Category Archives: blog

Treatment works! The recipe to recovery and storytelling as medicine

By Dr. Tom Wright, MD, Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer

When I was training to be a child psychiatrist many years ago, I had a mentor who was one of the most well-known and beloved child psychiatrists in Illinois:  Jay Hirsch, MD. Jay had many sayings, quotes, and “clinical pearls” he taught all of us and I continue to use today.  One of my favorites was that he believed everyone had a story about their lives and why they were coming for help. He said that it was our job to find a way for our patients to feel safe to tell that story, and for us to hear it.  He said that if we could do that, we’d be great psychiatrists. Recently, I was reflecting on these words: Storytelling can change the world.

There’s a lot of truth there. Storytelling acts as a sort of medicine and a rudder when all else feels directionless: stories we tell at the end of a long day; stories that bring people together over a meal and stories we turn to during our darkest of times. With that in mind and in the spirit of recovery month, I begin with a story of recovery from a Rosecrance client…

At Rosecrance we see over 30,000 clients annually and we hear a lot of inspiring stories along the way. Kristin I. recently shared her experience with Medication Assisted Treatment. After 20 years of abusing opioids, Kristin had lost nearly everything. However, she began actively working towards recovery and receiving monthly injections of Vivitrol to help control her cravings. It changed her life.

“I feel like everything I’ve tried to do to stay clean is finally working,” says Kristin. “I feel like I’m succeeding at something for the first time in my life.”

After treatment with Rosecrance Kristin now has more than a year of sobriety and begins school next month to become a substance abuse counselor. Her inspirational story certainly deserves celebrating, although it’s not altogether unique. Many of us have known or loved someone experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder. In fact, one in five Americans is living with mental health conditions, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and 21 million Americans experience substance use disorders, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The good news is…treatment works! Millions of Americans have transformed their lives through recovery. At Rosecrance, we experience that truth every day. We see individuals transform and lead productive, rewarding lives; we witness families being restored and communities working towards healing and wholeness.

As we celebrate recovery this month, we call attention to individuals, like Kristin, who have achieved and maintained their hard-earned recovery, but also inform and educate others on the level of commitment recovery really takes.

I like to think of recovery as a recipe that needs the right combination of ingredients. What does that recipe look like?

This year’s recovery month theme “Join the Voices of Recovery” focuses on four distinct pillars, health, home, community and purpose, which, very simply, serve as a basic recipe for recovery.

Health- Investing in physical, mental and emotional health and well-being is paramount to recovery. In many cases, health begins with successful treatment and establishing healthier lifestyle habits.

Home-Even after successful treatment, individuals still have to integrate back into their everyday lives and routines. This can be scary as recovery is often a complete lifestyle change. The ‘home’ ingredient includes establishing new routines, new people, places, things and support, new coping skills and new ways of thinking.

Community- Staying involved in the recovery community is integral to overall success. It provides an individual with a support network where they can receive helpful feedback and encouragement; stay connected and be held responsible for their actions and decisions.

Purpose- Purpose helps sustain and maintain recovery. Individuals may experience a new found life purpose through their recovery, which motivates and drives them to continue moving forward. For many, this includes giving back and sharing their story.

Of course, in order for this recipe to flourish, we must recognize hurt and healing comes in many forms and each individual has a unique set of circumstances to consider. We must also keep combating stigma, removing barriers to treatment, improving access to care, developing new treatment modalities and allowing individuals the appropriate amount of time to get well.

Still, I’m happy to say Rosecrance has helped thousands of clients get this recovery recipe right! And, we will always bring more people into the conversation of recovery so that, together, we can celebrate and incite change.

So, whether you work in the addiction or mental health field, you are in recovery yourself, know someone in recovery or you are just a person who happens to be reading this, I urge you to get involved. Get educated. Share your stories and, most importantly, be a voice for recovery this month, and always.

Dr. Thomas Wright, MD, is the Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer at Rosecrance, a non-profit organization and national leader in substance use and mental health treatment services.

Making the Big Game a Sober Bowl

Big Game gatherings can bring up all types of emotions…

Perhaps the big game used to be a time of heavy drinking and using, going to loud bars, or embarrassing yourself in front of others or waking up the next morning and not even remembering who won the game, or how you got home. Then came the feelings of guilt and shame, or “How could I have behaved that way? I’m never going to do that again.”

Gatherings like the Big Game can still be occasions for fun, but like the Philadelphia Eagles or the New England Patriots, each team will go onto the field with a plan. So should we!

1. Be the Quarterback

Have a plan to win the big game. Treat the day as any other 24-hour period of time. Go in with the mind-set of winning and that you will go to “any lengths” to achieve victory over alcohol and drugs

2. Defense. Defense. Defense! Build Your Line!

There are many different 12-Step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Marijuana Anonymous (MA), and Cocaine Anonymous (CA). However, in the Chicago area, there are more Alcoholics Anonymous meetings available. Many individuals can go to any of the meetings above, regardless of their drug of choice. The only requirement is the desire to stop using a substance.

3. Consult Your Coach/Sponsor

Talk to your sponsor ahead of time and let him or her know of your plan. Ask what they did when they went to their first Big Game party and draw from their wisdom and experience. Chances are, they have been there before and will be able to offer coaching and guidance.

4. Focus on the End Zone

Now that you’ve prepared yourself adequately for the Big Game, go ahead and enjoy yourself. Find ways you can be of service at the party (pick up some cups, offer to take out the garbage, stay occupied). Root for your favorite team and have a great time. Life’s Waiting!

The greatest gift you can give yourself, your family, and friends during the Big Game is recovery! For more information about Alumni Relations, contact Paul Gilmet at or 815.387.2435

What Causes Addiction? 3 Factors You Need to Understand

There are as many substances to become addicted to as there are reasons. Whether you or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction as a result of physical, mental, circumstantial or emotional factors, we can help. Continue reading “What Causes Addiction? 3 Factors You Need to Understand” »

Residential vs. Outpatient Treatment

We offer two types of evidence-based drug and alcohol abuse recovery programs at Rosecrance. While both are nationally recognized and focused on rehabilitation, each offers unique benefits. It’s important to understand the differences, so you can choose the program that’s best for you or a loved one.

Whether we treat you in residential or outpatient care, our goal is sobriety and a renewed sense of purpose for those who have found themselves addicted to drugs or alcohol. Continue reading “Residential vs. Outpatient Treatment” »

Signs of Addiction in Teens: When to Get Your Teen Help

More than 40 percent of American teens have tried some type of alcohol, tobacco or illicit drug, which is half of those who were presented with the opportunity — this is a staggering statistic. Rosecrance wants you to understand the signs of teen addiction, so you can seek help before it’s too late.

Rosecrance has a long and successful history of treating adolescent substance abuse. It is our mission to change these statistics — one life at a time. People in need seek our help so they can break addiction habits, develop coping skills and new healthy behaviors and restore their sense of hope and purpose. Continue reading “Signs of Addiction in Teens: When to Get Your Teen Help” »