Families First

Blanchard never drank or did drugs until he was 25 years old, but now, all he had to do was show a doctor his medical file, and he could get whatever he wanted. It wasn’t long before he was stoned all the time.

“My addiction hit hard and fast,” Blanchard says. “Through a series of life-threatening events, I finally went to my parents and said, ‘I need to go somewhere.’”

Blanchard checked himself into the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California. The first week his parents came to visit, he told them: “You need to get someone else to run the family company. I’m not coming back.”

Except he did come back. After enrolling in addiction counseling classes, volunteering at Betty Ford, interning at Ranch Recovery Center, earning a master of marriage and family therapy, a master of business administration, and working as a clinician in California, Blanchard and his wife, Cristina, moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.

There they opened the Blanchard Institute, an outpatient mental health and addiction treatment center for adults and adolescents.

Blanchard sat down with Recovery Campus to talk about his journey and how he hopes to help people and their families achieve a life of long-term happiness and recovery.

Recovery Campus: Let’s start with the basics: Who are you, and what do you do?

Ward Blanchard: I’m a marriage and family therapist and a licensed clinical addiction specialist. I’ve been working in the field of substance abuse and dual diagnosis the past decade, primarily out in Southern California, the Fertile Crescent of the treatment industry. You have the best of the best out there, and the worst of the worst. Dr. Jim Tracy, who is a known interventionist, took me under his wing and taught me the family systems-style intervention process. That’s what I believe. To give the patient realistic opportunity, you must educate and treat the family.

RC: Why did you decide to go into the addiction recovery field instead of sticking with the family business?

WB: I was fascinated by what happened to me and by the science of how my brain got hijacked. I also saw that when my family tried to get help, we couldn’t find it. North Carolina was a very starved market of resources.

Looking back, I was always the happiest when I was helping others. Right before my addiction hit, I was building a youth house for a small community in North Carolina. I was always happiest there, and I was healthier when I was helping others. I enjoyed being around people, talking to people. If I put those skills not for the dark side but more for the force, then I could do something that provided internal value to me in addition to a career.

When I got out of treatment, there weren’t many people who have a CEO job on their resume who were willing to take unpaid internships. I was willing to do that. I loved the field. I loved patients and families. I threw myself at learning whatever I could and being a sponge. I always wanted to take what I learned and give it back to the state and help the southeast region. Two years ago, I married a sweet gal from Los Angeles, and we moved to North Carolina with anticipation of opening the Blanchard Institute. We’ve been hammering away ever since.

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