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The Second Memo I Received—From the Chief of Physicians

March 29, 2024

My book Dear Family, Why Your Loved One Won’t Accept Help and How To Help Them Anyway, is now available for pre-order! In the lead-up to its launch, I’m sharing the five “memos” that I got from the Universe that led to the founding of Tipping Point Recovery and the work we do.

Last week, I shared the first memo I received, which came from the chief of police. You can read it here.

Today, I’m sharing the second memo. It came from the chief of physicians in the emergency room where I worked as part of the two-year grant. 

The Second Memo

For two years, every time there was a non-fatal overdose, I would go into the emergency room to meet the person with the goal of connecting with them and the hopes of eventually connecting them to treatment.

Here’s what would happen when I got paged: 

I would show up to speak to the patient, but I couldn’t just barge into their room. There are privacy laws. Even though I was authorized to be there, the patient still needed to give their consent for me to speak with them. 

So, the patient coordinator would go into their room and ask, “Would you like to speak to someone? Would you like help?” Those first few weeks, they would walk out of the room and say to me, “She/he doesn’t want help.”

Every time I heard this, I grew more and more frustrated because I knew those patients did want help.

Every single one of us active in addiction wants help at some level.

I started to follow the doctors down the hall.

I trailed behind them, telling them, “She doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want help. She’s just scared or doesn’t want to be here. He just wants to leave because he is no longer high, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want help!”

They’d look at me like, “Who are you?”

And I’d tell them, “I am her. I am him. I did the same thing. I lied to my family. I told them I didn’t want help. But I really did.”

One day the chief of physicians came up to me.

She had been getting to know me, and she asked me if I would join the doctors on morning rounds. When I asked what she wanted me to talk about, she said, “Tell them your story.”

So, I did.

I joined the ER doctors for their rounds in the morning, and I told them how these patients aren’t saying they don’t want help because they don’t want help. They’re saying they don’t want help because they are caught in their addiction that has them feeling confused, scared, unworthy, hurt and lost. 

They’re addicted.

Being addicted means doing the same thing again and again despite negative consequences and not being able to stop.

Naive as I was, I remember being a little baffled (and kind of pissed off) that the doctors didn’t seem to understand addiction. I even asked one time, trying to not be disrespectful, “Did you guys not learn this in medical school?”

They hadn’t. So I shared my story with any nurse or doctor who was interested. 

Then one day, I went to the chief of physicians and told her, “You’re asking the wrong question to these patients. Will you ask a different one?” 

We changed the question.

Instead of “Do you want help?” we had the patient coordinators ask, “Do you want to speak to an addict?”

100% of the patients said yes.

This memo I got from the chief of physicians did two things:

  1. She helped me reach the doctors who wanted to understand. 
  2. She allowed me to change the question.

To this day, those two things—knowledge about addiction and communicating in a whole new way—are central to Tipping Point Recovery’s Dear Family Framework, which I lay out in my book. You can pre-order Dear Family here.

Click here to read memo #3 I got from a treatment center CEO.

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