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A thens A rea C ommencement C enter

Commencement Connection Holiday 2015

The Gift of Recovery By: Rob Hinzman, GCADCII

Recovery is looked upon as a journey not an event. There are your ups and downs, but a gradual movement forward with the occasional bumps. With failures, come successes. And with mistakes, come lessons. The success of recovery is possible for anyone that can get honest and have a strong enough desire to do the necessary steps. Recovery is a gift right in front of anyone who wants it. But like everything in life, recovery takes effort. Recovery will not just come to you. It has to be earned with hard work.

Aftercare Groups By: Jim Turner, MPPPM

The Aftercare Program at Athens Area Commencement Center is a voluntary program that allows graduating clients to transition from the structured environment of treatment to the relatively unstructured environment of personal recovery. It is a two-year program that allows our clients the opportunity to maintain a certain level of accountability as they progress into what will hopefully be a period of sustained sobriety. Aftercare Groups meet twice per week at noon on Tuesday and at 5:30 on Thursday evenings. At these meetings, clients are placed in an environment that is conducive to early recovery. This includes group therapy, development of a peer network, and the ability to ask pertinent questions about this new way of living. In

Gratitude and Recovery By: Kara Holcomb, LMSW

If you’ve come through the Commencement Center, whether as a client, an intern, or even staff, chances are you’ve been asked to make a gratitude list at some point or another. You’ve also probably heard the old adage, “A grateful addict (or alcoholic) will never use.” Why is that? Why do we put so much emphasis on gratitude? Gratitude is certainly not abundant in active addiction. On the contrary, the disease of addiction robs our clients of gratitude and a sense of overall wellbeing. When our clients present for treatment in withdrawal, wondering if they will ever experience pleasure or happiness, or even a sense of normalcy, again, gratitude is often the furthest thing from their minds. When I assign a group of clients a 50 or 100-item gratitude list, I inevitably get a few eye rolls and groans. “Fifty things?! I can’t even think of 10! Don’t you know how bad I feel?” Without fail, each client who has been given this assignment has completed it with ease. The vast majority report that once they get started, they have a hard time keeping it at 50 or 100. What I’ve learned

Everyone’s eyes are open to our country’s heroin and prescription drug epidemic. Stories of this problem frequent the evening news. After a medical detox, these addicts can then be introduced to a happy and meaningful life of recovery. Many people in our society believe that addiction is a choice. These are people that only view the effects and destruction associated with addictions. They do not have education on what addiction actually consist of. People with addictions have lost the ability to make a choice to stop on their own. But they can make the choice to ask for help and does the work necessary live a life in recovery. Addiction can be compared to Diabetes. The organ affected with diabetes is the pancreas. The organ that is affected with addiction is the brain. The neuro chemistry in the brain has been altered with chronic substance abuse. With the hard work and the tools that are taught in recovery, most people are able to pick up the

pieces to move forward with their journey.

addition, the Aftercare Program offers monthly progress reports for those individuals who will benefit from this service with respect to legal, occupational, and familyrelated issues. One-on-One sessions with the Aftercare Coordinator are also available for clients who need to discuss problems or issues that are not conducive or too private for the whole group.

Perhaps more importantly, all of these individuals were either open to recovery, or gained that willingness to maintain their sobriety during their time in Aftercare. I believe this speaks to the importance of continued structure after graduation from Treatment for the critical two-year period that follows.

As I approach the conclusion of my second year as Aftercare Coordinator, some personal observations are in order. There seems to be two groups of clients who enter Aftercare: 1) those who are open to recovery, and 2) those who are resistant to recovery. Invariably, it seems, those clients who are resistant to recovery either gain willingness to do the work necessary to maintain a clean and sober life, or their resistance ultimately leads to relapse and/or discharge from the Program for nonparticipation. Of those clients who have graduated from the full two years in Aftercare since January 2014, a 100% success rate has been observed, to this point. Of these individuals, roughly two thirds were on monthly reporting to employers or legal agencies, while one third were not.

People from all over the world have or will have experience some sort of hardship in their lives. Whether it’s losing your house or job, living through a natural disaster or experiencing a death of a loved one, recovery is a gift that nobody or nothing can take from you. One’s sobriety is theirs to lose. A drink or drug will only make the hardship harder. These hardships are going to happen either way; people in recovery have learned how to use support of AA and NA to cope with life as we live it through a journey. This is a gift because recovery allows people to deal with hardships without completely losing all sanity and the option of living a happy, joyous and free life. Tragedies very often turn into comedies…And they better or this world is in a lot of trouble. ……Jimmy Buffett

Our Aftercare Groups tend to be light-hearted, with much laughter and enjoyment associated with them. This environment is necessary because if recovery is not enjoyable, most would choose not to participate in it. We do, however, discuss difficult events as they occur, in order to maintain the general health of the group and the individual. Life can be overwhelming at times, especially for those who have spent years self-medicating. There is great power and healing that occurs as our Aftercare Groups move to embrace those difficulties and provide peer support and experience to newer members. Personally, I am grateful to have the opportunity to participate in the healing of our clients (and their families) who choose to stay involved in Aftercare.

in giving this assignment is that gratitude is truly transformative in the way people perceive and feel about the world. The way attitudes shift with gratitude talk is almost palpable in group.

gratitude list before you get out of bed in the morning.

There is solid research espousing the benefits of gratitude in improving outcomes of depression, anxiety, stress, and now, even heart disease. A recent study by Paul Mills of the University of California, San Diego compared levels of gratitude and spiritual wellbeing in patients with asymptomatic heart failure with markers of stress, sleep quality, fatigue, mood and markers of inflammation (which can worsen heart failure). Mills found that more gratitude correlated with improved mood, sleep, more self-efficacy, less fatigue, and better heart health as measured by inflammatory biomarkers. The researchers of this study conclude that a grateful heart is a healthier heart. This is relevant for the Commencement Center, not only because most of our clients come in with some level of hypertension, depression, and poor sleep quality, but because it shows the wide ranging impacts of practicing gratitude. Gratitude is a powerful feeling that shines through in actions and the way we interact with others.

End your day with gratitude. Try writing in a journal about a few things you’re grateful for from the day.

Here are a few tips for incorporating gratitude into your life this holiday season: Start your day with gratitude- make a 3-item

Prayer- a brief daily prayer ritual is absolutely a practice in gratitude. Try praying on your knees.

Meditation- Spend a few minutes each day doing nothing. Just sit with a quiet mind and focus on your breath. Check in with your body. This provides mental space to slow down and practice gratitude. Mindfulness- Try to do one thing at a time. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re driving, just drive. Take a few minutes to appreciate the small things that make your life easier. Pay attention to what’s going on in and around you and you’ll cultivate a deeper sense of purpose and gratitude. This holiday season, I’m grateful for clients who keep me on my toes and share intimate and challenging parts of their lives with me. I’m grateful for clients who teach me humility, patience, and to not take myself too seriously. I’m grateful for a supportive and positive work environment. I’m grateful for the health, happiness, and hope that I see fostered at the Commencement Center every day.


Quality Treatment Program By: Jim Hinzman, MAC

encouraging Aftercare participation and how to prevent relapse. Therefore, individuals post treatment need to be able to access Aftercare services designed to prevent relapse and to avoid active disease. Therefore, Treatment Programs should have Treatment data of their success rates for recovery. Quality Treatment Program will have an active State License specific to their Scope of Care and review every three years for quality and safety. This State License will define Levels of Care that the facility can safely manage with specific professional providers having Certifications and/or Professional Licenses. The State will review, inspect, and audit Facility Policy and Procedures with a tenure of quality compliance to ensure clients are receiving safe and effective services.

Front Row (L-R): Joe Preston, Jim Hinzman, Beau. Back Row (L-R): Kara Holcomb, Crissy Walton, Jim Turner, Dr. Farris Johnson, MD, Nick Combs, Rob Hinzman.

Many telephone calls come to the Athens Area Commencement Center for treatment and treatment options. Most all individuals seeking treatment come to us with appointments times and their families becoming a part of the decision to begin treatment. At the same time, clients and their families are educated and intelligent and wanting to understand how to identify a quality Substance Use Disorders Treatment Programs. Quality outcomes continue to drive individual’s decision making where to seek out Treatment Facilities. One family member I remember distinctly, after I completed an Intake for their loved one, sadly had to leave without accessing Treatment Options because they did not have the finances to meet their Insurance Deductible. The family member stated, “My daughter went to Treatment out of state and Treatment costs has bankrupted us and we are about to lose our home. We do not have any money to meet the Insurance Deductible. Our daughter relapsed and doing drugs two days after completing Inpatient treatment”. As a result, I want to help each Newsletter Reader to have some knowledge about how to make the best decisions where to access Treatment Options for Substance Use Disorders with positive outcomes that are cost effective. Please understand not every Treatment Center will meet every individual’s disease. Individual Treatment Models identify the need for Inpatient and/ or Ambulatory Treatment. In 1994 I wrote an article to outline criteria in seeking a state-of-the-art Treatment Program. Since then, the Treatment Field has changed due to the improvements and better understanding Substance Use Disorders as a Neurologic Brain Disease. Criteria in defining Service Options:



Treatment Program Credibility can be determined through Outcome Studies. What is the Recovery Outcome Rate in a Treatment Program? Positive Outcomes for any disease come from a Treatment Plan

About Treatment Today By: Joe Preston, LCSW


Treatment has really changed. In the old days, we believed that only a “28 day” stay in a hospital could help an alcoholic or other addict. We thought that going in with the biggest guns first was the only way to ensure recovery and to avoid relapse. What was overlooked was the reality shock that was experienced when it was time to go home. While in that hospital, I had people around me for support “24x7”. I was used to going to meetings in the city where I went to treatment. I was not used to dealing with the daily realities of life with my family. Boy, was I in

Quality Treatment Program will be Accredited either by Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organization (JCAHO) or CARF International and review every three years for quality and safety compliance. Professional Accreditation implies compliance to higher standard of care with documented performance history that meets safety standards to prevent no harm to clients while in Treatment. Quality Treatment Program will have a Community Presence so that community members have access to it. Treating any disease must be in a geographical area where clients can access Aftercare services to manage the disease. We do not have a cure for diseases…….we can only manage/ treat diseases. Therefore, a Facility that is close enough geographically that clients post treatment can access or re-access is critical in ongoing treatment and preventing relapse. Addiction is a Brain Disease that can become active, therefore to access a Facility for relapse prevention is critical. Quality Treatment Program will provide Tenure or a long term history presence in documenting safe treatment and a positive outcome in treating the Brain Disease of Addiction. There are many Treatment Models and Treatment Centers. Not all treatments for addiction are abstinent based and a growing treatment in the field of addiction using Opioid based drugs for maintenance treatments. Also, not all Treatment Programs offer the same modalities of levels of care. Approximately 10% of Substance Use Disorders clients need Inpatient Treatments, the other 90% with family support will benefit quite well from Ambulatory/Outpatient Treatments. Quality Treatment Program will provide Substance Use Disorders treatment along with Treatment for CoOccurring Disorders. Due to the effects of alcohol and drugs on the brain, Co-Occurring disorders must be assess and treated for long term recovery. It is not good enough to treat only Substance Use…….rather treatment must treat and assess brain disorders deriving from substance use on the brain. An example of Co-Occurring Disorders is treatments for anxiety and depression to identify the major disorders. Quality Treatment Program will have Individualized Treatment Planning with Levels of Care that involve families and employers. Treatment should enable individuals to return back to their living and work environment as soon as possible. Community programs does this best because they faciliate the transition to

for a surprise that first morning home! My wife left for work and left me at alone. I missed all the support. My sponsor lived 45 minutes away. I had never been to a meeting in my home town and did not know the recovering community at home. My drug damaged brain had not had enough time to really clear in just 28 days. I felt lost. I wanted to use and didn’t want to use. I did stay clean but I started smoking after ten years of abstinence from tobacco! (Three packs a day-this is a progressive disease after all.) Today at the Commencement Center, our patients continue to experience life on life’s terms while receiving the structure and support of a treatment program. They attend meetings in the place they live. They choose a local sponsor who is vetted by our staff. They can remain in treatment longer for much less money. In 1986 my treatment bill was over $14,000 (in 1986 dollars!) plus the doctor’s charges. It

the local environment with structure and accountability in treating the brain disease. Not everyone needs Inpatient Treatment and not everyone is a candidate for Outpatient Services. Quality Treatment Program, with a community presence, will assist and facilitate the client returning back to work as soon as medically stable. Community Treatment Program will assist Employers with interventions, treatment, and education/training for their employees. Quality Treatment will offer a Variety of Services. Not everyone needs Inpatient Treatment and not everyone is a candidate for Outpatient Services. However, due to our greater understanding of addiction being a Brain Disease, Outpatient Services include Ambulatory Detoxification, along with Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Treatment. Also, we understand that the more restrictive the treatment environment the more costly the program. Inpatient Treatment is approximately 4 to 6 times more costly than Outpatient Services. Outpatient Services are definitely more cost effective and inexpensive with a better outcome for client’s returning back to their families and employment than Inpatient Services. Quality Treatment will provide Staff Providers training in Substance Use and Co-Occurring Disorders. Counselors should be Master’s Degree Level education. They should also be Certified and/or Licensed Substance Use Disorders and Co-Occurring Disorders. Physician/Register Nurses should be Licensed and Trained in Addictions. It is helpful if staff has recovering experience. Prices should be reasonable and customary and meet medical necessity. Inpatient services are the most expensive and provided only for individuals with acuity or high risk for seizure, suicide or homicide intention of harming themselves or others. Fees for Treatment can run as high as $100000. Quality Treatment will include Continuing Care Services. Since we have no cure for Substance Use Disorders Facilities should offer relapse prevention/ Continuing Care Services. Continuing Care includes Relapse Prevention Groups and also integration into Support Groups. Any treatment Facility without Continuing Care services will yield at best 10% recovery. Program Credibility can be determined and measured in the following way: Ongoing Outcome Studies, Licensed and Accredited, Community Presence with a long term tenure, understand clinical processes to Substance Use Disorders and Co-Occurring Disorders, provide a Variety of Services, Licensed and Certified professionals, reasonable and customary fees, and Continuing care Services. In the addictions field, we continually embrace treatment practices that are effective for long term recovery while at the same time cost effective. Treatment Programs must be flexible and offer a variety of options for clients, family and employers. Excellent treatment planning should always be providing the client transition as soon as possible back to their homes and work. A primary strength for Athens Area Commencement Center is its long term community presences of 30 plus years of service for addicts and alcoholics. was worth every nickel but… Also, in a longer Outpatient Program, the brain has more time to clear and heal. Here, when they are ready, we reduce the structure so folks have more time to manage and can get back to work, school etc. All of this works to reduce the reality shock of moving from treatment to Aftercare and better equips our patients to deal with on-going recovery. Oh yeah, Aftercare. A treatment program that treats stars and has a gourmet chef is a cool concept but how ya gonna get to Aftercare in Tucson, Minneapolis or even Statesboro? Aftercare here is local and provided inexpensively for two years. I reckon I’m blowing our horn rather loudly but I think we do good work. Outpatient treatment works! In fact, in many ways, Outpatient treatment is superior to Inpatient.

Individualized Detox Protocol By: Crissy Walton, RN

each night. Thus, the client gains the opportunity to be with family or continue to work and adjust to sober living while obtaining the tools necessary to do so.

“The nature of your mind does not harm, it heals.” (Ron Rathburn) Abstinence based programs may not be the answer for everyone; yet, having been with AACC for almost two years now, one thing that I still find significant is the unique way we approach recovery. By offering an intensive day treatment program which transitions in to a night program and on into an aftercare program, we are able to provide an individualized detox protocol for clients addicted to alcohol, opiates, or benzodiazepines that provides the clients the flexibility to be at home

Withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant to say the least, detoxing long time or heavy users helps to stabilize the client and keep them safe. Clients are assessed daily for signs and symptoms of withdrawal as well as drug screened frequently to help maintain structure and sobriety. Working closely with our treatment team and medical director, Farris Johnson, an established Athens community and St. Mary’s physician, we are able to provide successful detox for many clients. It is holistic treatment approach. Healing begins with treating the signs and symptoms of withdrawal while educating and teaching the client about the disease concept and spiritual well-being and allowing the client to practice and discuss this concept in a safe environment.

Incorporating Yoga in Treatment

in long term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. So what in addition could I add that supports some or all of these principles to our program here at AACC? I bet dimming the lights, donning mala beads, and having clients lay on the floor of the group room was not what you’d think a nurse would have in mind.

By: Nick Combs, RN

As a registered nurse, I have received extensive training on how to holistically treat the body using various techniques. I have taken care of heart transplant patients in the ICU, trauma patients in the ER, and surgery patients postoperatively. But when treating addiction, which doesn’t necessarily have obvious physical or outward signs, how can we be creative in addressing idiosyncrasies that aren’t necessarily as easily measured as blood pressure or pulse? We utilize the 12 steps at AACC in adjunct to many other techniques, including group and individual therapy, motivational counseling, and family inclusion. We also find that clients with existing or adopted spiritual practices have lower relapse rates. We have existing education on nutrition, mindfulness, and exercise’s role in recovery for each of our clients and there are numerous scholarly articles to support all of the above modalities

In a recent study published by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga has shown to reduce stress, relapse, physical symptoms, and even cravings. Most people envision tight pants, super trim bodies, and a lot of people sitting in postures even a contortionist would envy when they think of yoga. Yoga can include some of this, but at its core, yoga can incorporate so much more. Yoga has many principles at its philosophy that mirror the 12 steps. It utilizes intentional breathwork to calm the mind. There are meditative qualities to it. Yoga means “union” in the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit, and seeks to unite the body, mind, and spirit through many techniques. Why aren’t more treatment centers using yoga as an adjunct then? Well, they are. Incorporating principles from the 12 steps, Nikki Myers, has adapted an entire movement of 12 step meetings that incorporate yoga postures and philosophies. The library at The National Institute of Health has more and more published articles on the effects of yoga in drug and alcohol


Not Just About the Hours

By: Farris Johnson, M.D., FAAFP American Society of Addiction Medicine

By: Ashley Neal, MSW Intern

Once considered defective and flawed character, lack of self will, absence of self- control, addiction has been scientifically proven to represent a disease state with genetic predisposition which is “unlocked” by exposure to certain stimuli, most prominently moodaltering chemicals. The hallmark of addiction is continued use despite negative consequences. The disease affects male, female, all races and all social, religious, professional and nonprofessional classes, all educational levels. Addiction leads to overwhelming destructive effects on health, wealth, family, and selfrespect and self-love. The addict is not a bad person in need of punishment and correction, but a sick person who wants to get well. The treatment of addiction is best done in an organized, orderly, caring and supportive environment such as The Athens Area Commencement Center and the Advantage Miles Street facility. The treatment process includes the patient (addict), the family and at times employers, ministers, and teachers. 12-step programs and support groups represent the “maintenance of sobriety” structure. Psychiatrists and counselors are often needed in the process but the foundation remains abstinence, education and informed support.

Every year, on April 15th, the MSW cohort at UGA rushes like a stampede to their student mailboxes to find out what their internship will be for their final year in the Master’s of Social Work program. I hurried through the frenzy of spastic classmates, opened my letter and read: Athens Area Commencement Center. I will admit, I had no idea what the Commencement Center was or what services it offered, but I did know that I was going to commit at least 720 hours to it. After spending 400+ hours so far at the Commencement Center, I have gained much more than learning the mission statement, services offered, or hours attained. I have gained an insight and understanding of a population that is so often misunderstood and overlooked. At the Commencement Center, interns are able to get the full experience of being a clinical social worker. We participate in daily group therapy sessions, daily meditation and education sessions, administer breathalyzers, charting, observe 1-1 sessions, and attend staff and treatment team meetings. Something unique to the Commencement Center, we are able to participate in weekly family night, an experience most of my classmates do not have exposure to. Family night provides the intern with exposure in working with various family dynamics and issues, as well as the ability to educate the family on the disease concept of addiction.

While attending the GA School of Addiction conference this year, many rehab centers were represented and many different aspects of treatment were discussed. Upon hearing other professionals ask questions concerning detox, AACC stands out because of our effective ambulatory detox. I was impressed with what we are able to offer as a day program while still maintaining structure and stability. Our approach to treatment at AACC works. As a team, we meet daily to discuss treatment and to maintain the individuality of said treatment for each client. I am grateful to work with a treatment team that believes in the care they provide. “Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives” (Unknown).

addiction. Recovering people represent a growing number of memberships at yoga studios across the United States. Yoga doesn’t have to be practiced at expensive studios however, but many people lack the exposure or knowledge otherwise. I have been practicing yoga for many years and received my Registered Yoga Teacher certification at the 200 hour level this year. After that I was inspired to teach our clients here at AACC in hopes that they may reap some of the benefits I have from yoga, as well as some of the benefits that the aforementioned study found to be true. The interesting thing about yoga is you don’t have to be the most athletic person to do it, anyone can! You don’t need expensive workout gear or mats and props to see results. I try to show things the clients can do in their own homes, despite their current physical limitations. If anything, I hope that clients learn a bit of self-acceptance through the practice, have a sense of humor with themselves, and maybe even adapt a practice of their own. I will close with a quote from modern yogi and recovering person, Rolph Gates, who says, “The real payoff of a yoga practice, I came to see, is not a perfect handstand or a deeper forward bend - it is the newly born self that each day steps off the yoga mat and back into life”. Coming from all walks of life, each client’s story provides a distinct perspective and outlook. I have worked to help parents, teachers, children, doctors, nurses, lawyers, etc. While this may be overwhelming for some, I have been fortunate to witness: a mother seeing her child clean for the first time in years, a father attending his daughter’s wedding sober, a wife saying thank you for saving her marriage, a client crying tears of joy at their graduation, and many more. Although the Commencement Center was not my first choice, I am thankful I was placed here. It has not only improved my skills as a clinician, but I have also improved as a person. Joe and Kara’s group sessions taught me life lessons, such as, always having gratitude for even the small things, being kind to yourself, and the best gift you can offer another is prayer for spirituality and peace. The Commencement Center offers a staff that has an immense amount of experience and expertise, but also truly cares for their clients. Unlike many programs I’ve interned with, they take strides to ensure each client is treated with a specialized care plan, and not viewed as “just another number.” This intern experience helps me to stay mindful of the life I live, and the road I am traveling. It has given me irreplaceable opportunities to get an insider’s view into the thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs of a person with a substance use disorder. Each client I have encountered has provided me, without exception, grace and humility. I have been blessed with skills, memories, and experiences that I will carry with me long after the hours are complete.


A thens A rea C ommencement C enter A Place of Healing…

Alcohol and Drug Treatment for over 35 years.

Accepting all major insurance plans Athens Area Commencement Center is located near the intersection of the Atlanta Highway (Broad Street) and Mitchell Bridge Road.

Athens Area Commencement Center Staff are Certified or Licensed to treat Addictions All our Staff is qualified to treat the brain disease of addiction.


Each one of our staff demonstrates the knowledge to treat clients with the diagnosis of Alcohol/Drug Dependence


Athens Area Commencement Center

Athens Area Commencement Center strives to be an outstanding substance abuse treatment program. Based upon our understanding of addiction as a family disease, we provide holistic and preventive care that is safe, confidential and is delivered in a therapeutic environment.

Services are provided with dignity and compassion by competent, qualified staff who have the necessary skills, certifications and credentials to ensure good outcomes. Care is individualized to best treat each client’s needs. Different treatment modalities are provided and include, Ambulatory Detoxification, Day/Evening Outpatient Services and Aftercare. Client care is delivered in a fiscally responsible fashion. Our primary goal is to discharge clients who contribute to their families, communities and nation by desiring and working for life-long sobriety.


We’re on the Web!

“We can’t make quitting easy but we can make it possible” Toll Free:1-866-294-1830 Phone: 706-546-7355 Fax: 706-546-8439 Email: www.thecommencementcenter.com 1175 Mitchell Bridge Road Athens, GA 30606

Alcohol and drug treatment for over 35 years.

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