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Heart of the Matter

Author: Partnership to End Addiction

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Heart of the Matter with Elizabeth Vargas is a production from Partnership to End Addiction. Heart of the Matter is an interview series that gives guests the opportunity to share their personal, candid stories about addiction. This podcast offers a space to open up about addiction, substance use and mental health, to share the ways in which people are shifting their narrative – in their own relationships and across communities – to support the cause of ending addiction in our country. Worried about your child or loved one? Partnership to End Addiction's helpline is here for you and anyone else playing a supportive role in the life of a person struggling with substance use. Get one on one support by texting CONNECT to 55753 or visit https://helphope.net/3koi6Kh to learn more. Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed on Heart of the Matter are those of the podcast participants and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Partnership to End Addiction. We are also mindful that some of the personal stories feature the word “addict” and other terms from the following link. We respect and understand those who choose to use certain terms to express themselves. However, we strive to use language that’s health-oriented, accurately reflects science, promotes evidence-based treatment and demonstrates respect and compassion. https://drugfree.org/article/shouldnt-use-word-addict/
29 Episodes
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To the fans who watch her on their TV screens, Cheryl Burke leads the picture-perfect life, dancing her way across countless stages and starring on national broadcasts. However, there is more to the “Dancing with the Stars” competitor than may meet the eye: Beneath the impressive veneer is someone who is unafraid to open up about her struggles with alcohol, mental health and abuse. As a competitor, Cheryl was taught that showing emotions is a sign of weakness, and turned to alcohol as a way to soothe anxiety and uncertainty. Tune in as Elizabeth and Cheryl talk about the ways drinking fosters emotional disconnection, growing up with addiction in the family, the events that led Cheryl to put down alcohol for good and how she has come to find strength in vulnerability. Explore more on topics and themes discussed in this episode: When Addiction is in Your Family Tree Substance Use + Mental Health: Your Guide to Addressing Co-occurring Disorders I Know I Need to Take Care of Myself Too, but How? 
In the early 2000s, Ryan Hampton was homeless and struggling with an opioid addiction, wondering how he had gone from working as a White House staffer to begging for change on a California street corner. A decade later in recovery, Ryan found himself at the epicenter of Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement, fighting for justice in a case that gripped a nation in the midst of an overdose crisis. In this episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth Vargas sits down with Ryan to discuss his role in Purdue’s bankruptcy proceedings, how it felt to witness the now-infamous depositions of the Sackler family firsthand and why he believes the justice system, as it stands today, could never deliver accountability for Purdue’s victims.  Ryan Hampton’s new book Unsettled: How the Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Failed the Victims of the American Overdose Crisis details the shocking injustice at the heart of the Purdue Pharma settlement. Explore more on topics and themes discussed in this episode: Your Comprehensive Guide to the Opioid Epidemic — and What You Can Do About It Take Action: Increase Access to Opioid Addiction Treatment I Got My Son Back: A Mother’s Struggle with Her Son’s Addiction 
Join us for a bonus episode! Recently, Elizabeth was interviewed by Annie Grace, host of This Naked Mind, a podcast that explores the role alcohol plays in our world and in our lives, with honesty and without judgment. Tune in as Elizabeth shares her story about drinking, working in broadcast television, and now, being a woman in recovery.-----If you enjoyed this episode, take a moment to subscribe to This Naked Mind Podcast.If you want to learn more about Annie Grace and her work, visit This Naked Mind Website.
In this episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth Vargas interviews Emmy Award- winning actress Patricia Heaton. When Patricia was in the middle of it all — working all hours on wildly successful shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, while taking care of her four young children — she kept her drinking at bay. But when these shows ended and her children had left the house, she started looking forward to drinking in a way she hadn’t ever before.  Join Patricia and Elizabeth as they connect over “self-medicating” through alcohol, feeling “unmoored” during the COVID-19 pandemic and working in a business that can be unkind to women as they get older. Explore more on topics and themes discussed in this episode: I Addressed My Own Drinking and It Was the Key to My Son’s Recovery Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Can Help You Protect Your Child from Substance Use and Addiction Coping with Fear, Anger and Other Negative Emotions 
In this episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth Vargas is joined by Laura McKowen, author and founder of The Luckiest Club. When Laura first stopped drinking, she thought of it as “the end of all the color” in her life. But after weathering one particularly challenging night, she realized the magic that comes with being in recovery and feeling fully present in her life. Together, Elizabeth and Laura discuss the pain that lies at the root of drinking, the glamorization of alcohol, the power of truth-telling and why Laura considers herself “lucky” to have faced addiction. Related reading: After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:  Alcohol: What Families Need to Know to Help Protect Young People Is Alcohol Use Spiking in Your Home? Online Support Community for Parents & Caregivers 
To any outsider in his Massachusetts high school, star basketball player Chris Herren looked on top of the world, with broken records behind him and a promising career ahead of him. But what many did not know was that beneath his physical prowess was someone struggling with mental health challenges and substance use. In his return to Heart of the Matter, Chris connects with Elizabeth Vargas about parenting and the importance of focusing on our children’s social and emotional health as students across the nation return to school in the midst of a resurgence of COVID-19. The two also speak about the ripple effect of speaking up and why, as a former pro-athlete in recovery, Chris is inspired by Olympic gymnast Simone Biles’s stand against mental health stigma. Related reading: After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:  School Stress: Raising Resilient, Self-Aware Kids Worried About COVID-19, School and Substance Use? One of Our Specialists Offers Advice. Words Matter: The Language of Addiction 
Former professional skateboarder, TV stuntman, and recovery advocate Brandon Novak joins Elizabeth Vargas to talk about how he went from a skateboarding prodigy and reality star to homeless. He also shares where he is now: celebrating six years of recovery and spreading hope to others who are struggling. Brandon opens up to Elizabeth about “underestimating” his addiction, and the consequences he faced during his decades-long journey with substance use. He also talks about how his mother coped with his addiction and the only two regrets he has today. Related reading: After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:  How to Encourage Your Child to Get Help for Their Substance Use or Addiction Allowing for Natural Consequences to Encourage Behavior Change Get One-on-One Help to Address Your Child’s Substance Use 
For the 20th episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth Vargas is joined by her friend, writer and political commentator Molly Jong-Fast. Despite entering recovery almost 24 years ago at the age of 19, Molly still regularly attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings – but her routine was disrupted in the past year due to COVID-19. Together, Elizabeth and Molly discuss how they maintained their mental health throughout the pandemic, their approaches to parenting, the lifelong struggle of addiction, as well as their thoughts on civility, politics, stress and so much more. Related reading: After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:  Stress and Drug Use: What Every Parent Should Know Risk Factors for Addiction What Types of Addiction Treatment are Available? 
Congresswoman Madeleine Dean thought she understood addiction – but it wasn’t until her son Harry Cunnane was struggling that she came to truly realize what it means when a loved one has a substance use disorder. Now Harry has been in recovery for more than eight years, and the mother and son have written a joint memoir, titled Under Our Roof: A Son's Battle for Recovery, a Mother's Battle for Her Son. With this book, the pair hope to share the lessons they’ve learned about addiction and recovery with other families impacted by this disease.  In the 19th episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth interviews Madeleine and Harry about what they gained from writing Under Our Roof, what it means when people refer to addiction as a family disease, and the importance of amplifying the possibility of recovery – not just the horror of active addiction. Today, Madeleine continues to serve Pennsylvania’s fourth district, and Harry remains active in the addiction recovery community, even working as a resource director at the same treatment center where he originally sought help. Related reading: After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:  How to Identify Substance Use Disorder & Addiction How to Make a Discharge Plan When Your Child Leaves Addiction Treatment Get One-on-One Help to Address Your Child’s Substance Use 
In this episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth Vargas interviews bestselling author and investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe about his latest book, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. In this book, Patrick tells the story of the family responsible for setting into motion the opioid epidemic. Following his recent testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform about the Sackler family, Patrick joins Elizabeth to discuss the “Don Draper of medical advertising,” how one family created a massive addiction crisis, and what is in store for the Sacklers, who now face numerous lawsuits.  Related reading:  After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:  Your Comprehensive Guide to the Opioid Epidemic — and What You Can Do About It Safeguard Against Medicine Abuse: Securing and Disposing Medications Send a Letter Now: Increase Access to Addiction Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services 
As an up-and-coming chef in Manhattan, Gregory Gourdet found himself surrounded by addictive substances. After finishing an arduous shift at one of the city’s top restaurants, he’d frequently spend the rest of the night partying, fueled by alcohol and cocaine. Eventually, his substance use caught up with him, putting at risk the thing he loved doing most: cooking. It wasn’t until he moved to Portland, Oregon and connected with a community of other chefs who had experiences with addiction that he was able to make the changes he needed. Now Gregory is committed to maintaining his own health, as well as helping others with theirs, whether by sharing nutritious recipes in his new cookbook, Everyone’s Table, or leading a support group of chefs in recovery. Join Elizabeth Vargas for the 18th episode of Heart of the Matter as she “digs in” to Gregory’s story. Related reading: After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode: Alcohol: What Families Need to Know to Protect Young People How to Identify Substance Use Disorder & Addiction Recovery Support Groups for Addiction: One Size Does Not Fit All 
This week, we’re re-airing one of our favorite interviews featured on Heart of the Matter with Elizabeth Vargas. In addition to being a chef and TV host, Andrew Zimmern is also in long-term recovery. In this episode, he discusses how the support from family and friends changed his life, the joys of being in recovery for more than 29 years and “writing his own syllabus for life.” If you liked this episode of Heart of the Matter, be sure to subscribe and tune in again in two weeks for Elizabeth’s interview with fellow chef in recovery, Gregory Gourdet. Related reading: After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode: When Your Child Sees Substance Use as an Answer, Not a Problem How to Encourage Your Child to Get Help for Their Substance Use or Addiction Managing Long-Term Recovery from Addiction
In this episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth is joined by New York Times best-selling author Jessica Lahey to discuss her latest book, The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence. The pair connects over the advantages and challenges that come with being a parent in recovery, the benefits of family dinners (even with truculent teens!) and why young people are more susceptible to addiction. Tune in to learn more about what high schoolers wish their parents knew, supporting your child’s mental health and tips for “inoculating” your teen against developing a substance use disorder. Related reading: After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode: Preventing Drug Use: Connecting and Talking with Your Teen Substance Use + Mental Health: Your Guide to Addressing Co-occurring Disorders Free and confidential one-on-one support for parents concerned about their child’s substance use 
Despite being the son of an Academy Award-winning actor, Jamie Niven’s life wasn’t all glitz and glamour. At just six months old, Jamie’s mother passed away, leaving Jamie to grow up with an overwhelming feeling of loneliness – a feeling that followed him for his entire life.  In the 15th episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth talks with Jamie, who is also the chair of Partnership to End Addiction’s Board of Directors, about the way loss impacted his otherwise privileged life and contributed to a 50-year struggle with alcohol. Additionally, the pair discuss how, at the age of 65, Jamie found recovery, gave up alcohol, and committed himself to make a difference for others impacted by addiction. Related reading: After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode: Risk Factors for Addiction  Alcohol: What Families Need to Know to Protect Young People  Get Involved with Partnership to End Addiction 
For the 14th episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth Vargas is joined by one of the nation’s leading addiction experts: Michael Botticelli. As the first person in recovery from addiction to serve as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Michael has faced his fair share of challenges. Even before his confirmation, colleagues doubted that Michael would be fit for the role because he had a substance use disorder.In this episode, Michael reflects on his own recovery, his experiences facing stigma, and how stigma and racism have impacted the way George Floyd and rapper DMX have been perceived in death. Related reading:After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:Words Matter: The Language of AddictionAdvocate for ChangeManaging Long-Term Recovery from Addiction
Before he could start his incredibly popular shoe empire, Steve Madden needed to overcome his own struggles with addiction. Inspired by the principles that guided his recovery – showing up, doing the next thing, acknowledging his mistakes - Steve built a business that would become known worldwide.Throughout his life and career, Steve has recovered, relapsed, and recovered again; gone to prison; and came back with grit in spades. In the 13th episode of Heart of the Matter with Elizabeth Vargas, Steve reflects on the arc of his life, coming from a family with a history of substance use disorders, managing ADHD and, most importantly, learning to let go and to grow.Related reading: After you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:Risk Factors for AddictionWhat Types of Addiction Treatment are Available?Substance Use + Mental Health: Your Guide to Addressing Co-occurring Disorders
As parents, Mary and Admiral James “Sandy” Winnefeld just wanted to protect their son, Jonathan. This was a job Sandy felt he should have been well equipped for as the United States’ number two ranking military officer. Yet, Jonathan’s struggles with anxiety led him to start drinking alcohol and misusing prescription medications as a teen. Sandy and Mary did everything they could to find appropriate help for their son's substance use. Still, just three days after they dropped him off at college, Jonathan died of an accidental overdose in his dorm room. In our 12th episode of Heart of the Matter with Elizabeth Vargas, Elizabeth reflects on her own experience growing up in a military family as she connects with the Winnefelds. Sandy and Mary also discuss the challenges they faced parenting a child struggling with his mental health, learning to live with grief and dedicating themselves to “saving a life every day” through their work with SAFE Project — the nonprofit they founded following their son’s death.Related readingAfter you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:How to Navigate the Addiction Treatment SystemSubstance Use + Mental Health: Your Guide to Addressing Co-occurring DisordersRisks for Relapse, Overdose and What You Can Do
Just as Kristen Johnston started finding success as an actress starring in the Emmy-award winning sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, feelings of self-doubt and panic began overtaking her life. In an unfamiliar city, without her support system nearby, Kristen found comfort in prescription painkillers – initially prescribed to her to treat migraines. Over the years her addiction worsened, turning Kristen into the self-described “Nancy Drew of painkillers.” Her persistent substance use ultimately caused an ulcer in her stomach to burst, sending her to the hospital. The events that followed led Kristen to find help, “break-up with her addiction” and even write the best-selling memoir Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster. But Kristen also knows what it feels like to love someone suffering from addiction. Just last year, she lost her sister to an accidental overdose. In this episode of Heart of the Matter, Kristen and Elizabeth reflect on the judgment they face as women in recovery, the importance of overcoming shame and the feelings that come with caring for someone struggling with substance use. Related readingAfter you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:Understanding Prescription & Over-the-Counter MedicationPreparing for Life and Recovery Following TreatmentI Know I Need to Take Care of Myself Too, but How?Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed on Heart of the Matter are those of the podcast participants and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Partnership to End Addiction. We are also mindful that some of the personal stories feature the word “addict” and other terms from this list. We respect and understand those who choose to use certain terms to express themselves. However, we strive to use language that’s health-oriented, accurately reflects science, promotes evidence-based treatment and demonstrates respect and compassion. 
He was a highly celebrated student athlete with a promising professional career ahead of him. Yet, due to his struggles with addiction, Montee Ball found himself sitting in a jail cell while his former teammates won the Super Bowl. Now in recovery, Montee has walked away from the NFL and committed himself to breaking down barriers that prevent Black and Brown people from accessing help for mental health and substance use disorders. In this episode of Heart of the Matter with Elizabeth Vargas, learn more about Montee’s journey through addiction, how he found purpose in fatherhood, and his work as a recovery advocate for communities of color. Related readingAfter you listen, explore these resources from Partnership to End Addiction to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode: How to Address Alcohol & Underage DrinkingWhat Parents Need to Know About College Binge DrinkingHow to Encourage Your Child to Get Help for Their Substance Use or Addiction
Before Zac Clark was introduced to television viewers on The Bachelorette, he was considered the "life of the party" and willing to go to great lengths to achieve his “next high.” In his twenties, his addiction escalated to the point where his marriage crumbled and his friendships dissipated. His relationship with his parents was holding on by a thread. But they never gave up on him, and Zac found recovery. Ultimately, he won back his health and went on to win the heart of not only Tayshia Adams but also viewers across the country, all through his candor, compassion and commitment to a substance-free life. In the ninth episode of Heart of the Matter, listen in as Elizabeth Vargas and Zac revisit his journey, from faking illnesses to gain access to prescription medications to finding happiness in real life, making a career out of helping others with addiction, and even falling in love on reality TV.Related readingAfter you listen, explore these resources to learn more about the topics and themes discussed in this episode:How to Encourage Your Child to Get Help for Their Substance Use or AddictionPreparing for Life and Recovery Following TreatmentPersonalized Support for Parents and CaregiversEditor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed on Heart of the Matter are those of the podcast participants and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Partnership to End Addiction. We are also mindful that some of the personal stories feature the word “addict” and other terms from this list. We respect and understand those who choose to use certain terms to express themselves. However, we strive to use language that’s health-oriented, accurately reflects science, promotes evidence-based treatment and demonstrates respect and compassion. 
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