I experienced quite the dichotomy growing up in Northern Virginia and the Metro DC area. Everything looked great from the outside, and sometimes it felt like that was all that mattered. I was a top scholar and a talented athlete. On the other hand, I was suffering with general anxiety, social anxiety, ADHD, and a lack of sense of self. Did I really have to live up to the pressure I felt from coaches, teachers, and my family to be happy?
Who the hell am I? Why am I so scared? What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? These questions eventually turned into, who do people want me to be? – and more specifically – what do I want people to see when they look at me?
Drugs and alcohol solved these problems entirely, at first. At 13 years old the problems began. A few hundred thousand dollars later (spent on military schools, lawyers, treatment programs, top interventionists and educational consultants, multiple high schools, and countless therapists, psychiatrists and counselors) my family was at a standstill. “Tell me who the best is in the entire industry, cost is no concern, and that’s who I want to hire.” A great quote from my father when I was 22 years old. After leaving another treatment center at 23 years old – high again – $27 to my name, a duffel bag, and some rolling tobacco was all I had left. What else could my parents do for me? They had hired the “best” interventionists and consultants to work with the “best” programs and this was where I was.
I am one of the lucky ones that so desperately walked into a meeting and begged some men for help. The rest is history. But I have lost far too many friends to accept that this is the way for everyone.
I’ll never forget my mother saying to me, when I got sober, that the only way she got through the last of those years was by coming to the realization that her only son was going to end up in prison or dead. To this day, it brings tears to my eyes.
Encore Outpatient Services, as my dad said the first time I shared the idea with him, is the program that I needed so desperately during those years. It is the program my family needed. My career in this industry as a professional, and former client, has graciously provided the much needed perspective on the contrast that exists in this business. There are some incredible people and programs, but there are even more really bad programs with the wrong motives behind them.
Over the past five years, I have visited hundreds of treatment centers nationwide, met with thousands of professionals, and have referred hundreds of clients into treatment as a result of my team’s intervention and consulting work. Talk about a learning experience! What works? What doesn’t? Why are people getting well? Why aren’t people getting well? What’s missing? The list of questions goes on and on…
I do not understand how we accept so much failure in this industry. Our leadership team came together and said to each other – “We can do better. We will do better.” Clients do not fail in treatment; Treatment fails clients. This simple statement defines us.
The fact is this. Far too many young adults are going into the “top” programs in the United States and coming out without having dealt with so many of the issues that led them there in the first place. This must change.
Right around May of 2015, I began to get a succession of phone calls from families (about 10 families in a row) attempting to identify resources in the DC Metro area for a young adult loved one. It became quite apparent that if you wanted to live in the DC area, you were pretty much out of luck for quality extended care services related to substance use disorders. This was the message I needed to hear. Being that Northern Virginia is my home, and the home that I’ve always wanted to be a part of improving, it became apparent that I needed to relocate from San Diego and create the service that was so desperately needed. My wife Ashley and I packed the car, loaded the moving truck and headed East (along with our dog Hercules). Finally, I was back home to be the change I so often dreamed about.
Our solution starts with the fundamental way we look at substance use disorders and effective treatment. We had to challenge the conventional, and create innovative solutions to combat the recidivism of the treatment industry. We do this by effectively treating trauma and attachment, developing and honing our client’s life skills, improving family relationships, providing skills training for family members, and most importantly creating an environment where young men and women can actually work through some of their largest obstacles (like shame, guilt, sex and sexuality, authenticity, vulnerability, interpersonal relationships, dependency on others, and asking for help).
Encore’s approach is fundamentally grounded in the concept that individuals and families are unique, and that we have the responsibility to adapt our services to meet their dynamic set of needs. Our goal is to address every component of an individual’s life to ensure successful transition out of our program and into the community.
People have told me from the beginning – You can’t do it this way. You can’t customize treatment for each person. You can’t let people go to school or work in your program at the same time. You can’t have such small caseloads for your clinicians. You can’t put a program in Northern Virginia. You can’t expect so much from your staff. You can’t let clients participate in creating their own treatment program. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t.
We Can. And we will.
Building Encore has been both frustrating and exhilarating. People who have made a stand against societal norms have always been accused of being crazy or foolish. I don’t see myself as anything except a man who has the passion, dedication, and determination to challenge the current status quo of addiction treatment. If it isn’t working (and it isn’t), the onus is on us to change it.
Welcome to our Encore Family. We look forward to being a small part of your story. And hopefully your story will touch someone’s life who is in need. Hopefully your story will be the change that someone so desperately needs.