Heart Of The Matter
A Podcast Hosted by Elizabeth Vargas


Our podcast interview series, hosted by Elizabeth Vargas, gives guests the opportunity to share their personal, candid stories about addiction. It offers a space to open up about 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. New episodes are released every other Tuesday, and available here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Episode notes

Cameron Douglas


This week on Heart of the Matter, actor and author Cameron Douglas, son of Michael Douglas, opens up to Elizabeth Vargas about his incredible recovery journey, as told in his book, “Long Way Home.” Cameron began using substances at 13-years-old, which quickly progressed into a serious addiction. He recounts that even after many years of struggling, including nearly seven years in prison, his parents “never turned away from me.”

Cameron and Elizabeth discuss his dad’s influence on why he wrote his tell-all book, his relationship with his famous father and grandfather and how his time in federal prison led to his recovery during this special episode, which aired as part of the Mobilize Recovery virtual experience. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

Explore more on topics and themes discussed in this episode:

Is Your Child at Risk? A Substance Use Risk Assessment

When Your Child Sees Substance Use as an Answer, Not a Problem

Suggesting Treatment to a Loved One

Jessica Landon


As an actress, comedian and Playboy model, Jessica Landon appeared to have the perfect life. But deep down, she was silently suffering from unresolved childhood trauma. Jessica began drinking as a pre-teen and didn’t stop. She became so reliant on alcohol that it became “the only way I could survive in the world,” as she describes it. After experiencing a 16-day stay in the ICU involving multiple organ failures resulting from her drinking, Jessica finally made the decision to start her recovery journey.

This week on Heart of the Matter, Jessica joins Elizabeth Vargas to discuss how her parents’ support helped her heal, how laughter played a significant part in her recovery and her role as a co-founder of the Sober Mom Squad. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

Explore more on topics and themes discussed in this episode:

How to Address Alcohol & Underage Drinking

How to Identify Substance Use Disorder & Addiction

Get One-on-One Help to Address Your Child’s Substance Use

Captain Lee Rosbach

Bravo’s “Below Deck” star Captain Lee Rosbach opens up to Elizabeth Vargas on the season three premiere of Heart of the Matter about the excruciating pain he experienced after losing his son Joshua to a fentanyl poisoning. Captain Lee discloses that he and his family did not discuss Joshua’s substance use with friends or his fellow crew members for nearly 20 years. Now, he wants to help other families by continuing to open up publicly about his family’s struggles.

Captain Lee and Elizabeth discuss his experiences on “Below Deck,” the relationships he’s formed with other Bravo stars impacted by addiction and what he’s doing to help others struggling with substance use. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

Content warning: This episode contains mentions of death, as well as in-depth discussions of substance use. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, please contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at (800) 662-4357. These programs provide free, confidential support 24/7. You are not alone.

Explore more on topics and themes discussed in this episode:

What to Look for – and What to Avoid – When Searching for an Addiction Treatment Program

What Types of Addiction Treatment Are Available?

Fentanyl Poisoning & Counterfeit Pills

Harold Koplewicz

In the latest episode of Heart of the Matter, host Elizabeth Vargas is joined by Harold Koplewicz, president and medical director of the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit focused on helping children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Harold shares that one in five children and adolescents struggle with mental health or learning challenges and unfortunately, over 70% of U.S. counties do not have child psychiatrists available to help alleviate this growing crisis.

Harold and Elizabeth sit down to discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on cognitive development and daily routines for many children and adolescents. Harold also shares tips for what parents and physicians can do to address and strengthen a child’s mental health. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Playbook for Parents of Pre-teens

Playbook for Parents of Teens

Teen brain development, teen behavior and preventing drug use

Zachary Levi

In the latest episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth Vargas is joined by actor Zachary Levi, who opens up about his lifelong struggle with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts while starring in hit television shows like Chuck and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and blockbuster movies like Shazam! and Tangled. Zachary shares that after living with anxiety and depression for most of his life, he turned to substances to mask childhood trauma. After experiencing a life-altering panic attack, he sought out therapy which he credits with saving his life.

Zachary sits down with Elizabeth to discuss not feeling confident, especially in Hollywood, how he has learned to practice self-love and his new memoir, Radical Love: Learning to Accept Yourself and Others.

For more, see the complete episode transcript.

Explore more on topics and themes discussed in this episode:

Substance Use + Mental Health: Your Guide to Addressing Co-occurring Disorders

Preventing Drug Use: Connecting and Talking with Your Teen

Use Positive Reinforcement to Help Change Behavior

Paul Holes


In the latest episode of Heart of the Matter, Elizabeth Vargas is joined by investigator Paul Holes, New York Times bestselling author of Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases. Paul is known for his role in helping to solve high-profile homicide cases, including the notorious Golden State Killer. But his crime fighting success was masked by what was going on with Paul personally. He spent decades with unresolved anxiety and panic attacks, eventually turning to alcohol as a way to cope with the stress.

Together, Paul and Elizabeth discuss how his own anxiety changed the way he views his cold cases; and his own experiences in the law enforcement community, including how making himself vulnerable is opening the door to more honest mental health discussions. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

Content warning: This episode contains mentions of death, as well as in-depth discussions of substance use. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, please contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at (800) 662-4357. These programs provide free, confidential support 24/7. You are not alone.
Explore more on topics and themes discussed in this episode:

Alcohol: What Families Need to Know to Help Protect Young People

Substance Use + Mental Health: Your Guide to Addressing Co-occurring Disorders

Substance Use Risk Assessment

Nora Volkow


Like many families, Dr. Nora Volkow’s had kept it a secret that her grandfather had a substance use disorder and eventually committed suicide. Today, as the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, she speaks out regularly about how important it is to share these stories to help other families impacted by addiction.

Dr. Volkow sits down with Heart of the Matter host Elizabeth Vargas to discuss the growing complexities of fentanyl-laced drugs; the state of mental health in our nation; what the pandemic can teach us about allocating resources to communities in need; and her deeply personal story. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Substance Use + Mental Health: Your Guide to Addressing Co-occurring Disorders

Is Your Child at Risk? A Substance Use Risk Assessment

Help Us Change the Story of Addiction

Ed and Mary Ternan


After a counterfeit tablet purchased on social media took their son Charlie’s life, Ed and Mary Ternan were determined to take action. Rather than blame social media companies for sales of dangerous substances, Ed and Mary saw an opportunity to make a change. They created the nonprofit Song for Charlie to raise awareness about fentanyl and fentanyl-laced substances being sold to young people on social media. Many counterfeit pills are made to look like prescription opioids and are more lethal than ever before.

Join Heart of the Matter host Elizabeth Vargas as she sits down with Ed and Mary to discuss how substances are marketed and sold to adolescents and young adults on social media, the alarming increase in the availability of fake prescription pills containing fentanyl and the launch of National Fentanyl Awareness Day on May 10. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

Content warning: This episode contains mentions of death, as well as in-depth discussions of substance use. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, please contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at (800) 662-4357. These programs provide free, confidential support 24/7. You are not alone.

Explore more on topics and themes discussed in this episode:

Substances Laced with Fentanyl: How to Protect Loved Ones

Fentanyl & Other Synthetic Opioids

How Can I Protect My Child from Fentanyl? 5 Things Parents Need to Know

Dan Schneider


After losing his son Danny Jr. to a substance-related shooting, Louisiana pharmacist Dan Schneider was determined to hold the powerful figures behind the nation’s opioid epidemic accountable. The critically acclaimed Netflix docuseries The Pharmacist recounts Dan’s rigorous quest to find answers about his son’s death, and his mission to stop the overprescribing of opioids taking place in his community.

In this episode of Heart of the Matter, host Elizabeth Vargas speaks with Dan about his journey to finding justice, turning his grief into action and how families can help address the opioid crisis in their communities. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

Content warning: This episode contains mentions of death, as well as in-depth discussions of substance use. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, please contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at (800) 662-4357. These programs provide free, confidential support 24/7. You are not alone.

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Is Your Child At Risk? A Substance Use Risk Assessment

My Child Tried Drugs. What Should I Do?

How to Identify Substance Use Disorder & Addiction

Carl Erik Fisher


Physician and author Carl Erik Fisher is both a doctor who specializes in addiction treatment and a person who is very public about his own struggles with substance use, who is currently in recovery himself. With his highly praised book The Urge: Our History of Addiction, Dr. Fisher embarks on a feverish search for answers to age-old questions: What does it mean to struggle with addiction? Why is it so difficult to move away from substance use, even once it has turned destructive? Who is vulnerable to addiction and who is capable of recovery?

Tune in as Elizabeth sits down with Dr. Fisher to discuss the human capacity for recovery, the institutionalized stigma surrounding substance use disorders, the “double-edged sword” of labeling addiction as a disease, and how recovery took him from Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric ward to an assistant professorship in the department of psychiatry at Columbia University. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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How to Navigate the Addiction Treatment System

11 Life Skills That Can Help Your Child in Recovery

Preparing for Life and Recovery Following Treatment

Sam Quinones


In 2015, award-winning author and journalist Sam Quinones took the world by storm with his heavily lauded book Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opioid Epidemic, an investigative work that helped awaken the nation to the devastation wreaked by OxyContin. With his newest release, The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth, Sam turns his attention to the rise of synthetic substances and the dangers posed by methamphetamine and fentanyl use.

Tune in as Sam speaks to Elizabeth about the reasons behind the explosion of fentanyl; the connections between methamphetamine and mental and physical illness; and why he believes we have yet to fully confront the realities of methamphetamine addiction. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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How Can I Protect My Child from Fentanyl? 5 Things Parents Need to Know

Meth is On the Rise Again: What Parents Should Know

Learn How Medication Can Help Treat Opioid Addiction

Darren Waller


To many who knew him in his college days, Darren Waller had the ideal life: a star football player at Georgia Tech who had caught the eye of NFL scouts, he seemed predestined for a picture-perfect future. However, beneath this glossy veneer was someone who was struggling with opioid use, whose self-confidence was flagging, and whose passion for the game he had loved since he was a boy was evaporating. Two suspensions and several years later, this culminated in a near-fatal overdose in August 2017 that would prove to be game-changing.

Now four and a half years into recovery, Darren has started a foundation to help youth struggling with addiction, has helped a teammate into recovery and looks back on his past with gratitude and without shame. Join Elizabeth as she speaks with Darren about the value of honesty in recovery, the importance of humility, and why he does not wish to shut the door on his past, but rather, sees it as the greatest possession he has. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

Explore more on topics and themes discussed in this episode:

When Opioid Pain Relievers Are Prescribed For Your Child: What You Should Know

How to Use Naloxone to Reverse an Opioid Overdose and Save a Life

Intentional Misuse of Over-the-Counter Medication: What You Should Know

Northshore Recovery High School


In many ways, Michelle Lipinski is the principal of a high school just like any other. Students rush from class to class from the morning to afternoon, study hard for quizzes and exams, and wait for their senior prom with bated breath. However, one thing sets Northshore Recovery High School apart from most other schools in the nation: All of its students have a diagnosed substance use disorder.

Join Elizabeth for a special episode of Heart of the Matter as she speaks to Principal Michelle Lipinski and current and former students Shaylee, Alba and Rachel about the origins of Northshore – which was the subject of the MTV documentary series 16 and Recovering – what others can learn from its education model and what makes it a “safe place” of empathy, tough love and radical compassion for the students and staff who walk its halls. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

Content warning: This episode contains mentions of death, suicide and suicidal ideation, as well as in-depth discussions of substance use. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, please contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at (800) 662-4357. These programs provide free, confidential support 24/7. You are not alone. 

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Recovery High Schools: Giving Students a Second Chance

Finding a Home in Collegiate Recovery

Being ‘In Recovery’: What Does It Actually Mean?

Danny Strong & Beth Macy


When the miniseries Dopesick premiered on Hulu in late 2021, it was to a world reeling from the conclusion of Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy proceedings – a settlement that infamously absolved the Sackler family of any opioid-related liability. The show, based on author Beth Macy’s eponymous account of the opioid crisis and starring Michael Keaton in his Golden Globe-winning return to television, dramatizes the devastation left in the wake of OxyContin’s 1996 introduction to the market and is a powerful depiction of the consequences of corporate greed and government corruption.

Join Elizabeth as she goes behind the scenes with Beth Macy and award-winning screenwriter and Dopesick creator Danny Strong in a conversation about the research that made the show possible, the corruption at the heart of the opioid crisis, and the responsibility they felt to amplify victims’ stories and portray their pain with empathy and unflinching honesty. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Prescription Pain Relievers (Opioids)

When Opioid Pain Relievers Are Prescribed For Your Child: What You Should Know

Opioids & IV Drug Use: Risks, Warning Signs & How to Help a Loved One

Mia St. John

A fighter in every sense of the word, boxing champion Mia St. John encountered addiction from a young age, growing up with a father who struggled with drinking and attending her first Alcoholics Anonymous group when she was just twelve years old. Years later, she witnessed her son’s struggle with mental illness and a cycle of substance use as self-medication.

Tune in as Mia opens up to Elizabeth about enduring the loneliness of relapse, finding a home in Alcoholics Anonymous and weathering the losses of her son, Julian, and her former husband, Kristoff St. John. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

Content warning: This episode discusses topics of suicide and suicidal ideation. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Both programs provide free, confidential support 24/7. You are not alone.

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Grief Resources for Families

Recovery Support Groups for Addiction: One Size Does Not Fit All

Does Relapse Mean Failure?

Anne and Sam Lamott

Bestselling novelist and essayist Anne Lamott had more than her share of experience with substance use disorders: Growing up with family members with addiction, she also had distinct memories of drinking as a child. Decades later, she watched as her son Sam began struggling with methamphetamines. Today, both mother and son have been in recovery for many years.

Join Elizabeth as she speaks to Anne and Sam about addiction in the family, the influence of believing in a higher power, the importance of searching for inner grace rather than external accolades and how it felt for Anne to witness her son’s struggle with addiction as a person in recovery herself. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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When Addiction is in Your Family Tree

Get One-on-One Help to Address Your Child’s Substance Use

What Types of Addiction Treatment Are Available?

Cheryl Burke

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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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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?

Ryan Hampton

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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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.

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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

Patricia Heaton

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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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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

Laura McKowen

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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Alcohol: What Families Need to Know to Help Protect Young People

Is Alcohol Use Spiking in Your Home?

Online Support Community for Parents & Caregivers

Chris Herren

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 the physical prowess was someone struggling with mental health and substance use.

In his return to Heart of the Matter, Chris connects with Elizabeth Vargas about parenting and the need to focus on our children’s social and emotional health, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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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

Brandon Novak

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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Suggesting Treatment to a Loved One

Get One-on-One Help to Address Your Child’s Substance Use

Allowing for Natural Consequences to Encourage Behavior Change

Molly Jong-Fast

Despite entering recovery almost 24 years ago at the age of 19,  writer and political commentator Molly Jong-Fast 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.

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Stress and Drug Use: What Every Parent Should Know

Risk Factors for Addiction

What Types of Addiction Treatment are Available?

Madeleine Dean & Harry Cunnane

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 mother and son have written a joint memoir, Under Our Roof: A Son’s Battle for Recovery, a Mother’s Battle for Her Son.

Elizabeth speaks with Madeleine and Harry about what they gained from writing their book, 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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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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

Patrick Radden Keefe

Bestselling author and investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe joins Elizabeth to discuss his latest book, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty. In his book, Patrick tells the story of the family responsible for setting into motion the opioid epidemic. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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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

Gregory Gourdet

As an up-and-coming chef in Manhattan, Gregory 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, Gregory’s substance use caught up with him, putting at risk the thing he loved doing most: cooking. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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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

Andrew Zimmern

In addition to being a chef and TV host, Andrew Zimmern is also in long-term recovery. In this special re-airing of one of our favorite interviews, Andrew 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.” For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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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

Jessica Lahey

New York Times best-selling author Jessica Lahey discusses her latest book, The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence. Jessica and Elizabeth connect over the advantages and challenges that come with being a parent in recovery, the benefits of family dinners (even with teens!) and why young people are more susceptible to addiction. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Preventing Drug Use: Connecting and Talking with Your Teen

Substance Use + Mental Health: Your Guide to Addressing Co-occurring Disorders

Jamie Niven

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.

Elizabeth talks with Jamie, who is also the chair of Partnership to End Addiction’s Board of Directors, about the way loss impacted his life and contributed to a 50-year struggle with alcohol. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Risk factors for addiction

Alcohol: what families need to know to protect young people

Get involved with Partnership to End Addiction

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.

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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Words matter: the language of addiction

Advocate for change

Managing long-term recovery from addiction

Steve Madden

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. 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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Risk factors for addiction

Substance use + mental health: your guide to addressing co-occurring disorders

What types of addiction treatment are available?

Mary and Admiral James Winnefeld

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.

Mary and Sandy discuss the challenges they faced parenting a child struggling with 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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Substance use + mental health: your guide to addressing co-occurring disorders

Risks for relapse, overdose and what you can do

A guide on substance use, prevention, treatment and recovery resources to assist a military child

Kristen Johnston

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, and she found comfort in prescription painkillers. Over the years her addiction worsened, turning Kristen into the self-described “Nancy Drew of painkillers.” 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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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Understanding prescription & over-the-counter medication

Preparing for life and recovery following treatment

I know I need to take care of myself too, but how?

Montee Ball

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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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How to address alcohol & underage drinking

What parents need to know about college binge drinking

How to encourage your child to get help for their substance use or addiction

Zac Clark

In his twenties, Zac’s 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 The Bachelorette viewers across the country through his candor, compassion and commitment to a substance-free life.

Elizabeth 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. For more, see the complete episode transcript.

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How to encourage your child to get help for their substance use or addiction

Preparing for life and recovery following treatment

Jeremiah Fraites

When he was 14 years old, Jeremiah Fraites of The Lumineers lost his older brother, Joshua, to a heroin overdose. He describes it as the worst thing to have happened to his family. Years later, Jeremiah is still reflecting on the monumental impact drugs and alcohol have on music, culture, families and relationships. This topic even served as inspiration behind the latest album from his band, titled III.

In this episode of Heart of the Matter, Jeremiah joins Elizabeth to share his perspective on substance use and to discuss his family’s experiences navigating addiction, giving up alcohol himself and learning to be a rock star without substances.

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Start with Connection, our campaign featuring music from The Lumineers

Is substance use a part of “normal” teen behavior?

Understanding and addressing heroin use

Holly Whitaker

Author of Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice Not to Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol, Holly is also founder and CEO of online recovery program, The Tempest. She and Elizabeth discuss their experiences as women coming to terms with the impact of alcohol on their lives, how addiction is portrayed in the media, and their perspectives on the roads they took to finding recovery.

If you are seeking treatment for your child or a loved one, know that numerous options exist. Addiction treatment is not “one-size-fits-all” and may take place in a variety of settings, at different degrees of intensity and for different lengths of time. We offer resources to help you navigate treatment and recovery, and identify the best options for your family. Information about specific providers and services on our website or podcast does not constitute an endorsement.

Beth Macy

Elizabeth is joined by Beth Macy, journalist and author of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America. The New York Times bestselling book sheds an intimate light on the opioid epidemic in Virginia.

Yet, in the two years since the book was published, it’s estimated an additional 100,000 people have died in the U.S. due to opioids – indicating the crisis she covered is not slowing down. Learn more about Beth and her work at intrepidpapergirl.com.

Jim Carroll

Elizabeth has a candid conversation with Jim Carroll, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). His agency’s mission: to stop the flow of illegal drugs in the United States and to connect those suffering from addiction with the tools they need to achieve recovery.

Director Carroll has been traveling around the country, meeting with people in some of the hardest-hit communities and leading discussions about the challenges they face. Elizabeth speaks to him about what he’s seen, who he’s talked to and what the administration is doing and also what more needs to be done to make an impact.

David Sheff

Elizabeth sits down with journalist and author David Sheff. His heartbreaking and inspiring novel Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction was made into a motion picture starring Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet.

After experiencing addiction in his family – David’s son Nic became addicted and almost died of the disease – David began trying to figure out why as a society we have been so ineffective when it comes to preventing and treating addiction. Learn more about David and his work at davidsheff.com.

Patrick Kennedy

Elizabeth sits down with former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy. Throughout much of his life, Patrick has struggled with his own addiction and mental health challenges, both in private and, at times, glaringly in public. But Patrick has gone from fighting his own demons to fighting on behalf of others who need help and support the most. In 2013, he founded The Kennedy Forum, a nonprofit that unites advocates, business leaders, and government agencies to advance evidence-based practices, policies, and programming in mental health and addiction. Learn more about Patrick Kennedy and his work at patrickjkennedy.net.

Chris Herren

Former NBA player and founder of Herren Talks, Herren Project and Herren Wellness, Chris shares intimate details of his journey and how he’s now using his experience to change the way high school students think about substance use. The First Day film makes his powerful storytelling available to schools and communities across the country. Visit chrisherren.com for more about Chris and his work.

About Elizabeth Vargas

Elizabeth Vargas is an Emmy award-winning journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Between Breaths, a Memoir of Panic and Addiction. She broke barriers when she revealed that she had alcohol use disorder during a televised interview in 2014. Elizabeth’s parents, brother and sister – while unaware of her lifelong struggles with anxiety and multi-year dependence on alcohol – were supportive of her during her journey to recovery. Today, she continues to candidly share her story to help inspire others. Elizabeth is a proud board member of Partnership to End Addiction.

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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.