Empowering Moments of Change (and a Sweet Trip to Palm Beach)



It was metaphoric that Tibetan monks built a sand mandala in a booth right by the coffee buffet. Mandalas are supposed to effect purification and healing and we were at an addiction treatment conference. The sand mandala also represents the impermanent nature of existence. When it’s finished, the monks disperse their creation into flowing water.  Perhaps that too was symbolic of the conference. The title was Moments of Change. Host Rob Waggener said, “The right time for change is a constant you can expect and depend on.” Many of the lectures explored the need for change in our industry and the history of impermanence in addiction treatment over the years.


Cha, Cha, Changes…

Rob Waggener also said, “We hope the conference provides you with some opportunities for self-reflection, vision for the future and enhancement of your skills as a professional. We are all advocates, and by joining together in forums like this one, we can help guide the processes of change for ourselves, those we serve and those yet to ask for help.”


And so it did. I was fortunate to attend the conference with Sanford House founders, Rae and David Green. And it did not hurt, that Moments of Change took place at The Breakers in Palm Beach. Some of the highlights were as follows:



  • Nicolas Webb’s keynote speech was about dispelling “patient punitive environments”. Liberally sprinkled with quotes by his 10 year old daughter, he said we are not judged by “clinical efficacy” so much as “a perfect consumerized experience”. Something his daughter calls “delicious”. He espoused a positive strategy of “touch points”: the pre-touch moment; first touch; core experience; the process of leaving; and staying in touch. I particularly enjoyed his use of the Best Buy experience (where your first and last touches are with security staff) as the ultimate in “non-delicious” customer exchange…


  • Founders on the move – Rae and David Green in The Breakers’ lobby:




  • The tradeshow floor was abuzz. Everything from fun, swag filled booths (sunglasses, squeezy stress toys, pens a plenty, ball caps) to the serious subject of medically assisted addiction treatment with injectable “blockers”:




  • Capstone Treatment Center gives each resident a Labrador retriever puppy (hello – a puppy…)





Rae and I are not being cryogenically frozen and sent into outer space – we are getting sound frequency massages…


  • The changing sunrise over the Atlantic:





  • A plethora of awesome speakers including: Douglas Tieman of Caron Treatment Centers on the history and progression of the addiction industry; Daniel Gemp of Dreamscape Marketing on the battle between CEO and CMO (and so much more); the charismatic Dr. Ronald Smith on parity legislation for substance use and mental health; and Dr. Bob Lynn of Origins Behavioral Healthcare on creating models to collect and present program data.




Marilyn Spiller and Kelly Fitzgerald – The Sober Senorita


  • The panel of some of the world’s leading (celebrity) interventionists who spoke about overcoming obstacles to addiction recovery. How holding the “family system” to the recovery process is a key issue facing interventionists and treatment centers today.


  • The Breakers in the early morning… and in the Florida sun…






  • And of course the Mandala Healing Center’s monks:




Embracing Change

Sanford House is certainly embracing change with the opening of its new John Street treatment facility for men. But that’s what a meaningful business and a robust life is all about – embracing change. We are working to meet the needs of a changing environment, adapting policies and procedures and adding to our programs to create a “delicious” experience for our clients. And it’s get-togethers like Moments of Change that make us think hard and smart about our role in the addiction treatment industry. David Green says, “Three days away from the intensity of operating a treatment center allowed us to reflect on what we do well, and what we can improve upon. It gave us a respite to consider how we can build upon our success in this dynamic industry.”



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Marilyn Spiller is a writer, sober coach, recovery advocate, and student of the world. (She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing). Seven years sober herself, she penned one of the first sobriety blogs, "Waking Up the Ghost" in 2013. The blog garnered an international following, allowing Marilyn to communicate with thousands of folks in all stages of recovery. Marilyn is Sanford's Director of Marketing and serves as Editor-In-Chief for the Sanford online magazine, "Excursions". She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction.