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Julia F: 90 Days of Rehab Courtesy of Starbucks

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Julia F: 90 Days of Rehab Courtesy of Starbucks

When we first opened the doors at Malibu Beach Recovery Center, our clients paid cash.  The reasons werestarbucks coffee.jpg obvious – in those days, no one wanted their employer or insurance to know they had an alcohol or drug problem. The employer might fire you.  Using your insurance would create a “pre existing” condition that might prevent you from getting new insurance if you changed jobs.   In those days even if you did not have money in the bank you could get a second on your house, or use the line on your credit card to pay for treatment. 

Then the economy tanked and slowly the cash clients began to fade into the sunset.  There are still some but now most clients are those with what we call “Cadillac” insurance.  The best of these policies are provided by big companies and big states  (like New Jersey) to their employees.

The policies are sometimes so rich in benefits that those seeking recovery from addiction are authorized for 60-90 days at a time, sometimes in differing levels of care, but the combined total of days dramatically raises the odds of long term recovery.   According to studies by the National Institute of Drug Addiction (NIDA):“Individuals who complete at least 90 days of treatment in a Therapeutic Community have significantly better outcomes on average than those who stay for shorter periods.”

Julia (not her real name) came to Malibu Beach Recovery Center through the excellent health insurance Starbucks provides employees.  

Her early years were not unlike those of Robert Downey, Jr.   Her parents were in the music industry.  Mom smoked marijuana and took pills — “she was well connected with doctors and shrinks.”  Dad smoked marijuana and free based cocaine.  Julia was introduced to marijuana when she was 12; Seconal, Quaaludes, and speed in pill format at 14.  “I had to reach a certain age to try a certain drug,” she said.   After her mother started dealing cocaine, she and Julia began using together.  Julia was then 15.  Julia  “didn’t like cocaine but I did like getting high.”  At 18 she moved to California to live with her father “who had cocaine and crystal meth all over the house.”  Her first husband turned her onto heroin.  

Julia’s first rehab was at age 24.  Six more followed.  All for 30 days or less.  Nothing could keep her away from drugs.  

It took another 25 years to “hit bottom.”  One evening earlier this year she overdosed in front of China, her young daughter.  Not surprisingly, Child Protective Services took China away.  That was when Julia “decided it was over” and entered treatment at Malibu Beach Recovery Center.

I am not telling Julia’s story because it is so horrific and seemingly hopeless, or because she is “cured.”  No such thing.  Addiction is a chronic brain disease.  But I wanted to document the fact that there are some pretty great health insurance companies out there such as Premera, third party admnistrator of the Starbucks’ enlightened employee health plan.  Premera was able to authorize 90 days of treatment for a woman who needed at least that (and got more by following residential treatment with sober living).  If the clinical tests of NIDA, and our hand’s on experience here at Malibu Beach Recovery Center, are correct, Starbucks may never have to invest in residential treatment for Julia again.  Except maybe a 5-7 day “tune up.”

Only time will tell but next week Julia celebrates 7 months of sobriety.  She now has a good job, and has impressed Child Protective Services with her commitment to long term sobriety.

Here’s the letter we  received last month from Julia:

Joan:   I arrived at LAX exactly 6 months ago today!  It was after midnight when I finally got to Malibu.  Sergei picked me up.  I had received a text saying “I will be in baggage claim with a sign.  PS I’m bald.”  I found him.  I had just bought myself a latte at Starbux as I knew it might be the last for a long time.  I remember smiling standing in front of him, seeing the sign and being extremely excited to be in Los Angeles, California.  We pulled into MBRC and I felt so relieved that it was over.  I had no idea what was to come.  MBRC allowed me to go through all of my anxiety, bad memories, feelings, pain, experiences.   Then more time to come out of the other side of it.  I don’t know how to ever thank you  except to stay clean.  The 3 months in Malibu, the 2 months at Brentwood House was just what I needed.  You gave me the time to heal.  I am back in New York and ready to take on the world, especially got my daughter back.  We’ve been spending lots of time together.  Thank you for my life.

PS  I got a terrific job selling cars with pay and commission.  So excited.  I love sales and there is so much $ to be made.  I’m so grateful to Joe (the Manager of Brentwood House Sober Living) who always said:  “Stop watching TV or your life will pass by and you’ll get high.”  As I was watching TV I thought, wow is he right.  I was hired on the spot.  Already went through training.

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