Our name sort of says it all. The purpose of the Lancaster County Recovery Alliance (LCRA) is to support recovery from addiction in individuals and communities throughout Lancaster County. As many of us intimately know, recovery is intensive, life changing and requires a great variety of tools. As people in recovery, we also know how to find and use those tools
Today we know that diverse and varied tools are the keys to sustainable recovery. Our system of care has evolved with the idea that every individual uses different tools in different ways to strengthen their recovery. The trick is in availability. In the past 10 or so years, people in recovery have redefined what sustains their wellbeing based on their collective experiences. Just as importantly, there are a growing number of us working in the fields related to addiction recovery. In addition to ensuring resource availability, we are consultants and advocates to another’s recovery journey.
Experience alone is not a rubber stamp for service or ability to serve. But I have been part of conferences and trainings packed with people in recovery. I have met people hungry for knowledge, seeking the best practice and procedure for successful service. More individuals are obtaining the Certified Recovery Specialist certification, a foundational accreditation providing people in recovery with academic legitimacy and a doorway for service in the field. The state recognizes the Recovery Specialist as an addiction professional, and provides high ethical and training standards to maximize service potentials.
The position was inspired by information gathered roughly 10 years ago that a large majority of people suffering with substance use disorder were not seeking help through treatment programs, and of those that were, 50 percent were not completing their program(White 2006).We knew that support should include the family, loved ones and local community; It could begin before an individual entered treatment and should continue despite relapse. But most support services of the day did not address those facts. We also knew that successful recovery depended on social supports, including financial, educational, employment and judicial services. Cultivating relationships with many individuals and organizations became a crucial function for any recovering person. But there was no source of support except the role of the twelve step sponsor, which could be largely isolated and based on specific program doctrines and traditions. The new role of peer supporter evolved into a more vocal and intertwined paraprofessional. Many of the gaps in recovery support were able to be addressed, and resources across a broad range of services could be reached. Today the evolution has led us to focus on each person’s individual recovery capital as well as specific needs. Recovery “by any means necessary”.
The best news is that the applications for the position are rapidly expanding. The vision of what a CRS can be has expanded to fill roles within any organization coping with substance use or recovery issues. But more importantly the CRS could help open doors within our communities, advancing education for the layperson, promoting access to resources for families and individuals, lowering stigma through service and encouraging better relationships between those in recovery and their local communities.
This is important because a strong a vocal community in recovery promotes truth. Many times people avoid seeking help or asking questions because they are afraid of being labeled. Many times entire communities react to issues of addiction and recovery based on collective stereotypes and myths, and people needing help or information are reluctant to open themselves to the damage the resulting stigma can cause. Seldom do we see healthy collaboration in this environment.
A strong, involved and visible community of people in recovery directly contradicts these illusions. They educate through their actions, exhibit hope and normalize recovery, not only as possible, but as a healthy and contributing factor towards a stronger community.
Recovery in the community must take on many of the same tenants, in my opinion. Today, people certified as Recovery Specialists are finding employment at many levels of our system of care, not strictly as recovery coaches. This is important because, although we have a long way to go, we should be able to use our experience and our knowledge to effect change within each individual community. Healthy communities are comprised of healthy individuals, and the staples of any successful “recovery plan” basically boil down to overall health and wellness. Recovery must be rooted in our communities, and our voices need to be heard as part of normalizing recovery from addiction. No recovery plan can take hold in our communities unless the members of that community see a path for the betterment and wellbeing of their home. The stereotypes surrounding addiction and recovery do not, and will never support that type of buy in, and the only way to break the stigma is to raise our voices with the truth, and show the promise of our recovery through our own service in our own towns. In doing that we create the elements within our communities that can support recovery and recovery support systems, access to recovery will increase and families will not feel so isolated and hopeless by the illness.
So the state of recovery today is strong. But it’s eventual ability to cope with addiction in our society will be measured by what we do as a collective community. Today, we are continuing to lay foundation stones to a stronger and more comprehensive system of care that serves everyone. There is hope.
It can be found in the hearts of all of us who serve.
White, W. (2006). Sponsor, Recovery Coach, Addiction Counselor: The Importance of Role Clarity and Role Integrity. Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services.