Finding Meaning and Purpose in Recovery

Willie Oswald, founder of Summit Malibu, talks about meaning and purpose in recovery. Check out the latest episode of Sobering Up Summit Malibu to watch.

Program coordinator, Kristin Robert, interviews Willie at the newest Summit house, Summit Vista. Willie shares his experience, strength, and hope in this chat. He also discusses how he ended up working in the field of recovery. As well as the meaning and purpose that he has found in this field.

Willie got sober in 1979 and has worked in the field of recovery since the 80s (for over 35 years). It was never an industry that he thought he would work in, but in the work of helping other addicts, he found purpose in his own life. He found something that he was able you give– his experience, strength and hope. And, through giving this he discovered that he was able to help a lot of people.

This was the foundation for Willie’s career in addiction treatment, and after various other endeavors, around a decade ago Summit was founded. It is the big heart, the passion, and the commitment that Willie has for recovery that is a huge part of Summit. That same feeling and tradition is carried down by the entire staff, and it is this that makes the Summit Team so special. The real heart of what makes Summit Malibu different is its’ people, and Willie is a huge part of that.

Check out the interview here:

Also, follow Summit Malibu on YouTube here:   Summit Malibu YouTube Channel

Addiction Recovery and the Importance of Exercise


Episode Three of Sobering Up Summit Malibu is live!

In this episode, Dr Kim Chronister talks about addiction recovery and the importance of exercise. She talks about how very important exercise is as a part of life. Especially for those that are recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction.

Exercise is way more than a way to be healthy. Exercising releases endorphins and hormones that make the body actually feel better. Regular exercise can decrease anxiety, depression, and even high blood pressure. Getting fit does a lot more than make you look good, it also helps you to feel really good. And not just when working out…that feel good mood continues after, and uplifts you throughout the rest of your day. Exercising brings good to the mind and the body.

When beginning recovery exercise is an excellent new habit to begin forming. It is a healthy way to spend the extra hours that are found in a sober day. It is also something that can really make you feel good, and can often make you feel how you have always wanted to feel. It provides the “good” feeling that drinking and drugging promise but fail to deliver. It also really does do the body good and can help speed up the time it takes to be back to feeling like yourself after a relapse, or for the first time in a long time if newly sober.

Exercise is a vital component to a healthy lifestyle. Add in a healthy diet, and positive activities that focus on self-improvement, community, and service. This is a great way to really begin to set the foundation for a future that is worth living. And one that makes you feel pretty spectacular too.

Check out Dr Kim’s Exercise and Addiction Recovery video here:


Please subscribe to Summit Malibu’s YouTube Channel here: Summit Malibu on YouTube

Musician in Recovery: Episode 2 of our Web Series

Sam Morrow, our Admissions Coordinator, and a musician in recovery shares his story in the second episode of Sobering Up Summit Malibu. Sam talks about what music means to him and how it defines a lot of his life. Sam also talks about his addiction, and how recovery has changed his life.

This episode shows how he both music and recovery are paramount aspects of the life he leads today.

We are luck to have Sam as our Admissions Coordinator here at Summit. His life experiences and personality are an integral part of our team.

Check it out:

You can subscribe to our YouTube Channel here to get the latest video content from Summit Malibu:

Summit Malibu on YouTube

Stay Tuned for the next addition of our web series coming soon.

Sneak Peak: It features our Clinical Director, Dr Kim Chronister.





Our New Sobriety Web Series: SoberingUp Summit


Check out our new web series, where we will be talking about all things related to sobriety.

Sobering Up Summit,  will also give an inside look at the people who make up Summit and to learn more about what life at Summit is like. It also gives a look at the reality of sobriety, from many different angles.

We have just released our first episode, featuring our Assistant Program Coordinator and former child star, Natanya Ross.

Natanya shares stories about acting and recovery in this episode. She talks about her own experiences and her own recovery. Natanya has been a part of the Summit Team for over two years and we are excited to have her staring in the first episode of this exciting new venture.


Check back frequently as there is a lot more to come! Also, subscribe to our YouTube Channel to get updates on our new videos.

Understanding What Makes Someone Vulnerable to Addiction


The majority of the population has a challenging time understanding the nature of addiction, and what makes someone vulnerable to addiction. Symptoms of addiction may appear baffling to the average temperate drinker, who is able to control and enjoy his or her drinking. Sociability, conviviality, and celebration are typical associations with the moderate drinker’s experience with alcohol and/ or recreational drugs like marijuana, which has now been legalized in several states; however, the alcoholic or addict, who suffers from a grave, progressive malady, does not exhibit the same effects produced in the average person. Broken homes, strained relationships, lost jobs, compromised health, damaged social standing, and financial hardship are all common burdens associated with the advanced stages of alcoholism and addiction. In light of these astonishing repercussions, it becomes apparent that these individuals are suffering from a serious, life-threatening disease, that requires further understanding and investigation.

Hard Data

Approximately 7.4% of the adult population in the United States meets the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism. New data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) shows that nearly 10% of Americans qualify as addicts (including alcohol). More than one half of American adults have a close family member who has or has had alcoholism. 10% of the population experiences this serious affliction to the mind, body, and spirit. Why?

In 1991, The American Medical Association (AMA) declared that alcoholism is a disease, both medical and psychiatric in nature. As early as 1956, The AMA declared that alcoholism was an illness. In consideration of these statements, the nature of alcoholism and addiction can be understood from three primary factors: biological, sociological, and psychological.

Addiction and Biology

Biologically, those afflicted with addiction may be genetically predisposed to developing an addiction in their lives. Those with a family history of alcoholism or drug addiction are much more likely to develop an addiction themselves. Current evidence suggests that both men and women are 50-60% genetically determined, before ever even having taken a drink or drug.

Addiction and Sociology

Sociologically, the introduction of alcohol is a vital catalyst in signaling the start of full-fledged addiction. Continued exposure to an environment that encourages a high frequency of drug and alcohol use influences the advancement of the disease along a scale that includes increased amount of usage, and negative consequences directly related to alcohol and/ or drug use. Peer groups and environmental factors may seriously impact the occurrence and advancement of addiction. Habitual drinking may influence a person’s drive to repeat a pleasurable experience in the reward center of the brain, furthering the escalation of repeated use and rapidity of use. Quality of life may be severely compromised, encouraging one in the throes of addiction to pursue better feelings, both mentally and physically.

Addiction and Psychology

Psychologically, The World Health Organization (WHO) has cited alcoholism and drug addiction as dependence, recognizing dependence as a disorder of the brain. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism considers alcoholism a disease, meaning it is chronic, lasts a person’s lifetime, follows a predictable pattern, and has symptoms. One who suffers from addiction no longer enjoys control or power of choice in his or her ability to consume damaging, mind-altering chemicals, as a result of this dependence. Some addiction experts believe that self-medication through the use of drugs and alcohol is practiced in an effort to alleviate intense psychological pain and suffering. Qualified therapists at a veritable treatment center are able to diagnose these psychological challenges and assess the proper methods of treatment to combat anxiety, depression and other disorders.

If a mere moral code or philosophy were strong enough to make a person impertinent to the damaging effects of drugs and alcohol, the need for medical intervention and treatment would not be necessary. As we have witnessed in popular media and in our own family circles, addiction is a serious illness, which requires treatment and further understanding from the community, to promote recovery and healthy living.

What Does Evidence-Based Recovery Model Really Mean

“Evidence-based model” has become such a popular buzzword in the mental health community that it is often thrown around without any explanation as to what it means. While the name provides a clue, the details get often lost or go unexplained to the general community.

Read on to learn about the history and components of common evidence-based treatment models.


Evidence-based treatment practices originated long ago in the medical field but did not gain popularity until the term became widely used in the early 1990s. In the early 2000s, the development of treatment models based on evidence from scientific research expanded to many different fields, including mental health and substance abuse.

Generally, evidence-based practices incorporate

  • Evidence from research
  • Clinical expertise
  • The patient’s individual needs and preferences

This decision-making process provides a framework for clinicians to determine the best possible treatment model for each patient by conducting clinical assessments, referencing research and collaborating with the patient.

Evidence-Based Models in Practice

Evidence-based treatment models address such disorders as PTSD, anxiety, depression and substance abuse as well as co-occurring disorders. They are usually short-term interventions that run for a specified number of sessions or weeks.

Treatment can be done with individuals, families or groups, depending on the model. They can occur in different settings, such as an outpatient clinic, residential treatment facility, rehab or a patient’s home. Many can be used throughout the life span, while some need to be adapted for certain age groups.

Some common evidence-based models used with adults include

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Motivational Interviewing

Most evidence-based models require extensive training to properly implement specific interventions using different steps and tools. This allows practitioners to guide interventions in a consistent, systematic manner.

Common Components of Evidence-Based Models

While all models vary, there are core components that can be found in many. Because they are time-limited, the models are designed to equip patients with the necessary skills to manage their wellness over time.


Clinicians present information relevant to the patients’ health issues, which allows for insight into triggers, warning signs and symptoms. The intent is for patients to gain self-awareness, identify their needs and address problem areas.

Skills Training

Patients learn how to manage their symptoms using appropriate coping mechanisms and distress-tolerance skills. They practice these skills on a consistent basis during calm periods in order to be better prepared in the presence of triggers.

Maintenance and Relapse-Prevention

Once patients demonstrate consistent alleviation from symptoms, they prepare for termination. Patients at this time should have the skills to independently manage their symptoms over time.


While evidence-based models are backed by research, not every treatment method is going to work for everyone. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all treatment, but there are many options available, especially as more models emerge. Therefore, it is important to consult a professional, such as a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist who provides clinical services.

The Rollercoaster of Emotions in Early Addiction Recovery

Early Recovery is an Emotional Rollercoaster

While ups and downs in life are expected, the rollercoaster of emotions that come with alcohol and drug rehabilitation can be surprising and overwhelming to addicts. This point is particularly true in the early part of recovery when an addict typically feels extreme highs and lows.

Change as a Contributing Factor

Entering rehab is a huge step for a person struggling with an addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs. It is a time abundant with changes, including ending relationships with “friends” who still drink or use drugs, making new sober friends, and finding activities to fill the void of time no longer spent using or drinking. With so many changes, it makes sense that there are many emotions felt, including sadness, fear, anger, and withdrawal.

Getting Back in Touch with Emotions

Often, addicts use drugs or alcohols to numb their feelings; the substances provide a way to escape emotions they do not want to deal with, such as guilt or shame. When they later decide to seek treatment, they must abstain from these substances and, therefore, start to feel their emotions again. After feeling numb for what is typically many years, a person in rehab often feels overcome with the array of emotions.

Other Mental Health Problems

An undiagnosed mental health issue may account for emotional highs and lows in early rehab. A good treatment program involves an initial mental health assessment to determine if the person in drug or alcohol rehab has a co-existing disorder, such as depression. A recovery center can provide a person in this situation with appropriate medical attention.

Sleep and Nutritional Issues

Emotions may also be rampant if the person in recovery does not get enough sleep or enters rehab with nutritional deficits. While these issues may be avoidable while on drugs or drinking, they are more likely to come to light and be a source of emotional discomfort during rehabilitation.

Getting onto Stable Ground

Many addicts experience huge emotional highs and lows during substance abuse rehab, particularly early on when there are many issues to address. To get off the roller coaster and onto more stable ground where the person in recovery begins to feel in control of their life again is the goal. Entering a rehab facility provides the individual with the opportunity to learn how to cope instead of turning to drugs or alcohol.

The Differences Between Inpatient and Outpatient Addiction Treatment

You may be thinking about rehab treatment for yourself or a loved one. One of the first questions may be what is the difference between inpatient and outpatient treatment? The following is a guide to the general differences between inpatient or outpatient treatment.

Inpatient Treatment Programs

Inpatient or residential treatment is an intensive program for the treatment of drug or alcohol dependency. It requires the individual to live full-time at the treatment facility, typically for 30-90 days, but can be longer depending on the severity of the addiction or other underlying conditions. Residential treatment is a good choice for someone who has previously been unsuccessful in overcoming his or her addiction or has relapsed, or someone who is unable to stop using, because the physical and/or mental addiction is so strong.

Residential treatment is also a better option for those who require a medical detoxification due to the powerful physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms associated with some addictions, requiring the oversight of medical professionals. If the patient has a co-occurring mental disorder, other addiction, or additional health issues, he or she is also likely best managed in an inpatient facility.

An inpatient facility provides a highly structured environment, which includes regular group meetings, counseling, therapy, mealtimes, and other activities. A patient will find substantial support by living in a therapeutic community with other residents facing the same struggles. Residential treatment provides a healthy environment, mostly free from outside distractions that otherwise could prevent the patient from focusing on his or her total well-being, including physical and spiritual health in addition to addiction recovery.

Inpatient programs tend to have a higher rate of success due to being isolated in a safe and secure environment away from temptations and triggers that led to addiction in the first place. In this way, the patient gets to practice sobriety and become accustomed to abstinence without the negative distracting influences that kept him or her in addiction before he or she goes back to the stressors of everyday life.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

Outpatient treatment is ideal for the individual who has obligations like work, school, or family that prevent him or her from taking  substantial time off and away from such responsibilities. Some people also prefer privacy and anonymity with regards to their addiction and do not wish to explain a prolonged absence to an employer or others.

An outpatient facility allows you to attend to your obligations while simultaneously focusing on treatment either during the day or in the evening. It provides individual and group counseling as well, often with a heavy emphasis on attendance in a 12-step program. Peer recovery and support is also a significant component due to the limited safeguards and the availability of some of the same triggers and temptations that may be available by remaining in the community.

Other benefits of outpatient treatment include the availability of supportive family and friends and the opportunity to immediately apply strategies for abstinence learned in rehab to one’s daily life. Outpatient treatment may also cost less due there being no expense required for room and board.

Special care must be taken with outpatient treatment to prevent relapse, however. If the patient is in an environment in which he or she is exposed to drugs or alcohol, the individual will be at a much higher risk of relapse.

Outpatient treatment is also often used as the step down from inpatient treatment. This allows for slow integration back into normal life, rather than just jumping in. It has been found that approaching treatment with a step down model tend to lead to greater success for long term recovery.

Which is best for you?

If you want to know more specifically what the differences are in programs at a particular facility, call to get more details. A qualified professional can arrange an assessment to determine the best course of treatment for you or your loved one.

It Takes a Village: Recovery in a Therapeutic Community

The proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” arose from the idea that children are more likely to become healthy, well-adjusted adults when they have the support of their whole community. We, as humans, thrive with connections to society.

How Does This Relate to Recovery?

Recovering addicts are more successful when they have support from a therapeutic community. The community can be comprised of treatment providers or other recovering addicts. This is one reason that 12-step fellowships are highly recommended, and why they continue to grow worldwide.

What Is a Therapeutic Community?

Therapeutic Communities used to refer to long-term residential treatment centers, in which clients lived together along with therapists and supportive staff. Today the term is used more loosely and can refer to rehabs, intensive outpatient programs, day programs, recovery houses and also 12-step fellowships.

The Benefits of Recovering in a Community

By definition, a therapeutic community should take a group-based approach; recovery is more successful when people work together to support one another.

In a residential setting, resources and assistance are available around the clock. Staff is present at all times to facilitate groups and make sure that the atmosphere is conducive to recovery. Inpatient settings also allow people to separate from the triggers in their natural environments.

Outpatient settings also provide support from trained staff, but this is limited to certain times of the day. Group and individual therapy sessions allow people in early recovery to learn coping skills and develop methods to stay clean in their environment.

12-step programs are comprised solely of recovering addicts, who share their experience and strength to help fellow addicts. The programs follow a structure and have a specific series of steps that empower addicts to help themselves.

How to Find the Support You Need

When you are new to recovery, it’s a good idea to observe what is going on around you. Look for people who are committed to their recovery. Find supportive people in the beginning and continue to develop those relationships as time goes on. Talking to others honestly about how you feel and asking for help when you need it are key parts of maintaining long-term recovery.

In treatment programs, utilize the staff’s knowledge and identify resources in your community. If you participate in a 12-step program, go to meetings regularly, find a sponsor and start working steps. Whatever the setting, a therapeutic community offers a recovering addict a natural support network. No one has to deal with life in isolation.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

After the immediate withdrawal from alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines, cocaine and other substances, another intense challenge waits in the wings: Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). Once the drugs and alcohol have left the body for up to two months, an onslaught of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms may arise, as a result of what experts refer to as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome.

Symptoms of PAWS take regular shape and form in the addicted person, following a typical pattern that is recognizable in most people.

First, irritability and stress sensitivity may lead to sharp mood swings, which may take the form of depression, anxiety, negative thoughts, and feelings of guilt. Cognitive impairments such as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, inability to think clearly, and obsessive-compulsive disorder may also arise. Such dysfunctions of the brain may appear as a result of the brain chemistry making drastic adjustments to the altered state, due to a lack of endorphins, or “feel-good” chemicals. It is important to combat these negative feelings with antidotes such as exercise, balanced nutrition, and meditation, to help clear the mind and aid in mood elevation. Natural remedies, which include holistic herbal supplements, vitamins, and organic foods, will make a huge difference in the ability to strengthen the immune system and resist the temptation to fall into a negative thinking spiral.

Circadian rhythms may also be affected, with the sober addict experiencing disturbances in sleep, dreams of using, and/ or insomnia, as a result of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. It is best that a natural remedy such as exercise or melatonin be used in circumstances such as these, along with a balanced diet throughout the day. The harmony and balance of the body make a huge impact on the ability to rejuvenate during this challenging phase of recovery.

Finally, cravings, emotional overreactions, or numbness, may all occur during PAWS. Addicts are encouraged to reach out to their support network and seek additional counseling during these times, so that they can share in an open space that offers supportive feedback and community strength. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has also proven beneficial for clients experiencing the harsh symptoms of PAWS.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Whether it is alcohol or drugs, Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome can be a very uncomfortable phase in the recovery process. That is why it is vital for the addict or alcoholic to discuss these symptoms with a well-versed counselor, sponsor, or trusted friend, so that they can overcome these temporary symptoms, and maintain long-term sobriety. In the end, abstaining from drugs and alcohol and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, will lead to a more fulfilled, long-lasting life.