Sherry Burditt answers the question:

What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?


Well, it took a little bit of thinking to come up with that, Phil. People have done many nice things for me, but I think the one most significant thing that comes to my mind is something that a patient did for me. I'm the clinical director of our addictions treatment center and we see about... 60 patients are admitted a month, and so there are a lot of patients that go through our treatment center. I do the chronic pain groups there. I'm also the director of the clinical program and so we get involved with many, many things, many stories, many heartbreaks, many tears, much laughter. It all kind of comes out, and the patients are there for 30, 60, 90 days, and also their families are involved. 

So, backing up, the nicest thing that he did for me was to really, really harass me to write a book. So why I say harass, I'm not somebody that has a lot of time to do things like that. Many patients have said, "Do you have a book? Do you have something that we can take with us? Why don't you write a book?" I would always say, "I would love to do it, but I don't have any time, but thank you very much." Well he — his name was Marty — was just tenacious and just wouldn't give up. Every time he'd say, "Okay, have you started it yet?" And I would say, "Marty, I just haven't gotten around to that." He said, "Well, I'm going to help you." So the next thing that he did was he purchased some sort of recording device that he wanted me to wear around my neck, like a lanyard only it was a pen. 

So it didn't look like we were recording anything; it just looked like I had a pen around my neck, which could be for writing or whatever. So it was not noticeable. But that pen recorded everything that I said. He goes, "Will you be willing to give this a try?" And I said, "I don't know how I feel about that. I just feel it's kind of funky. I'm not used to thinking that I'm being recorded and I don't want to come across as non ad-lib, but I'll give it a try, Marty." So I gave it a try for the first group. I do usually a two-hour or three-hour group. So I gave it to him afterwards and he said, "Well, I will hook this up to my computer and I can get it so that it will translate into text and then you can see you said, and you can start writing the book from there." So I thought, Oh Marty, all right. We'll see how that goes.

So this went on for about six months. I would look at the texts that he would print out and it seemed kind of garbled to me. I was able to highlight some key points. He never gave up. He was there every single week to make sure that I had that pen and that I was recording all of what I was saying. Ultimately, the book was completed. I'm not an author. I do feel like I have some sort of command of the English language, but I wanted the book to be just like I teach. I didn't want it to be just page after page of boring prose. I wanted it to have an impact because it's so important. And why I say that, it's because I'm dealing with a fatal illness. Statistically, I think in 2018 we had 60,000 opiate overdoses in this country and now we have the huge opiate crisis and the fentanyl added to it and our patients are very sick. It's a difficult disease to treat. It's also a difficult disease for the family. 

We address all of those things. We address the family who are extremely confused and upset and lost and angry and all of those things. Ultimately, the goal is to bring them back together, get some dialogue going. A lot of forgiveness happens during that time. So it's really, really a very emotionally packed job that I have. So when the book got written, well, actually, Phil, I thought that I had to go far, far away to write the book. I had all these papers and all of this stuff that had been translated from my verbalization. But I felt like I needed to go far, far away to write the book so that I would have peace and quiet to do it. 

So I thought, "Well, I'll go to India." I've been to India already twice. I kind of know the ropes as far as getting there and where to stay, but never had I been so blocked. I just couldn't get there for one reason or another. It was the lodgings or one thing or another, the flights, the times, where to stay. I used to stay at the ashrams in India. Now women have to accompanied by a traveling companion; you can't go by yourself. So it became very difficult. Until one day my assistant said, "Have you heard of Idyllwild?" I said, "Well, what's Idyllwild?" She goes, "You know, Idyllwild, it's that mountain community right by our hospital." I said, "Yes, I've been there." She goes, "Why not get a cabin there?" So I thought, "Hmm, get a cabin there." So that was on a Monday. On Wednesday we went up, found this beautiful cabin that we had seen on the internet, and I signed the papers. And the book was written from October, 2017 to 2018, and ultimately found a publisher. 

So the book is very valuable to the patients. They hear about it and they come in my office, "How much does it cost?" I always say to them, “It's free.” I put in orders for about 250 books at a time. When they come and ask, I can't possibly take money from the patients. So I give it to them and they are the ones that distribute it or distribute the message. So had Marty not been so tenacious and so determined to get this book written, it never, ever would have happened. So I feel extremely indebted to him. And every time a patient comes in and asks for a book or the book is brought up or whatever, I have to remember who was the one who did the nicest thing for me that I couldn't possibly do for myself.

As the Director of Clinical Services for Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, Sherry Burditt, RN, HN-BC, is a Registered Nurse whose career spans 35 years of clinical practice in Behavioral Health, Chemical Dependency, and Hospital Administration. After receiving her nurse’s training in New York, she concentrated her practice specifically in Behavioral Health and Addiction Medicine, working with adult and adolescent populations challenged with depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, addictions, and various affective disorders. 

Later, as a hospital administrator, she held the responsibility as Director of Nursing, Chief Nursing Officer, Director of Clinical Services, Director of Education, Associate Administrator, and Chief Operating Officer in mental health/addictive medicine settings. In 1999 she received Board Certification in Holistic Nursing through the American Holistic Nurses’ Association. In private practice she has also provided consultation services and holistic workshops to over 30 acute care hospitals, facilitated holistic therapy groups, supervised and evaluated healthcare instructors, and worked individually with private clients.

Sherry is the author of The Gift of Addiction

You can read her prose piece that is the foundation of the book here.

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This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 21: Awaken Your Kundalini Summit