Meet Shereen Sutphen
As the Director of Detox Services, Shereen Sutphen is there for patients during a difficult time in their recovery journey – at the very beginning. Stepping into a detox center can be frightening, Sutphen says. Patients are worried about pain and discomfort, and about how they will feel without the numbing effects of drugs and alcohol. They’re also making major changes in their lives, which isn’t easy for anyone.
“They’re so anxious you can see that they are literally holding their breath,” Sutphen says. “We let them know we are going to keep them comfortable. They are in a safe environment.”
Medications to manage withdrawal symptoms are one tool she and the Malibu Beach Recovery Centers team uses, when needed, to help patients. The team also starts to work with clients on non-pharmacological techniques to calm the body and mind, such as meditation, breath work, mindfulness and yoga.
To help restore a sense of normalcy while undergoing detox, clients and staff gather around a long wood dining table for communal meals, prepared by skilled chefs who incorporate fresh produce and other healthful ingredients. The focus of meal prep is addressing the nutritional deficiencies that often arise in people addicted to drugs and alcohol, as well as providing foods that boost neurotransmitters in the brain associated with peaceful, positive feelings.
There’s also an important social and supportive aspect to the shared meals. “We sit as a family around the table. It’s a homelike atmosphere, where people can heal and start to feel better, and start to remember there’s a possibility that they can have fun while sober,” Sutphen says. “We also take a lot of care in how the meals are prepared and the presentation. We want to show our clients that people do care about them, and believe in them, and want to help them get better.”
Sutphen, a licensed vocational nurse and registered recovery worker, worked in several types of healthcare settings before joining Malibu Beach Recovery Centers. She was drawn to addiction medicine because it represents hope – for a recovery from addiction, and for a better life for patients.
“What I love about doing this job is to have that hope, a chance for them to get better,” Sutphen says. “Somebody who has been down for so long and who has given up on themselves can start to smile and start to like themselves again. We see such a metamorphosis in people. They are suffering and very sick, but with treatment and support can feel healthy again.”
Many patients keep in touch with her and the team, long after they leave. “Sometimes we’re their first call when they get back home. One of my clients called recently and said, ‘I know I was such a pain in the butt. But thank you for helping me through that really tough time,'” Sutphen says. “It’s amazing and very fulfilling. This is my purpose in life.”