I had a conversation with my 30-year-old daughter the other evening. I said some things that she thought were entertaining and she decided she needed to start a reverse baby-book for me, writing down things I say that she thinks are funny. (When they were little, I did a good job of capturing on paper their quips and questions and witty musings. One of their favorite things to do on visits now is to re-read these vignettes.)

I had such a profound feeling of gratitude that we could be so present with each other, and enjoy each other's company. Connection for humans - and other species - is vital.

Johann Hari, a journalist whose TED talk has become incredibly popular says the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection. We see this played out every day at the Coleman Institute for Addiction Medicine.

In fact, some of the most poignant stories patients have shared with me in my twelve-plus-year career at the Coleman Institute involve the ways their addictions have severed connections with the people they love most…and how recovery has redeemed and restored them.

The Social Connection Theory and Addiction

For over 30 years, numerous models of addiction have competed with one another in areas of treatments, strategies, and methodologies. Despite extensive research however, there has been one commonality that has stayed strong which is the influence of connection on addiction behaviors. With any substance use, comes a shift in overall priority and we see it time and time again. Since addicts typically lean on a drug to fill in that "positive" and "rewarding feeling, individuals tend to drift more towards the drug to make them happy than the typical leisurely activities that they were so drawn to before. This re-prioritization, is what also creates such a negative effect on relationships. As before, a patient would look forward to quality time around the dinner table with family and that sparked happiness, comfort, and support. Whereas the drug manipulates the reward pathways in the brain, fundamentally impacting one's overall health, career, hobbies, and even family structures.

Negative Addiction Behavioral Traits:

  • Distrust
  • Enablement
  • Loss of Support
  • Unreliability
  • Changes of Mood, Appetite, or Sleep
  • Loss of Interest
  • Denial

  • Years ago I remember a miner from West Virginia telling me how on payday, he could stop at no less than 40 places to buy Oxycontin®, fentanyl, morphine, Percocet®, Vicodin®, and pretty much any other drug on his way home from work. Which he did until he completed an outpatient opioid detox at the Coleman Institute. I’ll never forget the tears in his eyes when he told me that now on payday, his kids gather around him, competing to tell their father the chores they’d completed because he was able to pass out allowance to them.


    Another patient described how, shortly after he became sober, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He became the main caretaker for her, something that would have been impossible prior to his Accelerated Opioid Detox off heroin and fentanyl. The entire purpose of his life during his using days had been to not get dopesick, and his world had shrunk down to one thing: how to get his fix. There was no room for caring for anyone else. He had spent years stealing from and lying to his mom. He told me during the time he was able to share with her toward the end, they laughed and cried together. She told him she was proud of him — a gift that only recovery could bring him.

    Treating Addiction and Detox Recovery

    I can’t recall the number of patients over the years who came to us, separated from their spouses. While some marriages ultimately end, many more are healed as the patients move forward in their recovery and their families learn more about substance use disorder. It is a miracle to see a person restored to his or her true self.

    It can take a while for trust to rebuild. Last week I worked with a young woman getting off methadone who has experienced several slips back to heroin during her time at various methadone clinics. She was distraught about her relationship with her father. “He just doesn’t understand what I’m going through. He wants to know why I can’t just stop.” I can only imagine how many terrified days her father has lived through, waiting for the call that his beloved little girl is dead. Hopefully, as she moves moment-by-moment, day-by-day through her recovery, there will be another beautiful story of redemption and connection to share.

    At the Coleman Institute, we are continually driven and dedicated to developing treatments that are safe, comfortable, and affordable. Our main goal is in helping patients achieve freedom from addiction and support them through our unique, customized, programs to help detoxify and stabilize them from the negative effects of drug use. We specialize in treatment areas for opiates, heroin, methadone, oxycontin, and alcohol - with a 98% patient success rate.

    If you are curious about how we can help you begin to rebuild your relationships and reconnect with the people you love, please call us or schedule a callback to learn about what we do.

    Joan R. Shepherd, FNP