Pathways to Recovery for the Addicted & for the Community
Alan Algee LCPC & Jim LaPierre LCSW
Alan and Jim are both Bangor area based dual diagnosis clinicians who are Recovery Allies. In order to support Recovery from addiction in meaningful ways, we acknowledge that there are many different paths by which people attain sobriety and make a plethora of other healthy changes in their lives. It is our belief that no singular path is advisable in pursuing a better life.
In the context of Recovery we recognize that ultimately, natural supports (friends, family, religious communities, AA, NA and others) have vastly more to offer than professional support alone. We encourage people to get their needs met holistically and our humility dictates that as professionals we are at best a small part of the overall process.
The value of natural supports is not sufficiently represented in research and professional treatment models. This is partly due to the problematic nature of accurately evaluating their effectiveness because they are seen as informal resources. In our view, these groups are neither adequately recognized nor respected by clinicians, academic professionals, and those guiding research.
Also conspicuously absent from research is the fact that some people go into “spontaneous remission.” The simple truth is that some folks just recognize that they have a problem and they stop without any professional support, without AA, and without any planned intervention. They just stop using/drinking.
Research in the field of addiction counseling however is consistently clear: recidivism rates are extremely high amongst those seeking our services. More than 90% of those who seek professional support are likely to relapse even in the short term (0-6 months). Numbers like these appear grim yet only tell a small portion of the story. To conceptualize relapse as failure is to misunderstand the process of Recovery (changing lives and achieving long term sobriety one day at a time) and focus solely on sobriety (abstinence).
Relapse prevention strategies are a vital component of substance abuse counseling and are a solid means by which to incorporate and underscore the importance of utilizing natural supports. The best clinicians are always looking to put themselves out of a job. In order to ensure this successful transition, the person in Recovery must learn to identify, solicit and accept support from individuals, organizations, and communities.
As community members, we have opportunities to meaningfully address the growing problem of drug and alcohol addiction. All of us can be recovery allies. All that it takes is an awareness of the impact of addiction and to choose, even in the smallest of ways, to be supportive of those who seek to recover.
Recovery is more than sobriety. It is a process of transformation – of becoming something healthier and stronger. They move from surviving to living. Through the process of recovery, millions have moved from draining to contributing. This occurs on every level – home, school, work, community. How can we not support such a noble cause?
None of us are immune. All of us know someone – an individual or a family that struggles because of addiction. Perhaps we judge. Perhaps we simply shake our heads and turn away. This problem is not new. It has been with us for centuries – for millennia. It has morphed and grown and expanded. The responses of our government and our medical community are insufficient.
Let’s start more meaningful dialogues about what the solution is. Let’s do this in our homes, with our neighbors and in board rooms. Let’s look at what we have to offer as community groups, as fraternal organizations, as churches. Let’s recognize that no social problem has ever been resolved without a grassroots movement.
Alan & Jim are the tiniest part of the solution. We serve those who seek recovery by offering counseling services. We work in a field that is far more oriented toward competition than collaboration. We seek to be resources for our communities and we seek to support the efforts of all who wish to get out of the box and into the solution.
Let’s educate ourselves. Let’s embrace recovery organizations and their efforts. Just as people in recovery transform, let us attain a deeper understanding and then let’s put what we learn into action.