Dan Griffin

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Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin, M.A., has worked in the mental health and addictions field for over a decade. He is author of A Man’s Way Through the Twelve Steps and co-author of the groundbreaking curriculum Helping Men Recover, which looks comprehensively and holistically at men’s needs and issues in recovery.

It doesn’t take much to figure out why many men are so resistant to therapy. We come by it naturally. From the time we are boys and all through adulthood, we are literally trained not to do anything that remotely resembles therapy. Think about the expectations for therapy or any form of personal growth: Ask for help? Uh, no – not even directions. Talk about feelings? Feelings, what are those? The thought of it just makes me mad! Be vulnerable? No thanks, that doesn’t help me; that is for women and girly-men. Talk about the past? Get over it.

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Author Dan Griffin shares his personal journey with violence and explains why it is essential for those in recovery to be trauma-informed.

My passion in looking at men and trauma comes primarily from my personal experience as a young boy, first growing up in a violent alcoholic home and then having to deal with the impact of that trauma long into my thirties — and long into my sobriety. I still have vivid memories sitting on the top stair outside of my parents’ bedroom, hearing my mother screaming and crying as I was trying to get up the nerve to open the door or bang on it, once they/he had finally gotten smart enough to lock it. Or crying myself to sleep through the only slightly muffled sound of my parents yelling, cursing, and belittling each other — only to pretend like nothing had happened the next day. Or my Dad grabbing me by my leg as I was trying to get away from him,pulling me down the stairs and then proceeding to hit me. I could go on.

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We know that approximately 75% of those who enter treatment for addiction have experienced at least one kind of abuse. So why are we still not talking about it? And why are there so few addiction curricula out there that are truly trauma-informed?

I was recently invited to speak at an event in the same small Virginia town where I started my recovery journey and had the chance to be with some of the people with whom I first got sober 17 years ago. There were the guys I called the Fantastic Four: my first sponsor, my first best friend in sobriety, the man who taught me how to say “Hi” to other people, and the man who had what I wanted. And there were the incredible women—especially Mama T and all the adopted grandmas.

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Anyone who has suffered trauma or abuse knows how hard it is on relationships, on you, on loved ones, and on your recovery. But there is hope for healing for you and for those you love. Part 4 and the final installment in a series on the necessity of trauma-informed recovery.

If there is one message I truly wish to impart to anyone who has been reading this series, it is this: you can heal from the effects of trauma, even devastating trauma, and there is hope for you and/or the person you love. And so, it is important that we do all we can to recognize the effect of trauma on our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

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Are your behaviors and the beliefs that you maintain reflective of the man you want to be in recovery from addiction? Are they what the people in your life truly want to experience from you? Whatever your answer, know that you will experience the consequences — good and bad — no matter what.

I have spent the past decade and half looking at the issues of gender and recovery from addiction. During that time I have arrived at some conclusions, probably not all the original, but compelling nonetheless. In essence, during the process of recovery from addiction something happens to us as men and women that changes how we express ourselves at the core of our identity: our gender.

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It is well-known that trauma and addiction are closely linked. Years of clinical research have demonstrated that many individuals who struggle with addiction report exposure to trauma during the course of their lives. It is not uncommon for those dealing with addictions to have experienced any of the following: prolonged physical, emotional or sexual abuse during childhood, adolescence and/or adulthood; profound neglect; long-term exposure to violence, war or terrorism; and the chronic long-term health problems associated with these things.

Even though the link between addiction and trauma is well known and well documented, the use of trauma-informed curricula in addiction recovery is relatively new to the field. But ongoing studies -- as well as the recent availability of reliable, evidence-based curricula for men and women -- are showing that this approach to addiction recovery has wide-ranging benefits.

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In response to all the media hype that surrounded Charlie Sheen's very public struggle, author Dan Griffin offers insight into what this struggle can teach us about men's ability to overcome personal problems.

Watching the recent interviews with Charlie Sheen have left me with many conflicted emotions. More than anything: But for the Grace of God there go I.

I also feel sadness, disgust, and pity. I feel as though I am part of the problem – watching the interviews and ogling over the incredibly devastating car wreck unfolding before us. He doesn’t need people taking pictures of him in the car in flames, he needs help. And few of the media exploits in the past week have been focused on that. Because our society sure loves its disasters! His struggles with drug addiction, gambling, and other unhealthy behaviors are legendary. We have been watching an addict kill himself slowly for two decades. And the media and his employers (aka CBS and Warner Bros.) have been great enablers for years.

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Learning how to communicate is one of many challenges faced by men in recovery. Author Dan Griffin explores two big questions that form the foundation for both recovery and communication.

It goes without saying that choosing to enter treatment or a Twelve Step program presents a unique set of challenges. One that many people do not anticipate is the experience of entering a culture in which people communicate. For men especially, this can be an unfamiliar and uncomfortable experience. But this is also the beginning of the most rewarding journey they will ever take: a man’s journey through the Twelve Steps.

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Author Dan Griffin explores the connections between trauma, violence and addiction and asks what a trauma-informed curriculum can offer men in recovery.

Most of the men I’ve talked to over the years in the journey through recovery can identify some point in their lives when they realized it was not okay to express certain feelings or behaviors, especially if those feelings showed weakness, vulnerability or sensitivity. Crying above all was strictly discouraged.

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Living fearless was something I always dreamed of. While that might not be entirely possible I have learned how to live fear less. And that has been something great.

I have, for most of my life, wanted to be fearless. Since I was very young I felt like I experienced more than my share of fear. What caused this I cannot say. Whether it was an anomaly from birth, a neurological misfiring, a spiritual malady or a mix of all of these I won'€™t ever know. This is what I do know, I have always been aware of it, and I have always wanted it gone. Disappear fear! Growing up I felt isolated, especially from other men, all of the time assuming they did not share my experiences. I was wrong. Now I have an idea why.

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