By Carol Masshardt
Healthcare is a challenging profession, and addiction services is among the most daunting. The nature of the issue thwarts patients and those who work with them in a process requiring enormous patience and determination with societal stigma present. Many providers stay clear from this work fearing endless frustration and the utter skill and understanding needed, but the Gavin Foundations Clinical Director, Evangelos “Lucky” Adamos-Nomikos, 37, isn’t one of them. He believes “anyone can recover” and that is what his guiding star every day.
“I have been in recovery myself for ten years, and after getting a degree in Counseling Psychology and Mental Health Counseling, I worked in residential jobs and always heard about the “Gavin,” and knew it would offer opportunities. There is no place I would rather be,” he said about this professional home of the past five and a half years.
He grew up in Dedham, the son of a psychologist and close to the family-owned dry cleaners, and perhaps because of this he knew early in his journey that something both public facing and deeply personal would be his calling. “I always found people fascinating. I never wanted to do anything else,” he said, as he prepared for a week of clients, groups, and families each with their own story to tell and mountain to climb.
There is no hesitation when asked what makes the work special at this Old Colony Ave. two story building amid never-ending traffic, union halls, and a few still standing tenements, but more newer condos.
“We are client centered, always. Even as the organization has grown, you think it would become more distant, but the client is always first. Every treatment plan is different,” he said. “Most come from South Boston and surrounding communities; men, and women, homeless to financially secure. Some want individual help, or groups, and couples and family work. We do what is in the interest of the person because that is where their motivation is and best chance at recovery,” he said.
None of this work is done in isolation and Nomikos is quick to credit John McGahan and Barbara Samek of the Gavin Foundation leadership. “They are accessible in a way that usually doesn’t happen. They are caring, and provide an environment where everyone is connected,” he said.
During COVID, this lifeline stayed open with necessary precautions, and Telehealth was also offered as an option. In typical style, “Lucky” looks at the opportunity. “We were so focused on in person, and through this we learned new skills. When I look at someone in person, I see their skin, breathing, posture for example, and I had to learn how to try to look at someone on a screen and find out how they were really doing without that advantage,” he said.
In addition, COVID conditions, complex in all healthcare, presented new “triggers” for those with addiction. Too little or much money, too much isolation, and very different work lives,” he said, “and we saw increased relapsing.” The prevalence of fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine, among alcohol and other substances, presented never ending challenges, and continues to in 2022.
Did you ever think about leaving during the scariest days? This clinician either doesn’t relate to the question or is so compelled by the work that he said simply a “No, they needed us the most,” referring to the stress imposed by COVID to lives already in the balance. “It’s not to say the work doesn’t take an emotional toll, but we see improvement and that gives us optimism,” he said. That steady attitude underlies the energy and calm for this remarkable leader/clinician and Gavin team.
(Carol Masshardt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).