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Early Family Life
I was fortunate to grow up in an affluent family on the east coast. My father, Howard J. Samuels, was a prominent New York political figure, who ran for governor of New York and was a member of U.S President Lyndon 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.
When Things Go Bad
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 years. 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.
Transformations – Losing My Father
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.
Learning and Growing
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 a facility in Malibu where I helped coordinate and develop the clinical program. I over saw that program for several 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 can connect to the clients around me as only another alcoholic could.
I next opened The Hills Treatment Center where I worked as the CEO. I was very hands on at The Hills and I ran a weekly group called “The Beast” where clients would confront their issues and learn about accountability.
Since then I have opened a private practice to work one on one with clients who are struggling with addiction, alcoholism, relationships, and family crisis. I bring may years of experience with tried and true methods as well as a first-hand experience with addiction and family crisis.
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As a former addict himself and someone who has dealt with complex family dynamics, Dr. Samuels knows personally what the struggles are. With decades of sobriety behind him he also knows personally what it takes to overcome.
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