Imagine the life that you thought you were living was actually a lie as you witness your entire world unravel. Meet today’s guest, Rachel Graham, CEO and Co-founder of Healing Springs Ranch, an addiction treatment center in Tioga, Texas. In this episode, Rachel dives deep into PTSD, emotional unavailability, and the interplay between trauma, mental illness and addiction.

She also shares her firsthand experiences with inadequate treatment programs and the crucial role families play in the healing process. She became a student of addiction and turned her mess into a message and made what could have destroyed her into a mission to help others.

Rachel has now dedicated her life to treating all aspects of the person, uncovering the root cause of one's addiction and creating a program of healing to allow loved ones to emerge stronger than ever as their whole true selves. If you feel like you’re on the brink of losing it all, this message was made for you.

Watch The Interview on Video


Imagine having everything you've ever dreamed of—an idyllic life—right in front of you. Then, in the blink of an eye, it all falls apart. The life you thought you were living turns out to be a lie as you witness your entire world unravel. Meet today's guest, Rachel Graham, CEO and co-founder of Healing Springs Ranch, an Addiction Treatment Center in Tioga, Texas. In this episode, Rachel dives deep into transitioning from PTSD to joyful living, tackling her own emotional unavailability, and exploring the interplay between trauma, mental illness, and addiction. She also shares her firsthand experiences with inadequate treatment programs and the crucial role families play in the healing process. If you have stood in Rachel's shoes, or are on the brink of losing it all, we've built a membership community just for you. Stop navigating this journey alone. Join us at voicesencouraged.com/thrive. 

Hi, everyone. This is KL Wells with Voices InCourage. Today, we have an extraordinary guest. I've been so excited to have Rachel Graham on with me; she has an amazing story. She's an amazing light in the world, having turned her story into a joyful life and a super empowering purpose. I'm going to turn it over to you, Rachel.

Well, thanks, KL. I'm so grateful to be here. I love what you're doing, especially your focus on talking to family members. Very often in the equation of addiction, family members are left behind, right? They may not even be aware of what was going on, or they're experiencing what I would call a PTSD response upon discovering something has happened with their loved one. And if it's a major crisis—like an overdose, a financial crisis, or anything along those lines—that can be very scary for family members. So, this is something I'm passionate about as a family member. That's how I got into the field of addiction. I came in kicking and screaming; I didn't know if I wanted to do it initially at all.

It became one of those moments where I felt a higher power was directing me. It wasn't until I let go that I actually started seeing what I was supposed to be doing with this very difficult narrative. You know, I've talked a little bit about my story, but I'd love for you to share your origin story.

Yes, so my origin story in this field begins as the spouse of someone who struggled with addiction. One of the key insights I gained through this process is that when most people think of addiction, they think of drugs and alcohol. However, addiction spans a much broader spectrum, including what we call process addictions. Process addictions can include shopping, gaming, gambling, pornography, sex, overeating, and under eating—really, the list goes on. The reality is that you can become addicted to almost anything. People often ask, "How do I know if I'm addicted?" Well, if it's causing you financial, legal, health, or relationship problems, and it's something you can't stop, then it probably needs to be looked at.

So, I started this journey. Interestingly, the story has a happy ending, although it began in a very dark place in my life. I uncovered a lot of what I would call betrayal, both in terms of sex addiction and financial matters. It all came to light overnight, and my world blew apart within 24 hours. What I thought I was living was somewhat of a facade, and the shock and awe of realizing that level of betrayal sent me down the rabbit hole, leading to depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

I ended up seeking help to navigate my own issues, while my spouse went to treatment. As often happens, the family gets left behind, not knowing what to do. I tried support groups, which can be wonderful and amazing for some, but I needed therapy, not just a support group.

I didn't initially understand the difference, but it's significant. I needed to do my own personal work before I could effectively participate in a support group and handle other people's issues.

That's a great distinction, KL. Most people don't realize that. It wasn't until I met a therapist who told me, "Honey, this is not a codependency issue. This is a PTSD response." I had been attending all these support groups that focused on codependency. I didn't even know what that was. I thought, "How am I codependent if I didn't condone, know about, or approve it?" And then, when I found out about it, I walked away. That just doesn't make sense. So, it's very common in our industry to discuss these issues, but often the nuances are overlooked about codependency and the partners or the family members being codependent. While some may be, not everyone is—that's another distinction I would make because I couldn't understand how I fit into that definition. So when the therapist explained PTSD to me, I said, "That's exactly it. Bingo." The shock and awe, the betrayal at such a level from someone you trusted... People say, "Well, how did you not know this was going on?" It happened very quickly in terms of escalating. I think there were some secret behaviors, but they were very well explained.

It wasn't until a therapist mentioned, in the context of sex addiction, that often the spouse or partner carries around a lot of negative feelings about themselves—feelings like not being pretty enough, or not being 'enough' in some way to fill in the blank. You start subscribing to that narrative. It wasn't until I really understood the nature of addiction—whether it's substance or process—that I really started my own healing journey. Now, that doesn't mean I was off the hook in terms of what I needed to do for personal growth. I'll come back to that in a minute.

But what I did learn is that when you're in a situation like this, and you have a PTSD response, you've got to work through that and actually heal yourself through that to really get to a place where you can move forward in your life, because otherwise, you're stuck. This loop just played over and over. I did a lot of personal work. And one of the things I learned as a family member from that work—and this was for me, being extremely naive—I beat myself up for that. The therapist said to me, "You were doing what a dutiful wife does: you believe your spouse." And when she told me that, it was the most self-forgiving statement. She was right. If you tell me you were at the gym, I believe you're at the gym.

Another piece of this is a form of naivete: "If I wouldn’t do it to you, you couldn’t possibly do it to me." So there's all these things. The reality of it is, it became much more of a personal journey for me, as I moved forward; he moved forward in his history. We went through some very difficult moments. We had two kids together who were very young at the time, and we were sheltering them from the graphic details of things. It wasn't until we went to a family program at one of the treatment facilities that all hell broke loose, where they went into graphic detail with my kids about the nature of sex addiction.

Oh, whoa, okay.

My kids were 10 and 12 years old. One of the things we had tried to do, and I was very angry and upset, was that I made a decision to leave the marriage. While I was very upset about how he showed up as a spouse, he was a good dad. I was trying to protect that relationship while I really compartmentalized my situation. I didn't let that spill over to the kids. As a child of a divorced family where you're poisoned against, I know how that ends.

So I was really upset with what happened; it traumatized my kids. And I sat back, went home, and had a very dark, pivotal moment. When I was on my way home, the gal who was watching the kids later that day—I dropped them off so I could go to work—called me as I was coming home to go back to the treatment facility. She said to me, "How far are you from the house?" I said, "About five minutes," and she said, "Well, your house is flooding."

So, in the course of a week, I uncovered an egregious level of betrayal both sexually and financially. I ended up having to euthanize a dog, which ironically was the wedding gift I gave him, but I'm euthanizing my dog and my marriage in the same week. 

Wow.

Yeah, what are the chances of that? And then, here I am with this flood in my house, trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my life. I had resigned from a big job prior to this reveal. I was already so deep into my departure, there was no turning back. Here I am about to be without a high-paying job, in the situation of that week, and I came home really good at compartmentalizing in a crisis. But when the crisis kind of settles, I have to have some outlet by which I release that. I learned that day it was coming. I told the gal that was watching the kids, "Here's 40 bucks or whatever, go take the kids, go get ice cream, be gone for a few hours because I'm about to lose it."

Yeah, I remember thinking, "Come see their mom like this, right?" I didn't want to scare them, but I knew it was coming. Oh, she left and I fell to my knees in what felt like inches of water, screaming at God, angry and cursing. It was not pretty, and I couldn't understand why this was happening to me. I felt like I had been a dutiful wife. I had done all these things. Why was this happening, and why all of a sudden? What was very unique about that moment, a moment I’ve never had again, was that it felt like a hand on the back of my neck, pulling me up, and I felt the words, "You’re going to be okay. I’m trying to show you something." It wasn’t a psychotic break as much as it was an awakening. 

Yes.

I answered out loud, "Got my attention." Yeah, I'm like, "Okay, where is this going?" And suddenly, it’s almost like the path, like breadcrumbs, started presenting in front of me and I followed them. It ultimately revealed what is really a bigger life purpose. And what I do today, which is co-owning and running a residential treatment facility for addiction, trauma, and mental health. And something I learned in this process is that addiction doesn't hang out by itself—it ends up with trauma and mental health. They're the three amigos, the trifecta; they are the ones that hang out. And if you whack one down, I liken it to whack-a-mole: you hit one, another one pops up.

I realized they weren't treating those concurrently. So that was my big "aha," okay. 

Concurrently?

Wow. Okay. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a guest speak about the three amigos that way. So that’s such a gift. So help me understand, what was the next pivotal step for you? I'm imagining that you went into learning

I did. And I had to go through the motions. This is something we stress at Ewing Springs, and it's something that I feel is important for everyone—you've got to feel the feelings. 

Yes.

If you suppress your feelings, they will inevitably surface, manifesting as gastrointestinal issues, depression, or anxiety. I began to experience an anxiety response due to all of this; I felt overwhelmed. We teach that anxiety often stems from a fear of the future. Therefore, I started to question what future events I was afraid of. Conversely, depression involves dwelling on past events. Once I understood this, I began exploring ways to heal myself. I realized I needed to embark on a personal journey, which in my case, was about recovering from PTSD. There was a defining moment when I sat down with my husband and explained, "I can't remain married to you. However, I did commit to being there in sickness and in health at the altar—we will always be a family. We have two children, and I will do my utmost to support you in getting the help you need while I independently work on myself. We will lead separate lives and move forward independently."

I acknowledge that he is genuinely a wonderful man. Throughout this process, I learned about his childhood trauma, which was previously unknown to me and which he had suppressed. I strive to help people understand that the root of sex addiction often lies in some form of sexual trauma. 

One significant revelation I had during this process concerns the pervasive yet hidden issue of male sexual trauma. Unlike women, who have the MeToo movement and openly discuss experiences like incest or molestation, it remains a taboo subject among men, and they are reluctant to discuss it. Organizations like oneinsix.org are founded on the statistic that one in six men have been sexually molested—a figure that is likely an underestimate since it only includes reported cases. When examining the roots of addiction, certain patterns become apparent. For example, I can assert with confidence that if you present a 20-year-old male heroin addict, he likely suffered one of two experiences: a sports injury treated with pain medication or some form of sexual trauma. This addiction serves as an escape from the associated pain and shame. When someone is sexually molested, it profoundly affects their psyche.

I chose a different path and decided to heal myself. This journey took several years and involved a great deal of self-reflection. I needed to understand the aspects of myself that may have predisposed my marriage to its challenges and learn not to blame future partners for past wrongs. Part of this journey, particularly with my son, has brought me to a higher level of consciousness, enabling me to love regardless of the outcome. It's a courageous and daunting path. 

At my facility, I emphasize to everyone that each member of the family dynamic has work to do; no one is exempt. One of the most difficult aspects for me was confronting myself, holding up a mirror to see my own flaws and questioning how I could be present in my marriage to make it work. One profound realization was that I was emotionally unavailable, a concept I initially didn't understand. I thought being able to cry in front of him meant I was emotionally present, but that's not what emotional availability entails. In reality, our marriage resembled a great friendship—we could co-parent effectively and had fun together. But emotional availability means breaking down your barriers and letting someone see all of you, including the parts you dislike, and feeling safe while doing so. This was not something practiced in my family of origin, but I learned it through this process. 

The biggest revelation for me, and what I can now bring into new relationships, is that emotional availability involves transparency and vulnerability. I'm curious about the specific skills needed to become emotionally available. For me, it was about granting myself grace and space. While I was proficient at extending grace to others, I needed to learn to give myself room to feel, which doesn't come naturally to me. According to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, my type does not handle emotions well.

INTJ?

INTJ. So I think learning to even recognize my feelings, learning what to call it, that this is anxiety. This is fear, this is anger, whatever it is something we teach it healing Springs is you have a list of healthy emotions, yes, but then you have too much or too little of it. Anger is a healthy emotion, we all are going to experience it's a healthy emotion to have and it can be very constructive. Too much anger looks like rage distracted. And at the root of rage is fear. 

Yeah.

Little anger is where you go numb, you suppress it, you just don't allow yourself to feel so I kind of had to really learn emotions, basic emotions, and what that looks like and how you resolve that. And I'll tell you that I think unless you come from a very, very emotionally adept family, it's very difficult to truly understand your emotions and really understand what to do about them and how to express them in a healthy way. 

And I can relate to you on that.That wasn't my family either.

So very few people do.

Rachel Graham shares her story of battling the addiction of her husband and the impact it had on her family.

Yeah, exactly. And I think what's interesting, partly too is we have this tendency to think that everybody else's family is doing it well. And the vast majority of families are struggling, because the statistics now are so off the charts and we are a wounded society and wounded world.

When I speak around the world, I emphasize to everyone, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or nationality, that we are all fundamentally the same. We bleed red, we have belly buttons, and we breathe oxygen. Despite our diverse backgrounds, I find it striking how today's society focuses so much on our differences rather than our similarities.

At the core, the human spirit and psyche seek relief from pain. Consider how we manage physical pain, such as recovering from surgery with the help of pain medication. However, what many fail to realize is that emotional pain can be just as, if not more, debilitating than physical pain. Most people don't know how to address it.

Often, individuals find that using a substance or engaging in a behavior provides temporary relief. This can lead to increased usage as tolerance builds, eventually spiraling out of control. At this point, I often ask people when they first felt themselves truly breathing and experiencing joy again.

I recall a turning point when I realized there was a purpose to my struggles. An executive coach, observing me from a distance during a leadership program, paid me what I consider the most meaningful compliment I've ever received. He called me a "lotus flower blooming in the mud." Initially, I found this comment odd, but upon reflection, I understood its profound meaning—the lotus flower becomes more beautiful because of the mud.

This insight became a part of my narrative. I hadn't planned on becoming a public speaker; it happened organically as I began addressing misconceptions and curbing negative gossip in our community. Standing on stage and sharing my story proved to be therapeutic, and it made me realize that dark secrets exist in nearly every household.

Driving through any neighborhood, you'll find that each family has its struggles, whether they are financial issues, extramarital affairs, special needs children, layoffs, or other significant challenges. This is simply part of life. As you live through more birthdays, you accumulate a mix of experiences—both good and bad.

My grandmother once told me something as a child that has stayed with me: "This too shall pass." This phrase holds true for both the good times and the bad. It's important to be present, enjoy the moment, and be open to the lessons life teaches us through its toughest challenges. For someone like me, who is identified as an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I value control over my circumstances, and embracing this philosophy has been crucial to my journey.

When I learned to let go, it was truly liberating. I stopped trying to control the narrative and decided to let things unfold naturally and organically. Instead of obsessing over a distant, significant goal, I focused on simply taking one step forward each day. If I stumbled, it was okay; I would just get up the next day and try again. This approach gradually revealed to me how my experiences in entrepreneurship and healthcare could merge into something new and necessary.

In moments of stillness, I realized the world has much to communicate. Our daily distractions—phones, people, a lack of presence—often drown out this communication. However, when you truly quiet your mind, you start to see the signs and opportunities laid out before you. The people who entered my life during this period helped solidify my path, one I might have overlooked if not for my experiences.

Initially, I was frustrated with what occurred at the treatment facility and considered legal action. But I soon realized that such an approach would be fruitless beyond mere financial recompense. Instead, I chose to invest what resources I had left into starting something new. This decision led me to meet incredible individuals who shared my passion but whom I might never have recognized if not for my journey. Together, we focused on treating trauma, memory, and addiction concurrently, rather than in isolation.

I am profoundly grateful and excited about our approach. It allows for a kind of healing that acknowledges the human spirit's ability to rise and find purpose amid adversity. I use a visual in my group sessions at the facility to illustrate this: imagine a line representing your innate and acquired talents, and another line depicting your passions—things you’d wake up at four in the morning to pursue. Where these lines intersect, that is your purpose. Operating in this space, you feel more rewarded, peaceful, and invigorated, using your unique skills to contribute to the world.

The true measure of success, I believe, is whether you can leave the world a better place than you found it, using your gifts to help others. This doesn’t require grand gestures; even small acts of kindness can have profound impacts. Through my personal upheavals, I’ve come to see challenges as opportunities for growth and forgiveness. During my TED talk, I discussed how my ex-husband, in making amends as part of his recovery, unknowingly gifted me the ultimate realization: through our trials, I found myself, my purpose, and the transformative power of forgiveness. Today, I maintain a healthy relationship with him, recognizing the difficult path he has traveled. Forgiveness, I’ve learned, is not just about others but also about freeing oneself from the burdens of past grievances.

Life is too short. You can walk around angry at the world, but I want to move on and be happy. Recognizing that I can't change history is part of finding that healing place. Moreover, I wouldn't change anything about this journey with my son, despite its challenges. It's been incredibly tough at times to witness his struggles, but I know it serves a higher purpose for him, for me, and for the world.

Our work is about helping people see that all of this is in service to something greater. The statistics on addiction and trauma are alarmingly high, suggesting we are experiencing a global shift towards a higher level of collective consciousness.

In dealing with addiction, whether as a family member or the person struggling, the key is to address the root pain and persevere. That root cause can metastasize like cancer if not confronted. For some, it might be past traumas; for others, it's being highly sensitive and absorbing the emotions of others, which becomes overwhelming.

Healing does happen. I've witnessed profound transformations where individuals, perhaps with the guidance of coaches and mentors, heal themselves to a state of contentment and happiness, free from the burden of their past emotions.

I get frustrated when people oversimplify addiction, saying things like, "You wouldn’t be an alcoholic if you just stopped buying vodka." If it were that easy, they would have stopped. It's similar with drugs like heroin, which quickly grips you. I recently explained to a young person the dangerous nature of synthetic drugs like fentanyl, which are designed to hook you immediately.

The drug industry has advanced to a point that deeply concerns me. Beyond drugs, we have process addictions like pornography, which is now more accessible than ever and acts as a gateway to more severe addictions because the initial dopamine rush fades, pushing users to escalate their usage.

Sam’s story reflects this tragic reality. His last relapses involved fentanyl, and he reached out across the country, desperate to come home. I realized then that I needed to elevate my consciousness. I turned to authors like Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie to remind myself of the larger purpose and to continue loving him regardless of the outcome.

We teach family members that loving someone sometimes means disappointing them and setting boundaries to protect oneself. It's crucial to allow loved ones to build their emotional resilience by experiencing disappointment and frustration. This is especially true in recovery; they may initially resent the boundaries but will often come to appreciate them later as they advance in their recovery.

This isn’t everyone’s story, but within two days of our last conversation, Sam found a remarkable facility and chose life. This choice was his own; as his mother, I couldn’t make it for him. This is a hard lesson for many parents, particularly mothers, as it involves redefining deeply ingrained roles and expectations.

Ultimately, you can’t control someone else’s journey or decisions. As a family member, you can only control your own actions and maintain healthy boundaries. This allows you to be at peace with your own path, enabling your loved one to find their way in their own time. This understanding is crucial, especially when dealing with deadly substances like fentanyl, where outcomes can be immediate and tragic.

It is still the same separate people with drug of choice. You know, we don't separate people because the reality was it may be you do heroin and I do cocaine and I want to sell shops and someone else's gambling, we're doing it for the same reason we just have a different drug of choice. 

Right, exactly.

 And if that drug is taken away, it's not uncommon to substitute it with something else. So maybe you took my credit cards away, okay, now I'm smoking, the reality of it is, you can take away something from someone, but they'll pop back up with something else if something isn't done to figure out the root cause. 

Yeah, and that's the crazy part of this. It's the whack a mole. This is because that's an external thing. This has to be an internal journey.

It absolutely does; it's a spiritual journey. Often, people enter treatment because family members mandate it, but there's a noticeable shift when they decide they want it for themselves. There are ways family members can encourage someone to seek treatment without resorting to old-school, forceful methods like physically dragging them, which rarely works. Instead, offering an invitation to work towards a happy, healthy relationship can be more effective. In this approach, each party commits to showing up in a specific way, fostering a mutual goal of improvement.

Often, those entering treatment feel like they're the "problem child" or that there's something inherently wrong with them. We make it clear to families that the responsibility is also on them. When the family commits to their own healing, the individual in treatment tends to work harder, feeling supported in a collaborative effort to better the whole family unit. This dynamic was something I deeply appreciated during my experiences with my son.

As we're nearing the end of our time, I'd like to share what I consider the first three steps for a family member in the throes of a crisis. I use the acronym ARCH. The 'A' stands for awareness—recognizing that you're in the rabbit hole, akin to Alice in Wonderland. 'R' is for identifying the root cause—understanding why you are where you are, whether it's due to emotional unavailability or another issue. 'C' stands for change—everyone involved needs to make changes. Finally, 'H' is for healing—addressing and healing those wounds. While wounds may leave scars, the scars signify healing and the work done to prevent relapsing into old crises or emotional pain.

Thank you for acknowledging the efforts to make a difference and share personal stories. Such openness is vital, as it moves us away from the facade of perfection often portrayed on social media.

For those interested in connecting or learning more, you can visit our website at www.healingspringsranch.com, or find me at www.evolveandtransform.me.

Thank you so much, I truly appreciate it. It's been fantastic engaging in two TED Talks, and I'm grateful that people can find and watch these talks to possibly gain some insights or inspiration. I’m deeply thankful for your kind words about my work and who I am, and for leaning into this journey to live a joyful, purposeful life that aims to make a positive impact on the world.

Thank you very much for giving me this platform. I really value this opportunity to talk with you—it’s been a pleasure and quite fun. To all the audience, remember the ARCH steps and move forward.

I want to extend another thank you to Rachel for joining our podcast. What a resilient individual! It’s incredibly powerful to connect with someone who shares a similar spirit, someone who has deeply engaged in personal work to confront her emotional unavailability, and who has successfully rebuilt her life while helping her children navigate their paths. Rachel turned her personal challenges into a mission, dedicating her life to treating all aspects of individuals by uncovering the root causes of addiction and creating comprehensive healing programs. This allows those she helps to emerge stronger and more authentic than ever.

Thank you to everyone who joined us. If you’re on the brink of losing it all and are ready to rise from the chaos of shame, heartbreak, and guilt, we’ve built a community for you. Don’t navigate this journey alone.

Join us at Voices InCourage at voicesincourage.com/thrive.

More About Rachel Graham

Healing Springs Ranch

Rachel's Speaking Platform: Evolve and Transform