Meet Dan Griffin, MA

Meet Dan Griffin, MA

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Every month we feature experts in the substance abuse field answering user-submitted questions on Time To Get Help.  This month, our expert is acclaimed author Dan Griffin, MA, who specializes in men’s issues, addiction and recovery, drug courts, working with and understanding the twelve step culture, and the challenges of being young in recovery

We'd like you to meet Dan.

TTGH: Can you tell us a little about your background?

Griffin: I have worked in the mental health and addictions field for over sixteen years. In early 2010, I started a consulting, training, and speaking business, Griffin Recovery Enterprises, Inc. I served as the state drug court coordinator for the Minnesota Drug Court Initiative, from 2002 to 2010, and was also the judicial branch’s expert on addiction and recovery. I was awarded Hazelden’s first training fellowship for addiction counseling in 1998. I have worked in a variety of areas in the addictions field: research, case management, public advocacy, drug courts, teaching and counseling. I work with a number of national and state organizations, including National Drug Court Institute, Children and Family Futures, and Justice Programs Office. 

I wrote a book titled, A Man’s Way through the Twelve Steps, and it is the first trauma-informed book to take a holistic look at men’s sobriety. I also co-authored Helping Men Recover, the first comprehensive trauma-informed gender-responsive curriculum for men with national expert, Dr. Stephanie Covington, and Rick Dauer, Clinical Director, River Ridge Treatment Center. Griffin’s graduate work was centered on the social construction of masculinity in the culture of Alcoholics Anonymous.
I live in Minnesota with my wife and daughter and have been in long-term recovery since I graduated college in 1994.

TTGH: Why did you decide to work in the substance abuse field?

Griffin: Like a lot of people, I first got into the mental health, addiction and recovery fields because of my own recovery. It started at the Virginia state psychiatric hospital for children shortly after graduation from college in 1994. I have stayed in the field because it has been a good fit for me and I have been quite successful. In fact, it has been more like a calling. I have been very privileged to be a part of two groundbreaking efforts in the field – the establishment of drug courts and the reconceptualization and redesigning of men’s treatment services. 

TTGH: Who, in your field, has influenced or inspired you the most?  Why?

Griffin: Earnie Larsen, Merle Fossum, and Stephanie Covington. Earnie Larsen was a true pioneer in the field, he wrote over sixty books, and he lived his message until the last day of his life. He knew the incredible importance of his continuing to grow and learn in his own recovery. He was a great mentor for me and a great example of the man I hope to become. Merle Fossum wrote some of the first books about men and recovery. His meditation book, Touchstones, was one of the inspirations for my book and continues to be very important to me. Stephanie Covington has done a lot for women’s services and working to ensure that the field provides services specifically designed for women that always takes into account trauma. She has also been supportive of the efforts to look at men’s services, particularly regarding trauma.

 TTGH: Which book would you recommend parents of an addict read? Why?

Griffin: I would recommend two books. The first book I would recommend is Teens Under the Influence by Katherine Ketcham. I would also recommend my book, A Man’s Way through the Twelve Steps, for young and adult men because it provides a rare insight into the personal experience of addiction and recovery, as described by the men themselves (based upon the feedback I have gotten from parents.)  

TTGH: What is the best piece of advice that you think parents in our community should know?

Griffin: This is not a simple answer. I would speak to two sets of parents. First, I would speak to those parents whose children, like so many in our communities, end up trying alcohol and other drugs for a variety of reasons. Those kids are going to have any number of reactions to what might seem an innocent enough use of substances.  Some will not be interested. Others will use so that they can fit in. Others still will have some problems as a result of their use. And others still will become addicted. The best advice I can give those parents is to be actively engaged in talking to your kids about alcohol and other drugs without being naïve or ignoring the very real experience of adolescents and peer pressure. Whatever you do don’t be silent about the topic and don’t confuse open dialogue with endorsement. 

The other set of parents I would speak to are those that we often do not speak to directly - where one or both are also addicted to substances themselves. The challenge, of course, is getting their attention. Many of these parents are all too quick to point out their child’s use of substances oftentimes because that child is the scapegoat of the family system. The only problem is that when a child is growing up in an addicted family system, as I did, their use of substances is often an attempt to deal with the pain of living in that system. If you have ever had concerns about your use or your spouse’s use of substances you need to pay attention to that and address that before you can even think about trying to get through to your child. Get help! Otherwise, all they will see is hypocrisy. The best audience for this set of parents is the kids themselves. When we tell these young people on the path to addiction that they are not alone, that they are not the problem, and that we honor the pain and isolation of living in an addicted family we are much more likely to reach them. In doing so, we have a much better chance of bringing recovery into the system. 

Do you have a question you'd like to ask Dan or another expert? Send your questions here or leave a comment below!