Over eleven years ago I answered an ad in the paper for a job as a Family Nurse Practitioner. (Yes, we actually still used the newspapers and looked in the classifieds for jobs at that time.)

The office was an easy commute (check).

I liked the staff and the ambience of the office (check).

The schedule and benefits met my needs (check, check).

It looked like the perfect job, and I appeared to be a good fit, based on how nicely the interview was going.

And then Dr. Coleman told me, “I also practice Addiction Medicine, and we do Accelerated Opioid Detoxes (and benzo and alcohol detoxes) here.” Cheerfully he added, “You’ll get to work not only with family practice, but this other specialty branch of medicine.”

As professionally as I could pull it off, I thanked him for his time and vaguely said I would be in touch. Backing out of the office, I quickly walked to my car, thinking, “Wow, I just dodged a bullet. That is not the population I want to be working with!”

A few interviews on both our parts went by. Dr. Coleman called me back and I agreed to come in and shadow him for a day.

The office was bustling. Exam rooms were full. Dr. Coleman was genuine, energetic and busy. We walked into the first room together.

A mother, father and a 20-some year old son were waiting. The young man was lounging back on the exam table. When his mom saw Dr. Coleman, she caught him up in a huge embrace, and with tears in her eyes said quietly, “Thank you. We’ve got our son back.”

Timmy had broken his femur (thigh bone) in his final soccer game of his senior year in high school. Surgery, pain medication, and an inability to quit using Oxycontin robbed him—and his family—of the soccer scholarship he’d received. His surgeon stopped writing scripts and Timmy shortly turned to heroin: available, cheap, and –having lost his scholarship—a great way to obliterate the pain of lost dreams. Two years into his heroin use, his parents had found the Coleman Institute. At the time I met him, Timmy was six months clean. He’d gone through our innovative outpatient opioid detox program and had received long acting naltrexone therapy for the last six months to reduce craving and reduce the risk of relapse.

I was quite humbled. I didn’t have a grasp at the time of the experience of good people ravaged by excessive prescribing habits, some of which caused people to get their drugs illegally. Drugs like fentanyl, Dilaudid®, Roxicodone®, hydrocodone, the Percocet® family, methadone, and good old heroin.

I signed on.

Reflecting now, at the beginning of Recovery Month 2018, I can barely believe the stories unfurled and lives touched I have witnessed in the last eleven years. As the unimaginable wave of the opioid crisis sweeps across our country, hundreds of people desperate to save themselves or a loved one, despairing and hopeless, have walked through these doors and found real hope and real solutions.

Dr. Coleman and his team of doctors around the country –there are now over 11 locations– have become the leaders in using long-acting naltrexone as our Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) of choice for people with opioid dependence in an out-patient setting. As awareness of the opioid epidemic has grown, so has the recognition that not everyone needs or should be treated with long acting opioids such as methadone or buprenorphine products.

In addition to our Accelerated Opioid Detox treatment, the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine also specializes in both outpatient benzo and alcohol detoxes.

Our treatment for people who have become physically dependent on benzodiazepines such as Xanax®, Valium®, Ativan®, etc. is perhaps the only rapid benzo detox program in the country. We do this using a flumazenil infusion, carefully displacing the benzos from the brain’s receptors over a week. Four of the Coleman Institute locations now offer this treatment.

We offer an alcohol detox in quiet, private settings where safety and compassion for our patients are top priority to our experienced staff.

Believing that recovery is more than simply stopping the substance use, we assist every patient in finding the best fit for post-detox therapy. At the Richmond, Virginia location we are now able to accept Anthem Virginia patients, and we are working toward being added to more insurance plans over time.

The word Recovery is defined as:

  • A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
  • The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

It’s this second definition that really moves me in the context of the work we do at the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine. Our patients arrive--not bad or broken--but having lost touch with their true selves. The drugs and addictive substances have stolen this from them. Each patient who comes to us is truly choosing to regain possession of what they have lost.

I am sincerely grateful to all the patients I have been privileged to work with for over ten years, and to Dr. Coleman who introduced me to a medicine specialty that has become a calling as much as a career, and more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.

Please give us a call at 877-773-3869 so we can answer some questions for you or a loved one if you are considering taking your first steps to recovery.

Joan R. Shepherd FNP