The Recovery of Craig K.

“First responders are usually the first on the scene to face challenging, dangerous, and draining situations,” explains a Supplemental Research Bulletin by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “They are also the first to reach out to disaster survivors and provide emotional and physical support to them. These duties, although essential to the entire community, are strenuous to first responders and with time put them at an increased risk of trauma.”
According to the SAMHSA Bulletin, “It is estimated that 30 percent of first responders develop behavioral health conditions including, but not limited to, depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as compared with 20 percent in the general population (Abbot et al., 2015). In a study about suicidality, firefighters were reported to have higher attempt and ideation rates than the general population (Stanley et al., 2016). In law enforcement, the estimates suggest between 125 and 300 police officers commit suicide every year (Badge of Life, 2016).”
Experiencing severe trauma is strongly correlated with substance use disorder (SUD). In a study investigating alcohol use in police officers following Hurricane Katrina, there was a significant association between involvement in the hurricane relief efforts and hazardous alcohol drinking (Heavey et al., 2015). In another study, the average number of alcoholic drinks after Hurricane Katrina increased from 2 to 7 drinks per day (McCanlies et al., 2014).
Many traumatized first responders attempt to alleviate their mental health symptoms with drugs and alcohol. Former police officer Craig K. was one of them. As a young man, the Harmony alumnus entered a work environment where you “push horrible calls to the back of the head,” downplay the horror, and move on. The traditional macho culture prevalent among first responders taught him how to “party like a cop” to release the stress.
When traumatic episodes start to show an impact you still don’t think you have a problem: “They tell you about the stress but they don’t build in a mechanism to deal with it.” One time, Craig was called to the scene of a helicopter crash. The smell of the jet fumes connected with the carnage he was forced to witness is etched into his memory. Craig refers to these traumatic events in his career as demons.
One of his main demons is the Columbine high school shooting. “To this day I can’t hear fire alarms,” he says. “I freak out when I hear fire alarms.” More than twenty years later, Craig is still angry with the teenage perpetrators.
In the aftermath of Columbine, his drinking “took another level” and he could not stop watching the news about the shooting on TV. Like many of his colleagues he was traumatized and felt the police were unjustly blamed for not doing enough to stop the massacre. Craig took it personally.
Family hardships followed: his son was born without an immune system and “everything was thrown out of kilter,” including his marriage. All the while his alcohol use disorder (AUD) became steadily worse. “We started going to therapy” but talking about the health problems of my son was just “an easy way to avoid talking about my problems,” Craig remembers. The inevitable negative consequences started to pile up, he left the police force and got a divorce.
The AUD kept destroying his life, “everything after 2011 is really cloudy.” At the end of last year, Craig finally realized that something was wrong. On New Year’s Eve, he was hospitalized for four days. “I still didn’t realize why I was shaking so much.” After his discharge, he started drinking again and by February he was back in the hospital. On that occasion, “the ER doctor tells me ‘if you keep this up, you’re going to die in three months.’”
By this time, however, Craig was firmly in the grip of active addiction, so he kept on drinking. After getting fired from his job, he saw his pastor who told him about Harmony Foundation. Craig was finally ready to change.
Traumatic life experiences are extremely common among patients with substance use disorder. Because of this strong correlation, trauma-informed care is an important part of addiction treatment at Harmony. All staff have been trained in trauma-informed care. When SUD patients arrive for treatment, they often have few coping skills to deal with their traumatic memories and emotional pain. They have to learn to manage emotions and situations without drugs and alcohol.
Craig finally realized that “ego was not his amigo.” Your ego “makes you cocky and doesn’t allow you to see your real self,” he says. “I rode the ego train 24/7.”
Things are much better now for Craig. “I don’t want to be that person anymore. I’m really excited that I am getting clear and more focused. I’m starting to understand things that I read in the Big Book, that we talk about in meetings, that I’m witnessing.”
At Harmony, he began to learn how to process his trauma, acquiring important coping skills. After his discharge, he connected with a sponsor within a week and—thanks to Zoom—was able to attend several meetings a day. The Daily Reflections and two other AA books go with him everywhere he goes.
“I have to work at this every day. It’s like a diet or going to the gym – you have to put in the work.” If you don’t work on your recovery every single day, you’re cheating yourself.
Recovery is always possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder, or you have questions about our programs, call Harmony today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible.

Harmony Foundation Announces Second Major Expansion During Its 50th Year


Colorado drug addiction program is celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary with a new intensive outpatient program with a unique twist and a Fort Collins Recovery Center. Gala celebrating milestone was held Oct 25 in Denver with special guest Carnie Wilson of Wilson Phillips. Continue reading “Harmony Foundation Announces Second Major Expansion During Its 50th Year”

Harmony to Present Dorothy Dorman Service Award to NAATP


Harmony Foundation, a Colorado-based addiction treatment center, has selected the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) for its Dorothy Dorman Service Award. The award was established to honor Harmony Foundation’s long-time CEO at her retirement. The award recognizes people or organizations sharing the same integrity and dedication for addiction treatment solutions as the award’s name bearer.

The award will be presented at Harmony Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Gala in Denver, Colorado on October 25th at the Four Seasons Hotel. Carnie Wilson of Wilson Phillips will be the special guest speaker of this milestone event that commemorates the long and impactful heritage of Harmony Foundation which has positively changed the lives of thousands. Proceeds from this event will benefit scholarships supporting those with the desire, but without the means, to receive the addiction treatment they need. Tickets, as well as sponsorship opportunities, are available to the public at

“NAATP has long been the voice for addiction programs across the country and for decades has led the charge in establishing meaningful ethical standards and protocols for this important treatment category,” stated James Geckler, Harmony Foundation President and CEO. “We wanted to acknowledge their continuing hard work in helping their membership collaborate and better serve their patients.”

Recently NAATP has been active on the national stage supporting the passing of bi-partisan legislation H.R.6 (115thCongress), which contains over 120 separate bills to address the opioid crisis. For the first time, the federal government is examining how individual states are enforcing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) passed in 2008 and making changes to the antiquated Medicaid limitation on residential treatment based on the number of beds operated by a facility.

NAATP CEO Marvin Ventrell added “The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers is honored to receive the Harmony Foundation Dorothy Dorman Award on the occasion of Harmony’s 50th Anniversary. Founded nearly a decade before the National Association itself, Harmony was among the first treatment programs to join the association and has since that time supported NAATP as a valued charter member. This speaks volumes about Harmony’s commitment to not just its own patients but the welfare the national addiction recovery community at large. Keep up the good work Harmony and here’s to 50 more years of success.”

About Harmony Foundation
Harmony Foundation is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction recovery program that serves in a collaborative and respectful treatment environment. Harmony promotes physical, emotional, and spiritual healing, empowering their clients to embark upon the lifelong journey of recovery. Visit to learn more.

The First Call Is Always the Hardest: It Makes All The Difference by Justin Barclay

I was 29 years old when I went to treatment. It was a nudge from a Judge that drove me to my first introduction to Harmony Foundation when I called asking for help. At that time I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol, but I did know that I didn’t want to be miserable anymore. Alcohol may have taken away the bad feelings, but it certainly did not take away the misery, it was an unwanted houseguest that had moved in and was planning to stay.

I will never forget that first call. I was scared, uncertain and feeling hopeless. Sharon, a former Union Boilermaker, originally from Pittsburgh, was my lifeline to my new life in recovery. Sharon was kind and understanding, she eliminated barriers, was honest, and insightful. I had tried different feeble attempts of getting sober that all involved managing and moderation. When it was all said and done, Sharon was quick to point out that everything I tried wasn’t working and said, “Try this!” She added that I was allowed to try things once in my life and never have to try them again if I didn’t like it. So, I tried, came to Harmony and by the grace of my God of my understanding, I haven’t found it necessary to pick up a drink or a drug since that phone call.

Whether you’re a friend, family member or just desperately in despair looking for help, making that first call can be overwhelming. Many people perceive addiction treatment likened to Jack Nicholson in “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” In truth, most addiction treatment is not straightjackets, lockdown facilities and Nurse Ratchet’s.

In fact, good addiction treatment and working with someone in admissions is built on compassion, empathy, strength and guidance. As a person in recovery who went through the admissions process, I can say that the first call makes all the difference.

What can you expect when calling for help? First and foremost you should expect to be treated with dignity and respect. Someone who is willing to answer every question you have. You should expect to be valued enough as an individual that your questions will be answered honestly even if the Admission Staff knows the truthful answer may not be what you want to hear. Remember, you are making a call to save your life not giving someone on the other end an opportunity to close a deal. Insurance does not pay for flights, waving of fees and deductible only means that the revenue has to be made up from somewhere or someone else, that someone else could be you. If services provided and allowable items are different on the phone than the programs website, you have a right and self-responsibility to ask why the difference without being challenged. One of the most critical elements to a successful treatment experience is honesty. This critical element will be missing if the admission process revolves around any kind of dishonesty. You should also expect to work with an organization that will inform you if they cannot meet your needs and they will provide you with direction to programs they have a collaborative relationship with to best meet your needs.

Today, I am an Admissions Manager and since my first and only admission all those years ago, I have been given the good fortune to not just experience the admission process once, or twice, or even 100 times but thousands of times. I remind myself on every call how I was treated on that first call with Sharon, and I am committed daily to respond the way she did. People calling, no matter what the motivator, just want to be heard without judgment and respected. Admissions staff is the first impression of the organization they establish the trust necessary for the individual to begin a process of a willingness to change. Being dishonest, pushy and unclear about expectations sets everyone up for failure.

Each time I work with an individual or family, it is a privilege to be the resource that helps them begin their new journey of sobriety. No two admissions are the same. I honor and respect the clients allowing them to experience their own journey with the admissions process the same as I was.

So as you consider treatment and you inquire about what program is the best fit for you. Remember that that person on the other line may have the one thing you need to help you begin again. One thing I can say that is true for me, every time I try anything that involves the admission process, I learn from it, I grow from it, and most of all I love it.

Drug Abuse Among Unsuspecting Professionals

Addiction does not discriminate and our drug and alcohol programs here at Harmony reflect this fact well – with programs for young adults, men and women in all stages of life.

The need for more addiction rehabs to focus on professionals in their programs has been highlighted in the news recently with professionals under fire for drug abuse. Last week, a high school IT teacher in England was sentenced to over 3 years in jail and permanently banned from teaching after being caught with more than 100 grams of cocaine in a narcotics lab in his home.

His sentencing came after an investigation found that he was involved in high-level supply of cocaine leading to his arrest in 2012. At first the teacher denied being a distributor and said he was holding drugs as a favor but then later revealed that financial distress lead to his self-compromising actions. Steve Powell,  the chairman of the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) said “The wellbeing of pupils must be protected and the reputation of the profession maintained” and permanently ban the teacher from teaching in the future.

In a similar story, a New York City music teacher was arrested last week for selling instruments to support her heroin addiction. The 30 year old elementary school music teacher began stealing the instruments last June and selling them at pawn shops.

Police caught wind of this last October and have been investigating her since. When she was pulled over last week a police officer found a tuba she said she was using for work – a story that wasn’t backed by her school district. In addition to the tuba, police found 12 of the instruments stolen from the school at local pawn shops. The teacher and her boyfriend, who helped her steal and pawn the instruments, are being charged with possession of stolen property and possession of a controlled substance.

Although both cases pertain to teachers, other unsuspecting professionals battle addiction that place them in compromising situations that inflict severe legal and professional ramifications upon them. From airline pilots to anesthesiologists, professionals are losing their licenses and reputations because of addiction. Fortunately, some professions have system in place that allow staff to seek addiction treatment and return to their professions while others, like the teacher in England, lose their professions all together.

Addiction treatment programs are available to give all walks of life a second chance at life. This is because people are not themselves when in active addiction – they do things they would have never dreamt of doing before their addictions took them to a place of desperation. The case of the teachers is one example among many that exist. That is why Harmony Foundation has established drug rehab programs that help clients out of desperation and back to their true selves – the selves they knew before addiction took hold.


Spice Addiction Taking a Toll on Young Adult Men

According to SAMHSA, young men are the most affected by the dangers of synthetic drug abuse. Their recently published study revealed that in 2010 there were 11,406 emergency room visits related to the use of synthetic marijuana, or “spice.” Of those admitted, 78% were men between the ages of 12 and 29.

Young men are susceptible to using synthetic drugs because they are lower cost than other drugs, and until recent crack- downs they were widely accessible in local head shops and specialty tobacco shops and legal. The danger of these drugs is in their branding, as the package touts that they are natural and herbal and many associate herbal remedies with concoctions that are good for their bodies. The branding, legality and accessibility likely caused impressionable young men to overindulge in a drug clothed as being natural and herbal and therefore associated as safe. However, the amount of hospitalizations from the mental and physical tolls of these drugs proves otherwise, prompting US drug top administrator Gil Kerlikowske to assert, “Make no mistake—the use of synthetic cannabinoids can cause serious, lasting damage, particularly in young people.”

The serious damage synthetic drugs can cause is well known and has made national news several times in the past few years. The first demographic to greatly indulge in synthetic drugs were young men already in addiction treatment programs that used them to beat drug tests because the drugs were marketed as “drug test safe.” This was in 2010 when there wasn’t a way to test for synthetic drugs, making them very popular because young adults could still get kudos for staying “clean” in drug treatment whilst using and getting high.

The importance of combating addiction beginning at a young age is clear – young adults have the rest of their lives ahead of them and endless opportunities to excel. The use of drugs in young adulthood can rob men and women of a college education, building healthy relationships starting their careers and what older adults coin “the best time of their lives.” It is heartbreaking to see young adults addicted to any drug – but synthetic drugs are particularly disturbing because they seem to take a significant mental toll, leading to brutal violence and even psychosis. For young adults to recover, it takes a special awareness of their needs and pressures they face. That is why at Harmony Foundation we have created a specialty drug treatment program for young adults called YART (Young Adult Recovery Track) to help them fulfill all of the hopes and dreams available to them, so that they can indeed enjoy the best part of their lives.

If you are a young adult or you are concerned about the synthetic drug use of a young adult, Harmony Foundation has addiction treatment programs tailored to meet the needs of all age groups and substance abuse disorders.

Gratitude and Addiction Recovery

The month of November is “gratitude month” whereby people indicate one thing they are grateful for every day of the month. The volume of people thinking about what they are grateful for has seemingly grown with the advent of social media – when friends see their friends posting about what they are grateful for on Facebook, it prompts them to do the same.

In addiction treatment programs and 12 step programs, gratitude is one of the many cornerstones that help people recover. Everyday people are encouraged to think about what they are grateful for and the simple praise for not picking up a drug or a drink each day goes a long way. After all, many in recovery can recall a time when they had no choice, when each day they tried to abstain from abusing their substance of choice but by nightfall they were in the grips of addiction yet again. Being able to go even just one day without succumbing to one’s addiction is a lot to be grateful for.

Drug and alcohol rehab and 12 Step programs engrain gratitude within those recovering because it becomes the anti-venom of negative and dismal thinking that can spark someone to pick up a drink or a drug. By taking a moment to reflect on all the great things in life, it nullifies the poison of negative thinking. Often addicts use negative thinking to manufacture an excuse to pick up a drink or a drug, gratitude offers the excuses to not pick up a drink or a drug.

While people sanction days like Thanksgiving or months like November for gratitude, those in addiction recovery make this a daily reflection – and it pays off. Several studies correlate gratitude and good health, including a study in Personality and Individual Differences that analyzed 1,000 people between 18-80. It concluded that gratitude improved one’s physical health because it drastically improved psychological health. Those with psychological well being are more likely to engage in activities that improve physical health such as exercising or seeing a doctor when they are sick. This naturally allows people to sustain well being which is the opposite of addiction, which perpetuates self-destruction and deteriorating physical health.

Gratitude is just one of the many tools and gifts of sobriety, that have multifaceted positive effects on one’s overall condition. For example, when addicts are in gratitude together, many recognize that the positive turn their lives have taken is indeed part of their own work, but they also credit it to others that have helped them and to a divine intervention as well. Gratitude is therefore a spiritual and social emotion that can improve relations – after all, everyone is attracted to those that behave graciously. This in turn fosters social support and interaction that relieves stress and depression which is essential in the sustenance of sobriety. The many gifts of gratitude are just one thing to be grateful for. What are you grateful for?

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Drinking Energy Drinks in Recovery

Speculations about the harmful effects of energy drinks have been growing in recent years and the spotlight is now on Living Essentials, the company that makes Five Hour Energy drinks.

This week, the New York Times reported on the Food and Drug Administration’s investigation of 13 deaths and 32 hospitalizations blamed on the consumption of Five Hour Energy. The drink, which comes in a shot form, contains 215 milligrams of caffeine among other ingredients like taurine and phenylalanine. It is not clear yet if the deaths were a direct result of Five Hour Energy, as the FDA warned, “It is important to note that submitting a serious adverse event report to the FDA, according the agency itself, is not construed by FDA as an admission that the dietary supplement was involved, caused or contributed to the adverse event being reported.” Skeptics say it is improbable that the ingredients in Five Hour Energy were the culprit in the deaths or hospitalizations but studies have revealed the asscoiated health risks with consumption of such drinks.

Despite these reports, a growing sober trend is the consumption of energy drinks instead of alcohol when “going out” on the town – or going anywhere. While most energy drinks are banned from addiction treatment programs, many addicts in early recovery jump on the bandwagon of consuming copious amounts of Red Bull, Five Hour Energy shots and the like. Some hardliners say that these drinks are “mood altering” and therefore don’t support the code of abstinence. Others say that these drinks give them they energy they need while in post acute withdrawal, or for life in general, after years of bodily damage from which they are still recovering.

While physical recovery is a large part of recovery writ large, studies reveal that these drinks are doing little to help with recovery or with energy. In fact, there are known health risks associated with energy drinks that are antithetical to helping addicts recover, they include:

1.) Greater Risk of Drug Abuse and/or Relapse

According to a 2010 study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, students who consumed energy drinks in the second year of college were at greater risk of prescription drug abuse, such as the use of stimulants like Adderall, in their third year of college. Similarly, for those in recovery from alcohol or drug abuse who consume energy drinks, the effects from ingredients like phenylalanine may mimic stimulants such as Adderall or cocaine, which may “trigger” them into using. For the addict, consumption of such drinks for chemically induced energy may not be “enough” and they become at risk of relapse.

2.) Impaired Cognitive Function

According to a Live Science article, energy drinks can impair cognitive function when consumed in excess. The study reports that while 40mg of caffeine improved student performance on a reaction test they were given, students who drank an excess of 80 mg, such as a can of Red Bull or shot of Five Hour Energy, had poorer performance on the same test.

Such studies are particularly important for those in early recovery to consider, especially those in post acute withdrawal whose cognitive functions are just beginning to heal. With the growing trend of people attending 12-Step meetings with super sized energy drinks in tow, they may want to consider how such drinks impact their recovery. It is no wonder many drug rehab centers have prohibited the consumption of such drinks, because while there is only speculation so far on the deaths from Five Hour Energy and other said detriments of energy drinks, it just isn’t worth the risk – especially when one is just re-starting their lives.