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[ Opinion ] [ Personal Narratives ]

My Recovery Industry Testimonial

Individuals and their families suffering from addiction are in a time of crisis. In most instances, loved ones understandably don’t know what to do to help. This puts them at an information disadvantage and opens up an inevitable vulnerability to disreputable and predatory people. I believe many of those people work and make their living in the addiction recovery industry.

My name is Todd and this is my story…

For full disclosure, I was the recipient of a naltrexone implant in December of 2013. I was featured on an episode of the television show The Doctors (the link to the aired footage is below). I now work at MyLife Recovery Centers™ as Social Media Coordinator. MLRC provides a long lasting naltrexone implant to patients accompanied with life coaching to address the psycho social aspects of their addiction. I hope in sharing my story I can help prevent others from going through what I experienced.

As is the case with many people that suffer from addiction, I went through an extremely difficult period of my life in recent years experiencing several major life stresses. This included (but very much wasn’t limited to) a failed career, financial crisis, separation & divorce, and two major abdominal surgeries (one of which was emergency). This led me to start “roller coaster” drinking relatively later in life at the age of 40 (I’m 45 now).

After separating from my wife and while temporarily living with my parents waiting for things to settle, I awoke early one morning with severe abdominal pain—my large intestine had torn. I had diverticulitis…was born with it and never knew. After six/eight hours of emergency surgery I awoke in the ICU with a colostomy bag that I would have for five months. The reversal surgery was extremely difficult and after all of this I had lost 51 pounds. I wasn’t the same after that and started drinking again.

My family was aware of my depression and drinking and tried to help. They were understandably in the dark as to what to do as we had never been exposed to anything like this. I have three other brothers and none of us had ever experienced anything regarding an addiction. This led to three horrific, heartbreaking experiences with recovery entities that unquestionably exacerbated my problems, were psychologically damaging, broke me financially and were even criminal.

The first was Recovery Facility #1 (RF-1), a treatment facility that claimed detoxification and recovery services and was accredited by The Joint Commission (JCAHO – Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations). I have no idea how such an accreditation could have been granted. I absolutely had my reservations about the facility, but I was very upset at having disappointed my family and desperately wanted to prove myself to them. I was brought there by my mother, father, and my two younger brothers. The facility is owned by “John Doe” & “Jane Doe” (husband and wife respectively…both former addicts) and run by general manager “Mike” (former addict with time spent in prison). All three (along with my family members) were present during admittance. It was then that I adamantly stated based on extreme personal importance with my recovery that I couldn’t lose my job and that I had to have a chance to see my son. I was told several times in front of all that I would not lose my job and that I would be able to see my son. I also presented my Ativan medication…prescribed to me by my general physician at that time (a very good man) that of course advocated for me to stop drinking completely, but that if I did go through a bender and stopped abruptly, I should take it to prevent a seizure. The bottle was several months old and almost completely full.

Unbeknownst to me at that time, my mother signed the contract that was $4,000 for 90 days of treatment. They also collected my insurance information. Approximately three weeks later my parents were approached very aggressively by Jane Doe (Owner/Director of RF-1) stating that $12,000 was due immediately. My mother wasn’t sure if it was meant that in their scam they were claiming it was $4,000 per month or the original amount was just a down payment and it was $12,000 per month. Regardless, it was absolutely against the contract she held in her hand and the amounts were unacceptable.

They brought me into the main living area to get me situated and I knew that they were escorting my family out of the facility. I would have liked to have said goodbye and I love them. I was incredibly scared and uncomfortable…especially since I started experiencing a bad detox right away. I started vomiting and couldn’t stop for over 24 hours. I asked for my Ativan (directly prescribed to me by my own physician) and was told by Jane that “you can’t have that—it’s a benzo” (as in benzodiazepine).”

It’s here that I should point out that outside of getting high maybe 5 times in my life (last time being roughly 25 years ago in college—absolutely wasn’t for me) I have never been on drugs. I do not take drugs. I have never abused pharmaceutical medications. In fact, I philosophically don’t like taking medication—I would rather do everything I can to fix an ailment as opposed to mask any symptoms.

I was brought there early on a Monday afternoon and vomited all night. I did not sleep at all the first night or the second night. I was very frightened and did not doze off one single time. I strongly requested/demanded my Ativan at least 20—25 times throughout those first few days. I had detoxed before on my own and this was by far the worst I had experienced. I was petrified at how wrong I felt in my head and kept telling the staff this (absolutely including Jane, John & Mike) many times…always asking for my Ativan. I was simply told that I couldn’t have it and to “focus on my recovery” (a line told to me dozens of times by Jane). I was instructed that I was going to see the doctor on Thursday morning (because that’s when another patient was scheduled thus it was convenient for them).

On Wednesday afternoon at approximately 4:00pm I had a grand mal seizure.

I awoke in an ambulance en route to the hospital approximately 40 minutes later (from what was told to me). I was asked my name and didn’t know it, asked my birthday and didn’t know it, asked what city I lived in and didn’t know it. I was in a neck brace (the kind football players are placed in from possible spinal cord injuries). My head was stuck to the gauze behind it…apparently I fell on the back of it and after seizing for a minute I was lying in a pool of blood.

John and Jane arrived at the hospital at 9:15pm. I was still in the ER, still in the neck brace and awaiting results from X-rays and scans to determine possibilities of a cracked skull, broken neck, spinal cord damage or brain damage. I asked where my family was…I had thought that this event would have brought an end to the nightmare and I would head home to recover. Jane enthusiastically claimed “I spoke with your mother and told her you were fine” several times. At that point, I really don’t think my state (especially awaiting said results) could have been defined as “fine” in any way. I came to find out later that they phoned my mother at 8:30 that night, told her I was fine and sternly demanded that nobody came to the hospital to see me. The cover up had started.

Interestingly enough…the first medication I received at the hospital was Ativan.

All tests came back negative and I received 8—10 staples in the back of my head. I made it back to RF-1 at approximately 11:30 that evening. I slept in small increments that night and my entire body ached from the convulsing during my seizure. The next morning I was taken to the “facility physician” (30 minutes away), apparently to BEGIN my detox. This is purely based on assumption, but I imagine this involved referral exchanges monetarily. I have heard how widespread and lucrative it is in the recovery business but can’t understand how it can be legal based on medical treatment.

Sure enough, the first prescription the physician presented to me was for Ativan.

The next morning, Jane told me I needed to sign a power of attorney agreement with a notary so that they could “go after” my insurance company. I said absolutely not and that my family would absolutely have to be involved. Jane was adamant while flashing me the agreement and said it only involved my insurance. She said she would drive the agreement right over to my family immediately afterwards. I of course still said no. A short time later, Mike approached me and instructed me that they would “make my life hell” if I didn’t sign it. I was scared enough, still shook up from the seizure with staples in the back of my head, and not knowing what to do signed it under duress.

It’s important to point out that I was absolutely forbidden to contact anyone outside the facility. They of course confiscated my cell phone and wallet upon admittance. I couldn’t contact anyone…

That same day, I continued inquiring about my employer and what the status was regarding my job. It was a good career position with a global company that valued my contributions. Jane finally brought me into her office and flashed me a letter, addressed to me, on my company letterhead, and said “you’re fine—just focus on your recovery.” I demanded to read the letter and she wouldn’t let me and locked it in her desk. For the next two days I kept demanding to see the letter. Finally a night manager went in to get it for me and it was then that I saw my company supplied me with as many days possible through human resources and stated that I only had to be back online with correspondence by the date of June 14th. That day was just under two weeks away.

I approached Jane and told her about the deadline of the 14th and she said she’d drive over to my folks to pick up my laptop. This conversation went on until two days before the 14th when I expressed serious concern about losing my position. Jane stated the same line each time, again and again…”I’ll get you your laptop—just focus on your recovery.” I didn’t trust her so I snuck out and used the phone at night to call my mother and ask for her to bring me my laptop. My mother informed me that they were under explicit instructions that if I ever called them they were to hang up on me immediately. She said she was afraid to do anything based on any repercussions. Mike saw me use the phone on a security camera and immediately came to tell me again that “they would make my life hell” if I should ever do that again.

The 14th came and went with no laptop. I lost my job because of this. All I simply had to do was spend a few hours each day corresponding via email. It’s more than obvious it was their plan all along to deviously cause me to lose my job as it could amount to a longer stay at their facility. I still haven’t been able to bounce back from what I held at that career position.

A few days later they allowed me to be taken to lunch with my parents so I could see my son. It was then that they had outlined the scam by RF-1 along with the plan to sneak me out of the house. It was there I signed the retainer for an attorney. We eventually filed suit and won a settlement…alas, it was a loss for us with all of the costs involved. My attorney can corroborate the audacity of the behavior of the defendants (RF-1). He said it should have gone to trial where they would have committed perjury and there most likely would have been punitive damages awarded. It was hard on my family though and they wanted to settle as soon as possible, putting this darkness behind us. During that time, I received in the mail an EOB (explanation of benefits) that showed RF-1 collected over $28,000 from my Blue Cross insurance.

After RF-1 my family moved me to a sober house called Recovery Facility #2 (RF-2) that was owned and run by “James Smith” (former addict with extensive prison time in his background). My family was so disappointed in me and I wanted to do anything to restore our relationship, so I didn’t inform them of all the bad things I saw and experienced while I was there. I wanted to find employment, secure a residence and leave as soon as humanly possible. I ended up having to stay there for four months.

I thought I would have left earlier but encountered a major hiccup soon after arrival. I had my wallet, cell phone, laptop and car so I was anxious to interview immediately. By coincidence, my driver’s license was expiring so I went to the DMV to renew it. It was then I was informed that because of my unfortunate seizure at RF-1 that shouldn’t have happened, my license was suspended.

I had to be driven to two appointments with a neurologist and one appointment to be tested at a hospital with a brain scan to determine if the seizure was limited to that one time incident. I was cleared with the reasoning and was finally able to get my license. That took two months away from being able to drive, inconvenienced my family, and cost me a great deal of money.

I have many stories while at RF-2 that simply demonstrate cruel treatment of me my while I was purely focused on getting my life back together. I’ll only share two to outline the nature of matters…

The first…I had an interview scheduled and was running out the front door in a suit with my business carry bag when James arrived in his black Hummer. He had items for the house and asked me to unload everything. I explained that I was in a hurry heading to an interview and his reply was “nice recovery.” At that point he moved his monster truck to block me in, opened the back gate where the items for unloading were, and went inside. I had to carry everything in and then wait for him while he took his time to move his vehicle. I was late of course.

The second…I was at an NA meeting hosted by RF-2 and overheard another owner of a sober living house tell James that one of his occupants was caught using drugs. He enthusiastically told James with obvious enjoyment that he “had her for at least another 6 months.” He spotted me immediately after saying this and then approached me. He told me “if you say a word of this to anyone, I’ll make your life hell.” Apparently these words are frequently used at recovery facilities.

Additionally at RF-2, it was required of me to attend ten AA/NA meetings per week (and have my “attendance card” signed). At the time, RF-1 had hosted a weekly NA meeting. Throughout the local ones I attended, I saw many individuals that were part of that group. My lawsuit filed against RF-1 was apparently made known to them as I encountered countless glares, cursing remarks, and was even threatened when one man waited near my car and told me “if you know what’s good for you, you better drop that lawsuit.” To say I was uncomfortable in each and every “meeting” is quite a vast understatement. I think it’s quite unacceptable to “circle the wagons” as a recovery community to treat someone in such a manner, especially in a situation such as this.

At any rate, I found employment (not as good as my previous career position), moved out into a guest house on my own, and did OK for several months. I was very upset psychologically from what I encountered but knew I had to try with all I could to move forward with life. After a handful of difficult events and not having been able to escape the radical anxiety, stress and depression that had recently been established from those two facilities, I started drinking again.

I never told my family about the bad things I experienced while at RF-2…it wouldn’t have helped and most likely would’ve fallen on deaf ears. I had to get better and prove myself. Because they didn’t know, they drove me to a place where James was waiting with his black Hummer. I immediately went into a panic attack and throughout my cries was “ushered” (James is a very large man) into his truck.

Upon arrival at the house, I immediately called my landlord. She’s a good woman that really liked and understood me. She appreciated all I did for her while living in her guest house. Being aware of everything and knowing it was frighteningly bad for me to be there, she came to pick me up. I left the house, walked down the street to meet her and then saw that I was being followed by James in his truck and the “manager” (another large man with prison time in his background) in another car. When I saw my landlord at the corner we said we’d meet, James blocked her car in. He said I wasn’t ready to leave and told her I couldn’t. She was very calm and told him she was unquestionably taking me. At that point, James opened up the back door of her car, grabbed my bags, threw them into his Hummer and “peeled out” in a U-turn back to the house.

I wanted to call the police but my landlord calmly said that we should be careful because she was absolutely certain that James was on drugs. I knew that all along but never had anyone to tell. She contacted my family informed them of the situation. My family contacted James the next day. My brother went to pick up my bags from the house for me. When he arrived, James told him that it would cost $1,600 for them—one month’s rent since they admitted me and I was there for an hour. My brother said that was ridiculous and eventually had to give James $400 for all of my things. Theft and extortion—great traits for the “recovery” and “treatment” industries…

I was very frightened from that experience and drank accordingly. My family had to move my car throughout this and found a binder that was something of a diary I kept to keep track of all that had happened. Inside were notes that were suicidal in nature. Because of this and my drinking, they brought me to Recovery Facility #3 (RF-3) that claimed “alcohol medical detoxification” and accompanying “psychiatric assessment.”

I was admitted in the early afternoon and was left on a gurney in the ER hallway for approximately 18 hours essentially unattended. Nobody would give me any information. There were two other men in the hallway and they were handcuffed to their gurneys. It wasn’t until late the next morning I was brought to a room. So much for “medical detox”…

Once there, my roommate was screaming at me “I’m going to kill you…I’m going to kill you fu*%$# American!” Because of that, I sat in the hallway for hours. Someone finally told me that the man in the room wasn’t violent and not to worry. I still sat in the hallway. A short time later they had to head into the room after hearing him smashing things and brought him out in a straight jacket.

Soon after, I finally saw a physician and after taking the time to speak with me told me I shouldn’t be there. The next morning that physician told me that I would be released the following day. While that was good news, soon after that I was brought into a room where a representative from child protective services was waiting for me. When my mother was explaining my situation to the admitting administrator, because I had been drinking and because they found writings that were suicidal in nature, CPS was called.

Ever since the separation, I have my son on the weekends. I never drank around him—while I had him I was in heaven (let alone adhering to basic human responsibility). I overwhelmingly love my son so much, I had been mocked for it (always in a complimentary manner of course) ever since he was born. I don’t understand why CPS was involved. This amounted to thousands of dollars, court appointments, my ex-wife having “unannounced visits”, and me being limited to heartbreaking “supervised” visits with my son. After enough pressure from my ex-wife, her mother and my mother contacting them outlining how wonderful of a father I am, I was finally able to meet with a person high enough at CPS to discuss matters. After discussing all the facts they dropped the case saying that it should have never been filed. Although…they had immediately took 50/50 custody of my son and gave my ex-wife 100%. CPS claimed that I had to hire an attorney to go back to 50/50 and it would take about 18 months.

During this time, my job had become increasingly more difficult as the company essentially butchered over half of the work I brought them in my business development capacity. Because of this, they pulled the plug on the work they offered, closing all related production lines and laying me off accordingly. With all that had happened in such a short period, I started drinking again…this time in a manner much worse than ever. I had had enough…

The “recovery industry” took me from a guy that roller coaster drank based on a series of life stresses and turned me into an unquestionably hopeless, despondent, suicidal mess. Every conscious moment was filled with overwhelming stress, anxiety and deep depression. I was then drinking a full bottle of hard liquor daily—more than I ever had by far. There are enough witnesses that can attest that I was going to die…either from expiring physiologically or by my own hand.

It was then that my ex-wife contacted a friend whose husband worked for a recovery program that included a relatively groundbreaking medical approach. By coincidence, they had an upcoming spot on the television show The Doctors and needed a patient to be documented for it. It turned out to be a phenomenal blessing. If my family and I had known about this supportive program from the beginning, it would have eliminated the nightmares I experienced in my journey. I believe my wretched experiences are undoubtedly faced by so many others seeking treatment.

The state I was in is in the aired footage:

The program entails administering a long lasting dissolvable naltrexone implant to help significantly reduce cravings. It provides behavioral therapy as the implant is accompanied with intensive, one-one-one life coaching to identify and address all triggers surrounding the addiction. I had constantly wondered how it could be the 21st century and yet nothing I had seen in the treatment industry adhered to anything presented from a medical standpoint.

That was 18 months ago…I still have no inclination to drink. I’m still pulling myself out of the financial hole that period drove me into but doing all that I can to repair my relationship with my family while spending every second I can with my son—the absolute love of my life.

Throughout this roughly two year ordeal, I felt I was screaming at the top of my lungs at the insanity of it all and nobody could hear me. In the midst of trying to stay afloat in a perfect storm of life stresses, the recovery industry came and drilled mammoth holes in my boat.

How is it that the use of naltrexone isn’t more widely used and accepted?

How can the recovery industry conduct so much illicit activity without being exposed and/or monitored?

From all that I’ve seen it’s obvious that the answer is a fierce resistance to anything that would threaten the $35 billion made annually.

I can’t be alone with experiences such as these.

I truly hope that in sharing my story I’m able to help prevent individuals and their families in a time of need from encountering such horrific treatment.

Todd Mc

6/04/15

NOTE: The settlement agreement drafted by my attorney regarding RF-1 is available upon request.