Transformation in recovery communities

Our own Matt Statman guest blogged yesterday for Binge Inking! His post is below.


I feel fortunate to work at an organisation here in the U.S. where assertive linkage with the recovering community is at the core of our mission. The amazing transformations that we get to witness over time are seriously indescribable. Providing the opportunity for the communication and support that takes place between our clients, “former” clients and members of the community is by far the single most effective intervention that we can possibly provide.

I was at our recovery centre today sitting in on a free recovery oriented group. Clients in their first hours and days of detox were sitting next to people who had been there for two or three weeks, people who had been there six months ago and people who had been there years ago. Also frequently present at these groups are members of the community who had never been our clients in the past. This is where the hope begins.

Last night I had the privilege of running an aftercare group for clients who had recently been in residential treatment. There were about 15 people in the group. Several have been out of residential for three or four months and several had just gotten out within weeks. Most live in transitional housing and all still attend mutual aid groups daily. I was there when they all came in to treatment, and I have had the opportunity to watch them all struggle through the emotional mess that is early recovery.

As I looked around the group, and listened to the stories of people who several months ago were completely miserable and barely able to sustain on even a most basic level, I was literally blown away. Several of them described spending time with their children, another taking care of her ill parents, one woman spoke fondly of her probation officer, several reported on their new jobs, some are doing volunteer work at the local shelter, a breakfast church and at the recovery centre, one got a promotion and two recently got better jobs.

They spoke of facing long neglected responsibilities and taking on new ones that they had never had before. One woman, fresh out of treatment, cried as she talked about her struggles and another was able to relate that she had been through a similar experience post-treatment and shared how she made it through. All of them shared about the relationships that they have made in the recovering community and how important those relationships are to them. Several are already going back into the treatment centre and taking newer clients to meetings. This is the kind of stuff that we get to see every single day.

Every one of these people are now productive and relatively happy members of our society. I am sure that given a different set of circumstances many of them, instead of being in aftercare, would probably have been in line at a safe injection site waiting for a nurse to help them find a vein, sitting in jail or worse. In my personal life I regularly attend meetings where I witness our clients celebrating weeks, months, years and decades of time without using alcohol and other drugs. I also witness people who finally start to “get it” after several trips through detox or treatment, that seemed “unsuccessful” at the time, with no new intervention.

When I was in school I worked on a paper in which I talked about the recovering community as being a helpful adjunct to treatment. I sent that paragraph to an administrator where I work; he corrected me. His response was that treatment is an adjunct to the recovering community.

The lens through which we see addiction, recovery and those who suffer from it is shaped by our experience. The experiences that we get to be part of at our organisation are amazing. I am repeatedly humbled by the amazing transformations that take place when we just do our best to set the stage for our clients to become part of the community of recovering people.