I was fortunate to grow up in an affluent family on the East Coast. My father was a prominent New York political figure, who ran for governor of New York and was a member of Lydon Johnson's cabinet. My siblings attended prestigious schools. I, however, suffered from a learning disability and a stutter that left me feeling isolated and different from the rest of my family. Back then, learning disorders were not recognized and I did poorly in school. Because of my negative belief system I thought I was stupid. My family was very focused on outside achievements and success, while my perceived shortcomings left me with low self-esteem. My feelings of inadequacy soon transformed into anger.
I began using drugs and alcohol regularly by the time I was 14. By 16, I had discovered heroin and quickly spiraled into an addiction that controlled every aspect of my life. At 19, I was arrested at JFK International Airport for possession of cocaine and heroin. The arrest soon went public and became a scandal. I was given a choice to either attend rehab for a year or go to prison for four. I chose treatment. I entered rehab for the first time in 1971 but never took it seriously - I continued to drink. As long as I wasn't doing heroin, I believed I was okay.
Eventually my drinking led me back to cocaine, pills and heroin. It became clear that I was unable to stop using on my own. My family intervened and I was sent to a treatment center in Santa Ana called Phoenix House. Determined to do things my way, I had planned on staying only for two months out of the eighteen month program.
While at Phoenix House, My Father died suddenly of a heart attack in 1984 and upon attending his funeral I experienced a psychic shift. I realized my own mortality and I was done living the life of a junkie. I was tired of hurting everyone around me as a result of my addiction. I made a commitment to my father that he would never have to worry about me again. I went back into treatment and surrendered myself to the process completely. I lived in a room with 25 other men, all with very different backgrounds but these men were just like me. They suffered from the disease of alcoholism. I was assigned to scrub toilets and floors, attend groups and participate in a lifestyle that was completely new and different to me. I did everything they asked of me. I was finally experiencing a willingness I had never felt before. The staff had what I wanted, and that was freedom from drugs and alcohol.
After a year in Phoenix House, I went to train as a counselor and eventually got a job working at the Phoenix House's branch in New York. During this time, I went back to NYU to pursue a film career. Along the way I realized my true calling was not in film but rather in helping other alcoholics through treatment and recovery.
In 1990, I moved to LA where I attended Antioch to get my masters. My whole life I never believed that a person like me could do well in school, but I was determined to prove "The Beast" wrong. Sobriety allowed me to work hard for what I wanted in life and take on responsibilities I never thought possible. I worked at the Promises Treatment Center in West LA as a counselor and eventually worked my way up to become the program director. Further down the road I collaborated with the owner of Promises to open up a facility in Malibu where I helped coordinate and develop the clinical program. I over saw that program for a number of years and opened my own private practice.
Working in treatment has been rewarding for me because I know the process so well. I spent 3 years of my life as a client in treatment centers and I am able to connect to the clients around me as only another alcoholic could.
With the help of a couple of partners I went on to open Wonderland Treatment Center. I next opened up The Hills Treatment Center where I currently work as the CEO. I am very hands on at The Hills and I run a weekly group called "The Beast" where clients are able to confront their issues and learn about accountability. Nearly all staff members working at The Hills are in recovery themselves. I believe it its important for addicts and alcoholics to work together towards the same goal of sobriety.
I love treatment. To me, it is one of the most positive things a person can go through. I do not subscribe to the belief that alcoholism is something to be ashamed about. It is a disease and there are solutions available. Treatment offers alcoholics and addicts the opportunity to discover their authentic self. Therapy is a wonderful thing, but therapy in conjunction with Treatment will do so much more than just therapy alone. Treatment provides the structure an alcoholic needs to develop new behaviors. Living in close quarters with other alcoholics provides community and teaches us how to build healthy relationships. Chores and groups keep us accountable. We are able to learn so much more about ourselves in treatment than just in individual therapy alone.
The recovery process has changed my life dramatically. I grew up a New York City brat with a serious drug and alcohol addiction, but treatment opened the door to a new way of living. Today I am able to work with people old and young that struggle with many of the issues I did growing up. Together, we are able to recover one day at a time to achieve long-term sobriety.