Client VS Culture: Addiction Treatment Only Works if We Do
Author: Justin Mckibben
As a recovered alcoholic and drug addict it is a truly gratifying experience to work in the field of addiction treatment, and even more so to work for the company that helped save my life. Palm Healthcare Company is a truly unique organization that is committed to compassionate and effective treatment, and there is no telling how many lives have been positively and permanently impacted because of what they (or should I say WE) do. It is an amazing thing to be a part of, and a worthy cause to work for.
That is a crucial part of addiction treatment and recovery; work. The real work is for those trying to recover.
One thing I notice about some clients these days in addiction treatment is less of a willingness to do that work. When I was getting treatment everyone seemed desperate to do anything that would make a difference in their lives. Yet these days I see some people who act as if the program is supposed to do the work for you.
Is our current addiction treatment culture somehow convincing people they don’t have to do the work for real change? How can we work together to change it?
On to the Next One
The culture surrounding addiction treatment and recovery has changed. Breaking the stigma surrounding addiction is a critical step in helping more people get the help they need. Expanding availability is amazing and we should all work toward making even more treatment options available. It could help save thousands of the people who die every year from overdose and drug-related issues.
However, it also seems some have the idea that they will always be able to find some treatment program, legitimate or not, willing to take them. This shift toward people thinking they can just keep hitting restart has almost watered down the opportunity or having a fresh start in the first place.
This might be comforting to some people; the idea that if they don’t like one program they have options. But ultimately what people have to understand is that a treatment program can only be effective if you participate in it. You can go to a dozen different programs and still get very little value if you do not show up and try to engage in the recovery process.
We can complain about the “revolving door” metaphor all we want, but if people aren’t going to take steps toward something better, they are volunteering for more of the same.
Sadly, some people still think there is always the next place. This is part of the reason programs that put an emphasis on relapse prevention and aftercare are so important. Continued accountability can help people maintain their progress without having a nonchalant attitude about the process.
What if you never make it to the next place? Regardless, why wouldn’t you want to make this place the last place?
Of course, both sides of the culture have to take steps. Public officials, treatment providers, and advocacy groups should continue working together to better enforce regulations for treatment, eliminating criminal operators and protecting client rights.
Taking it Serious
This point actually goes hand in hand with the first. As more people are exposed to more resources they might take the availability of new opportunities for granted.
In an industry obstructed by shady operators, people can also become jaded. If you have sought treatment with programs that provide little to no real resources or solutions you might stop taking addiction treatment seriously, even if you get a great opportunity with a reputable and innovative program.
If you don’t take the treatment seriously you probably won’t take your recovery seriously, either.
Of course no one is naïve enough to say the opioid epidemic and overdose rates aren’t serious. But if we know how bad it is; if we see the devastation caused in our own lives or those we love, why don’t we appreciate that gift of desperation and commit to doing the work? Has the addiction treatment client culture taught people that it doesn’t really matter? Do clients think recovery isn’t that serious once you get past the withdrawals or the troubles you get caught up in while using or drinking?
These are valid and sometimes difficult hurdles, but many still say that is the easy part. The rest of the work comes with committing to a treatment plan and following through.
Getting Back to Gratitude
I think this may be the core concept. The culture change within the recovery community is in many ways constructive, but it also has taken some of the raw truth out of the situation for some people.
I think we should try to get true gratitude back into the culture of addiction treatment. We should be grateful that we have more resources than ever, with more professionals working to revolutionize recovery. Let us be grateful that on a national level the world is starting to have greater respect and understanding for those suffering from addiction. We should be grateful for the opportunity to get help when we finally get it because a lot of people never do.
But to the client that contributes to the recovery culture- always remember that true gratitude takes action.
If you say you are grateful to be in treatment, take your treatment seriously and participate. If you are grateful for an opportunity, don’t waste it because you think you can bank on another one right around the corner. So if you want something different, do something different instead of thinking you need to go somewhere different.
And let us all be grateful that there are more opportunities for people to find a solution that could save their life.
Cultivate Better Culture
As holistic treatment providers, Palm Partners Recovery Center will continue working to support recovery professionals within the Palm Healthcare Company organization and within our industry; to strive for better services and to unite against illegitimate operators.
But we as alcoholic or addicted individuals in recovery also need to be willing to put in some work. For anyone like me, who spent years abusing substances to the point it felt like my life depended on it, it is going to take some real work to get better.
If we as individuals want to advocate for recovery, let us advocate that people do the work. Let us appreciate the value of mental health care. Let us appreciate the value of addiction education and cognitive behavioral therapy. We can cultivate a better culture for ourselves; as clients and as providers.
WE means all of us. It means the healthcare providers, the individuals in recovery who have been lucky enough to get this far and the addicts and alcoholics out there still suffering. Addiction treatment works; recovery works… if WE do.
I punch that clock every day. I’m grateful for this work, so I do it. But WE can do more.