This past week, the Las Vegas Recovery Center (LVRC) staff attended the annual conference of the International Nurses Society on Addictions. It was wonderful to connect with members of the nursing community and share with them our expertise in the field of addiction. We had a great time!

Dr. Kasey Dean, Dr. Dan Shiode and Hortensia DeJesus gave presentations and Dr. Mel Pohl presented the conference’s keynote address. LVRC Counselor Paul Hinshaw was in attendance as well as LVRC Community Relations Representative Vanessa Starr-Comiskey.

The following are some highlights from the event:

Hortensia DeJesus gave an insightful and passionate presentation

Hortensia spoke about the role codependency plays between those with substance use disorders and their family members and friends.

DeJesus discussed some of the wisdoms and insights she’s gained working as Family Services and Outpatient Manager at LVRC, including the need for friends and family to set clear and strong boundaries.

“Family members often tell me: ‘I can’t kick them out’ or ‘I can’t get divorced’,” DeJesus explained to the audience of nursing professionals. “But I tell them that ‘I’m not saying that.’ Codependents often go to the extremes. But that’s not what I’m asking people to do. I’m just asking them to set boundaries. Addicts need boundaries or else they’re going to die from this disease.”

Towards the end of the workshop, DeJesus demonstrated the damage addiction and codependency has on the family through a powerful reenactment.

DeJesus had a volunteer hold a heavy bottle labeled “addiction” over her head. She then explained that the addict can only maintain their addiction by themselves for so long before they need support, which is where family members and friends usually come in. A family member (or family members) will help the addict continue to “hold up” their addiction by providing financial and emotional support and other enabling behaviors.

DeJesus’s demostration was a simple yet effective way to show the ways in which well-intentioned loved ones can prolong the disease of addiction through misguided and codependent behavior.

Dr. Dan Shiode facilitated a thorough and fascinating discussion

Dr. Shiode, Clinical Director at Las Vegas Recovery Center, shared with the group some of the knowledge he’s gained from nearly 30 years of experience working as a clinical psychologist. He continued the discussion on co-dependency, commenting:

“The addict is addicted to the substance. But one question that isn’t asked is: ‘Who is the family member addicted to?’ The answer is, of course, ‘the addict’.”

Dr. Shiode shared several stories from his childhood, highlighting how codependency can affect Asian cultures in ways many may not realize.

Dr. Kasey Dean got the audience laughing with a humorous speech

Dr. Kasey Dean, LVRC’s nurse practitioner and dual diagnosis specialist, spoke about how nurses can fall trap to codependent behavior in the workplace, placing their own patients’ needs before their own, for example.

“For some people, it’s a scary thought to think that being co-dependent and being a great nurse are too different things. They identify so strongly with the idea that being a good nurse means being everything for their clients.”

This, Dr. Dean explained, is what can cause nurses to skip bathroom or lunch breaks and not practice good self care. “How can you take care of people when your own cup is empty?” He asked the room of eager listeners.

Though Dr. Dean’s presentation highlighted a serious topic, his use of memes and humorous antidotes from his own life and nursing school experiences had the audience smiling and laughing.

Dr. Mel Pohl, the conference’s keynote speaker, discussed the opioid crisis and what the medical community can do to turn the tide.

After his presentation, Dr. Pohl was surprised by the announcement that he’d won this year’s prestigious “Spirit Award”.

The Spirit Award is given to a non-nursing professional whose work in the field of addiction has made a substantial impact in society. Dr. Pohl, LVRC’s Chief Medical Officer, was honored the members of the IntNSA nominated him to be this year’s award recipient, saying in a statement: “I was delighted and deeply humbled to receive this award. It was especially significant to learn I’d been nominated by members of the nursing community for whom I have the utmost respect. It’s truly an honor.”