How having your back against the wall just may open that door to recovery

Thoughts from Don Troutman, Founder, Clean & Sober Transitional Living

What does it take to seek out sobriety? I’ve found that the only way recovery “works” is when your back is up against the wall and you have nowhere else to go. If you can limp along at work, if you can cobble together a relationship, then you don’t really have an incentive to change. But when the wheels fall off the bus, or the bus veers off the road, or crashes and burns, then people reach out for help. That’s what we often call “our bottom.”

My personal bottom was an ultimatum from my boss: Get sober, or get fired. Well, that got my attention. My employer paid for me to go to a treatment center for a month. Over the next year, my sobriety felt at risk, sort of like an ice cube melting in the hot sun. So, I launched my first recovery home with sober roommates. Almost 30 years and more than 6500 residents later, Clean & Sober Transitional Living is still going strong.

Others might go to treatment or sober living only to get a spouse off their back. Or treatment may be mandated by the court. If the alternative is jail, then treatment can look pretty good. While some might begin treatment just to placate the court system, they may discover along the way that this recovery gig is a pretty good deal. They have a warm bed and three meals a day. They aren’t riding a bicycle in the rain. They aren’t getting beaten up by their drug dealer or robbed by their “friends.” They aren’t waking up in unfamiliar places or anguishing over the wreckage they have created in their lives. More importantly, doors open in recovery. Families and friendships can be rebuilt. Health can be restored. New jobs can be found – and kept. Lives can be reclaimed.

Because people aren’t generally at the top of their game when they arrive at CSTL, they may be surprised to discover our supportive and understanding community. We know what it’s like to face the demons of substance use disorder; that’s why we’re here. And that’s why we have offered the role models and sober community that are so critical to early recovery. As one of our residents wrote, "The relationships that you build are so amazing . . . There’s just a connection here. It’s really hard to explain, but we just understand each other here. It’s like a different kind of family.”

We can learn a thing or two from the famous Rat Park study which explains the power of connection and stimulation. The take-away: A rich social life can be a critical part of recovery from drug or alcohol abuse. That’s the “social” piece in the bio-psycho-social model of addiction and recovery, and that’s what we do best.

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