John McGonigle, M.D. is a Family Medicine doctor who uses both conventional and holistic strategies for treating substance use and enhancing well-being. He consults with the Herren Wellness team and guests to address any biological and chemical obstacles that may be preventing someone from moving forward in their recovery. He explores with guests a number of traditional and holistic strategies to help people heal, and enhance their recovery.
“I was born and raised in a small town in Western Massachusetts and went to college for a year before deciding I wanted to see more of the world. After a year of college, I dropped out and travelled and lived around the world for about a dozen years. Upon my return I went back to school and became a doctor.
This is relevant to my role at Herren Wellness, and how I fit in well with Herren Wellness’ mission. I have experiences with lots of different cultures and lifestyles, having lived in so many different types of communities over the years. This gave me the perspective that life comes in many shapes and sizes, and just because somebody is at one place at one point in their life, that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually be in a totally different place at another time in their life if they choose to consciously and determinedly alter their path.
It’s hard to explain what holistic medicine really is – people tend to think it means only herbs and homeopathy and that’s true, especially in a population dealing with substance use where it’s vital that medicines aren’t habit forming, toxic, or harmful on their organs. This is all important, of course, but what’s most important is seeing a person as an individual. This is one of the things that Herren Wellness does really well.
I found out about Herren Wellness from patients of mine who had gone there, and from a couple of families that were involved with them in a supporting role to a loved one. I had heard of Chris Herren and knew of his story. I come from a sports-crazed family and you can’t be into sports in this neck of the woods and not know who Chris Herren is (laughs).
Because I live my life day-in-and-day-out as a primary care physician I am acutely aware of the problem of drug and alcohol abuse in our society, and they really inspired my sense of doing something that I felt was really part of the solution. I knew this was something I could put my time, energy, and spirit into.
I can evaluate a guest at Herren Wellness from many perspectives, including who they are, where they are coming from, what their medical issues are, their family and work environment, and determine how to help them heal while including all the factors that are in play for any one person.
People who come to treatment are typically really in need of comprehensive and immediate care for their mind, body, and spirit.
It’s never a situation where we offer a solution and then say, “I’ll see you in three weeks”. It’s ongoing, attentive, and daily addressing of their needs. My job is to reinforce recovery and wellness from a medical point of view so the medical component is not outside of their recovery process, like is found in so many conventional treatment systems, but part of a whole.
It’s not simply someone coming in with presenting symptoms or using a particular substance and therefore they get some form of pre-determined treatment. It’s about helping them heal while giving them back their dignity, self-agency, helping them understand who they are, where they come from, and what their aspirations are as well.
Substance use is full of feelings of disenfranchisement, passive participation, and helplessness. Recovery needs to be the opposite to help a person truly heal from the inside out.
Believing in ourselves, in anything we do, always helps.
The people I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to treat are the nicest and most graceful group of people. When I see people two, four, or even six months later and they are back home with their families, living in recovery, and they thank me for helping them it brings tears to my eyes. It’s such incredibly rewarding work.
I really want to take a moment to thank the team at Herren Wellness as well. They have built an approach based on mutual trust where there are no egos, and everyone truly just wants what is best for the guest.
We will do whatever is necessary to help, there is no set approach because there can’t be. Everyone is different and Herren Wellness does whatever is needed for each individual. The atmosphere there is supportive, grateful, gracious, kind, and welcoming.
What I do is important, but it is only a part of what Herren Wellness is doing. They approach people with such a spirit of love and generosity. It’s a great joy for me to be a part of.”
How Herren Wellness Can Help
We help guests build the skills that are essential to a sustainable recovery, including mindfulness practices, self-care and self-esteem skills, maintaining healthy relationships, and digging into the root causes of what led them to become dependent.
We guide guests on how to build upon the skills they already possess and help them discover their ‘why’, or what motivates them to maintain a life of wellness and recovery.