In a busy world, we don’t always pay close attention to every decision we make. We do many things without thinking throughout the day, because we’ve done them so often that we don’t see the need to focus on every detail. Sometimes, though, we become distracted because of our lack of focus. Using mindfulness can help us get back on track. Mindfulness can also help us in addiction recovery.

Mindfulness is often thought to mean simply paying attention on purpose and staying in the present moment. The “operational, scientific definition of mindfulness” involves:

  • Not taking things for granted
  • Returning to the present moment
  • Self-regulating attention with an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance.

Self-regulation is taking control of your attention. When your attention is focused on the details of the moment, you are better equipped to resist certain distractions and mindless temptations, including cravings, in your addiction recovery.

How to Practice Mindfulness

There are a number of ways you can practice mindfulness as you progress through your recovery. Use mindfulness exercises when you find yourself becoming tempted by cravings or distracted by triggers. Using mindfulness techniques regularly will help you get through a challenging day and start to accept yourself as a recovering addict.

The key to mindfulness is to pay attention and to not take anything for granted. Slow down, take your time, and use all of your senses to appreciate what you have in front of you, such as a healthy meal, for example, rather than thinking about what you may be giving up as you move past your addiction.

To practice mindfulness:

  • Sit quietly and focus on your breathing
  • Do not judge any thoughts that may run through your head
  • Focus on each part of your body, moving in your mind from your head to your toes
  • Notice and name sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches
  • Acknowledge emotions you experience without judging whether they are good or appropriate, then let those emotions go
  • Accept yourself.

Mindfulness Techniques for Blocking Cravings

When you find yourself battling a craving, you can practice a mindfulness technique call “urge surfing.” You can block cravings as you learn more about what is behind them through focused and intentional awareness of the feelings you are experiencing when a craving tempts you. Urge surfing helps you cope with cravings for alcohol or drugs as you pay more attention to how your body feels as you begin experiencing the craving.

Mindfulness enables you to accept the fact that you will have cravings and then know with certainty that the craving will subside. As you practice mindfulness, you will be able to replace your desire for the craving to go away with the ability to block the craving before it becomes an issue for you.

In the practice of urge surfing, you “intentionally observe and remain in contact with” your experiences, including cravings, without defaulting to your “habitual, harmful behaviors.” Focusing with mindfulness helps you to become more aware of what you are feeling when a craving for alcohol or drugs hits. More importantly, using mindfulness techniques enables you to block that craving from affecting you and your recovery, knowing that the craving is temporary and will pass.

The Critical Role of Mindfulness in Protecting Your Recovery

Research has shown that mindfulness-based interventions can “help people dependent on opioids increase their self-awareness and self-control over cravings and be less reactive to emotional and physical pain.” As you move through your recovery, remaining mindful, self-regulating your attention, can help protect the progress you have made and help you move forward.

Addiction brings with it many negative thoughts and negative actions. Through mindfulness, you can learn how to change those negative thoughts and give more focused attention to the positives in your life. In this way, mindfulness will help you regulate your emotions and sincerely enjoy the experience of more positive moments.

Rather than moving through each day virtually on autopilot, leaving yourself open to temptation and triggers, take the time to really think about the details of your actions and your choices. Deliberately shifting your attention to your accomplishments and to a sincere acceptance of yourself is key to using mindfulness to block your cravings and to protect your recovery.

If You Want Help, Contact South Miami Recovery

At South Miami Recovery, we believe in the importance of treating the whole person. Each of our clients has their own unique needs and preferences. We work with everyone to find the right path, providing several tools to help them in their recovery.

If you’d like to learn more about our services, we encourage you to contact us today to speak to our staff. We speak English and Spanish. Call South Miami Recovery at 305.661.0055.

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South Miami Recovery

By David Greenberg, South Miami Recovery Social Media and Blog Writer | South Florida

Note: This is the third in a series of articles about Miami’s long history with drugs and drug treatment.

The State of South Miami

As Miami and Miami Beach glowed in the national spotlight as a result of the hit TV show Miami Vice and the movie Scarface, dance clubs like Mutiny in Coconut Grove were the places to be and be seen. Cocaine and Dom Perignon flowed freely – a tiny silver spoon around each person’s neck was almost an unspoken part of the dress code.

Changing public perception was a challenge, because Miami’s economy was floating on the illicit drug culture and cash.

At the center of this growing drug problem, a small community hospital in South Miami would become a nationally recognized leader in the field of addiction medicine.

Community and Hope at South Miami Hospital

The community and the companies that supported Miami’s growth were desperate to find help for their struggling young employees caught up in the fast lifestyle. Leading the way were companies like Eastern and Pan Am airlines, who were among the first to recognize addiction as an illness and supported the concept of their employees entering treatment.

Those fortunate employees would find themselves at South Miami Hospital. Originally opened in 1960 as a 100-bed hospital, today it is an almost 500-bed facility as part of the Baptist Health South Florida system.

South Miami Hospital was quickly gaining national recognition largely because of the efforts of Dr. Dolores Morgan, who was hired in 1976 to start what was then called the South Miami Hospital Alcohol Treatment program. The inpatient unit that started as a 20-bed facility, 28-day program, became the Addiction Treatment Program, and was later to be named on the list of best treatment centers nationally. The hiring of Dr. Morgan was a pivotal moment in the lives of many of these people seeking recovery in South Miami and the greater Miami area, including me.

She not only made Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous integral parts of the treatment, she established relationships with longer-term facilities in Miami and elsewhere for recovering addicts to receive ongoing treatment.

Dr. Morgan’s own experience and education made her keenly aware of the challenges facing potential recovering addicts when they came into the hospital’s addiction treatment program. As a result, she had a message for each and every one of them.

Meeting Dr. Morgan

It was common for the patients in the Addiction Treatment Program to gather weekly for an assembly of sorts. This way, new people who may have still been in the detox part of treatment were able to interact with others who were already focused on rehab and might even be leaving the 28-day inpatient program in the coming days.

I actually missed Dr. Morgan at the assembly that took place during my first week in the hospital. Dr. Morgan was away, so her colleague, Dr. Jules Trop, made the presentation.

A week later, upon her return, I got to hear Dr. Morgan utter an ominous message during those assemblies. She would say, “Look to the person on your left. Now, look to the person on your right. In a year from now two of the three of you are likely to have relapsed.”

It was also during my second week in the hospital that I got to experience how serious Dr. Morgan was about recovery for her patients. With more than a little fear and trepidation, I was told to go see her because I missed her that first week. She asked me what I thought about my addiction and my recovery. Being a bit of a wise guy, I told her what I thought should happen after my 28 days – a return to the community. But she set me straight, suggesting that I would need longer term treatment at another institution. I spent the next three weeks in fear that she was going to send me away for six months.


Possibly as a way to test her message about two out of three patients relapsing within a year, Dr. Morgan instituted reunions for recovering addicts who went through her treatment programs at South Miami and later at Mount Sinai Hospital. These annual reunions also helped create a bond of fellowship as individuals were able to reunite with those who were in a shared community when they originally got clean.

So, I was once again in fear when I got a call from Dr. Morgan about 10 months later. But I was surprised, humbled and honored when she asked me to be one of the keynote speakers at my first reunion.

Drs. Morgan and Trop left South Miami to start the program at Mount Sinai in 1984. Afterwards, South Miami did not miss a beat; the people who followed them were equally serious about the importance of saving lives through addiction treatment.

Leaders After Dr. Morgan

Dr. Lynn Hankes became the program director when they left and served in that role for a decade until 1993. Like his predecessors, Dr. Hankes came well qualified to run this program that was so important in the lives of so many recovering addicts. Dr. Hankes was among the 100 pioneer physicians in the country certified in Addiction Medicine back in 1983 and was an honored Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

While Dr. Hankes’ primary focus during his time in South Miami was to run the hospital’s Addiction Treatment Program, he is credited for something else that leaves a legacy in our community. Dr Hankes, a graduate of Notre Dame, served as the volunteer chemical dependency consultant for University of Miami athletics starting in 1987. At the time, the two football programs were bitter rivals, so it is not surprising that during the flight home from a football game in South Bend, several football players offered jokingly (we hope) to throw him out of the plane. Fortunately for us all, they did not.

When Dr. Hankes left, Rick Wolfson became the clinical director of South Miami’s Addiction Treatment Program. He served in that role until 2007. As a result, he was very involved in the start of the hospital’s outpatient program and later added the residential program.

But more than that, Rick had 34 years of recovery when he passed away in 2017. In those years, both in his role at the hospital and as a visible member of the recovery community in South Miami, he helped thousands of other addicts along their own journey of recovery.

Among those who were on the journey of recovery was Howard Lerner, our own chief executive officer. At the age of 31, Howard hit his own bottom. Like many others, his career path took him into the field of recovery.

In 1987, he became a counselor at Mt. Sinai Hospital with Dr. Morgan and then at South Miami Hospital in 1989. Howard has been working with recovering addicts ever since.

Starting in 2 Tower at South Miami Hospital during the days of the inpatient program, he later led the transition to the outpatient and residential program, which he led until he left the hospital in 2012 to start South Miami Recovery.

In our upcoming final article, we will look at the transition to outpatient and our program at South Miami Recovery and our efforts to reinstitute one of Dr. Morgan’s legacies.


South Miami Recovery is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center located in Miami, Florida. To learn more about our unique approach to recovery, call 305-661-0055 today.

David Greenberg is a recovering addict celebrating 34 years of recovery. He got his start in recovery at Mount Sinai Hospital and Concept House and remains active following a 12-step lifestyle.

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family addiction recovery

Treating a Family Disease

One person’s addiction impacts more than just that individual. Everyone involved in that person’s life can be affected by the ramifications of addiction. The addict’s family, in particular, can struggle with the challenges involved in their loved one’s behavior. Family members may experience stress and disruption, both on an individual level and as a group. The effects of a person’s addiction can even reach those family members who are not engaged with the addict on a daily basis or who do not live in the home with the addict. Likewise, addiction recovery involves the family as a whole as well.

Family Dynamics

Families come in all shapes and sizes, as do addicts. Each family member plays a different role within the whole. Parents worry about their children – and children worry about their parents. Siblings recognize and attempt to cope with each other’s behavior. Whether the addict is a child, a parent, or a sibling, all of those around that person will be impacted in some measure.

Think of a typical family dynamic, in which a child may be struggling with an issue at school, for example. The child’s problem is not his or hers alone. Family members, including parents, siblings, grandparents, and possibly even aunts, uncles, and cousins can feel the effects of the child’s behavior changes. Emotions are strained as the family empathizes and attempts to cope with the challenges. The child is not expected to overcome these challenges alone, but rather the family typically interacts as a unit in a positive way to help that child become more successful.

It is important to recognize that addiction can happen in any family, regardless of background, economic status, or education levels. It is also critical to be honest with family members about the nature of the addiction and the plan to address the behaviors caused by the addiction – as a family.

Developing Coping Strategies

An addict’s family members typically develop unhealthy coping strategies of their own. Enabling and overachieving are two strategies that parents, siblings, and other family members often engage in as a way to cope with their loved one’s addiction.

If you have a family member who is struggling with addiction, how do you and the rest of your family cope? Do you make excuses for the addict’s behavior? Do you overcompensate for the addict’s negative actions? Perhaps you feel actual physical pain yourself, possibly as a result of the intense stress involved or because of the draining range of emotions you feel on a daily basis.

You are not alone. Coping strategies in struggling families often include:

  • Enabling the addict – fixing problems or simply making the problems go away so the addict does not have to deal with them.
  • Accommodating the addict by adjusting the family dynamic – not inviting friends over when the addict is home, for example.
  • Avoiding conflict with the addict’s behaviors – doing whatever it takes to keep peace in the family.

Family-focused addiction recovery can help you and your family members learn healthier coping strategies. We work with you to rebuild trust and to develop ways to express and address negative emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness, and guilt in a safe and positive environment.

The process of recovery requires an understanding of the many ways that addiction affects your family. It also involves learning new skills and strategies that need to be put in practical application on a daily basis. We help families learn those skills and employ those strategies by involving them in therapies specific to their needs:

  • One-on-one sessions
  • Group therapy
  • Family counseling
  • Support groups

Family-Focused Recovery Goals

Although specific objectives are different for every family, there are two main goals in family therapy:

  • Providing the proper tools and support for all family members so they, in turn, can provide appropriate support to the addict
  • Strengthening the family as a whole, particularly when the family may be torn apart over the challenges of addiction.

Family recovery therapy can help reunite broken families and strengthen the bonds between family members when you are coping with an addict’s behavior. Open and honest communication can rebuild the trust that may have been lost within your family. We also work on ways to be able to forgive others for their actions when they are in the throes of addiction.

Recovery that involves the addict’s family can help the family learn more about:

  • The source and nature of the addiction
  • The recovery and treatment process
  • Ways to support the addict in a non-judgmental and supportive manner
  • Healing as a family unit and as individuals affected by the addiction


Contact South Miami Recovery to Get Started on Treating Your Family as a Whole

Learn more about the benefits of treating your family disease. South Miami Recovery offers family therapy to help your family through family-focused addiction recovery. Contact South Miami Recovery by calling 305.661.0055 to learn more about how we can help.


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South Florida Addiction History

By David Greenberg, South Miami Recovery Social Media and Blog Writer | South Florida

This is the second in a series of articles about Miami’s long history with drugs and drug treatment.


Attacking the South Florida Drug Crisis

We left things at the end of part 1 of this series with Miami facing a drug crisis. A combination of geography, drug cartels and lifestyle had made South Florida a hotbed of drugs and illegal activity. The result was that the greater Miami area ended up with a disproportionate share of individuals abusing drugs and ultimately facing addiction.

As a result, in the late 1970s and into the 1980s, the community began to buzz about how to deal with the worsening issue. The answers came from a variety of sources, including law enforcement, the legal system and the medical field.

South Florida Addresses Addiction Epidemic

While national efforts began to be put in motion to address this growing epidemic, no part of the country stepped up to deal with the issue as effectively as Miami. Several people and organizations, even as far back as the 1960s, recognized the crisis and quickly took action to deal with it.

Among the first was Dr. Ben Sheppard, a local pediatrician and psychiatrist, who might be best known for his service as chairman of the Miami Dade School Board in the 1970s. Prior to this, he started the area’s first methadone clinic in the 1960s: St. Luke’s Methadone Drug Treatment Center.

Camillus House was founded by Brother Mathias Barrett around the same time. Known mostly for its ministry and healthcare to the homeless and hungry, Camillus House held a place in Miami’s fight against drug abuse and addiction. As it grew, Barrett’s center transformed a crack cocaine den into its first transitional housing facility. Camillus House remained on the forefront of the fight against drug abuse and addiction for decades. It was 1984 when Brother Harry Somerville began Camillus’ first substance abuse and treatment program that would eventually become the Camillus House Institute for Social and Personal Advancement.

A number of treatment centers opened over the years in Miami. Some remain today. Each center served as a path to healing for those in need of addiction treatment services.

Claire MaDan began her journey of recovery in 1957 and dedicated her life to carry the message into jails and institutions. She counseled alcoholics and addicts for more than 30 years in Miami Springs at the MaDan Center. The MaDan Act was named after Claire MaDan and was the legal instrument used for involuntary committal and examination of individuals impaired by substances.

South Florida Treatment Centers and Hospitals Join the Battle

Concept House, based in what is now the design district, began helping addicts in 1970, and it  was the first of these facilities to bring Narcotics Anonymous in as part of the treatment plan.

It was one of the first of many residential and outpatient facilities, and then followed by Village South, A Better Way, Transitions and many others.

As was the case with most of these facilities, A Better Way, a 12-step recovery house, was started in 1983 by a group of 18 recovering individuals including Dan Carzoli. Originally located in a little house on NE 17 th Street, A Better Way saw many homes, the last of which is the current location on NW 28th St. And as far as the leadership, Dan Carzoli was followed by Beth Lang in 1991. Current CEO is Michael Festinger. One person whose journey went from client in 1985 to current Residential Program Director is Danny T., a mainstay at Better Way.

Other local programs, like Transitions and Village South, also offered opportunities for addicts to get help and change their lives.

Two other long term treatment centers became an integral part of recovery in Miami, yet neither was even close to the community. More than 1,200 miles away in Blairstown, N.J., Alina Lodge opened in 1957. But it was in the 1970s and 1980s, under the direction of Geraldine Delaney, that it began playing a vital role in the lives of many recovering addicts in Miami. The saying goes Alina Lodge was for those addicts “reluctant to recover.”

Another treatment facility that had great influence in South Florida was more than 900 miles away in Jackson, Miss. The COPAC Rehab Center was providing services similar to Alina Lodge to recovering addicts from Miami. COPAC started as a treatment facility specifically for physicians and other professionals.

The Impact of Dr. Delores Morgan

If there was one person who can be looked upon as a modern community visionary for addiction treatment in Miami, it would have to be Dr. Delores Morgan. She started the South Miami Hospital Alcohol Treatment Program in 1976 with 20 patients. Within a few years it became the Addiction Treatment Program. It was the first hospital based program in South Florida and one of only a handful across the country. She later replicated these efforts at Mount Sinai Hospital on Miami Beach.

What made Dr. Morgan unique were her treatment philosophy and her passion to help every addict she came across. Dr. Morgan’s intensity made her both loved and feared, two emotions which addicts in treatment would respond to.

She recognized the value of both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous in the long-term recovery of addicts. As a result, she incorporated 12-step programming in a unique way. Every Friday evening, her patients were transported to an AA or NA meeting in the community. The choice of which session to attend belonged to the patient, but they had to go. In the mid- and late-1980s, with the meetings usually around 8 p.m., van drivers were encouraged to hurry back to the hospital because Miami Vice was on television at 10 pm.

Dr. Morgan also recognized that for many patients, a 28-day hospital program was not going to be enough. She worked with the local long-term facilities, as well as Alina Lodge and COPAC, to provide ongoing treatment for those who needed it.

The First-Ever Drug Court

While all this was going on in the treatment field, the court system was not sitting idly by. Miami took a step in 1989 that would result in a national model for treatment. The Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida was the first judicial circuit in the country to implement a drug court. Started by Judge Stanley Goldstein, the drug court was designed to provide a diversion and treatment program for drug offenders in the court system. The South Florida program’s goals were and remain to identify appropriate candidates, offer an alternative to normal prosecution and incarceration and rehabilitation. Today, there are drug courts in more than 2,000 communities across the country.

In our next article, we will focus even closer to home – looking at the more-than-40-year history of recovery in South Dade that started with South Miami Hospital.


South Miami Recovery is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center located in South Florida. To learn more about our unique approach to recovery, call 305-661-0055 today. 

David Greenberg is a recovering addict celebrating 34 years of recovery. He got his start in recovery at Mount Sinai Hospital and Concept House and remains active following a 12-step lifestyle.

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Miami Drug History

By David Greenberg, South Miami Recovery Social Media and Blog Writer

This is the first in a series of articles about Miami’s long history with drugs and drug treatment.

Miami: Drug Capital of the World

Everyone over the age of 40 is probably aware of Miami’s claim as the drug capital of the world, thanks to the drug wars of the 1970s and 1980s. If you didn’t live here as an eyewitness, national headlines about the Cocaine Cowboys, movies like Scarface and the hit TV series Miami Vice gave people all they needed to know to make Miami infamous during those years.

The drug history of Miami and South Florida dates back well before that national media coverage. The community has had to deal with ongoing issues of drug use, addiction and treatment. We will get to the present in future articles in this series, but we start with the history.

Paradise for Bootleggers and Cartels

Because of its location, Florida – specifically South Florida – has long been attractive in several ways. Straddling the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and the Straits of Florida, our state has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States. As a result, the peninsula has become a strategic location for tourism, agriculture and trade. Law enforcement officials at every level will tell you that 1,350-mile-long coastline was (and still is) an open invitation for smugglers of drugs and other items that would have trouble passing U.S. Customs.

It can be suggested that this illegal activity can go all the way back to pirates and buccaneers, but we will limit our historical perspective to the 20th century.

Prohibition may have been the law of the land in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933, but it certainly wasn’t the law of the land in South Florida. Alcohol flowed into South Florida like it was water. In April of 1922, one Chicago paper’s front-page headline named the Floridian coast “Paradise for Bootleggers.”

Along with bootlegging, Miami and South Florida were known for gambling, prostitution, violence, government corruption and general disregard of the law. A 2008 Miami Herald article compared it to the organized crime of the 1950s and the Cocaine Cowboys of the 1980s. If you have any doubt about the level of contraband that flowed into the area, know that there was a reason Al Capone moved here in 1928.

Smuggling and Post-Prohibition Drug Wars

While there was a period of relative peace after Prohibition was repealed, the drug wars returned the spotlight to South Florida in the 1970s and 1980s. During this period, the tranquil coast transformed into the Old West. Shootouts between the government and the many drug cartels that operated here became common. In 1979, two gunmen from a Colombian drug gang shot two other men in a shootout in the Dadeland Mall. This incident prompted a Miami police officer to coin the phrase Cocaine Cowboys.

Smuggling rings expanded, and law enforcement became overwhelmed. One rare victory against the smuggling rings occurred in 1982, when officials seized $100 million of cocaine at Miami International Airport.

What really ended the Miami drug wars was the collapse of the Medellin Cartel. While other cartels and drug gangs existed and still exist, the drug wars became less frequent.

Floridians Hooked on Drugs

Throughout history, Miami served as the port of call for the drug trade. Some of those substances moved to other parts of the country, but a good portion stayed right here. As a result, the 1970s and 1980s saw a dramatic increase of drug use in South Florida. For many, use became abuse. For some, it became addiction.

South Florida faced multiple issues. Many of these fell to local and federal law enforcement. They needed to deal with the remaining cartels and gangs. They also had to address the dealers who had built their own industry by selling drugs locally.

Then the community had to deal with the drug users. Many of these users were on the social level, but they were still breaking the law and abusing themselves medically.

Then there were those whose drug use turned to addiction. For a good many of those who became addicted, the concept of functioning in society became impossible. Because of its status as a focal point on the map of the drug trade, South Florida had more than its share of addicts.

Recovery and a Brighter Future for Miami

While this area was known as a hotbed of drugs and illegal activity, it was about to also become known as a great center and pioneer in the U.S. of drug treatment as law enforcement, the court system and the medical industry banded together to try to solve their growing problem.


South Miami Recovery is a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center located in Miami, Florida. To learn more about our unique approach to recovery, call 305-661-0055 today.

David Greenberg is a recovering addict celebrating 34 years of recovery. He got his start in recovery at Mount Sinai Hospital and Concept House and remains active following a 12-step lifestyle.

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