Where were you when you heard about Robin Williams dying? I was in my hotel room, in Southhaven Mississippi. I am here visiting one of our amazing treatment campuses, Vertava Health of Mississippi. I got a text from the CEO of Vertava Health alerting me to Robin Williams’ untimely death. “We need to reach out to people about this tragedy,” he said. Even though Mr. Williams didn’t die of an overdose or a drunk driving incident, he did suffer from a disease that we see all too often in the addiction world. It is a sneaky, dark disease that is often the reason a person begins to use drugs in the first place. Depression. What does depression look like? It looks like a perpetual shadow. A person may try to run out from under it from time to time to feel the warm sun, but depression doesn’t give up. It just expands its shadowy reach so that the person suffering can see the sun, but he can’t get to it. The person grows tired and weary of the shadow. His friends and family talk about the shadow and how he should just, “get over it.” He simply cannot get that shadow to go away. Maybe he begins to sleep more. Maybe sleep helps him shut off the pain. But sometimes the shadow shows up in his dreams. Now what can he do? Unfortunately, for many people – instead of turning to treatment for depression – they turn to drugs and alcohol. And even more unfortunately, this only serves to make depression stronger. Because a “high” only chases that shadow away for a short time before it slinks back over once again and envelopes the person who is struggling. Just like many of us, Robin Williams had depression. And just like many of us, Robin Williams turned to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Just like many of us, Robin Williams got help for the substance use. But I guess the shadow of depression still lurked over him. I’m so sorry that it did. I wonder if his death speaks to the overall state of our industry. I mean, he’s a high profile guy. With millions to spend toward any therapy he wants. And I believe he did try to get help. But it failed him. Why? Because therapy has gotten lazy. It throws 12 steps around like it is oxygen. Therapy follows a “one size fits all,” approach. For some non-scientific reason, people expect to be cured of things like addiction and depression in 30 days OR LESS. I recently visited a treatment center that wasn’t one of ours. We toured the facility and I saw first-hand how traditional addiction therapy works. Basically, you get up in the morning and work on your challenges all day. It could be in group therapy, it could be in individual therapy – you name it. And all day long a person goes over their issues and works through them. For 30 days. And then they go back home. What’s that I just said? I said THEN THEY GO BACK HOME. Where no one is working through their problems with them. Where their old drinking buddies are waiting for them. Where family tries to help but has no idea how to help. Where their job ISN’T waiting. What happens then? Relapse. And then they come back for another 30 days. Rinse, repeat. One of the main reasons I took this job here was because in my interview my CEO told me that this company’s mission is to change that. Here, we want to go beyond the traditional 30-day program. Here, we want to treat more than just the substance use and treat the whole person. Here, we think we can break the cycle of rehab relapse by treating addiction right, the first time. I am so very sorry to Robin Williams, to his family, to his friends and to all of you fans out there, who are devastated over this. I am also a big Robin Williams fan and have seen most, if not all, of his movies. I am also deeply upset about the loss of such a unique talent. For those of you who think you are the only ones who are in pain – even celebrities are in pain. All the money, fame and adoration in the world doesn’t get rid of the shadow of depression. I hope that this is both a lesson and an inspiration to those of you who are struggling under the shadow of depression and addiction to act now. Reach out, now. There IS help. There really is freedom from depression and addiction. Ask us about our stories. Ask us to show you the way out. Because we know the way to chase the shadow of depression and addiction away – forever. Rest in peace, Robin Williams. Thanks for reading and be safe.
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