The Landscape is changing…

West Coast Symposium of Addictive Disorders
La Quinta Resort and Spa
May 30-June 2

Friday, at the end of WCSAD’s exciting first day, Leonard Buschel said in passing that the conference landscape is changing (the earth is rotating, so by definition the landscape is always changing).  That slightly off the cuff remark, started me thinking about what these multitudes of yearly gatherings are all about. Is this really the end of the 4-day “Conference-Chella filled with music, karaoke, ice cream and pool parties? Will the Capela limitless BBQ go the way of last week’s celebrity scandal?

Georgia Frabotta, Gwendolyn Cassel and Leonard Buschel

Yes conferences are expensive, exhausting and exceptional feats of attention to detail and singleness of purpose, for both the promoters, exhibitors and attendees.  At La Quinta, C-4’s excellent team headed by Dee McGraw and  Susan Benvenuti who handle the 3-ring circus of booths, attendees and speakers with the greatest of ease. These graceful, strong women conduct a huge, unwieldy event without a drop of sweat or a raised voice.

Dee Mc Graw and Susan Benvenuti

Conferences are also especially grueling for the exhibitors and marketers who like traveling salesmen of year’s past go from town to town pitching their wares. But now, instead of vacuum cleaners, those wares are various treatment modalities with an encyclopedic offering of solutions-CBT, EMDR, Brainspotting, Trauma, Breathwork, Mindfulness, MAT, etc-to an insoluble problem—drug addiction.

So, of course, change is on the horizon.  1-day conferences with fewer booths and marketers, more remote CEU courses available, Skype and online speakers, Zoom meetings, all of which will save time, money and even help Mother Earth (less travel=smaller carbon footprint).

But I believe that misses the point of what West Coast is all about.  Johann Hari, said in his Ted Talk that “the opposite of addiction is connection” and the business of WCSAD is about overcoming addiction. Ours is not an industry solely concerned with ROI, revenue generation and “the bottom line”.  We come to share ideas, solutions, and our deepest secrets with each other.  As ex-addicts and alcoholics ourselves, we know the value of fellowship and collaboration and the remember the loneliness of isolation in our dis-ease.   I came to West Coast for more than to get sponsors for the NYC and LA Reel Recovery Film Festival (though that is Super-Important, so call me 818.464.6877, I am available 24/7).  Or to stay at a world class resort with a pool and a view of the mountains, or to talk to many number of attendees and exhibitors from across the country about the excellent reputation of the Addiction/Recovery eBulletin and why they should advertise.  I came for the connection. I came for the camaraderie-for the opportunity to start my day in a 12-step meeting and to socialize in a sober environment, about a sobering topic, with people who are anything but dull.

As my friend, Nicolle Walters of CAST Centers said, “We’re in this together”.  I am grateful to be in a business that is also a community of people committed to working together towards a common goal. 

Of course, the landscape will change, yet certain things remain the same.

Nicolle Walters of CAST Centers

As a recovering person, I may not crave drugs and alcohol but I do crave connection, and I don’t think that I am the only one.