Grief and Rebirth: Finding the Joy in Life | Dr. James Flowers | Substance Use Disorder


Substance use disorder affects millions and can disrupt every aspect of life. Join Irene’s conversation with Dr. James Flowers, one of the most recognized and highly respected names in the field of chronic pain, pain recovery, mental health, and addiction, as he shares his insights into progressive healthcare and mental health treatment, offers a compelling discussion on addiction, pain management, and cognitive behavioral therapy, reveals the visible signs that indicate someone may be experiencing substance use disorder, discusses the quest for joy in life, and more! This is a highly interesting, insightful interview with a truly remarkable man!


  • Progressive healthcare and human healing
  • Visible signs of substance use disorder
  • Approaching an addicted loved one
  • Chronic pain management and cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Success stories from addiction and pain programs
  • How his team helped a young man thought to be schizophrenic and discovered a worm in the boy’s brain


  • What are the visible signs that indicate someone is experiencing a substance use disorder?
  • Can you define for us what you call progressive healthcare and human healing?
  • What is behavioral pain management, and how is it a holistic approach to improve well-being, manage discomfort, and reduce stress?
  • What is the importance of healing with the aid of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, known to improve quality of life, reduce pain, and alleviate stress?


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Dr. James Flowers: What Are Visible Signs That Indicate Someone May Be Experiencing Substance Use Disorder?






I could not be more delighted to have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. James Flowers, who is one of the most recognized and respected names in the field of chronic pain, pain recovery, mental health, and addiction. Dr. Flowers’ broad educational background includes a PhD., several fellowships in behavioral pain management, clinical rotations at prestigious healthcare institutions, and extensive experience in both the evaluation and treatment of chronic pain and co-occurring addiction. He has cofounded exclusive treatment programs dedicated to designing multidisciplinary mental health and addiction treatment protocols.

As the Founder and President of the J. Flowers Health Institute, he has advanced the process to satisfy a great void to provide truly comprehensive assessment and evaluation for those who need diagnosis and then develop post-evaluation treatment recommendations. Dr. Flowers, who is based in Houston, Texas, is a popular public speaker and lecturer who shares his important insights across the United States and abroad. He also hosts a weekly podcast called Understanding the Human Condition, which is a valuable resource for underlying health causes, conditions, and issues.

On a much more personal note, Dr. Flowers is a lifelong distance runner with more than 28 marathons. He has competed in several ultramarathons, which has me in awe of him already, including 70 and 100-mile races. He’s a pilot. I’m looking forward to talking with Dr. Flowers about how the deaths of his two older sisters inspired his career trajectory, invisible signs that indicate someone may be experiencing substance use disorder, the work of the J. Flowers Health Institute for pain management, mental health, and addiction, what Dr. Flowers calls progressive health care and human healing and more for what is surely going to be a highly interesting, insightful interview with a truly remarkable man.


Grief and Rebirth: Finding the Joy in Life | Dr. James Flowers | Substance Use Disorder


You’ve told me I can call you James but Dr. Flowers, a heartfelt and warm welcome to the show.

I don’t think I’ve ever had an introduction that thorough. I want to carry you in my coat pocket as we go around the country and talk together.

It’s my pleasure.

It would be amazing.

You’re welcome to do that. I do this because I want those who are reading this show to know your expertise and understand our guests.

The roses behind you for J. Flowers are perfect. Thank you for having me.

Truly my pleasure. We’re going to help a lot of people because a lot of people hear about addiction, know people who are in pain and all of that thing but they don’t know how they can even help it, define it, and what it is. Here you are. It’s a great blessing and a gift that we can talk with you and learn so much. Your life started in a traumatic way because you lost two of your older sisters during your developmental years.

Inspiration For Dr. Flowers’ Career

One of them was 32 years old when she died of addiction and she was in 19 treatment centers. She had a comorbid diagnosis, which refers to the presence of two or more distinct illnesses in the same person. That experience inspired your future focus on individualized holistic treatment. This was for one of your sisters. I’ll ask you about your other sister who also passed. Would you like to talk to us about this particular sister and how she inspired what you do?


Grief and Rebirth: Finding the Joy in Life | Dr. James Flowers | Substance Use Disorder


It was a tragedy and trauma for me growing up but to get there, I’m going to back up even a little more for your audience. I was born into a family whose father was probably an alcoholic. He was emotionally abusive to my mother growing up. My mother played the typical wife homemaker role, stayed home, and took care of the children but she had her wonderful addiction to value. My father was a workaholic alcoholic.

My father dropped dead in front of me having a heart attack when I was ten years old. Probably one of my first traumatic experiences was when I was ten when my father died in front of me at our dinner table. We moved into my mother’s addiction and her recovery from my father dying in front of all of us and then getting my sister into treatment, who was an addict as well.

I was this young child looking up like I was watching a movie. I distinctly remember saying to myself, “I do not want to be in this movie or be one of the stars in this drama.” God did this for me. He gave me something that said, “Put your head down. Study your ass off. Get the hell out of here.” I went the opposite direction, ran from drugs and alcohol, and watched my family self-destruct. My sister was indeed in nineteen treatment centers.

What was her addiction?

It’s called polysubstance abuse, which means many so she’s into anything, whether it is alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or LSD back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It was anything. The problem was that she never faced any consequences for her drug use. In other words, my family enabled her. They continued to support her, give her money, pay for her treatment, and put her in these exclusive treatment centers all over the country. She would get out and relapse.

Finally, one day, she went to her last treatment center. Out of treatment, she moved to Portland, Oregon and got a little one-bedroom condominium on the eighth floor of this amazing high-rise. In two weeks of being in Portland, she had a party. How she met so many people in two weeks, I don’t know. Somehow during her party, she ended up falling from the eighth story of that building off of her balcony and hit the street below. That’s how she died from her addiction. They did find, unfortunately, cocaine in her system when they did her blood work. I lost that sister.

How much older or younger was she than you, Doctor?

She was ten years older than me. When I was small, she was already aging. We didn’t spend a ton of time in the same house, even when I was 15 and she was 25. When I was 12 and she was 22, I was watching she would come home on high and come back to the house. My mother would continue to enable and give her money. My grandparents would give her money. She never got out of her addiction. She would try. She’d go to treatment but she relapsed because I believe that she faced her traumatic past, covered her trauma, and hid from her trauma by using drugs and alcohol.

That is a theory that I’ve always had. People who have problems with substances are using it as an anesthetic in a way for their emotional pain.

You bet. It puts them to sleep temporarily. They’re like, “Let me take more so I can forget it for the moment.”

How many were there in your family? Were there six of you?

There were four. I was the youngest only boy, twins in the middle, and then my oldest sister.

Was this your oldest sister who died this way?

Yes, who died of drug addiction. My middle sister died one year prior to her exactly the day from cancer.

She died at an early age also.

My oldest sister died at 32 and my middle sister died at about 28, 30, or something like that. One sister had cancer and horrible chronic pain for years. She was going through treatment, surgery, and chemotherapy, and then chronic pain from that. I watched her unfortunately die. I was with her and holding her hand when she took her last breath.

It would be easy to understand that watching this and being the healthy one that you don’t want to get pulled into the smart younger brother. They always say the youngest one is taking notes from the older ones.

I did.

It would be easy to understand why this sparked an interest for you in the diagnostic process, suffering, dealing with addiction, and all of that thing. You got out of there and said, “I’m going to help other people not go through this.”

My undergraduate degree is in Marketing, Finance, and Business Administration. I didn’t think about this field as an undergraduate. My grandfather was a surgeon so he always expected me to be a doctor. I thought about it and said, “No. All of you are crazy. I don’t want to do anything that you guys do. I’m going to do my own business and ended up doing my own business.”

It was a result of what my family went through that after undergraduate school, my sister died of cancer, and my oldest sister died of addiction that I went back to school and began this path of helping other people heal. I felt somewhat like you said. You had a calling. You heard a voice. You and I had a wonderful conversation prior to this. Part of my story is that I heard a voice say, “You don’t need to go into business administration and work at a bank or real estate. You need to be a healer.” That’s what I did.

Progressive Healthcare And Human Healing

Here we are. Look at how many lives you’ve touched by your choice. Let’s start with educating everyone, including me about your expertise. Can you define for us what you call progressive healthcare and human healing? We talked about medicine and people go to doctors. They also go to energy healers and all that. What is your niche?

A little bit of background, including my sister, is we see people all over the country and world go into treatment centers and a 30-day program. They get out and have a 70% relapse rate within a year. They go back and there’s a 50% relapse rate. People recycle and tend not to be well. I’ll start with addiction and then go into healthcare to answer your question.


Grief and Rebirth: Finding the Joy in Life | Dr. James Flowers | Substance Use Disorder


In the addiction world, what we see, unfortunately, is a lack of proper diagnosing. When we go into a typical treatment program in the US, the best and tiny programs tend to say, “You’re an addict. This is your treatment plan. We have 60 other patients in here and you all have the same treatment plan.” There are 60 different individuals people in there who have different backgrounds, lives, and stories. They can’t have the same treatment plan. We all need to have our unique treatment plan and a collaborative team working together.

The other thing that oftentimes happens in addiction is you go from one treatment center to the next treatment center to the next treatment center, and not one of them called, asked to talk to the treatment center that the person went to historically, and said, “Let me review the records and talk to you about what she or he went through that we can do better here.” They ignore that they went to twelve other treatment centers. They hear it and they say, “Let’s see what we can do differently.” They don’t even know what they did at the last one. We see repeat and lots of incorrectly diagnosed people.

The average psychiatrist in the United States diagnoses a patient that they see for the first time within six minutes. It’s insane. That doesn’t make sense. You walk into an emergency room or a psychiatric hospital or you’re brought in by your family, the police, or anyone. The psychiatrist sits down sometimes on a video screen or in person. They talk for a few minutes and start writing prescriptions and diagnoses. They get up and leave. They tell the nurse and the therapist, “Here are the diagnoses.” They go home for the night. They start treating based on that six-minute evaluation.

It’s in my layman’s understanding but how can you know when there are so many different reasons? For somebody who’s addicted, it could be a disease or a genetic thing inside of them but it could be from emotional trauma and you’re covering that up. It’s different.

You can’t figure that out in six minutes. I’m sorry. It’s almost as hard to find it out in 30 days. What I believe in and what my fellowship training taught me is to evaluate the human being with whom we’re sitting with, with a team of experts in every area. In other words, let’s have a psychiatrist sit with you for 1 hour, 2 hours, or 3 hours and understand you. A nurse or a nurse practitioner draws your blood, orders imaging if necessary, and looks at the brain, behavior, lab work in your body, and your medical history. Is there something medical that’s making you act and behave the way that you’re behaving?

Is it a genetic thing, for instance?

We had a patient one time who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His mother didn’t believe that he had schizophrenia. The mother brought him from the psychiatric hospital to me and said, “I’m telling you, my son does not have schizophrenia. He’s been at this hospital in North Carolina for eight weeks and they’re treating him with medication for schizophrenia. He’s not getting better.” I said, “Bring him. Let’s evaluate him.” She brought him in.

The physician and psychiatrist sat with him. I sat with him. We said, “Something’s not adding up here.” Over the course of that first day that he was here, the physician looked at me and said, “I’m going to order an MRI of the brain. Something’s not right.” He ordered an MRI of the brain. Guess what happened? He didn’t have schizophrenia.

He went to India that summer with his mother. He ate raw undercooked pork and had a tapeworm in his brain. The tapeworm was eating his brain. We hospitalized him and put him on the strongest intravenous antibiotic. They had to put him into a coma for two weeks while the worm was killed. That young man is as functioning as well as he was before. If he had stayed at that psychiatric hospital, he would have died.

I have to ask you an important question. When they treated him for this, did they remove that worm or does it decay in the brain? What happens?

It dissolves into the body and goes away, oddly enough. It was from raw pork. It happens very rarely but it happens. I read an Apple News story about someone. One of the Kennedys had a parasite in his brain early on. We see all kinds of things that get a mental health diagnosis that may truly be medical health. We see medical health that is brought on by mental health difficulties. When you’re depressed, you get out of bed, and you’re anxious, you isolate. When you’re a drug addict, you ruin your body and brain. You have all these medical complications.

My philosophy is to get to know everything about you. I want to know about your spirituality, your nutrition, your physical level of functioning, what your diet is like, what your trauma is, and everything about you. We create what I call a behavioral living MRI of just you. With the proper diagnoses, a treatment plan can be written and then the person can be placed in the right environment to be able to get well, thrive in life, and not have to continue to stay in the healthcare system.

You’re the ripe old age of 35 and you’re a very healthy woman. You take care of yourself. You do yoga and tai chi. Your cardiologist even called people in the room and said, “Come look at this living example.” That’s how we want all of our patients to be able to get there. If they want to get as healthy as you, they can do it. Let us give you a proper diagnosis and show you how to get there.

We’re going to get into cognitive behavioral therapy. I’ve done so much healing in my life. I love that you also go there. They call an addiction a disease but there are also underlying behavioral things or belief systems and all that, which I’m sure needs modification if that person is not going to fall back into their old way.

You should come to teach with me. You hit the nail on the head. We have to moderate and change our behavior. When a drug addict comes in, an alcoholic, or some type of addict, whether it’s a process addiction like sex addiction or an addiction to substances like alcohol or drugs, people have to change their environment and look at their past. We dig deep into their childhood, developmental ages, and what happened to them throughout their life.

You would be amazed at the stories when we give people time to talk and we ask the right questions. We’re interested and have a passion for finding out what happened so that we can help them heal. I do believe that addiction is genetic but I also believe that behavior plays a huge role. You have to overcome it with the help of a qualified team of experts.



To my mind, if you treat someone for the actual problem and send them home, it’s easy to fall back because it’s hard to change. You need a lot of support to do that. It’s very scary. You’re going back into your old situation and every trigger possible is right back there.

What we teach is, “Do we want to change your environment or alter the environment?” Sometimes people can’t physically move from one town to another or another state but what we’ll do is come up with a plan to alter the environment where they live and have a healthier group of people around them. We talk to families. A critical role in what we do is the family system. How do the families enable?

It’s almost like your childhood was a perfect petri dish.

The family system has to do their education and therapy to learn how to set boundaries for when that patient comes home and how they interact with the patient differently as well.

Family system has to do their own education and therapy to learn how to set boundaries for when that patient comes home and how they interact with the patient differently as well. Share on X

Do you also work with their loved ones? All the behaviors need to be changed.

You bet.

Visible Signs

For people reading this and thinking, “My sister, brother, and friend got a problem but I don’t quite know how to define it.” Are there visible signs that indicate someone is experiencing a substance use disorder? You even said sexual addiction so it’s not necessarily a substance but what types of substances and behaviors are addressed in your addiction treatment programs?

I’m going to start with some obvious signs that families may not realize are as obvious. One is someone who has been super outgoing, had a seemingly great, fun life, enjoyed life, and then begins to isolate and withdraw. They become somewhat depressed, sad, and withdrawn. They don’t go to church or movies, go eat, or do the things that they used to do. That’s a huge sign that a lot of people don’t realize.

A lot of us in life, we’ll see behaviors that are small like, “I noticed last night at dinner, John had 4 drinks instead of the normal 2,” picking up on that. Also, if someone is drinking at a party and they get angry and get into fights. There are all kinds of ways to look at, “I think my friend, loved one, wife, husband, or child is having a problem.” It’s okay to sit down and say, “I’m worried about you. Is everything okay?”

“What do you mean?” “I noticed that the last three times we’ve gone out to dinner, you’ve had 4 to 6 drinks and you used to have 2, and that concerns me.” That’s an example. “I’ve noticed that you’re withdrawn. You’re not coming out with all of our friends like we used to. You’re not coming out with all of the group to go to play chess, rummy, or whatever it is. You’re isolating and I’m concerned about that.” Talk about it.

What if the person says, “Get away from me? I don’t want you to know about any of this.” You’re seeing your loved one or your friend going down the tubes. Is there nothing that can be done?

There is.

Do they put them in a box and ship them to the J. Flowers Institute?

That’s a great idea. I’m going to start sending out boxes and saying, “Send them here.” What you said happens every day all over the world. People will talk to their loved ones and friends and their friends will say, “Get out of here. I’m not going to discuss it with you. It’s none of your business.” The next step is to bring in other friends, talk about it, and then approach that person in a gentle, kind, loving, and invitational way to change. If there isn’t change, there is a group of professionals in the United States and around the world called Interventionist.

This in itself is important to talk about in this interview.

It is a whole group of people who are trained and certified by accredited organizations. I’m going to name one of the many, AIS or the Association for Intervention Specialists. You can google AIS interventionist Houston, Texas, New Jersey, or New York City. A list of them will come up through the AIS website, for example, that will talk about professional interventionists that you can talk to and help you get that person into treatment.

The substances we’re talking about, you’re dealing with heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.

We see everything from synthetic marijuana to marijuana. Do you know what a whippet is?


In your kitchen while cooking or making a dessert, have you ever used the whipping cream that comes out of the can? The gas in that can is highly addictive. You can buy them at a grocery store, smoke shops, or anywhere. It’s called nitrous oxide. People are breaking it open and instead of using the whipped cream, they’re smelling the gas in the whipped cream can, getting high, and using thousands a day.

We see whippets, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, alcohol, sex addiction, gambling addiction, and so much of it that you can relate over time to trauma in their lives. Trauma is a big component. Also, behavior, depression, anxiety, and health. We look at the total body system and we often treat people for medical conditions that they didn’t even know they had. They may think one thing is wrong when it’s another thing or it’s comorbid. It’s two things or more that we end up treating.



Anyone who would go to your program I’m sure feels so supported, which is important. You also reach out and deal with their supporting cast members and the dramas that are going on.

We want the whole system to change. If the whole system doesn’t change, then the person certainly isn’t going to change. Most people don’t realize that when they send a loved one to treatment, they also have to change their behavior.

That’s a big one. They need to do some work, too not like, “There’s nothing wrong with me. That’s his problem.”

I hear that every day.

You also have to have an interventionist for the supporting cast in their lives probably.

There are people who will go work with families. There’s a woman in Southern California who’s a dear friend of mine, Dr. Louise Stanger. She’ll do something called a family map. It’s looking at the entire family system. She can describe it so much better than me. There are people who do nothing but work with the family.

Treatment Programs For Addiction And Chronic Pain Management

Let me ask you another question. Do you have help for people who are a little lower income? How does it work? Do you have scholarships? Is it all covered by insurance? People are reading to us and saying, “I know someone who could use this but I’m not sure I can get them there.”

My organization, J. Flowers Health Institute, does not accept insurance. It’s private pay. I’m going to talk about a couple of things here. One of the reasons that insurance won’t pay for it is because when you sit with a psychiatrist for 3 hours, insurance will pay for maybe 45 minutes of it. If you go to a physician and you spend 2 hours with a physician, they’re going to pay that doctor $85. He can’t run a practice on $85.

Our practice happens to be privately paid but there are integrated programs that a lot of people don’t realize at the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, UCLA, and those academic institutions that believe in the integrative approach to medicine. They can use Medicare or private insurance. You go there and they do a great job. There are programs like mine that are individualized and see one patient for one provider. Insurance doesn’t cover that piece of it. We’re able to go deeper and spend more time than an insurance-based program but insurance won’t cover that component of it.

There are other options if people can’t. I also want to ask you. Not only do you deal with addiction but you deal with pain. Educate us, please, about chronic pain management. I’ll bet you, there are behavioral issues behind that too. If you’ve got that back curtain, that may not just be a physical manifestation.

You’re exactly right. Pain can be acute, meaning you step off a curb and sprain your ankle. That’s a brand new injury and it hurts but when it goes beyond 90 days, what we call normal tissue healing time is about 3 months. Whether it’s back surgery, a car wreck, or anything else, our bodies are built and designed to heal within about 90 days. When it goes beyond that, it goes into chronic pain. That means that something is going on in the system that a pain signal is continuing to tell the brain it’s feeling pain.

You said to your audience that I’ve run 28 marathons and some hundred-mile races. Sometimes my knees and back hurt. They’ve hurt for quite a while but I get up, function, work, and do the things that I need to do throughout the day. There’s a certain subset of people, about 50% of people with chronic pain, who fall into something called chronic pain syndrome, which means a failure to thrive. In other words, they’re hurting and don’t feel good so they don’t get up. They stay in bed, isolate, and begin to go doctor shopping saying, “Something’s wrong with me. Give me medication for pain,” instead of doing exercise.

They get medication for pain and they have another problem because they’re addicted to the medication for pain.

I.e., the horrible OxyContin syndrome that killed thousands of people in this country from overdoses, death, and things like that. About 70% of our physical pain is an emotional response to pain. I’m going to make it simple. When we rate our pain from 0 being no pain at all to 10, meaning I’m in an emergency room pain, 70% of that is an emotional response. Here’s why.

About 70% of our physical pain is an emotional response to pain. Share on X

Our nervous system is the only way we feel pain because the nerves go to the spine and come up to the brain and say, “My back or knee hurts,” or whatever it is that hurts. When we’re nervous, not sleeping, anxious, depressed, or don’t sleep well, our nervous system vibrates and sends that signal at ten times the rate that it would if the nervous system were calm.

If we can work with someone on their depression, anxiety, fear, avoidance, isolation, diet, exercise, and nutrition and overcome that emotional effect of their pain, their pain level goes from 9 to 2. It’s amazing. By doing an integrative approach, working with a team of experts on your mood, acceptance, anxiety, sleep hygiene, and so many other things within our system, we can bring that level 8, 9, or 10 pain down to about 2, 3, and sometimes even 0.

I want you to please educate us about cognitive behavioral therapy because you use that a lot, too. That improves quality of life, reduces pain, and alleviates stress, which is all connected with that pain.

I’ll relate it to chronic pain but I believe it relates to life in general. When you have chronic pain or you’re having a bad time in your life, you tend to think negatively. “I’m not going to be able to lift my grandchildren, mow the lawn, do the dishes, or load the dishwasher. I’m never going to feel better.” Those are all negative thoughts that affect the way our brain and body feel.

When you have chronic pain or you're having a bad time in your life, you tend to think negatively. Share on X

Cognitive behavioral therapy is working with someone and saying, “Let’s change that paradigm from, ‘I can’t,’ to, ‘I can.’ Let’s not say, ‘I’ll never be able to lift my grandchild, mow the lawn again, or do the dishes again,’ but say, ‘I will be able to do those things. I know I don’t feel good now but I’m going to get healthy.’” It’s changing our perceptions from a negative to a positive view. It’s not with wearing rose-colored glasses. It’s changing this brain.

I would imagine that some of those come from learned perceptions that they grew up with. For instance, as they’re getting older, they go, “I’m having this pain in my back but I’m getting older. There’s nothing I can do except suffer.”

Look at you. You’re a prime example of health and happiness. We are all aging but some people sit back and say, “It’s part of life. I’m getting old. There’s nothing I can do about it.” There is so much we can do about it and those are some of the things that you and I do, which are exercise, eating better, yoga, and things like that to keep our bodies young and going.

Also, staying positive.

Mentally and emotionally healthy.

That’s why it’s so important. This whole show is about healing. I have experienced it. If you heal emotionally or whatever, it’s going to change your life. You drop that backpack of suffering that you’ve been walking around with.

I call it a big old bag of rocks.

Your team tailors these personalized treatment plans. Does your institute treat people from all over the country and world? Do they come to you from all over?

We’re based here in Houston. I would venture to guess that 90% or more of your audience doesn’t realize this but I have two things that I want people to know because I love Houston so much. Number one is non-related to anything other than it’s amazing. Houston, Texas is the single most culturally diverse city in the United States. We have an amazing culture in Houston and it’s an amazing city.

Number two, Houston is home to the largest medical center in the world. We have hundreds of hospitals in the city of Houston that look like a big circle like the Texas Medical Center as we call it. They’re all connected typically by skywalks and tunnels. It started in 1962 being built on the concept of cross-institutional collaboration and bringing the brightest minds of the world to Houston to do research and healthcare together as a team, instead of individualized silos.

When we work as a team and cross-institutional collaboration, then we have access to the best surgeons, doctors, and providers in the world. At J. Flowers, we treat people who will fly here from India, London, or Tokyo. In 2023, I had a patient from Tokyo flying here. Also, Atlanta, Georgia, Seattle, Washington, New Jersey, New York, and anywhere. We treat people from all over the world who come here for their healthcare.

Success Stories

Could you give us some success stories? Give us a couple of good ones from maybe addiction programs and pain programs so that people can understand the process, how people came to you, the amount of time, and how they ended up transforming their lives.

I’ll talk about one chronic pain story very quickly and that is a woman who was in her late twenties, who was an incredible horseman and had horses that she would show. She would win tournaments all over the country on her horse. One day, she was riding her horse and she’d done it since she was a child. It was jumping and the horse somehow got spooked. She flew off the back of the horse and the horse landed on top of her.

It broke both of her legs in multiple places so she had probably 9 or 10 surgeries on her legs over the next 12 months. She developed a very severe what we call chronic pain syndrome from that. Unfortunately, what also happened was doctors prescribed a lot of opiate medication so she had chronic pain and became very addicted to her opiate medication.

For drugs like OxyContin and strong painkillers, The Federal Drug Administration or FDA made the label for chronic cancer or cancer pain, not for a broken leg or surgery. Unfortunately, doctors continue to prescribe. We could do that on another episode of why. She became addicted and decompensated. She became severely depressed because she loved horses. Her life was taken away from her.

She was depressed. She gained 70 pounds. She was anxious. She wasn’t sleeping, eating, or moving. She was isolating. Her mother was talking to one of her healthcare providers who said, “Maybe you should take her to Houston to Dr. Flowers at J. Flowers Health Institute.” Her mom looked at our website and called me. We had a wonderful conversation. The daughter came down with her and she ended up staying here for 90 days. When she came, she was in a wheelchair. She said, “I can’t walk for twenty steps. I’m in too much pain and I can’t walk.”

She was angry, very mad, and a horrible eater with lots of pain medication. What we did is what we call detoxification. We took her off her pain medication, detoxified her, and then began to treat her. We treated her for her depression and anxiety. We did physical therapy, aquatic therapy, nutrition therapy, and a lot of cognitive behavioral therapy, changing her perception of, “I’ll never ride a horse again,” to, “You will ride a horse and win another tournament. Let’s get you there and show you how to do that. Instead of saying, ‘I can’t do it, I’m hurt,’ let me show you how to get out of that pain.”

Within 90 days, she went from sitting in a wheelchair to jogging 3 miles a day. She’s back living in Connecticut and showing horses. He lost all the weight that she had gained. She is physically fit and healthy riding her horses and enjoying life. Another patient that we saw was a 72-year-old gentleman whose wife called me and said, “My husband is an alcoholic. He’s aging. His doctor wants him to retire. He’s a rancher. He doesn’t want to retire. We think he’s depressed so that’s increased his drinking. My husband says he has nausea, falls over, and isn’t steady on his feet. We can’t figure out why.”

They had been all over the country looking for answers and couldn’t find them. She brought him to us and we began an evaluation. He had been to academic institutions, hospitals, and healthcare providers all over the United States. He was extremely depressed. He was dizzy and he would fall over if he moved a certain way. He was like, “Maybe it’s time to give up but I don’t want to give up. I want to know what’s wrong with me. Everyone keeps telling me it’s because I’m old.” I said, “We’re going to keep working with you and figure out what’s wrong with you. You have the desire to go out and continue working and doing what you do.”

Throughout the course of his evaluation, we brought in a neurologist who evaluated him. Eventually, what we found that was causing his dizziness was two years earlier, he had a molar that was impacted and infected. He went to a dentist who pulled the molar. When he pulled it, he pulled it very hard and a nerve under the skull called the occipital nerve came loose and wrapped itself around the back of the brain. When a nerve hits the brain, it’s like a spark plug on a battery charger sparking. It makes you dizzy and want to fall over. He had a very small incision in the back. They did a very quick surgery. It was less than an hour. They moved the nerve off the brain. That man now is as healthy as you are.

He’s not drinking. You changed that, too.

Yes. He’s enjoying life, healthy as a horse.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about the J. Flowers Institute like what you’re doing?

I believe that we need a total approach to healthcare that looks at 360 degrees of our lives. We treat people who have unknown medical conditions or very complicated medical conditions. We treat people who have addictions. We treat people who have a combination of medical and psychology. We also treat sometimes some chronic psychiatric difficulties. We work as a united team in a very precise way to help you thrive and live life the way that you want to live life.

I have to ask you also about these mental health issues in my life experience. I’ve encountered people who are bipolar, borderline personality disorder, or sociopathic. Do they come to you? Are you able to help people like that?

Absolutely. We have a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, neuropsychologists, and therapists. We all work together to work on schizophrenia, bipolar, borderline, anxiety, or trauma. Whatever it is, we put expert team together to work with you as an individual to help you overcome that issue.

That is fantastic. What a gift.

Thank you.

Finding Joy In Life

What is the James Flowers’ tip for finding joy in life?

I will tell you two things that I have that are joyous to me. One is running. I love running because it’s my solace and therapy. The other thing that I love in life about joy is flying airplanes. I love to fly airplanes. When I am piloting an airplane, every thought in my life goes away, except for what’s in front of me, which is an instrument panel of an airplane, listening to air traffic control, and I disappear. That’s my passion. I found and pursued that. People told me, “You’re an adult. You’re going to go get your pilot’s license?” I was like, “Of course, I am.” “You’re this. You can’t do that.”

What I want to tell everybody out there who reads this is whatever we want to do, if we can see it, we can achieve it but I also believe that we need to have a passion. To find our joy, we have to concentrate, meditate, take time for ourselves, and jot it down in a journal of what brings you happiness. Even if you don’t have it now, what would bring you happiness? You work on a goal to get there. Everyone reading can manifest their life in a way that’s beyond their wildest dream because that’s what I did.



You and I have in common because you and I both have a passion for helping people heal. I’m a bridge to that. You are a healer. We both have such a wonderful passion that keeps us going. Thank you so much. I want to say that you have earned such an exceptional reputation as a premier expert committed to creating positive change in other’s lives. Thank you from my heart for introducing your institute and all the ways you help people. It’s such a wonderful and insightful interview. Now that I know you even better, you are a truly remarkable man. Thank you, Dr. Flowers. I appreciate it.

Thank you. You are even more amazing. I’ve had so much fun with you.

Thank you. People are going to enjoy reading our interview and learn so much. I have to say at the end of all my interviews a loving reminder. Make sure to follow us and like us on social @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and wherever you get your podcasts, including YouTube. As I like to say, to be continued. Thank you so much, Dr. Flowers. Many blessings. Bye for now.


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About Dr. James Flowers

Grief and Rebirth: Finding the Joy in Life | Dr. James Flowers | Substance Use DisorderFor more than 25 years, Dr. James Flowers has been one of the most recognized and respected names in the field of chronic pain, pain recovery, and addiction. With his broad educational background and extensive experience in both the evaluation and treatment of chronic pain and co-occurring addiction, he is recognized as an expert.

Dr. Flowers has completed several fellowships in behavioral pain management complete with clinical rotations.

He personally developed pain and addiction recovery programs for some of the best-known healthcare and addiction treatment centers in the country. He directed programs integrating assessment and treatment planning with a course of treatment to promote successful recovery.

Dr. Flowers also co-founded several well-known, exclusive treatment programs in the state of Texas, dedicated to his passion – that of designing multidisciplinary addiction treatment with clinical protocols, to help individuals suffering from addiction, chronic pain and other underlying disorders, successfully recover. With a demonstrated commitment to create positive change in the lives of his clients, he is dedicated to progressive healthcare, human healing, and to developing healthcare systems which best serve this population.

<blockquote>“Listening to your episode with the Horsleys. Great job…I’ve done some work with them in the past and must say, you continue to inspire by bringing people like them to your community”<footer>—<span style=”color: #000000;”><strong>David Richman</strong></span></footer></blockquote>


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