Former addict fights for music and art therapy recovery program

Former addict fights for music and art therapy recovery program

After Elif Binger gave birth to her second child in 2007, she sought psychiatric help with what she reflects on as postpartum depression, but what she said her doctor falsely diagnosed as bipolar disorder.

Trusting her doctor’s judgment, she followed his instructions.

“Instead of going to therapy to deal with the postpartum, the trauma or the PTSD,” Binger said, “I was relying on these pills and alcohol to wash it down.”

The subsequent years ended up becoming costly for Binger.

She went off on what she describes as a “tangent of addiction” to prescription painkillers and Xanax, resulting in a one-month jail sentence for a DWI in 2013 and a messy divorce with her ex-husband, who she said was a drug dealer.

After her month in prison, Binger stayed with a friend, Stella Roberg, who would drop her off at East Northport library during the day. While waiting for the library to open, Binger witnessed addicts listening to music. So she began researching music in relation to dopamine levels.

This led Binger to start Long Island Recovery Mission (LIRM), a nonprofit organization seeking to implement music and art therapy as well as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) lifestyle management programs into drug recovery homes across Long Island.

Though it’s been four years since Binger first established the organization, progress has been stagnant. The upcoming months are uncertain but hopeful for the nonprofit, which hopes to learn whether it will receive government recognition and funding in the spring.

“We have a huge team that wants to jump on board,” Binger said. “Unfortunately, we’re at a standstill because of funding. It’s very hard to run a nonprofit and survive.”

Since the launch, Binger invested over $100,000 of her own money into LIRM and her private recovery coaching business. As a result, she began looking for other sources of funding.

In order to raise operational funds, Binger began fundraising efforts with a “Music is my Drug” concert at Heckscher State Park in 2016. The event was a success, but the “concert basically paid for itself,” according to Binger, since profits capped at around $400.  

It’s been years of what she describes as broken promises from politicians and reluctance from health officials to support her proposal, which would be beneficial to recovering addicts like herself.

Many people who develop an addiction start by taking a medication prescribed by their doctor. Over half of people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder don’t actually have it, according to a 2008 study conducted by Dr. Mark Zimmerman, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University.

“It was ten years of hell for me,” Binger said. “All of this could have been prevented if I wasn’t misdiagnosed.”

In addition, postpartum depression is often goes undiagnosed and untreated, according to the Postpartum Resource Center of New York.

“We don’t know the prevalence of misdiagnoses,” Sonia Murdock, the executive director of the postpartum resource center, said. “What we do know is that bipolar disorder related to the postpartum period prevalence is greater than what has been originally thought.”

Local town official Chad Lupinacci, however, has shown support for the program.

“Supervisor Lupinacci has met with them this year and in his prior capacity as a State Assemblyman,” Lauren Lembo, Lupinacci’s public information officer, said. “He has been and continues to be very supportive of their legislative initiatives at the state level and looks forward to continuing that relationship at the town level.”

Though state officials have been challenging to work with, according to Binger.

Last year, a politician — who Binger did not want to name because it could jeopardize future [funding?] endeavors — promised to grant the nonprofit $9 million in funding, Binger said. This was the third promise that, like the prior two instances, went unfulfilled.

“Everybody’s got an agenda,” she said. “They [the government] want to keep people sick so that they keep coming back. It’s a huge advantage to them.”

What she saw during her month at the jail in Riverhead inspired her to start recovery coaching. She witnessed inmates exchanging drugs they would receive from nurses. Some would put them underneath their tongue and then trade pills in an area without cameras.

It was a year later when she launched LIRM.

As of now, the team is volunteer-based. It consists of Binger, a volunteer accountant, a music therapist, an art therapist, and a student and recovering addict who is in the process of getting her certification in music therapy.

Music therapists in the area, however, have been reluctant to show their support. Instead, they are skeptical of the organization’s credibility.

“I see they’re promoting cognitive behavioral therapy,” Lauren Kilmek, a Huntington-based music therapist, said. “Yet not once do they mention anything about the process of CBT or their credentialed staff. They don’t even list their services or much about the home or programs they offer.”

This reaction is a reoccurring one for Binger, she said. Since she can’t afford a formal education or a Ph.D., she lacks “a formal label.” But that hasn’t stopped her from reaching out to local doctors seeking feedback on her program

“They support my ideas,” Binger said. “I’m not just coming in here with nothing to show for it.”

Recovery Homes on Long Island


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