Finding a Healthy Balance – Cassie Jackson at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival

Sundance - Cassie Jackson

More than just quitting drugs and alcohol, overcoming addiction is about finding harmony in life.

When addiction takes control over someone’s life, the effects are widespread. Drug and alcohol abuse affects the individual physically, causing toxic damage to the body and brain and affecting eating habits and sleeping routines. It also warps a person’s perception of the world around us and alters thought processes, reducing their ability to think logically and rationally about things. Addiction also has devastating effects on an individual spiritually, causing isolation from others and a sort of selfish and self-serving lifestyle.

To be perfectly clear, when we speak of spirituality, we are not talking about religion or and particular religious dogma. We understand that all of our patients come from unique backgrounds, and there are many different belief systems in our world. When we look at spirituality, we view it more as an understanding of the role we fill in the lives of others and our connection to the world around us. We don’t ask our patients to adhere to any form of spirituality that they are not completely comfortable with, and we do not base our treatment strategy in any particular religion.

One of the biggest parts of overcoming addiction is realizing how those personal connections have been damaged, straining friendships and damaging family bonds as the person places themselves and their addiction more and more at the center of the universe. When we realize that, we can begin to work on repairing those bonds wherever possible, and how to form new healthy and functional relationships that are not centered around drug or alcohol abuse. As we progress on the path to recovery from addiction, we begin to realize how important it is to share this message with others who may be struggling with substance abuse, to provide hope and inspiration and maybe even to save a few lives in the process.

That mission took us halfway across the country to Park City, Utah where the 2017 Sundance Film Festival was underway. We teamed up with our good friend Debbie Durkin of Durkin Entertainment, the leading producer of sustainable product placement in television and film, as a sponsor of the EcoLuxe Lounge, a special red-carpet event that she organizes at various awards ceremonies and festivals throughout the year. Showcasing some of the world’s top providers of holistic and eco-friendly goods and services, the 2017 Sundance EcoLuxe Lounge was held inside The Blue Iguana in Downtown Park City.

We were joined in the Choices Recovery Media Center by another good friend of ours, Gretchen Rossi of reality TV show “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” She filled the role of special guest host, spending her time speaking with dozens of the entertainment industry professionals and Hollywood insiders that stopped by The EcoLuxe Lounge that day. Among those guests was Cassie Jackson, a rising young actress, and daughter of Shar Jackson, another acting professional who had spoken with Gretchen earlier in the day.

Cassie talked about her experiences with substance abuse and how she was able to maintain friendships without getting caught up in that hectic and dangerous lifestyle. “I see what drugs have done,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to bring that into my life for the sake of the people around me. Everything that you do affects those around you, so I just try to keep that in mind whenever I make my decisions.” Far too many young people have this idea that they are not affecting anyone else when they make the decision to use drugs or alcohol, but they’re only fooling themselves. The consequences of their actions and decisions affect everyone else around them, too.

Cassie also spoke about the importance of setting personal boundaries. “If someone’s influencing someone negatively to do something that they’re uncomfortable with, definitely get away,” she advised. “My friends don’t try to pressure me into anything, but if someone’s trying to make you do something that you don’t want to do, eliminate them from your life.” Cassie’s message and advice is extremely valuable, especially in the modern age of constant influence through television and other media.

In overcoming addiction, finding harmony and balance in life is vital, and this will often require getting rid of our old “friends” that we used to use drugs or get drunk with. Even though we may miss them and the times we used to have with them, we must realize that our sobriety takes priority, because our decisions affect so many more people than just us.

Looking for Signs – Janell Flack in the 2017 Sundance EcoLuxe Lounge

Sundance - Janell Flack

Addiction is not always easy to see, especially when it’s someone we love.

Addiction is very sneaky. People who are struggling with substance abuse often become very good at hiding their drug or alcohol use. They can become very good at manipulation, and lying can become very natural. There is no end to the excuses that they can come up with for using, for ignoring their responsibilities, or for their broken promises. Denial is a very powerful thing.

Denial isn’t just limited to the person who is using, either. Many times, close friends and family members will also struggle with denial about the substance abuse of a person they care about. This is just as dangerous. It can enable their addictive behaviors, and in many cases will lead to avoiding reaching out for help. This is the most dangerous of all because sometimes we don’t realize just how badly someone needs help until it is too late.

Raising awareness about these issues and helping people identify when drugs or alcohol have become a problem in their life or in the life of someone that they care about is a big part of the fight against addiction that faces our society today. While the main role that Choices Recovery fills in that fight is offering effective treatment programs for those struggling with addiction, we understand that this is just one part of a mush bigger picture. We understand that there is much more that we can and should do to be a strong force in this battle.

Our commitment to being a source of hope and inspiration for those struggling with the effects of addiction is their lives took us to Park City, Utah during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival as a sponsor of The EcoLuxe Lounge, a red-carpet event that makes appearances at various awards ceremonies and festivals throughout the year. Organized by Debbie Durkin of Durkin Entertainment, the top producer of sustainable product placement in film and television, the EcoLuxe Lounge gathers some of the world’s leading producer of holistic and eco-friendly goods and services.

Inside the Blue Iguana in Downtown Park City, where the EcoLuxe Lounge was held, “The Real Housewives of Orange County” co-stars Gretchen Rossi and Slade Smiley spent the day hosting the Choices Recovery Media Center, chatting with dozens of the entertainment industry professionals who stopped by to visit. But producers, actors, and directors aren’t the only people who had stories to share with us. We also spoke with Janell Flack, a young lady who was working with the EcoLuxe as a Guest Ambassador.

Janell had heard why we were there as a sponsor of the EcoLuxe, and she wanted to tell us about her own personal experience with a loved one who was struggling with addiction. Having been adopted, she was very close in age with her brother, and they were basically raised as twins. The story she told us was about him.

“I knew that there was an issue going on,” Janell shared. “Me and my brother were best friends. We grew up as twins. After high school, he got a really good job and had all this money. As a 19-year-old, you don’t make the wisest of choices. It was very evident in his life that’s what was happening. It was very hard to see. It grabbed him so fast, I don’t think he saw what was happening.” Her story shows quite clearly the importance of knowing how to identify when someone that we care about is falling down the slippery slope of addiction – even when they are trying to hide it from us.

A few of the things we can look out for include:

  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Abrupt weight changes
  • Irritability
  • Changes in attitude/personality
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Sudden changes in friends
  • Dramatic changes in habits or priorities
  • Financial or Legal problems

Choices Recovery is committed to helping in the fight against addiction in any way that we can. Knowing the signs and symptoms of substance abuse can help us to know when someone we care about is struggling with addiction and may need help. If we have suspicions, it’s always better to engage them than to sit in denial until it’s too late. Every day that passes in addiction is a gamble, but if we can identify the problem, we can work towards a solution. We can find a path out of darkness to a brighter, healthier, and more positive future.

Enjoying Sobriety – Nancy Yoon at Sundance 2017

Sundance - Nancy Yoon

Addressing a common fear of the inability to have fun without drugs or alcohol.

One of the biggest fears we hear from people that come to Choices Recovery seeking help in overcoming an addiction is that they think they won’t be able to have fun without using drugs or alcohol. A lot of people start on that dangerous path by using socially – getting high at parties with friends, or maybe a few drinks after work to relax and let loose. It has become such an ingrained part of their routine that they begin to believe that life is boring without it. But this is simply not true.

Anybody who has gone through the recovery process can tell you that addiction is not fun. Though they might think that they are living life to the fullest and that things are so much more exciting when they are using, that is just the addiction lying to them. Only when they have broken free from the bonds of dependency on drugs and alcohol do they begin to realize just how trapped they were, and how hectic and terrible life really was when addiction was in control. They begin to understand that a clean and sober lifestyle is so much more enjoyable, especially when they can actually remember the fun times from the night before.

It is important to let people know that they will not only be able to have fun after they stop poisoning their bodies but that their lives will be so much more fulfilling once they have left that lifestyle behind and started living to their full potential. There are so many messages from all sides – through music or television or social media – that tell them how fun substance abuse is. If we hope to make a difference in the fight against addiction that our society faces, we must battle those messages with our own message of leading a more positive and enjoyable lifestyle through healthy decision-making.

This mission led us to Park City, Utah during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival as a sponsor of a special red-carpet event known as The EcoLuxe Lounge. Organized by Debbie Durkin of Durkin Entertainment, the top producer of on-screen sustainable product placement, the EcoLuxe makes appearances at several awards ceremonies and festivals throughout the year, gathering together some of the world’s leading innovators in eco-friendly and holistic goods and services.

Our good friend Gretchen Rossi, star of reality TV’s “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” was the special guest host of the Choices Recovery Media Center, and she spent the day chatting with dozens of the Hollywood insiders, industry professionals, and entertainers who visited The Blue Iguana in Downtown Park City, where the EcoLuxe Lounge was held. One of those visitors was Nancy Yoon, who has been seen in several TV shows and feature films over the years, including “Days Of Our Lives” and “CSI.”

Nancy and Gretchen talked about the substance abuse that is so prevalent, not just in the entertainment industry but also throughout our entire society. Many great performers have been taken from us far too early as a result of addiction. Yet, the problem still persists, and many people, especially our youth, seem to emulate celebrities, which can be very dangerous when it comes to using drugs and alcohol.

Nancy had a message for young rising stars in the entertainment industry, but it is a message that can be applied to anybody, young or old, rich or poor, inside Hollywood or in the rural communities across our nation. “I literally don’t drink, smoke, drugs, anything – I do nothing,” she says. “But I still have so much fun at every party, every event. You don’t need that. You just gotta bring your own spirit out, and be joyful.” True happiness and fulfillment in life come from within, not from something that you put into your body. And, with sobriety and healthy living, even the little things in life can bring joy and happiness. It’s all about perspective.

At Choices Recovery, we help our patients to find the things in life that bring them happiness and serenity. We help them to understand that life is so much better when they can see things clearly and think without drugs or alcohol clouding their minds. They learn that there are so many things in life to be grateful for and that there is so much beauty just waiting to be found. They understand the role they fill in the lives of others and the connection that they have with the universe around us. They graduate from our treatment center with a renewed feeling of self-confidence, strength, and hope.

Moving Forward – Julia Verdin at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival

Sundance - Julia Verdin

Combating the stigma attached to addiction is key in fighting this social epidemic.

Anybody who has watched a person that they care about struggle with substance abuse, or who has personally gone through that struggle, understands how difficult it is to ask for help. Often times this is a result of feelings of shame or guilt, sometimes because of the decisions they have made, or other times because of the damage they have caused. Sometimes, however, these feelings come from not wanting to be seen as one of “those people.”

There is a certain stigma attached to addiction – often people think of drug addiction or alcoholism as being limited to the guy living under the bridge drinking from a brown paper bag or hiding in a dark alleyway waiting for someone to rob. And these false preconceived notions can sometimes make people refuse to reach out for help and seek treatment when their lives have spun out of control.

It’s important to break through this stigma if we are going to effectively combat the epidemic of addiction that our society faces. Sharing information and educating people on the truth regarding addiction and recovery is the most powerful tool that we have at our disposal in these efforts. By reaching out to others to open discussions regarding these issues, we can show others who might be struggling with addiction that there is no shame in admitting that there is a problem and that they need help.

One of the best ways we have found to do this is through sponsorship of various events that allow us to speak frankly with people about addiction and recovery. Recently, we travelled to Park City, Utah during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival as the sponsor of The EcoLuxe Lounge, a showcase of some of the world’s leading innovators of holistic and eco-friendly services, technologies, and products, organized by Debbie Durkin of Durkin Entertainment, the industry-leading producer of on-screen sustainable product placement. The EcoLuxe Lounge, which makes appearances at various awards ceremonies and red-carpet events throughout the year, was held in The Blue Iguana in Downtown Park City and was visited by hundreds of entertainment industry professionals and Sundance Festivalgoers.

Hosting the Choices Recovery Media Center inside the EcoLuxe Lounge was our good friends Gretchen Rossi and Slade Smiley, stars of reality TV show “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” who spent her day speaking with dozens of actors, producers, and Hollywood insiders. Among them was Julia Verdin, who’s career has spanned over 30 years and has included acting, producing, casting director, and writer. Her most recent work, “Lost Girls,” is about the tragedy of human trafficking, and she understands how important the influence of her industry in the world.

The trio talked about how the two causes of addiction and human trafficking intersect. “There’s a big recovery element because when teenagers are trafficked, they’re often drugged,” she explains. “So, they have to go through extensive rehab, and organizations struggle with having enough resources to support.” This is very true in many aspects of addiction – and one of the ways we can combat this is by raising awareness. The more people know about the issues surrounding substance abuse, and about the various options in treatment that are available today, the better prepared our society will be to handle these problems in effective ways.

Julia also touched on the problem with stigmas. “People’s perception is that trafficking is something that goes on in third world countries, and it’s right here in our backyard,” she says of the cause behind her film. “People just want to kind of turn a blind eye and pretend it doesn’t exist.” The same is true with addiction. People may want to ignore it or pretend it isn’t that bad, which will only make things worse. “Families often struggle with enabling,” Julia points out. “They give them money, or more leeway, or keep bailing them out. People have to make that choice to recover. Whatever happens in life, we all have to make a choice.” Fighting the stigma that makes people want to ignore substance abuse until it is too late in perhaps the most important part of our mission in the battle against addiction.

At Choices Recovery, we are dedicated to making a difference in the world through working towards a safer, healthier, and more positive environment for everyone. With the help of people like Julia Verdin, we can continue to share our message of leading a clean and sober lifestyle, reaching more ears and touching more lives than we could on our own.