A front-line addictions worker calls for more transition services
Reprinted from "Alcohol" issue of Visions Journal, 2006, 2 (9), p. 35-36
We lose too many people - young people in particular - to the perils of addiction because they have to wait to get into treatment, or because they have no supportive place to go to after treatment.
I appreciate this opportunity to talk about the ‘Namgis Treatment Centre (NTC). I am not speaking for, or on behalf of, the ‘Namgis First Nation, but with an addictions worker’s voice from the front lines. No matter how addiction and recovery may be understood, I believe that the key to recovering from addiction is an inner decision by the individual to confront his or her problem.
It is encouraging that other health and social service professionals are becoming more informed about the nature of addiction, and about the amazing work individuals do while participating in a treatment program. People seeking help need support, not obstacles. It is a courageous step to leave home and family, often travelling many miles to be in a circle of strangers for six weeks and share your life story.
The word treatment can be broken into two meaningful words: treat and me. And the basic message spoken by those who come into treatment is: “I want to find myself and have a better life.” As a First Nation treatment centre, we apply teachings of the Medicine Wheel, which represents the cycle of life and its interconnections. We seek a balance between understanding and action in the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical aspects of our lives in order to achieve personal well-being.
The ‘Namgis Alcohol and Drug Program provides residential treatment and also serves the community with outpatient counselling, assessment and referral, and community workshops. The ‘Namgis Treatment Centre offers a six-week, co-ed residential program that has a full slate of sessions to help individuals open doors of awareness We present topics on addiction and recovery, the medical and physiological aspects of alcohol and other drug use, and relapse prevention. We hold group discussions on suicide, abuse, grief and loss, trauma and family dynamics, and include components of art therapy, yoga and relaxation breathing, recreational bowling and basketball, and arts and crafts. Participants can also choose to take part in community cultural events such as potlatch.
As an addictions worker, it is amazing and humbling to witness the changes people go through—from uncertain fear during the first week of treatment, to a dangerous hope as they celebrate completion of a program. I say dangerous hope because, even though we stress that substance use is a choice, people often return to the same social environment they came from. It can be difficult for an individual to realize that he or she is the only one who has changed. One of the greatest difficulties for those returning home from treatment is connecting with a healthy and positive social network. Recovery demands patience and humility, and can get very lonely when the friends you have are not on the same path. A treatment program for addiction is a shortterm solution to what can be a deadly lifelong illness. It is said there is no cure for alcoholism and addiction: that only by “the grace of God” can one recover; that recovery is a “daily reprieve."
The core message I want to express is the desperate and dire need to find facilities and develop sound pre- and post-treatment programs. We lose too many people—young people in particular—to the perils of addiction because they have to wait to get into treatment, or because they have no supportive place to go to after treatment. We need to help people get strong in early recovery. This would be a costly investment, but has the potential of immeasurable benefit. Addiction is not going away. It is destroying our youth and thus jeopardizing the future of us all.
About the Author
Pat is Program Manager at the ‘Namgis Treatment Centre in Alert Bay, BC
Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. (2001). The Big Book. New York: Author