Can You Do Recovery Alone? [Podcast]

Recorded by
Nzinga Harrison, MD
March 2, 2024

In this episode, Nzinga talks to Evan, a 22 year old struggling with addiction. He knows that his partner and family will be upset if they find out, and feels like treatment options are out of the picture while he’s on his parents insurance. Listen as Evan and Nzinga discuss the ways Evan can find the support he’s been looking for for years.

Episode Transcript

Speakers: Dr. Nzinga Harrison, Claire Jones, Evan

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [00:26] Hey all, it’s Nzinga popping in here to talk about something that came up during last week’s presidential debate. I know, eyeroll. And don’t worry about it. I’m not about to get into who you should be voting for, try to push my thoughts about that on you. But I do want to point out one moment that happened that was really important. So there was at one point when President Trump talked about Biden’s son Hunter’s addiction, and he used it in a series of comments that were designed to be an attack, to say, like Hunter Biden wasn’t a good person. And he mentioned that he was addicted to cocaine. And what I really appreciated — because there’s so much stigma around addiction, and the way we talk about people who have addiction often is as an accusation, and often is as part of denigrating someone’s character. A lot of times we don’t know how to respond to that. And what I really appreciated was the poignant moment where Vice President Biden said, yes, he had an addiction and he has worked hard on that and I am proud of him. And so you may remember on a previous episode where we talked about the difference between saying to a person with addiction, I love you and saying I’m proud of you. And so I really wanted to highlight that moment and encourage all of us to be telling the people in our lives with addiction even while they’re in the active phase of the illness, I love you and I’m proud of you because I know you’re struggling and I know you’re working hard. And I’m here for you. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [02:11] I bring this up because stigma is a powerful force. But even more powerful than stigma is letting people with addiction see us stand up in support and solidarity for them and showing our pride for the battle that they’re going through every day, no matter what point they are in their recovery. And so I like to take these opportunities whenever real life brings them to us. I wanted to make sure not to miss that this one. And with that, I think we can get into this week’s episode. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [02:49] Hello, everybody. This is Nzinga and thank you, you are listening to In Recovery. I’m your host, doctor, physician, psychiatrist, chief medical officer and co-founder of Eleanor Health. Wife, mom, sister, friend. All-around human, just like the rest of you. On this show, we’re going to be actually talking to one of our listeners who took the big leap and got on camera with us and really shared with us deeply about the struggle he’s been having with opioids. So we hope this will help someone. I fully believe it will save someone’s life. And I just want to start with a full-throated, whole-hearted thank you to Evan. Before we jump in to that, let me tell you a little bit about the show in case you are a new listener. We talk about all things addiction on this show. And our definition of addiction is anything as human beings that we keep doing even though it is clearly causing us problems. And so drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, exercise, work, relationships, you name it. If we push it in the dark, we’re going to shine a light on it. Should we jump into what we’re here for today? 

Claire Jones: [04:16] Let’s do it. 

Evan: [04:24] Hi. My name is Evan and I have a question. What sort of suggestions do you have for someone going through addiction alone? I’ve set up a world for myself where my partner who doesn’t know, my family would be devastated. And it seems impossible to get medical treatment without insurance, which I’m on my parents’. So where can someone like me go for help? I’ve been addicted to medication for four years, starting on Xanax and slowly moving to opiates in the past few COVID months. I’ve also been doing paracetamol. So right now I’ve been 28 days clean. The struggles of life had suddenly come bearing down, and there’s no one in my comfort zone for me to turn to except for a few people who are struggling through addiction right now. So it’s hard to ask for help and I don’t know where to turn. Let me know what you guys think. Thank you so much again, and now talk to you guys soon. Bye. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [05:30] Evan, thank you for calling. I’m glad that you’ve been listening. I’m glad that you feel like In Recovery has been a help. I’m not glad that you feel on this island by yourself. Oh, I’m sorry, let me start with my disclaimers. I’m not your doctor. We are not establishing a patient doctor relationship. Anything I say to you can not be construed as medical advice. This is two people talking on a podcast. 

Claire Jones: [06:00] Great disclaimer, Nzinga. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [06:01] Thank you. I had my lawyer write it up for me. So, Evan, I know even though we’re being light about it, I know you’re calling in about serious, painful things. So let’s jump into the hard work. 

Claire Jones: [06:14] Where does your story start? 

Evan: [06:16] I’m feel like early on in like high school, I started drinking and smoking weed, like all that. And we, like, would always hang out at this park and get drunk at the park. And then slowly that turned into like doing Molly at the park, doing shrooms at the party, doing Xanax at the park. And I was like, oh, I really like Xanax at the park. So I started doing Xanax outside of the park. And then I went to college and I brought the Xanax with me. From there, I met this kid who was way older than me. He was like 26. And he was like already deep into his addiction and was a coke addict. So then I went from Xanax to coke. And he actually passed away. So when he passed away, that coke kind of stopped. Obviously I was like distraught and like sad because my friend died. So I started using Xanax again. I moved to London for a semester abroad, like in college. I couldn’t get anything, any drugs. Right. So I went online. At the time, I could order like bottles of codeine sirup from just pharmacy doctors. And next thing you know, I was ordering lots of them. And I came back from London with an opiate addiction. My buddy back home, he was like already deep into his addiction. So I came home to like him, like being like, hey, here’s these Vicodin. 

Evan: [07:44] Slowly but surely, all these pills, like we would get those from old people again are in our town, like they would sell those. And like eventually like we found this guy who like wouldn’t run out, like there’s no way that this was like a prescription of like Oxy and especially not at the rate like he was selling us. I was like, this is not this isn’t right. Something’s not adding up. And then next thing I know, I’m like addicted to fentanyl. It’s like, oh shit. I didn’t know what’s going on until it was too late, pretty much, but I kind of know, you know, I just turned a blind eye. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [08:25] It sounds like you would like your addiction to get either under better control or completely gone. Am I on page? 

Evan: [08:33] Yeah, I’ve I’ve actually been clean — er, sober — for 12 days now. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [08:40] OK. 

Evan: [08:41] And I feel like I’ve been it’s been on my mind throughout my addiction. I feel like my parents ingrained into me that like this like guilt every time I do do drugs. And so like even though I would continue to do them, I would always feel guilty. As soon as I was on the train, like I was trying to get off the train. It’s just been a struggle. And I think it’s probably because I’m doing it alone, but also because, you know, it’s like I didn’t understand the problem. And so I was like starting from myself at the time. 

Claire Jones: [09:18] What was that moment for you when you sort of realized, like, oh, wait, I don’t want to be on this train, or this is a train? 

Evan: [09:25] Yeah. So actually, I think I realized I was on a train when I left for college. And like, honestly, I was doing drugs every day, like before I left. I would be like sitting there and it’d be like, something’s weird, something’s off. Like, normally I’d be fucked-up right now. So then it was like that — I guess that’s when I noticed, like, oh, I have a craving for, like, self-destruction. When I actually met the girl I’m dating right now, who I fell like madly in love with my junior year. She was like, this is gross. You are on Xanax right now? Like, why? Like, why are you always fucked-up? And then I started reflecting, like, why am I? I don’t know. I just realized this was like a real problem. Because when I first realized it, like, when I went to college, I was like, OK, it’s a problem, but I’m not going to stop, I’ll stop later, maybe when I’m 25. But by the time I met her, it had become so bad that like I was like, I better start trying now because if I start trying when I’m 25, like it’s gonna be way harder. And so I started trying, I was trying really hard but it was like right after my friend had died, and I was really sad. So I would do drugs and I just wouldn’t tell her every time. And I like stopped for probably a good four months. And then my other friend died of an overdose. And like at that point, I started doing Xanax again. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [11:03] So you know, what I hear, Evan, all the way through here is like grief and pain is intolerable to you. And so when grief and pain come is really when, even though you don’t want to be using, that’s kind of the only way your brain knows how to relieve the danger. So let me just go real talk a little bit mean mommy on you for just a second. All right. This is real talk, tough love moment with Nzinga Harrison. Your girlfriend doesn’t want to hear that you are using, that your illness relapsed. But what she doesn’t want to hear even more than that is that you’re dead. And fentanyl is the most deadliest opioid there is, because not only does it suppress your brain’s drive to breathe, but the other thing it does is actually constricts this part of right at the top of your breathing tube at the same time. It’s telling your brain you don’t need to breathe. It’s making it harder to breathe. And E.R. docs will tell you the people they have not been able to revive from an overdose are fentanyl because of those two things. So that’s my, like, real talk. We got to get you on this formula. Get some support system around you. Eventually, your girlfriend will be able to join that. But until then, we have to use all our virtual resources, all our free online resources, everything we possibly can, so that that’s not the call she has to get. 

Evan: [12:40] Sounds good to me. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [12:41] All right. That concludes this mean mommy moment. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [16:31] So first of all, give it up for 12 days. That’s incredible. No small feat, especially when you’re doing it alone. So much easier when you’re doing it with a support system. What have you been doing in the last 12 days that let you rack up that many in a row? 

Evan: [16:49] I was in New York, but I went back home and that was like — I don’t know, it was a clusterfuck, I was like doing drugs the whole time, but I left. I stopped when I came back and I was like, pretty sad. But once I was done, like, I had so much catching up to do. And I guess I had that energy just carried over into my work. So I’ve been working like 12 hours a day and then exercising, like riding my skateboard by constantly. I feel like if I sit down I like start to slip, if that makes sense. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [17:24] Yeah. Yeah. No it does. So what we’re getting into is your magic formula. And listeners, if you’re tuning in for the first time, the magic formula is the biological, psychological, social, cultural and political set of interventions that help keep any illness in remission or in recovery. And you’ll hear me talking about it all the time on In Recovery because the magic formula is critical to recovery. So I’m not going to advocate for 12 hour work days for the rest of your life because that’s a whole other episode that we already did. But I am going to advocate for work being part of your magic formula right now and riding your skateboard. What can you do to get that 13th day? That 14th day? They say in AA, one day at a time. And so what I want you to do, Evan, is plan out tomorrow. What are you going to be doing for those 12 hours? And how much time are you going to spend on your skateboard? Now, you cannot do this by yourself. So I want to spend some time brainstorming how you can not be by yourself in this, because I would love to say just tell your family, just tell your girlfriend. It’ll be fine. But unfortunately, we know that a lot of the times that is Pollyanna and not just the case. And sometimes it’s easier to do that when you can go and say, listen, I was really sick. I was having a hard time for the last two years. I didn’t think I could tell you about it. I have not been using for the last — how long you think before your girlfriend could hear this? Like, how long do you have to not be using before she can hear? 

Evan: [19:12] I think like one. All right. I just feel this constant sense of I just can’t be honest. So if I were to tell them all and then relapsed, like, I don’t think I would tell them again, you know. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [19:25] Right. No, I totally, totally get that. That’s why we have to help you figure out these pieces of your magic formula. They are ultimately pieces of your magic formula because a piece of it is gonna be getting those relationships to the place where one everybody understand that you have a chronic medical illness like diabetes or high blood pressure, not a character flaw, not an abject inability to make good decisions, not a complete and utter lack of care about the people around you. It’s none of that. Even though we get programed with all of that. Right. It’s none of that. What you have is an illness. And in fact, a train you’ve been trying to get off, but a brain that doesn’t know how to get you off that train by itself. And so ultimately, they will be part of your magic formula that keeps that train off the track. But also, the more you can tell them, if a relapse happens and we don’t have to claim it, everybody doesn’t relapse. So we all have to claim that. We can name and claim no relapse forever. 

Evan: [20:33] I’ve already done that. So I’m like over it. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [20:36] OK. Name it, Evan. Name it. Claim it. 

Evan: [20:41] I think what that was was the bombings in Beirut. I was just getting calls from my dad and he’s here, but his whole side of the family is there and like their apartments were destroyed and stuff. I was just like I had to reach out to them and make. I needed to know everyone is OK and stuff, and that was just like a lot of grief. Like I didn’t have anyone to be like, hey, this is harder now because of this. Like, because of what is happening. Like, I’m struggling more. I wasn’t, like, mentally prepared for, like, this grief episode that big and I was worried.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [21:24] Worried about your family after the bombing, those kind of stressful things drive a very significant spike in risk for relapse. So your family and your girlfriend need to be part of your magic formula to the point that you can say, man, all of this that is going on has my anxiety high. And like, I’m going to need extra support. And they will want to be able to be there for you, but it could be a process. So just talking about today, how can we get you off of this island of being by yourself? You have a smartphone? This incredible app called I am Sober. 

Evan: [22:01] I have it, actually. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [22:02] Do you like it? 

Evan: [22:03] Yeah, I used it. I did like a week in the summer time. It was like a week and a half. And I use the app. I liked it. As I relapsed, like, really hard after a strictly relying on it. I was, like, hesitant to use it again. I don’t know why I liked it. But for some reason I won’t open it. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [22:31] You felt like it let you down? 

Evan: [22:33] Maybe. Or maybe it’s just that I have like like almost traumatic association with it now because when I when Clare called me last, that was the messed up I’ve been. And so, like, I like just around that time, not on the call. No. But I feel like I just like wanted to move on so badly.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [23:05] Yeah, so like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We want to keep the baby, Evan. We want to keep the baby. The bath water can go. So get back into the app. You’re dribbling around the edges of it because you haven’t turned the notifications off because in some way you recognized it was helpful. So this is Operation Evan is not alone in this thing. We got to look everywhere. So I want you to get back on that app. 

Evan: [23:37] It did help me like feel like I wasn’t alone. It helped tremendously. It felt like I was like not like in a program or anything, but maybe close, you know. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [23:51] Exactly. So, you know, you hear me talk about the brain all the time and that deep part of the brain that’s just trying to protect us from dangerous things. And this is part of what happened when you saw those bombings. This is part of what happened with COVID. Is that your brain was like danger: I know what will save us from this effective immediately. Being lonely is perceived by your brain as danger. And so when you’re lonely, just like you said, as soon as I sit down and I have that white space, I’m done working for those twelve hours, I feel like that’s when things start slipping. That’s because your deep brain is like, uh oh, this is dangerous. And so what you need to be able to do is have that I am Sober community so that loneliness at least can’t creep in. So that’s number one. Back on the app. Number two: app is great, but also we can’t necessarily be in person because thanks for nothing, COVID, but there are a ton of virtual support groups. And so have you ever been to an AA, NA, S.O.S smart recovery meeting? Do you have any feelings one way or the other about it? I’m just looking for human connection for you. 

Evan: [25:09] I’ve never thought about it personally because I’ve always just imagined it out of the picture. I got sick. I always thought that it was associated with some sort of insurance. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [25:22] Yeah. No. So it’s not. This is the beautiful thing about it. So I’m going to offer you two resources. One, Eleanor Health, where I’m the chief medical officer and co-founder. We have free support groups available to anybody in the whole wide world. No commitments, no strings, just people. All right, so we got free Eleanor groups. You’re gonna Google, Google NA. Google SMART Recovery. Google SOS Secular Organization for Sobriety. Now, I want you to do a bit of work around this. I’m going to add to your 12 hours, read through their whole website and see which one feels best. And then just connect. 

Evan: [26:11] Yeah, I can do that. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [26:13] In terms of medical care, do you have a primary care doctor? 

Evan: [26:17] I guess I do in my home state, but not around me, no. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [26:22] Because primary care doctors can help us a lot with addiction. And so you could actually talk to a primary care doctor and get some real help. And it will just show up on your parents’ insurance as primary care doctor. It won’t be a treatment for addiction. 

Evan: [26:39] They don’t like mark you down as like afflicted or something? 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [26:44] They’ll put the diagnosis in your chart. It won’t say “afflicted.” It will say, “opioid use disorder.” But the diagnosis does not go on the insurance claim. Your primary care doctor could actually prescribe like a Suboxone for you. 

Evan: [27:00] I should tell you that I was using Suboxone up until two days ago. I had some and then I weaned off of it and I was taking like a sliver and it helped a lit.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [27:12] So I’m sure you had your reasons for weaning off. But please know that folks are on Suboxone for months, years, lifetimes, as long as it works. Which is why you really need a doctor to help manage that prescription. Now, not all primary care doctors can prescribe Suboxone for you. So here’s the other thing I need you to write down. It’s called SAMHSA Treatment Locator. You can put in your zip code. It’ll say five practitioners providing buprenorphine for opioid addiction. You click on that one, then you can find a primary care doctor who can prescribe you Suboxone at a therapeutic dose, which will dramatically reduce the risk of relapse for this opioid use disorder and still give you time to get under your belt before you feel like you have to disclose to your family. 

Evan: [28:06] Because I have had experience with Suboxone, one of the friends who knows about my addiction. He’s actually on Suboxone, like on and off. And I got some from him and like, I was using it to get off this time. I’ve used in the past. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [28:23] OK, so who is this friend? You don’t have to call him by name, but this friend is definitely part of the magic formula. 

Evan: [28:31] I don’t know. I haven’t been talking to him and it seems to be helping. I feel like he is not sober. Well, I guess maybe now he is, but he is like, I don’t know, we kind of went into the rabbit hole together.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [28:45] So could be a trigger. 

Evan: [28:47] Yeah. So, like, he’s in my hometown. And every time I go home, we hang out and get fucked up. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [28:54] Oh, well, OK. I’m taking him out. I’m taking him out. 

Evan: [28:59] He’s not part of the magic formula. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [29:00] I spoke too soon. All right. We have biological, primary care doctor Suboxone. The other biological is do you think you have any depression, anxiety, anything else that drives this opioid use disorder? 

Evan: [29:14] Oh, yeah. Anxiety, depression

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [29:16] Your primary care doctor can also evaluate you for that, Evan. OK. So when you go see this person, I need you to say depression, anxiety and pain pills so that you can address all three. OK. That’s biological and psychological, social. We got 12 hours at work, skateboarding, we’ve got to choose SMART, S.O.S or any or some combination thereof. You got to get back on I am Sober. And because Claire and I believe fully in this idea of accountability buddies, then will you just drop us an update ever so often? Even if you’re not proud of the update? 

Evan: [30:02] Yeah, I would love that. Of course. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [30:05] All right. Do you feel less on an island? That was my whole goal for today. 

Evan: [30:13] I do. I feel like I’m going to take a virtual boat back to the mainland. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [30:20] I love it. And when you get to the mainland, we will be there with a virtual hug. 

Claire Jones: [30:29] I was just gonna say the exact same thing. I was like, we’ll be at the dock just like just waiting for you. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [30:48] Here’s the last thing I have to ask you before we get out of here. Do you have a Narcan kit? 

Evan: [30:54] Yeah, actually, I feel like one thing I should have mentioned about my partner right now is I’ve been slowly getting her to understand that I’m, like, struggling every day. And she asked me if we could get a Narcan kit. And so I got one when I was home. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [31:14] And you know what else this tells me, Evan? You might be more in your head about your girlfriend not being able to hear this news because sounds like she has already figured it out. 

Evan: [31:24] Yeah, I think she has. I told her I was doing this today. 

Claire Jones: [31:28] You did? What was her reaction when you told her? 

Evan: [31:35] She was like, she really cool. I honestly, I think that it’s about time I tell her and I think she knows enough and makes it a lot harder because I’ve tried to stay sober without her knowing I was using it and it was hard. So hopefully this time will be easier. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [31:57] Yeah. It sounds like she wants to be there. Take the risk. 

Evan: [32:03] Yeah. I will. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [32:09] So this is for everybody listening. Evan took a huge risk. One, just reaching out to coming on. And Evan, that you took that risk, I hope is saving your life, but I know for sure is also saving somebody else’s life. Somebody else who felt on that same island is going to get on that same virtual boat to shore with you. And so, like I say to everybody, I know it’s a risk. Take the risk and reach out. And like Evan, if you don’t have somebody in your real life that you can reach out to, you can reach out to us. We’re here. All right, Evan, it’s official. You’re another one of my children who lives in my heart forever and ever. Now you have to call me mom. I’m just kidding. 

Claire Jones: [36:57] So that was a great conversation. I have a couple of questions that I want to ask really fast, and then I’m curious to know what your thoughts are. I guess my biggest question is in his story. It seems like he would sort of do this routine of he would be on a good sobriety track and then something super unexpected would happen, like explosions in Lebanon or a friend passing away. And so what is a way where, on the sobriety track, you can sort of like build in a buffer for those things? Because if we know anything, especially this year, like it’s coming, it’s something. You can’t plan for life. Life just happens and it’s unexpected. How do you buffer for that? I guess is my question. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [37:44] Yeah. So the official term that you’re looking for is relapse prevention. A lot of what we do in rehab — so you know I talk about these two different parts of the brain. And so really what rehab is, is training that prefrontal cortex. Like you can think of it as your relapse prevention trainer. And so your question, Claire, has two answers. One is training the prefrontal cortex to be able to grab a different coping mechanism, because when that unexpected thing happens, we know what the amygdala, the deep brain, the dopamine pathway, we know what it’s going to say to the prefrontal cortex. And it’s training that prefrontal cortex to say, oh, wait a minute, let me think through the longitudinal consequences of that and come up with a different coping skill that can resolve the danger in the moment without creating danger for us in the future. 

Claire Jones: [38:41] It’s kind of like physical therapy where you are training, you are strengthening muscles that you use those muscles when you are running instead of the muscles that you’ve injured.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [38:53] That’s exactly right. So you and Dr. Bon Ky from the Design Lab podcast, he said, why isn’t it OK to get a mental health trainer just like it is to get a physical health trainer? \ The second part of your question is managing day to day stress. So we actually know that the biggest risk factor for relapse is not these big, unexpected events. It’s the cumulative daily stress every single day that those stressors that are there chip away at your prefrontal cortex and its ability to refute the deep brain. Think about it like when you’re tired. When you just had a great night’s sleep and you wake up and the kids come and they’re like, can I eat Skittles for breakfast? And you’re like, no! Skittles for breakfast. That’s not good for you. But at the end of the day, when you’re tired and worn down and the kids say, can I eat Skittles for dinner? And you’re like, you know what? Why not? Because your brain doesn’t have the ability to counter that message, the exact same thing is true here. 

Claire Jones: [40:03] What are your what are your thoughts, post conversation? 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [40:07] So I wanted to just touch on three things really quickly. Number one is Narcan. Naloxone is the generic name for this medication. If you are prescribed a pain medication, even you’re using it as prescribed, if you’re definitely not using it as prescribed, if you’re using what we call illicit opioids, buying them off the street. If you know someone who is, please make sure there is a Narcan kit everywhere. We talk a lot on this show about harm reduction. And one of the harms we’re trying to reduce and prevent is overdose death. This is the reversal drug. This literally saves lives. So when we’re in that period of time where we’re not yet able to get that substance use disorder in remission, or like I said, even if you don’t think you have a substance use disorder, but you’re just prescribed pain pills, this is what we were just talking about, preparing for the unintended event. That is having Narcan on hand. But there are a lot of organizations that give it free. There are a lot of states where you can just walk in to a pharmacy and ask for it and just pay for it, even without a prescription. We will list some of those resources for you in our show notes. If you are in the support system of a person who’s using opioids, get a kit. 

[41:29] The second thing I wanted to talk about, I’m going to make this a combo topic of avoiding triggers, but also, he started out by saying, I’m in this alone, there’s nobody I can tell. And then further into the episode, he said, there’s just this one friend who knows I’m sober and he has given me Suboxone. And then I jumped to the conclusion he’s part of your magic formula. And did you hear at first, just because I was in the role of expert, Evan tried to talk himself into me being right about that, even though his gut reaction, number one reflex was like, you’re actually very wrong about that. What if Evan had let me talk him into that just because I was the expert? If he had just listened to me, that would have put him in danger. And so I need you to be the expert on you. And I can be the expert in bio, psycho, social, cultural, political. And we have to put those two things together for maximum magic. And so this is also an AA/NA teaching, which is like you have to change your playgrounds. You have to stay away from people, places and things that trigger you to think about your drug use. And so I want to drive home that idea that in the beginning, sometimes it takes changing everybody around you to create that safe bubble until, you know, you’ve done your mental health training and rehab. 

[43:05] And then the last thing. I thought as I was giving Evan this education about how much support a primary care doctor could provide. Was that surprising to you, Claire? 

Claire Jones: [43:18] Yeah, I don’t think so, mostly because my primary care doctor is the person that I have talked to the most about my anxiety medication. I don’t see a psychiatrist. And that’s sort of like they’ve been my go-to. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [43:32] That’s exactly what I hoped and what I wanted to reinforce and really put a fine point on. Everybody over the age of just born today meets a primary care doctor. They literally can help you open the door to feeling better on your mental health or using substances, addiction to drugs or just you don’t even think you’re addicted, but you’re maybe a little bit worried about how you’re using. They have that skill-set and they can be so very helpful and it can be a low stigma way to get help. 

Claire Jones: [44:07] Yeah, I think the way I have regarded my primary care doctor is like between visits, I have like an ongoing list of just like random health questions. So I’ll be like this medication isn’t working. And also, do I have a foot fungus? That is a lot easier to get coverage for than, like a specialist of some kind. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [44:33] That’s exactly right. Lower copay. 

Claire Jones: [44:36] That’s all I got. That’s all I got. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [44:39] Well, thank you, everybody, for listening to this episode of Recovery with doctor and singer Harrison. We hope you’ll tune in next week. We need your question and answers. So send us a voicemail. Drop us a form. The details on that were at the top of the show and we’ll talk to you next week. 

Dr. Nzinga Harrison: [45:03] In Recovery is a Lemonada Media original. The show is produced by Claire Jones and edited by Ivan Kuraev. Music is by Dan Molad. Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs are our executive producers. Rate and review us and say nice things. And follow us @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms, or find me on Twitter @naharrisonmd. If you’ve learned from us, share the show with your others. Let’s help destigmatize addiction together.

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Nzinga Harrison, MD

Dr. Harrison serves as the Chief Medical Officer for Eleanor Health with more than 15 years experience practicing medicine. She is a double-board certified physician with specialties in general adult psychiatry and addiction medicine. Dr. Harrison has spent her career as a physician treating individuals from marginalized communities with substance use and other psychiatric disorders. As a physician executive, she has served as Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer roles committed to creating and improving systems-based delivery of psychiatric and substance abuse care. She is a vocal advocate for stigma reduction, and is passionate about the necessity for whole-person care as individuals and communities seek to recover from and prevent substance use disorders.

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