above are all selfless, and help the recovery process by building a sense of community, self-worth, humility and recovery capitol.  It is critical that people in early recovery learn it is very important to serve their community.  The person in recovery greatly benefits from serving the community and individuals, as service brings about a new humbleness.  The action of giving brings about positive thinking and feeling for everyone, but most importantly for the person in recovery. Thoughts and feelings that were once driven by egos and self-centered behavior, are replaced with a positive sense of self, the ability to care for others, and the desire to serve.  I believe that the benefit to the community is apparent to each of the above actions.  Thank you to all who have participated in these events and for your support of our mission.

“For it is in giving that we receive” – St. Francis of Assisi



headache-pain-pills-medication-159211-300x200 THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC – WHAT WE SEEArticle By: Chief Executive Officer – Patrick McGinn – MS, MA, LLP, CAADC, CCS-M

Our society is in the middle of an extraordinary opioid epidemic which has been described as a crisis.  Odds are, any time you read the news, there is something mentioned about this issue. More people have died (6 out of 10 overdose deaths) from opioid over doses than in any other period of our history.

How did we get here?

A brief history of pain management.

Pain is an element of the human condition. Our understanding of pain has varied over the centuries. What was once considered a philosophical interpretation that men, women, and children endured physical suffering was inevitable; the meaning, rather than the fact of pain, was what mattered to leading a good life, to a medical/neurobiological understanding of pain lead by research and scientific discovery. Progress made on the study of human biology and recognizing the brain’s role in interpreting pain, lead to an entirely new way of thinking about pain management.

The science of administering drugs for pain has been advancing for centuries, as well as our societies desire to feel instant relief from the discomfort caused by pain. Prescription drug manufacturing companies are driving this idea among the medical community and the general public, developing products that will meet the desires of their customers. As a result of the availability of these ‘good’ drugs, doctors have been over prescribing pain pills without realizing the ‘bad’ impact this was having on their patients.   In their efforts to help people with chronic pain, many doctors overestimated the benefits of prescription opiates, while underestimating the risks of potential addiction problems.

Many Drugs Contribute to Today’s Health Epidemic

Economic-impact-1-2-120x300 THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC – WHAT WE SEERecently, the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health (2016) was released. This report discusses the struggles across the US of all substance use problems in terms of cost to society, rising health care costs, lost productivity, the devastating effects on lives, future plans and lost lives.  Below is an excerpt from that report:

“Over 175 million persons aged 12 and older (65.7 percent of this population) reported alcohol use in the past year, with over 66 million (24.9 percent) reporting binge drinking in the past month. More than 36 million (13.5 percent) reported using marijuana in the past year, 12.5 million reported misusing prescription pain relievers, and over 300,000 reported using heroin in the past year. Almost 8 percent of the population met diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder for alcohol or illicit. Although 20.8 million people (7.8 percent of the population) met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder in 2015, only 2.2 million individuals (10.4 percent) received any type of treatment. Of those treated, 63.7 percent received treatment in specialty substance use disorder treatment programs.”

What Action is Being Taken?

There is an opportunity to bring substance use disorder treatment and mainstream health care systems into alignment so that they can address a person’s overall health rather than treating one or the other in isolation from each other. This discussion is on the agendas of both the Federal government and Michigan legislature.

The initiative is based on Section 298 in the Public Act 268 of 2016.  The Section 298 Initiative is a statewide effort to improve the coordination of physical health services and behavioral health services in Michigan.

This is a statewide effort is to “improve the coordination of behavioral and physical health services for individuals with mental illnesses, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders.”

Addressing the Issue on a Regional Level

This initiative has spurred the on-going conversation at Harbor Hall board meetings as to how to meet the changing practice polices as directed by the State of Michigan and the Federal government and to address to the best of our ability the ongoing opioid crisis.  Harbor Hall has always recognized that integrating substance use disorder services with primary care and mental health treatment as being essential in successful recovery for many years. We cannot however, deny the facts that with the ongoing opioid crisis, the publication of the Surgeon Generals’ report and the State of Michigan 298 initiative, this treatment philosophy has become more relevant than ever to the services we provide in northern Michigan.

What Our Research Shows

In conducting our own research internally of the people who receive treatment services at Harbor Hall facilities, we have recognized some trends in Northern Michigan.  Below is a synopsis of actual data as derived from information gathered at Harbor Hall over the past 3 years.

Primary Drug 2014 2015 2016
Alcohol 37.34% 39.34% 44.5%
Heroin 12.65% 14.65% 28.7%
Prescription Opiates 37.34% 32.34% 16.8%
Cocaine/Crack 3.61% 4.61% 1.4%
Methamphetamine 5.42% 6.42% 5.9%
Poly dep/abuse* 88.9% 90.1% 92.3%

When combined, all opiates (prescription/heroin) in 2014 represented 50% of all admissions, in 2015 this decreased to 47% of all admissions and in 2016 it’s even lower: 46% of all admissions.  We believe it is very clear that as prescribing practices of opiate type medications has changed (2016), and there has been a significant shift from prescription opiate addiction to heroin addiction. *  (Poly abuse is abusing more than one drug at the same time, i.e. alcohol and opiates and cocaine.)

Alcohol is Still the Leading Drug of Choice

With this data, alcohol admission numbers are just as alarming as the prescription opioid/heroin numbers.  Our statistics shown above only addresses the clients’ primary drug of choice.  Most people who have sought treatment at Harbor Hall are using more than one substance when they are admitted.

While the national spotlight seems to be shining on prescription opioids, we cannot ignore the years of data we have collected. This data matches what is happening nationally, however, our approach to this issue is to be pro-active, not reactive. The treatment methodologies at Harbor Hall have evolved with science, as science has changed the way we think about addiction.

Stigma of Substance Abuse and Addiction

Article by: Chief Executive Officer – Patrick McGinn – MS, MA, LLP, CAADC, CCS-M

Webster dictionary defines stigma as a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people use as a mark of disgrace with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.  “The stigma of having addiction will always be with me.”

Synonyms: shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2012): “stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion and it contributes to the abuse of human rights.  When a person experiences stigma they are seen as less than because of their real or perceived health status.  Stigma is rarely based on facts but rather on assumptions, preconceptions, and generalizations.  Stigma results in prejudice, avoidance, rejection and discrimination. Family, friends and the general public can carry negative feelings about drug use or behavior. They may even use derogatory terms such as “junkie,” “drunk,” “crackhead”, “criminal”, “thief”, “scum”, “gutter bum” and many more.  These thoughts, feelings, and labels can create and perpetuate stigma.”

Unfortunately people who experience stigma regarding their addiction or negative behaviors are less likely to seek treatment services.  Perceived stigma in hospitals or doctors’ offices discourage people from accessing needed health care services.

Neuroplasticity-2-120x300 Stigma of Substance Abuse and AddictionAddiction, unlike any other public health concern, is viewed as a moral issue and not a health issue.  Also, addiction, unlike any other public health concern creates antisocial behaviors.  Antisocial behavior patterns are a common characteristic of addiction.  With the brain hijacked from the drugs, the addicted person will regularly make bad choices, of which many are calculated.  Addicts make many bad choices that cause pain for those around them.  The research is clear that the active addict will continue to take a drug despite the negative consequences involved.  They know that family, social and career are disrupted by their drug abuse, but they cannot stop.


A term that has become a recognized term in addiction treatment is neuroplasticity.  Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.  This however takes time.  This process of “rewiring” the brain from addiction to more socially adaptive behaviors can take from 12 months to 3 years and in some instances even longer.

When thinking about addiction we must be careful not to simply reduce the addict simply to moral failure.

Treatment at Harbor Hall extends beyond abstinence or symptom management by helping people achieve a full, meaningful life in the community. Prior treatment, legal history, medication assisted treatment, or other pathways are not viewed as a predictor of poor treatment outcomes and is not used as grounds for denial of treatment. Post treatment continuing care services are an integrated part of the service continuum rather than an afterthought. Focus is on all aspects of the individual and the environment, using a strength-based perspective and emphasizing assessment of recovery capital.

The Pipe Exercise

By: Patrick McGinn, CEO

Today I asked a group of clients to participate in an exercise that I call it the pipe exercise.  The groups are given a kit of PCV pipes cut to a variety of different lengths along with a variety of connectors, elbows, and types with an end cap.  The task is to construct a design using all of the pieces.  Sounds simple enough… but this is not a simple task at all.

Varied Paths and Varied Results

20160209_133054-300x169 The Pipe ExerciseAs I watched the groups struggle, I observed some interesting things.  First were the roles that individuals in the group took on.  There were at least 2 people in each group that jumped right in and took the lead.  Others stayed back and would observe and then eventually start to give input, there were also people that I would describe as “cheer leaders”. They would encourage their team members, cheering for their success.  And in each group, there was one person that did not participate at all.

Each group floundered at the beginning: starting, stopping, taking apart, and starting over.  At approximately 20 minutes into the project I whispered a hint to success into the ear of one member in each group.  This is the point when all the groups basically stopped and start over.  Within about 30 minutes the first group completed the task.  They were quite proud of themselves.  I instructed the other groups to continue until they were finished.  5 minutes later the next group completed then shortly after that the third group finished.

20160209_133441-300x169 The Pipe ExerciseThe forth group continued to struggle.  They were beginning to give up.  I heard statements like, “what’s the use, we are in last”, “this is stupid”, and “we should just give up”.  All the while the others were jeering and poking fun at their lack of success.  Then the leader of the last group asked the group who finished first if they would help them figure it out.  The response was very interesting as one or two from each group got up and went over to that group to help and within 5 minutes they were done.  The whole room erupted with cheers at the success.

The four designs were very different from one another.  They were not even close to looking alike, but each accomplished the task.

This Process Looks a lot Like Recovery…

The varied paths and mixed results is very much how recovery looks in real life.  The task of getting clean and sober is usually very difficult for most people, especially at the beginning.  We are given minimal instruction and expected to complete the sober task successfully.  If it was as simple as “one size fits all”, there would be no need for treatment centers.  For many people there are starts and stops. Sometimes you just have to take apart and rebuild all over and look for a different way.  Some people may get ridiculed or made fun of or looked at differently if they “do not get it” the first time around.  This is also true in the recovery community, where some people may be ostracized because they relapsed.  This attitude may send some people further into the spiral of addiction as they may not seek help a second or third time.

Sober Success is the Goal – No Matter the Path

Many people come into treatment in despair and are ready for change, but they do not know how the recovery pieces fit together. Attending lectures, groups, going to doctor appointments,  one-on-one sessions, skill building activities etc. all are pieces that may be put together differently for each individual.  Success for me may not be the same as success for you.  Each person needs to decide how to put the pieces together that work the best for them.  We know for sure that sober success does not happen in a vacuum. We need the input of other people. “I can get this, with a little help from my friends”

Mustang Wendy’s Cask & Cuisine helps Harbor Hall’s residential treatment program

Mustang Wendy’s Cask & Cuisine in Harbor Springs is donating a portion of their proceeds from next week’s sales to Harbor Hall’s Residential Recovery Program. Their address is 129 E. Bay Street, Harbor Springs, MI  49740.
Click here to Download their lunch and dinner flyers for the WENDYPALOOZA and their menus.
Please consider a lunch or dinner out next week at Mustang Wendy’s – good food and donation to Harbor Hall.


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