After Battling Addiction Himself, North Carolina Man Opens Recovery and Detox Center With a Holistic Approach
New Waters Recovery, an up-and-coming detox and medical assessment center, will be the first of its kind in North Carolina, offering clients a first step to recovery or mental wellness through a person-centered approach.
Graham Doerge was born to a family that was afforded ample opportunity.
The New York native was the youngest of three kids born to a couple whose marriage is still going strong, Doerge said, acknowledging that they afforded him “an incredible life.”
But his abundant upbringing did not shielding him from difficulty later in life.
“Despite all of that [opportunity], I had some issues with substances and struggled with that,” he told Inside Edition Digital.
Doerge was not disadvantaged by the common risk factors associated with addiction; he had access to a quality education, transportation and other resources associated with economic advantages. But alcoholism and substance abuse do not discriminate. And Doerge was not alone in his struggles, as addiction is a prevalent and widespread issue.
In fact, 50% of U.S. residents use illicit drugs, and over 20 million of them were diagnosed with Substance Use Disorders (SUD) in the past year, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS).
In 2008, Doerge landed in a place where recovery from his alcoholism was vital, and he went to a treatment center in Florida. This set him on a new trajectory and sparked his desire to work in recovery and behavioral health himself.
“I knew pretty quickly that this was a field that I wanted to work in. When I was growing up, I didn't really have that clear direction of, ‘OK, this is what I want to do with my life,’” he said. “By virtue of my getting sober and going down that route, the guys who saved my life — and I really do see the guys that were my therapists and all the clinicians at the treatment program that I went to as having saved my life, no question about it — I thought, what an incredible way to make a career.”
After two years of recovery, Doerge began working in the field, beginning in administration while working to familiarize himself with all aspects of the profession.
He joined a team that started a recovery center in Florida, and after stepping away from that venture, he realized he wanted to fill gaps in other locations by starting his own center in North Carolina.
Helping Others at a Time When It Was Most Vital
New Waters was still in the beginning stages of their construction when the COVID-19 pandemic rolled around in March 2020.
Many businesses and healthcare centers were affected by the beginning of the pandemic, but excessive alcohol and substance use skyrocketed during this time period.
According to NCDAS, accidental drug overdose is a leading cause of death among persons under the age of 45. On average over 70,000 drug overdose deaths occur in the US each year. Previously, this rate increased annually by 4%, but shot up 30% in the first year of the pandemic, according to a policy brief from the Senate.
With the importance of their mission pushing them to keep momentum, the team refused to let stalled building plans and adjusted timelines deter them, and they had their grand opening in early September.
Doerge is now the founder and CEO of New Waters Recovery, a brand-new detox facility located in Raleigh, North Carolina.
He opened his facility in a state where almost 30,000 residents have died over the last 20 years from substance overdoses. And numbers significantly increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. An average of nine North Carolina residents suffered an overdose related death in 2020, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).
Now with over a decade of experience in the recovery field, Doerge is set on New Waters being a place of intentionality when it comes to clients and their needs.
As a detox and stabilization program, New Waters Recovery is meant to support individuals throughout the beginning stage of their journey, or “the first stop in the continuum of care,” Doerge said.
While there are several long-term rehabilitation centers in the state, New Waters Recovery is the first integrative wellness center that offers medical detox and a clinical mental health assessment.
Doerge's dedication to person-centered rehabilitation methods started with his own recovery, and he was adamant about approaching this practice from a holistic angle and centering people’s total wellness. To do so, the clinic must have multiple, intentional modalities, he said.
“Think about someone who’s been a chronic alcoholic for six years,” Doerge said. “He is going to be in need of supplements, vitamins, and hydration — that's somebody who has just been wreaking havoc on his body for a number of years."
Doerge’s example was apt considering as of 2019, more than 20% of the estimated 138 million U.S. residents over the age of 12 who drink alcohol having an alcohol use disorder. And the issue was only worsened with the onset of the pandemic, per a study from the Massachusetts General Hospital. According to the data, excessive or “binge” drinking jumped up by 21%, and experts estimate an additional 8,000 deaths may occur from this one-year increase, due to alcohol and liver related disease.
Approaching people’s bodies from varied angles that center wellness can result in them reaching a baseline of feeling better faster, Doerge said.
“Then at that point we can get them to where they need to go and start doing clinical work a lot faster,” he said. “Those aspects are so essential to this entire process, and it's just unfortunate that not everybody is utilizing them because it's such a big help.”
Throwing Out a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
For as many people that deal with addiction, there are that many ways to support them through recovery, Doerge said, noting he does not subscribe to a one-size-fits-all approach.
“The reality is that there's no cookie cutter way to treat an addict or to treat somebody who's dealing with mental health issues. Every single person is different, every person is dealing with different factors and different ailments,” he said. “We really need to take a look at every person that's coming to us as an individual and create an individualized treatment plan for that person."
Each person who turns to New Waters for help receives a full medical and mental health workup upon intake, he said. To do this, New Waters is starting small to create what Doerge calls an “intimate” environment, which includes 50 staff members and a cap of 10 clients at a time.
“We’ll have that really small client-to-staff ratio and really bring in different elements that deal with mind, body, and spirit,” Doerge says.
These holistic elements will include acupuncture, massage therapy, an infrared sauna, yoga and meditation offerings. New Waters Recovery will also offer an innovative IV therapy, allowing clients to receive fluids tailored to their body’s specific needs.
In addition to these sessions and varied therapy modalities, clients will also be served chef-prepared meals and have access to a fitness facility. “I think that a lot of programs don't do [holistic treatments] because it's a lot of work and it costs a lot of money,” he said. “But, I think that we're really falling short when treating clients and we're not giving them all these different options.”
According to Doerge, the detox portion of a person’s recovery lasts anywhere from five to 14 days on average, depending on factors such as age, length of time substances were used and other health conditions. From there, it's vital to put in place a long-term plan for recovery, Doerge said.
“What we are doing from the detox and stabilization piece is building a thorough aftercare plan and leading the family and everybody who's involved in the case,” he said. “[This is to] make sure that when they’re discharged from us, they're either going on to some sort of a residential program or they have a team of folks here built around them that can support them at an outpatient level.”
The center will also offer a mental health assessment track for those who are in need of psychological-based support.
“We started that assessment program because there were so many people that were in crisis, [because] a loved one has hit rock bottom or they're struggling with psychosis or something in some way, and the family has no idea what to do, who to talk to, or how to navigate,” he said. “We do a deep dive assessment, and we do seven days of psycho-diagnostic testing to figure out what is going on here with this individual and their diagnosis. Then from there, we can make an educated decision on what is the best plan moving forward."
After these clients go through a full mental and physical health assessment, a detailed treatment plan that includes referrals to appropriate physicians is given.
“I think finding a professional who can help you navigate this process and who has resources is really an important piece," he said.
In addition to caring for each person as a whole, Doerge emphasized the importance of family involvement during the recovery process. “This is something that we need to continue for the rest of our lives. It's constant maintenance, and that involves going to meetings, doing step work, having some sort of a spiritual practice in some way,” he said. “But it also involves the family system getting involved, and family stopping enabling and codependency, and really doing some work on themselves as well as the loved one who's struggling."
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