The tagline for SeekHealing, the nonprofit she launched in 2018, is “Rethink Rehab.” It is far more radical than a typical addiction-recovery program. Funded by state health organizations and private donations, it’s one of a growing number of initiatives around the world aimed at tackling loneliness, social isolation, and deep-rooted disconnection by helping people develop critical social skills and offering a safe place to practice them, as well as a menu of ways to meet connect, interact, build trust, and give back.
…There’s a growing realization that supply is only part of the problem. Widespread loneliness and despair—from losing jobs to automation and trade, to mental health problems and a dearth of adequate opportunities—drive people to seek the relief that opioids and heroin seem to offer.
…They do not have to aim to be sober, only to improve their relationship with the substance which is causing them harm. The program refers to addiction as bonding, since we bond to substances or behaviors …when we can’t bond to one another. Relapse is “returning to patterns one is trying to avoid.”
…Listening training, a core educational component of the program, aims to undo the transactional way many people converse—with an intent to fix, solve, be clever, or respond quickly. Instead, the goal is to actually listen without judgement. This creates the conditions which allow the types of interactions that flood the brain with natural opioids and make us feel good.
…Aside from listening training, the calendar is packed with ways of building connection muscles, meeting people, doing things, and learning. There are Sunday meet-ups in West Asheville and connection practice meetings in which facilitators encourage vulnerability and substantive conversation. There are pick-up basketball games, Reiki workshops, art therapy, and Friday night emotional socials (“no substances; no small talk”).
“The whole project is a playground of different ways to help people feel connected in this intentional, non-transactional way,” says Nicolaisen.
…A lack of strong social connection disrupts the balance among the brain circuits that use these feel-good chemicals produced by close relationships. When we are really hungry, Wurzman says, we will eat anything. “Similarly, loneliness creates a hunger in the brain which neurochemically hyper-sensitizes our reward system,” she says.
…“We need to practice social connective behaviors instead of compulsive behaviors,” she says. It is not enough to just teach healthier responses to cues from the social reward system. We have to rebuild the social reward system with reciprocal relationships to replace the drugs which relieve the craving.
“Our culture and communities either create environments that are either full of things that cause addictions to thrive, or full of things that cause relationships to thrive,” Wurzman says.
…SeekHealing offered something those programs couldn’t: access to a world that is not defined by addiction, but connection to others. “I am interested in things I never thought I would be interested in— growing plants, art, poetry,” he says. “Not the violent things I grew up with. I am always looking for new ways to grow.”
He has been sober for one year, and says he now gives way more than he takes—something he notes is remarkable for an addict, who has spent most of his life taking.
…“The epidemic is not to drugs—the epidemic is the loneliness and the pain and the feeling that you can’t belong anywhere,” he says.
…“Even people who are still using, once they start making connections, the chance of them staying alive, and not OD-ing, and moving into greater levels of service, to maybe using medicine-assisted treatment, and becoming productive members of society increases.” Rather than limit recovery to those who are ready for abstinence, the theory goes, try giving help to those who aren’t ready yet, but may become so. This falls under the approach known as harm reduction, defined by the National Harm Reduction Coalition as “a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with risk-taking.”
…There’s funding for emergency care, which gives anyone at risk of overdosing, whether because they are recently out of detox or because they have had a major negative life event, free access to counseling, acupuncture, work with a program manager, body work, and Lyft rides to the center. No drug tests are required.
…She had been thinking about how to help people heal through real connection and communication—not just because there was such a dearth of services for care after rehab, but also because a lack of social connection affects everyone, and drives people to whatever substance they can find to sate the hunger they feel: Screens, social media, porn, shopping, alcohol, Adderall, heroin.
…She’s a big believer in the importance of rituals and the need to find non-religious ways for those who are not religious to have them. Rituals, she says, are a fundamental human thing, bringing people together.
sounds promisingly logical.
The family is worth $13 billion, Forbes has estimated, but many of the attorneys general involved in the case say they believe members are worth a lot more. Twenty-six states have filed suit against family members individually for their roles in the crisis.
Court documents filed Friday by James’ office represented findings from a single financial institution, the New York Times reported. A series of transfers highlighted in the documents named Mortimer D.A. Sackler, a Purdue board member who transferred $64 million in 2009 from a previously unidentified trust through a Swiss bank account.
Investigators say they believe much more money is involved.
“Already, these records have allowed the state to identify previously unknown shell companies that one of the Sackler defendants used to shift Purdue money through accounts around the world and then conceal it in at least two separate multimillion-dollar real estate investments back here in New York, sanitized [until now] of any readily detectable connections to the Sackler family,” David E. Nachman of the attorney general’s office wrote in the court filing.
The lawsuits accuse family members of aggressively marketing OxyContin as safe despite its addictive nature.
The filing comes after nearly two dozen states and 2,300 local governments reached a tentative settlement with Purdue Pharma to resolve thousands of lawsuits alleging that the company helped fuel the opioid crisis. New York and others states rejected the settlement.
…The court filing highlights the activities of Mortimer D.A. Sackler, a former Purdue board member. It alleges that Sackler transferred millions of dollars from trust companies, at least one of which was previously unknown, through Swiss bank accounts to himself as early as 2009. Some of the funds were directed to real estate companies that owned Sackler family homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons, the filings said.
…The New York attorney general’s office believes there is much more to be learned about the family’s holdings and that information is central to arriving at a just settlement. Prosecutors want the court to enforce subpoenas of companies, banks and advisers tied to Purdue and the Sacklers.
Forbes estimates the Sackler family fortune at $13 billion, making the Sacklers the 19th wealthiest family in the nation.