Where is my Yoda? Sponsorship in the Twelve Step Fellowships

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We rise by lifting others” – Robert Ingersoll


Have you ever asked this question—"Why does American have such a bad addiction problem?” Now take a moment for yourself and consider that question, perhaps even write down an answer. Naturally there are many answers, no doubt you probably came up with a variety of answers including availability to money, the health care system, and mental health issues. However, did you consider the answer of our culture’s attitude of cowboy up, rub dirt in it and take a lap, or simply applied “be tough”. The John Wayne attitude of die on your horse before you fall off it can make it difficult for those who suffer from addiction and can impede recovery. So, in an environment that tells you to be tough where has the role of the mentor gone and what are 12 step and peer support programs doing to bring it back?
Anyone that has dealt personally with addiction and faced those demons understands that falling into addiction has nothing to do with how tough or weak you are. As with many diseases, being tough and working hard might not be enough. In fact, evidence would say that many people who survive addiction are some of the toughest I know, but what got them out of the cycle is just the opposite. What frees most of us from the shackles of addiction is letting going of toughness and giving in to vulnerability and help from others.
Ancient cultures revered and raised up the role of the mentor, from the spirit guide to the shaman. Modern stories express the role, Merlin to King Arthur; Rafiki to Mufasa and then Simba; Spock to Kirk and perhaps greatest expression of the roles in modern media, the Jedi Order in Star Wars. Even in the beginning of the classic piece of literature The Divine Comedy the narrator finds himself at the foot of the mountain he must climb which is wrought with danger. Suddenly, a light shines on the path and he realizes others had walked the path before him and it’s not so scary after all.
Enter the guides in the form of sponsors in 12 step programs. A person who has walked the path before us and helps guide us along the way, so the path doesn’t seem so wrought with danger. An ancient role and one with a current resurgence is being filled in the rooms of recovery and mental health support groups. The role allows for vulnerability as we share our tales with our sponsor and our sponsor share their tales with us. We are given someone to lean on and we have someone in our lives to holds us accountable. The beauty and importance of the role of the sponsor is cyclical because by the time someone fills the role of sponsor, he or she is ready to do so because of the guidance of the sponsor before them and the sponsor before them. So, the student soon becomes the teacher. The quote I leave you with sums up the beauty, honesty and vulnerability of the mentor process. Yoda teaching Luke a lesson as Luke struggles with being a mentor is timeless.


“Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

By D. Scott Burke

Gateway Rehab Recovery Specialist

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Whisper of Hope

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How do we look at our current situation and see hope? How can hope propel us forward?  When we talk about recovery we are really talking about hope.  We feel like our situation is hopeless, but something tells us it can be better.  We are miserable, depressed, fearful and ashamed, but somehow we grasp onto some little thing that moves us forward and tells us there is something else out there. 

Hope is described as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best”.  When we are at our lowest point, this feeling can be faint, barely perceptible and fleeting at best.  We look around and all we see is pain.  Sometimes hope can come in the form of another person, even an unwitting person.  It can be as simple as a smile or a kind word.  It could just be someone who comes along side us and just listens to us.  Maybe it’s a friend we haven’t seen in a while who gives us a hug and says, “Nice to see you!” 

Hope also can come from within us.  It’s that brief moment of clarity that whispers quietly to us and tells us maybe it can be different this time.  It’s not usually loud, no it’s quite the opposite.  During our hopelessness, we get a scampering thought that there is something better in store for us.  It can be drowned out by our fear, insecurity and shame as quickly as it appears.  We remember all the other thoughts of hope we had and how nothing changed.  How we are still the same person, in the same life, with the same problems as we always have been.  How can one feeling of hope make a difference?  How will it be different this time? 

No matter where it comes from, hope is a gift. It’s a life preserver thrown our way when we least expect it.  It’s a flicker of light that fights its way through the darkness to be the spark that ignites wonderful changes in our life.  Just because things haven’t worked out before doesn’t mean they can’t.  Tomorrow doesn’t have to be the same as yesterday.  We can choose to focus on that glimmer of hope we get instead of the thousand negative thoughts that fight it off.  We don’t have to make dramatic strides or heroic movements.  A simple choice to listen, even for a moment, to that quiet, hopeful whisper can make a difference.  Just a few precious seconds away from the drumbeat of negativity in our mind can move us forward.  If the critic in our head can be silenced even for a moment, it can make a difference.  It’s a gift, those subtle moments of peace that flutter by. 

That’s what hope can do.  It can take us just one more step.  It can move us ever so slightly toward a miracle in our lives.  We want the big change, the burning bush, the dramatic rescue.  Maybe we will get that, but we can’t miss the gift of that faint whisper of hope.  Listen to it.  Whether hope comes from another person, or springs up within us, it is what keeps us moving forward.     

 

-Anonymous

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The role of medicine in early recovery

   Addiction is a chronic disease and, much like type I diabetes, hypertension and asthma, it is prone to relapse at staggering rates. In the past decade more than ever, addiction treatment centers and the field of medicine have been teaming up to develop the most effective ways to treat addiction and to prevent relapse. Following this trend, we have worked to incorporate medication-assisted treatment (MAT) into our well-established and evidence-based 12-step philosophy.

    In the midst of an opioid epidemic when many of our patients have been through numerous treatment centers, have tried 12-step recovery, residential treatment, and treatment programs offering only medication without success, we had to ask ourselves as treatment professionals, what can we do differently this time to improve the likelihood of our patients achieving long-lasting recovery.

    Our patients are unique individuals and are treated as such by an interdisciplinary team of professionals who understand their illness. Depending on the nature and course of each person’s disease, our team might suggest medication; however, medication is only a small piece of their suggested treatment plan. None of our patients are given medication unless as an adjunct to a holistic treatment plan that consists of therapy, group counseling, case management, and ongoing support. Medication is not and will never be a stand-alone treatment for the disease of addiction.

    We are aware there are varying opinions about MAT. Some believe a person is not “clean” when they are on medications, and others believe we are just trading one drug for another. One of our own therapists, named Joe, is a person in recovery himself and when he became a member of our MAT team he expressed some of these same thoughts and concerns. After five years working with us and seeing our process, Joe will tell you today that he understands our approach. He concedes that “the disease is getting worse and taking more lives than ever, and we have to use all the tools available to get people in treatment and help them stay there long enough to get better.”

    It is our belief that, regardless of medication type, a person will only get better if they engage in treatment and become active members in a 12-step program of recovery. Once a person develops enough positive support and has the skills needed to maintain long-term success and freedom in recovery, then they should no longer need the medication that only aided them to achieve that goal.

    While so much focus and debate can be placed on medications, it is our belief that the primary focus should be on the necessary changes a person must make in order to develop a healthy lifestyle of recovery. With or without medication, the same goal should hold true. Medication only serves to help those who need it to get through the toughest part of their recovery, the beginning, where so many people struggle.

    The path may need to be different for some, but the ultimate goal should be the same: to become free from active addiction and achieve health in body, mind and spirit.

 

Brandon D. Miller, LPCC-S, LICDC
MAT Program Specialist
Neil Kennedy Recovery Centers

Joseph P. Sitarik, D.O.
Medical Director
Neil Kennedy Recovery Centers

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