Successful Addiction Treatment Programs & Entrepreneurship
“Success doesn’t look like what you thought it would look like.
It ends up being something completely different.”
Successful addiction treatment programs and entrepreneurship? Together, in the same title?
Is that even possible? The answer, surprisingly, is “Yes.” In both the title, and in the world of drug and alcohol rehabilitation. The key to the success of any organization whose aim is to put addicts on the road to recovery lies in the motivation, and not many come more motivated than the President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of The Evergreen at Northpoint, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Washington, Robert Castan.
Back in 2010, after finally seeking help for his own addiction (one that nearly led to his death), Robert chose to help others find freedom from addiction as his life’s purpose. From that moment in his life, he has gone on to create highly successful and innovative addiction treatment programs across the western U.S.
In 2014, Robert co-founded Northpoint Recovery in Boise, Idaho. From its inception to the facility layout, marketing campaigns and key team development, Robert oversaw it all. With Northpoint’s growth and success, Robert assumed the position of Chief Operating Officer.
Today, Robert supervises the daily operations of the administrative, marketing and intake teams, as well as assisting in key growth initiatives. As he says in his bio on the website, “I am extremely proud of what we have created at Northpoint Recovery, we get to do something we love and help people change their lives.”
Robert is someone I admire greatly, and, fortunately for me, our paths recently crossed, enabling me the opportunity to ask him about his motivation, his ideas, and how his entrepreneurial skills apply in the field of addiction treatment and recovery. Insightful, informative, honest, and a little heartwarming, here’s what Robert had to say:
Describe your personal motivation in bringing Northpoint Recovery from its inception to fruition?
The main motivation is that addiction treatment in the United States has been fairly institutionalized, with the approach that “one size fits all.” What has happened is that it’s created low insurance reimbursement based on bad outcomes.
So firstly, one of the main reasons for doing what we do every day is we want to see people get better, and we think we are the most equipped to do that. Secondly, we’ve got to change the tone. A lot of insurance companies has come to the conclusion that inpatient treatment is more like a waste of money than a benefit. We wanted to do something different so that it can actually help people.
Also, there were a lot of shady business practices that were happening. We wanted to create a company that people were really excited about, and one that could change the face of addiction treatment in the U.S.
Evergreen at Northpoint is an intensive outpatient (IOP) drug and alcohol rehab facility. What are the benefits of IOP?
First of all, it’s always got to be based on each individual’s need. There are a decent amount of people that wouldn’t always require an inpatient stay before they could actually find lasting recovery. Inpatient is good for people when they’re using drugs and alcohol – they really are in some problematic areas. Typically, they may be ruining people’s lives around them, they may be in very dramatic situations.
So, inpatient gets them out of all of those exterior problems that are holding them back, and it puts them in a controlled environment where we can stabilize them medically, because a lot of people are coming off heroin or alcohol, and wouldn’t be medically stable if they try to do that on their own.
We also combine the socio-physical aspects of it, so we do all of the therapeutic components to meet them where they’re at. Once they get 28 days away from that external environment, it gives them a controlled space where they can really build a base for lasting recovery.
Outpatient is going to be more tailored to meet them in their current environment. You are able to deal with issues like family, and employment – living in the situation. We also do GCP engagement (working with their personal practitioners), and working with their physical health in their living situation. So, instead of being in a controlled environment, we can actually help them walk through everyday life. Inpatient and outpatient both serve a really strong purpose for somebody to achieve a lasting recovery.
You’re a recovering addict yourself. May we ask what was your drug of choice, and how you went about seeking help?
When I first came to treatment, I really thought I was just addicted to cocaine. Through treatment, I found I had been drinking over a fifth of alcohol or more per day for the past 7 years before I found recovery. I realized that the drug of choice didn’t matter. I was addicted to most of anything. I was addicted to more, and I always was willing to go after it.
What motivated me? I look back, and January 22nd, 2008, I was laying on the floor at 2 o’clock in the morning. I was about to commit suicide, and it was either I looked to find help and change my life, or that was going to be my path, and to just cut myself in the bathtub so that it would be cleaner. I had even already started rearranging my personal items so that if my family had to go through them, it didn’t look so bad.
The motivation, I think, came from divine intervention, my higher power just pointed me in their direction to find recovery. And, to this day, I’m pretty grateful that I was able to choose that path. I was going to kill myself or I was going to change my life. And I chose to change my life.
How long were you using before you searched for help with your addiction?
I got clean at 26 years old. My first time using drugs and alcohol was 8 years old, and I started using regularly at 12. So for 14 years.
What form did your treatment take?
I went into a 28-day inpatient residential facility. After that, I went to 12 Step meetings every single day.
What did you learn from the process of achieving a state of being clean and sober?
The biggest hurdle was just learning how to be okay, even when things around me seemed to be falling apart. Drugs and alcohol were my solutions when I had a bad day, and when I had a good day, I’d use them to celebrate. Take that away, and it was hard to celebrate the wins or contemplate the losses. I had to learn to deal with life.
Once an addict is successfully detoxed, how does Northpoint Recovery convince them that there is a new and better life waiting for them? What waits for them afterward?
We really start that process right away, when they come into the inpatient facility and they go through admissions, Our alumni coordinator will be with them within the first 48 hours, but we really start that engagement process – what happens after you leave this inpatient facility – within the first few hours. At our outpatient facility, we try to integrate them with as quickly as possible. We also engage with the family, so they have a clear line of communication with the treatment team.
In regards to your entrepreneurial journey, when did that begin?
So, I started my first company after I got clean and sober – it really started with this desire to want to do something differently. I can look back, and I remember working a full-time job in Starbucks, and I was a dishwasher at Texas Roadhouse on the weekend. I sold everything I had to raise a little money to start the first opportunity. I didn’t know anything about this, but I knew I wasn’t afraid to work, and that’s what pushed everything.
What words of inspiration could you give to a new entrepreneur?
We have these things called “core values” at Northpoint Recovery – how we hire against, and how to operate. For example, don’t be scared to challenge the norm. Always be willing to chop wood, and carry water. Don’t ever get too good to do something in the company – people often see me participate in lower level tasks. You’ve always got to be humble and be grateful for your situation. Don’t try to control everything.
Hire smart people, and allow them to have an autonomous avenue to do their job, so they can either rise to the occasion or learn from their failures. My biggest opportunities for growth have come from the most uncomfortable failure situations, so never look at a failure as this big, awful thing. It’s just one more step along the road to success.
Lastly, success doesn’t look like what you thought it would look like – it ends up being something completely different.
An honest and very moving interview, wouldn’t you agree? As an entrepreneur myself, listening to Robert answer my questions was so insightful and empowering that I will certainly use elements of what he said in my own business, as I’m sure you will do so too.
From your own experience as an entrepreneur (however far down that road you are), what sources of inspiration have you found? What business areas, such as Robert’s “core values,” for example, do you focus your efforts on? Please feel free to share with others with a comment below. Thank you, Robert.