The West Coast Symposium on Addictive Disorders is Elevating the Virtual Experience

Dee McGraw is joining Tim to discuss the upcoming West Coast Symposium on Addictive Disorders and how the event is evolving with the times to help connect addiction specialists and share what’s working in the field right now. Find out how you can…

Dee McGraw is joining Tim to discuss the upcoming West Coast Symposium on Addictive Disorders and how the event is evolving with the times to help connect addiction specialists and share what’s working in the field right now. Find out how you can register for the symposium and make the most of the conference by learning new treatment strategies and networking with like-minded people.

  • Dee has a BS in psychology from Vanderbilt University, an MSW from Grand Valley State University, and over 28 years of experience in the substance abuse disorder & prevention field.
  • Not being able to meet in person due to Covid-19 has been very challenging for addiction specialists.
  • C4 has been around for 33 years and was originally founded as a group discussion around the idea that addiction treatment services should be reimbursed and treated in ways that science has shown to be the most effective. They focus heavily on trying to spread the knowledge of the most effective ways to treat addiction.
  • C4 also provides a broad range of continuing education credits to behavior health professionals.
  • Dee is excited about connecting with people again during the next conference because they’ve done a lot to recreate the experience of an in-person event.
  • One of the benefits of the virtual platform for the West Coast Symposium of Addictive Disorders is the ability to allow people to connect and interact with others that have similar interests. This can help them find their tribe a bit easier than a typical conference.
  • Dee is not usually happy about being forced to change, but the current situation doesn’t leave much choice. Dee has had to learn a number of new things in order to help other people understand the new ways of connecting online.
  • The topics that are going to make the biggest impact in light of the pandemic have to do with mental health, self-care, and compassion fatigue. There is a lot of trauma response Dee is seeing due to the pandemic and the general situation in the US.
  • To get the biggest benefit from attending the conference you’ll have to figure out what your biggest ROI will be. For some that could take the form of networking and learning about what other people are offering and for others that could be the value they’ll receive in the educational workshops. Everybody should check out the exhibit hall at the very least.
  • For someone who’s going to the conference just to learn, Dee recommends looking at the agenda, figuring out what you can do in two days and searching for programs that interest you specifically. The system they’ve put in place allows you to search by keyword. The discussion board is also a great place to find out what other people are talking about and ask any questions you may have.
  • Each speaker has their own fan base and following and letting those people know that you are a part of the conference is a big help in raising their profile and letting people know what’s available to them.
  • The C4 group originally negotiated an 18-year contract with the hotel where they’ve been hosting the conference and hopefully they can return to an in-person event again in the near future. Everything is up in the air at the moment but Dee is expecting that future events will likely have a virtual component either way.
  • Dee has always been interested in the field of addiction and helping people. One of her earliest work experiences involved teaching people about themselves and alcohol and drugs. The knowledge was very transformational for people and made a major impact on Dee and what she saw as possible in helping people improve their lives.
  • The common denominator for people in recovery and those that serve them is the simple desire to help others. It’s very humbling to be around such joyous and wonderful people.
  • We all have a morning routine, whether or not we have designed it consciously. Dee decided at the beginning of the pandemic that she wanted to build some introspection into her life. She tries to get some exercise in the morning at least three times a week combined with a healthy smoothie which she sips on all morning as she answers her emails and plans the day.

Mentioned in this Episode:

  • West Coast Symposium on Addictive Disorders –

The Stages of Recovery and Why You Can’t Stay Sober By Just “Not Drinking”

Whatever you focus on grows, and while recovery begins by focusing on avoiding relapse, you can’t maintain that forever if you want to stay sober for the long term. Find out how Tommy Rosen discovered the path to true recovery and what it means to…

    • Tommy Rosen was the first person to introduce Tim to the idea of food causing inflammation in the body.
    • Tommy grew up in New York City and it was always his dream as a kid to live in California where he eventually landed as an adult. His parents divorced when Tommy was only one year old and there was always an underlying sense that something was wrong in his family life.
    • Tommy started experimenting with drugs and alcohol as a way to escape from the sense of foreboding he always felt. He recalls that the first time he smoked cannabis was the first time he felt a sense of control in his life and the tension falling away.
    • For someone with that kind of life, there would be no reason to stop using that substance until it became such a problem that you could no longer use it and are forced to stop. This is basically what happened to Tommy as his cannabis use escalated to alcohol, psychedelics, cocaine, and heroine.
    • It was during his cocaine use that Tommy realized he had a major problem and didn’t have the ability to stop. A person in the addictive mindset like Tommy is usually asking themselves the wrong question. The focus is typically on “Can I do this drug and not have my life implode?” which is not a very high-grade question.
    • With addiction, at a certain point, all you’re focusing on is the drink and the drugs. Every other area of your life suffers as you make using your main priority.
    • Recovery happens in stages, and in the first stage the one job is just not using one day at a time. The most important thing you can do is put some distance between you and drugs and alcohol. Over time you begin to detox physically, mentally, and spiritually.
    • Recovery happens one day, one hour, and one minute at a time. If you get the urge, pick up the phone and call your sponsor.
    • Putting your energy into not doing drugs and alcohol is only a temporary solution. Eventually you will begin to find alignment with what you’re doing and new challenges will come up. For Tommy, the first 12 years of his recovery wasn’t about struggling not to use drugs but in dealing with the challenges in his relationships and life.
    • Tommy was very fortunate to have a committed sponsor who helped him throughout his recovery.
    • The dilemma for people just beginning their journey through recovery is doubt in the process. The most corrosive element for anyone trying to beat addiction is doubt, because if you doubt the process, it isn’t going to work for you.
    • You have to be around examples of victory in order to have enough faith to experience a shift in your life and give yourself the momentum to keep going.
    • Avoiding suffering isn’t enough. You have to move towards trying to be happy with yourself and your life.
    • How much time do you spend chasing nothing and being comfortable with just you, on your own? If you equate financial success with happiness you will be sorely mistaken.
    • If you’re not adding value to the world and the people you meet, you’re going to spend your time chasing things and suffering from the lack you feel.
    • Going to bed tonight sober is enough for some people because that’s an act of self-love. When you love yourself you can begin to love other people in the world.
    • To be content and happy, you have to have a practice of meditation and calming your mind. If you don’t, you will never get off the hamster wheel of chasing happiness which is itself a form of suffering.
    • Tommy’s recovery only came after he hit a new low. It led to a codependency that caused him incredible pain, and he shifted his addiction from alcohol and drugs to bad relationships and gambling. His second phase of recovery came after reaching his second bottom. and Recovery 2.0 was born from meeting a special mentor that showed Tommy the way.
    • Tommy’s gambling addiction nearly destroyed his life over the course of a single disastrous weekend. Despite being in recovery for 12 years, Tommy knew that there was still something that he was missing.
    • Shortly after that Tommy experienced near crippling pain in his back and got the unhappy diagnosis of needing to be on drugs for the rest of his life. Tommy retells the story of meeting his mentor who taught him how to live a pain free life without the need to take medication.
    • Don’t try to just survive your addiction, don’t just focus on not drinking or using. At first you’ll have to do that but the time will come when your life will shift and drugs and alcohol won’t be a problem anymore.
    • Forgive yourself for not being perfect in this world. That’s the basis of a life of beauty and magic and wonder, and it’s available to everybody.
    • Everything has changed in 2020, but so much is still the same. Tommy still has to maintain his practice of meditation, still has to eat healthy food. Mind your own business and pay attention to your own life. Don’t get caught up in the chaos of the external world.
    • Yoga and breathwork are incredible compliments to the twelve step program.Whatever you focus on grows, and while recovery begins by focusing on avoiding relapse, you can’t maintain that forever if you want to stay sober for the long term. Find out how Tommy Rosen discovered the path to true recovery and what it means to live a life focused on being a positive loving force in the world and not just avoiding suffering.

Mentioned in this episode

Remembering Those We’ve Lost

In honor of National Recovery Month, Allison Merlo is on the show to share the tragic story of how her brother lost his battle with addiction and what she’s doing to raise awareness and raise funds for a special scholarship in his name. Learn how…

In honor of National Recovery Month, Allison Merlo is on the show to share the tragic story of how her brother lost his battle with addiction and what she’s doing to raise awareness and raise funds for a special scholarship in his name. Learn how difficult it can be to support a loved one struggling with addiction and how you can help somebody in need right now by contributing to the Mike Merlo Scholarship Fund.

  • The unfortunate reality of addiction is that it often takes the lives of those who can’t escape its grasp. Allison Merlo is on the show to talk about the story of her brother and how he lost his battle with addiction.
  • Many people have loved ones that are struggling with addiction and don’t know what to do.
  • Growing up Mike was always an entertainer with dreams of being an actor. One of Allison’s favorite memories is of Mike surprising people at a talent show dressed up in a bikini and a blond wig.
  • The turning point for Mike was fairly early. Allison remembers a weeknight where Mike had to get his stomach pumped from drinking too much at a very young age. The severity of the situation scared Allison and her younger brother considerably. Mike continued to struggle with his addiction for the later part of his life from that point on.
  • Allison never really believed that her brother would die from his addiction, but she wasn’t surprised either.
  • The pandemic is putting a lot of extra stress on people right now, which is only making the struggle with addiction more difficult.
  • When Allison was younger she wasn’t sure how to help. Once she moved out to Arizona and built out her network she had an opportunity to teach yoga to inmates in jail, which helped her understand how to communicate with people like her brother, who had been in jail a few times by then and help support them.
  • Looking back at Mike’s later years, Allison realized that she wasn’t in contact very often with him. There is no clear cut answer about how to support someone suffering from addiction. You just have to do what you can with what you have where you are.
  • When you lose someone you will feel like you haven’t done enough. For Allison, there is a sense of wondering if she could have done more, but she does feel good about what she’s done to be of service.
  • Allison is setting up a scholarship fund in her brother’s name to help people that don’t have the resources to get the help they need. If the scholarship fund can save just one life, it will be worth it. The way that she’s fundraising is by doing a rim to rim to rim hike around the Grand Canyon.
  • Donate to Allison’s cause because every single dollar that you contribute is going to help somebody out there that is in need.
  • Follow your heart and lead your life like that. We need to connect and that helps connect with others, and that ultimately helps us heal and recover.

The Truth About Chronic Pain: How You Can Get Your Life Back

Dr. Mel Pohl reveals his personal struggle with drugs and alcohol and how even professionals suffer from addiction, as well as the truth about chronic pain. Discover some incredible facts about the opioid crisis, and if you suffer from chronic pain,…

Dr. Mel Pohl reveals his personal struggle with drugs and alcohol and how even professionals suffer from addiction, as well as the truth about chronic pain. Discover some incredible facts about the opioid crisis, and if you suffer from chronic pain, how your life can be better than you could possibly imagine.

  • There are a lot of myths surrounding the opioid epidemic and chronic pain in general.
  • Pohl was born in New York and studied at the University of Michigan. After training at the University of Buffalo Medical School, he moved to Las Vegas and has been there working in a variety of clinical settings for the past 35 years..
  • Mel started experimenting with drugs and alcohol in college and eventually cannabis became his drug of choice. He dabbled with other harder drugs like cocaine but cannabis was the hardest drug for Mel to give up.
  • He’s quite concerned about marijuana as a drug right now because the marijuana that he got addicted to was only about a tenth as potent as what is currently available on the market.
  • Mel’s addiction lasted until several years into his residency. He recalls using between calls and having very little respect for the clarity of mind his position required.
  • When you have an addiction, there is usually a voice in your mind that justifies your actions. It wasn’t until Mel worked in a treatment program, learned about alcohol and addiction and found some mentors, that he realized he had a problem.
  • Alcohol became Dr. Mel’s biggest addiction and caused the most issues in his life and work. When you’re in the middle of an addiction you don’t realize some of the ridiculous things you do, especially in a professional environment. It’s not until after you get sober that you see your behavior for what it was.
  • Not everyone is a low-bottom drunk. From all outside appearances, it may look like they are successful but on the inside they’re empty. There are a lot of professionals struggling with an addiction to alcohol.
  • The data suggests that for an addict, profession is one of the last elements of their life to fall. Family and relationships, self care, and self esteem all fall by the wayside before the ability to stay employed suffers.
  • Earning a living financially is a way for many people to justify to themselves that they don’t really have a problem.
  • Mel’s life was on the verge of disaster. It was only a matter of time before it all fell apart, but he was lucky to realize that he couldn’t keep up the lifestyle and needed to change.
  • Mel started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to learn how to be a better doctor, but in the process he started to hear stories and experiences that he could identify with.
  • After getting sober, Dr. Mel found himself in perpetual pain and he struggled to stay sober. It wasn’t until a friend insisted that he attend an AA meeting with her that he found solutions to the problems he didn’t even know he had.
  • When Mel decided to get sober he was committed but he didn’t know how to actually live that life. He wasn’t happy about it but he knew people that seemed very happy with their sobriety and he understood the impact of addiction on the health of the brain, so in some ways Mel’s situation and training were pretty unique.
  • Mel developed a chronic back pain problem and in his journey attempting to treat it, he encountered a number of people suffering from opioid addiction. Those experiences led him to develop a program for people with chronic pain that has now been running for 13 years.
  • Acute pain is related to injury and is purposeful. It’s meant to prevent an action that causes damage to the body. The trouble is the belief that chronic pain is basically the same process extended out over time.
  • Opioids and surgery are not good solutions for chronic pain because they don’t address the thoughts and feelings of the pain or the mental issues that could be contributing to the problem.
  • All pain is real, but thoughts and feelings are the genesis of that pain. Emotion and pain both come from the limbic system within the brain and the emotions associated with the pain can be changed.
  • Challenging the cognitive distortions around pain is the first step of Mel’s program. Dealing with the fear associated with the pain is important to making any sort of progress because whatever you believe about yourself often becomes true.
  • Expectations influence outcomes. Pessimists may have a more realistic view on what’s happening, but optimists generally do better. Placebos are almost as effective as opioids in treating chronic pain.
  • A substantial part of any good physician’s job is being a cheerleader and helping the patient believe in their ability to heal and get better.
  • Just as there is a circuit of addiction, there is a circuit of chronic pain that reverberates inside the human brain, and the treatment is uncoupling the stimulus from the response.
  • Opioids are not just problematic for addiction, they are generally very ineffective for pain. Even when they work to treat the pain, the relief is only temporary and this leads to an increased tolerance to the drug. As the cycle continues, the odds of getting addicted only get higher.
  • Opioids can also actually cause pain to increase in the long run. Not starting at all is the only solution without major long-term consequences. Every treatment plan needs an exit strategy, but that’s not very common among opioid prescriptions.
  • If more doctors talked to their patients about the quality of their lives, they would realize the gradual degradation they are causing by constantly prescribing these opioids. These questions are more than a 15-minute pain consultation really allows for.
  • Most pain doctors are so swamped and don’t have the skill set they need to actually treat the root cause of their patient’s problems. Making it harder for doctors to prescribe opioids without giving them the tools to treat pain would leave many patients in a tough spot.
  • One of the most important things you can do for your chronic pain is get moving. Pain in this case doesn’t necessarily mean harm so movement is crucial. Mel’s program integrates many different forms of stretching and exercise in addition to the stress reduction techniques, spiritual, and mindfulness practices.
  • Dealing with addiction involves more than just a single issue, it encompasses all areas of a person’s life.
  • In these Covid-19 days, Mel is seeing an uptick in stress as people’s support systems become compromised. He’s also seeing a rise in relapses in the face of the pandemic.
  • Anxiety causes pain, so anything that helps you down regulate your anxiety is a good way to diminish your pain.
  • If you suffer from chronic pain and take opioids to manage, your life can be better and more enjoyable than you can possibly imagine, but it takes some work to get there.


Mentioned in this Episode:

The Pain Antidote by Mel Pohl, MD


Mentioned in this Episode: