What it Takes to Change a Life (CAL)
Dr. Joseph White & the FFL Team
Week 1 of the MentorWorks program is focused on settling in and getting established in a safe, sober environment with new roommates focused on sobriety and finding a job. Week 1 of the Redwood Recovery program involves completing a substance abuse assessment, developing a treatment plan, and attending psychoeducation and counseling groups. Settling in and adjusting to a new routine can be challenging as men make the transition from incarceration to freedom! Prior to even being able to find employment, some clients need help getting an ID or a driver’s license. Whatever the need, the first week is critical in “reentry” as individuals make and keep sobriety commitments, decide who they will associate with, and determine next steps forward.
Treatment Plans and Counseling
A first step in Redwood Recovery is to complete an assessment and treatment plan with a counselor. The treatment plan involves basic, attainable recovery and reentry-oriented goals developed with their therapist and approved by a treatment team. Most plans begin with basic steps toward maintaining sobriety, identification of and commitment to participating in group classes, weekly counseling, case management, and other recovery-oriented activities. Plans may include steps toward repairing ruptured relationships and developing healthy ones. Each aspect of a treatment plan is tailored to a client’s needs with an emphasis on things they’ve identified as most important in their recovery journey. Client input is critical in order to generate “buy-in” for accomplishing goals.
A client who took his treatment plan and counseling sessions seriously reflected back on his experiences and said the Redwood Recovery program helped him develop a ‘playbook’ to deal with triggers and situations in the past that got him in trouble. Mike G said
“I look at myself [. . .] and realize that a lot of the times when I was making poor decisions that led me back to drinking or using, it was because I was so emotionally driven and so when I do get upset; or when I do feel like, you know, using; or I feel like I don’t like what I feel right now, and I want to change this somehow, I pull out that Playbook. And I step away from it and I look at it objectively. I decide how come it is that I’m feeling like I’m feeling right now, what caused that? What can I do to prevent that from happening in the future? And then what do I need to do right now going forward you know to ensure my sobriety is maintained” (2022).
An important part of our reentry and recovery treatment program is providing regular case management (weekly or even daily, as needed) for each client to assist with treatment plan goals and other extenuating circumstances. While therapy with trained substance abuse and mental health counselors helps clients process feelings, thoughts, challenges, and dilemmas or trauma from the past (Baker, 2020), case management focuses on current and future needs and connecting clients to relevant community services. In speaking of her role as a case manager, Paige Dickinson said “I act as an aid for resources and connections that help clients reach their goals and overcome challenges they are confronted with in day-to-day life. I research resources for the client’s needs and assist them in making and following through with goals they have set to get them from point A to point B. This includes evaluating the steps a client needs to reach their goals. As a case manager, I encourage honesty and make an effort to build relationships with clients so they feel comfortable communicating their concerns regarding sobriety, work, situations within the sober living home, family relationships, etc.” (2022).
As clients begin their recovery journey, an important step is to build healthy relationships. One place this happens for MentorWorks and Redwood Recovery clients is in their new recovery community with class peers and housemates. Many clients talk about developing important bonds and friendships through recovery that strengthens them along the way. They feel supported and encouraged by each other as well as by their treatment team during tough times. Some clients take steps to become Certified Peer Support Specialists so they can give back to their recovery community and pay it forward.
Renewing and strengthening family relationships is important but can’t be rushed, especially if serious harm has been experienced or perceived by family members. One client shared his desire to get in touch with his daughter with whom he hadn’t spoken with for a long time. It reminded him of why he was working to change. Randall M came into the program thinking his family connections were lost forever. He felt he had made so many mistakes that reconciliation was not possible. After months of recovery and working a solid treatment program in Redwood Recovery, he mustered up the courage to reach out, make the call, and begin the healing process. He spoke with his daughter for over two hours on the phone and is now in regular contact with her and his grandchildren who live in a foreign country. They are even planning a trip to see him in the near future. He also has unexpectedly reconnected with his parents and has been grateful to see that relationship begin anew (2022).
Our Garden of Life Foundation
During the first few weeks in the program, clients are at the Soil level. They have made the difficult decision to begin their recovery journey. They have taken one of the most difficult steps of connecting with and getting admitted to a recovery program. They have chosen, at least for the moment (because that is all many can handle at that time), to stay in the program and make it work, no matter what. Eventually they understand the need to begin the work of creating fertile soil that is prepped for planting a seed that can sprout into a productive plant. Once the seed is planted, clients learn about the subsequent work required to help the seed grow. Along the way clients learn to step back and analyze what the garden needs. Sometimes the watering cycle or amount needs to be adjusted. Sometimes weeds need to be pulled. Sometimes an opportunity to add fertilizer or other growth-enhancing materials is indicated. Whatever it is, a garden needs consistent tender loving care – nurturing seeds so they sprout and continue to grow. As men in our program continue their recovery journey by transitioning into subsequent stages of recovery (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983), successful patterns of growth become evident as seeds become sprouts, the next level of growth! In addition to learning and understanding the addiction and recovery process, clients begin making connections with healthy individuals who become a vital part of their recovery community – the prepped soil wherein good seeds sprout and grow.
It is easy to get caught up in the cycle of life and miss out on the amazing journey of growth each person experiences. An important part of the life cycle is building healthy relationships and maintaining connection with them. These relationships are like the fertile ground needed to support the types of growth and future we want for ourselves and others. Good soil is required for good seeds to grow! Interestingly, the opposite of addiction is not merely being sober. True sobriety is experienced through working a good recovery program that involves developing solid connections with other people. Consider this powerful TED talk by Johann Hari who teaches that the opposite of addiction is connection! https://www.ted.com/talks/johann_hari_everything_you_think_you_know_about_addiction_is_wrong?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare
What are the most important relationships at this time in our lives? Are there other potential relationships that could be nurtured in order to rise to a level of importance in our lives as well as theirs? What can we do today to develop, nurture, and strengthen key relationships that become the fertile ground and life-sustaining connections they have the potential to become? Contact the Foundation for Family Life with questions or needed support in reaching out to a loved one who may be struggling. Please share our social media posts or a personal story of life-sustaining connection in the comments section below.
See Other Blogs in our “Change a Life” Series:
- CAL 1: True Recovery: The First Step
- CAL 2: Connecting with a Recovery Program
- CAL 3: Hope & The Letter
- CAL 4: Intake Day
- CAL 5: Settling In-Week 1
- Baker, C. (2020, May 25). Case Management vs. Therapy: the Differences and Similarities | OPG. O’Connor Professional Group. https://oconnorpg.com/blog/case-management-and-therapy/
- Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (1983). Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: Toward an integrative model of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51(3), 390-395.