ABC anchor discusses recovery at Bracebridge open house
— Health care professionals, recovery supporters and community members attended an open house Wednesday at Recovery Centers of America’s first recovery campus in Maryland at Bracebridge Hall.
The 24,000-square-foot former MBNA mansion, located on 557 acres on the Sassafras River, is Cecil County’s first residential drug treatment program.
Wednesday’s open house featured speaker Elizabeth
Vargas, co-anchor of ABC’s “20/20” and a recovering alcoholic, whose book “Between Breaths: A Memoir of Panic and Addiction” was released in September.
“I never wanted to be known as anxious, or an alcoholic,” she said. “People don’t plan on this happening, but it does.”
The award-winning TV anchor and correspondent has traveled the world covering breaking news stories, reporting in-depth investigations and conducting interviews.
She told the audience Wednesday that she’s suf- fered from panic attacks and anxiety since she was a young girl and her father was serving in the military in Vietnam. But, she never drank until she had graduated college and started working, Vargas said.
“I discovered wine soothed my anxiety, so I began to self-medicate,” she said.
Nevertheless, Vargas said she was able to control her drinking for years. At some point though, it escalated as her anxiety reached the point she couldn’t sleep.
“I was always such a disciplined person, but this was one area I didn’t have discipline,” she said.
She went to two different rehabilitation centers, with seven months in between, while trying to recover.
“Picking the right rehabilitation center is very important,” she said. “Some people spend more time deciding where to go to dinner than where to go to rehab.”
She stressed the importance of talking about addiction with family and friends Dr. Barbara Bazron, executive director for behavioral health at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, speaks at the open house.
and understanding that relapse is part of recovery.
“Don’t give up if you relapse,” she said. “Get back on that horse and try again.”
Vargas said writing her
book was cathartic, and while her anxiety isn’t gone, it’s much less frequent as she has learned to meditate.
“Spirituality is big for me,” she said. “I enjoy meeting
with other alcoholics in a room and I’m not ashamed.”
Vargas noted that the waterfront view from Bracebridge Hall would be very good for a healthy recovery.
“This is a great facility,” she said. “It’s a great honor to be here today.”
Brian O’Neill, founder and CEO of Recovery Centers of America, opened the celebration Wednesday with an official ribbon cutting along with Bracebridge Hall CEO Dr. Barbara Kistenmacher and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Executive Director for Behavioral Health Dr.
Bracebridge Hall is the second of 15 facilities that RCA plans to open nationwide, mostly in the northeastern part of the United States, which have underserved populations. Bracebridge currently has 39 beds available, but additional renovations will bring the facility up to 108 beds in 2017.
Estimated cost of care at RCA Bracebridge is $1,000 a day, or $30,000 a month, with about five beds set aside for those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
O’Neill said the inspiration to take on this venture came from seeing the high level of
medical care offered to cancer patients when his own mother was ill, compared with the lack of care offered to addicts. His goal is to disrupt the industry by changing the availability, quality and delivery of substance abuse treatment.
“It made me ill when I saw the lack of quality treatment,” he said.
O’Neill vowed to educate insurance companies on the need to pay for 90 days of treatment.
“We expect it and we’re going to demand it,” he said. “Heroin is a race to the grave at 1,000 mph, so we don’t have time. We have to be relentless and forceful.”
Voters sign in Thursday evening at the county’s early voting site in Elkton.