Meet Our Team
DR. NICHOLAS KARDARAS, PH. D., LCSW-R,
Co-CEO, Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Kardaras is an Ivy-League educated psychologist, an internationally renowned speaker, and one of the country’s foremost addiction experts. A former Clinical Professor at Stony Brook Medicine where he specialized in teaching the neurophysiology and treatment of addiction, he has also taught neuropsychology at the doctoral-level and has worked closely in developing clinical protocols with Dr. Howard Shaffer, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and the Director of their Division of Addiction.
He has appeared on ABC’s 20/20, Good Morning America, the CBS Evening News, FOX & Friends, NPR, Good Day New York and has written about addiction for TIME Magazine, Scientific American, Psychology Today, Salon, The NY Daily News, and FOX News, and has been featured in Esquire, New York Magazine, VICE, and Vanity Fair. Considered a leading expert on young people and digital addiction, he is the author of “Glow Kids” (St. Martin’s Press, 2016), the seminal book on the clinical, neurological and sociological aspects of Technology Addiction (Smart Phones, Video Games, Social Media, etc.) and has clinically worked with over 1,000 teens and young people during the last 15 years. He has been active in advocating that screen addiction be recognized as a clinical disorder akin to substance addiction and has developed the most comprehensive treatment protocols to treat this emerging global problem.
Dr. Kardaras is also the creator of Seahab, an intensive experiential form of nature immersion therapy. Based on the very successful evidence-based principles of Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare (OBH), Seahab has proven to be very effective as an intensive intervention to help addicts shift out of self-destructive and toxic lifestyle patterns.
Dr. Kardaras has also, admittedly, lived a colorful life: he’s a former AAU National Karate champion, a recovering NYC nightclub owner and a coma survivor. Having once owned high-profile NY nightclubs where he had mingled with the likes of JFK, Jr., Uma Thurman and Tom Cruise, Dr. Kardaras emerged from that glamorous-yet-self-destructive world and discovered a healing path to his own recovery from addiction. Dr. Kardaras is also the author of “How Plato and Pythagoras Can Save Your Life” (Conari, 2011) and devotes his life to helping others find their path to recovery, healing and a life of meaning and purpose.
He lives with his wife and twin sons between Austin, TX and Sag Harbor NY and is a frequent presenter and lecturer on the subjects of mental health, philosophy, and both substance and screen addictions.
Founder and CEO
David is creative entrepreneur, CEO and creator of innovative and progressive ideas that become inspiring companies, products and work cultures that ultimately promote and create change. In 2015 he left his career at Google to follow his calling in the field of addiction & mental health, a place close to home in his personal journey, going to his first treatment center at the age of 17. He has spent the rest of his life pursuing a life of healing, transformation and recovery and set out on a pursuit of finding his ultimate potential. Today, he founded what is now Omega Healthcare, a transformational healthcare organization that provides leading programs around the country in the field of treating addiction and mental health. These Programs focus on addressing not only addiction, but also core trauma, shame, compulsive behaviors, and codependency that treat the root causes. While most centers treat the primary symptoms, our programs focus on bridging the traditional Recovery 12 step approach along with treating the underlying issues and family of origins, focusing on a more whole-listic approach. David lives in Austin, TX with his daughter Emily and their two golden retrievers Brewster & Lady, and enjoys being a father, reading mythology & novels, playing golf, boating, and helping others find their purpose, meaning and true path. He is currently working on a documentary film and tv series that shines a light on this growing epidemic of the millennial age and ways we may just be able to overcome it.
Executive DirectorMichael Smeltzer was born and raised in Austin, Texas. As a teenager, Michael was introduced to drugs and alcohol, and began drinking and using regularly. He noticed early on that his reaction to substances was abnormal. He was constantly thinking of the next high. Like so many addicts, he began to isolate, his relationships were strained, he resorted to crime, and his self-esteem plummeted. While studying business at Texas State University, his addiction reached the point of unmanageability. For years, Michael was in and out jails and institutions. He tried programs, treatments, counselors, and medications, but to no avail. He was forced to drop out of school, he could not keep a job, and his family and friends began to lose hope. He felt hopeless and helpless until he was finally able to give himself completely to a simple program of action. Today, Michael has regained the trust of his family, is a productive member of society, and has taken an interest in spiritual philosophy. At Bridgeway, Michael uses his experience to encourage and inspire the next generation of recovering addicts and alcoholics. He considers it an honor and a privilege to pass along the essential tools, strategies, and attitudes that shaped his own journey in recovery.
MICHAEL “MICKEY” WHALIN
Program ManagerI was was born in Reno and after much chaos and broken-ness in my family home, we finally settled in lake Tahoe. I was introduced to drugs and alcohol at 13 years old and felt like I finally found something that made sense and took the pain of my existing reality away. I was a 3 sport varsity athlete and had a promising career in baseball, however my drug use escalated after my parents divorce and I felt more lost, alone and angry then ever. Without any healthy outlets or understanding, I threw away all of my opportunities in sports and college and began living a life of heavy drug use and crime.
I have been in and out of jail, institutions a couple new death experiences since I was 16. While I hit many bottoms and relapses trying to get sober for the last several years, I finally stopped digging and turned my will and life over to a HP of my own understanding and discovered my calling was to help other addicts who were struggling, which has given me my life back. It is a privilege to serve and see the light come on for others. There is a path for anyone to heal and recover if they have the willingness to surrender, and the 12 steps and fellowship helped me discover that path. I joined BridgeWay as their second resident 2 1/2 years ago, and it is honor to now have this opportunity to serve in this capacity for a place that truly helped me find my way.
Director of Admissions
Gabi has worked in the sober living field since 2012. She was previously the Assistant Director of sober living at Hickory Wind Ranch. She brings her heart and passion to ensure individualized care for every member. She has a strong background in addiction and eating disorders. Gabi has a bachelor’s in English from Colorado College and graduate level coursework in counseling at St. Edward’s University.
JOHN MICHAEL RATHER
John Michael has been working in the treatment field since early May of 2017. Starting from the bottom as an overnight tech at an inpatient treatment center, John Michael rose to the position of Recovery Specialist Supervisor as well as Intake Coordinator in a very quick timeframe. During the year and half working at this facility, John Michael earned a reputation for being caring and compassionate towards clients and staff, competent at managing personal case loads of clients and progressing them through a 12-step curriculum, and a willingness to work long hours to ensure high quality treatment.
Inspired by the staff of the facility that treated him for heroin addiction, John Michael admits that there has never been any question as to whether a career in drug and alcohol addiction was worth pursuing. “Honesty, integrity, respect, and patience” are the four most important values for John Michael in regards helping others achieve freedom from the prison of drugs and alcohol.
After growing up in Marlin, Texas, a small country town south of Waco, and living In Dallas for many years, John Michael describes himself as a country boy at heart with city-folk lining. Participating in softball and other athletic events year-round, competing in bass fishing tournaments on a semi-professional level, snow skiing, kayaking, or hiking with his dog Apollo, John Michael lives a very active lifestyle and attributes those opportunities to the gift of sobriety.
Residential Services ManagerI was born and raised in Meridian, Mississippi. At the age of 7, I began displaying symptoms of a neurological disorder, known as Misophonia, that causes severe psychic pain. As I grew into a young adult, also suffering from mental illness, I began searching for different ways to numb myself from what I felt was my biggest enemy: my own brain. Equipped with no solid coping mechanisms, I leaned heavily on drugs, alcohol, and toxic relationships to get me from period of darkness to another. For years, I sought the help of countless psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists in order to help me cage my demons. No one could question that I put up a valiant fight, yet I almost lost my life… several times. Having lost everything but the love of my parents, I committed myself to a program of recovery that not only nurtured my spiritual health but also my mental health. Today, I wake up, each day, filled with love, gratitude, and hope. As a huge Mental Healthcare Advocate, I love working for Bridgeway Sober Living and Omega Recovery, because they encourage healing with a multifaceted approach. I consider it an honor and a privilege to share my experience, strength, and hope for those with similar struggles, and I hope to serve as a warm reminder that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.