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Trailblazing in 2021: Recovery Unplugged Continues to Set Trends in the New Year

by Jill Gleeson

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday December 29, 2020

Recovery Unplugged alumnus celebrates a sobriety milestone.
Recovery Unplugged alumnus celebrates a sobriety milestone.  (Source:Recovery Unplugged)

It started with simply listening. With paying attention. According to Joseph Gorordo, Vice President of Business Development for Recovery Unplugged, the substance abuse treatment center's reputation for embracing the LGBTQ population began organically, as the best things so often do. Several years ago, the husband of a counselor at the company's Austin facility came out as transgender. The couple stayed together, and the counselor went on to teach her Recovery Unplugged co-workers much about the trans community, including the proper use of pronouns.

"Because of the experience she had, she naturally resonated with our LGBTQ clients, and through word of mouth, we garnered a reputation among the LGBTQ community as being somewhere safe that was going to respect them," Gorordo says.

That experience, as well as the influence of a transgender community leader in Nashville, Tennessee, site of Recovery Unplugged's newest facility, led the company to open a non-gender sober living space in Virginia. As Gorordo looks ahead to 2021, he believes the company can do even better.

"What I'd like to see us do in 2021 is take these organic steps that have impacted the development of our programs and put them together into something formal," Gorordo says. "Let's figure out what really works and make sure we're doing that at all the facilities. What have we learned from our clients? What have they taught us about what we do that we can improve? I know we do a great job with the LGBTQ population, and we wouldn't have developed the organic reputation we have if we weren't good at it, but I'd like to see us maximize it."

Joseph Gorordo, Vice President of Business Development  (Source: Recovery Unplugged)

According to Gorordo, Recovery Unplugged will innovate in other ways in the new year—not surprising for a company that has pioneered the use of music to help heal addiction. Gorordo says he's looking forward to exporting something called The Vibe Room from Austin to other Recovery Unplugged's facilities in Nashville, Annandale, Virginia and Fort Lauderdale, and Lake Worth, Florida.

A soundproof chamber with a high-end sound system that includes special speakers built into the floor, The Vibe Room can accurately resonate sub-60 megahertz frequencies. When exposed to these frequencies, Gorordo says, "The human brain reacts by basically relaxing. It decreases cortisol hormones, it decreases stress response and increases the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which can help you feel more safe, secure and loved."

The Austin facility has been using The Vibe Room with clients who want to leave Recovery Unplugged against medical advice (AMA). They've discovered just 15 minutes in the room listening to meditation music can interrupt the client's flight or fight response. Instead of checking out of the center and going back to addictive patterns that could turn deadly, approximately 95 percent of Recovery Unplugged's clients stay in the program.

Other innovations are on the horizon. Recovery Unplugged is at the end of a clinical trial for a new, wearable device called "the Sparrow" that helps detox clients off opiates through transcranial stimulation. Undertaken in partnership with Spark Biomedical, the trial has been an astounding success; in addition to detoxing patients, the device also shows signs of decreasing stress, anxiety and depression responses in early recovery. When it's brought to market, Recovery Unplugged plans to be at the forefront of the device's implementation.

There couldn't be a better time for Recovery Unplugged's innovative treatment protocols. According to Gorordo, the center has seen a large uptick in admissions due to the pandemic, and, as he notes, "if you look at the preliminary data that's been collected from various sources, addiction and mental health issues have increased significantly, not only initial diagnoses but severity."

"So, people who have some moderate generalized anxiety are now having more acute anxiety, where it's impacting function," he adds. "People who drink a little more than normal, maybe a hard drinker, with the work from home culture and boredom have started to drink more. I've talked to a lot of people over the past year who say, 'I've always partied a lot, and I've always managed it and I've always been successful, and I can't do it anymore.' And that's because the way their drinking and using has changed as a response to 2020."

For anyone in the LGBTQ community struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues, Gorordo suggests cultivating an attitude of gratitude. "A person can't experience gratitude and fear at the same time," he says. "They can't experience gratitude and resentment at the same time. It's about putting some intention behind practicing gratitude. I don't care who you are; you can get into a gratitude mindset whether you've got billions of dollars or you're waking up under a highway underpass...There's always something to be grateful for."

Are you or someone you love struggling with drugs or alcohol? Recovery Unplugged offers LGBTQ-welcoming substance abuse treatment. Visit recoveryunplugged.com or call 855-909-8818.

Jill Gleeson is a travel and adventure journalist based in the Appalachians of Central Pennsylvania. Find her on Facebook and Twitter at @gopinkboots.

How Music Medicine Heals

This story is part of our special report titled How Music Medicine Heals. Want to read more? Here's the full list.