Diversity and recovery go hand-in-hand

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

Generally, when people first begin their recovery “journey,” they aren’t coming off a winning streak. They may have lost jobs or homes, or destroyed cars or marriages. So, when they first enter our doors, they’re just trying to keep their head above water. They’re generally much more concerned about their personal recovery than about judging anyone else in the room – or the CSTL recovery community.

In early recovery, people also tend to think that they are “special” and that no one shares their unique issues with addiction to drugs or alcohol. What they will come to find is that, while our residents are indeed special, no one’s problems are unique. We’ve all struggled with alcohol or drug abuse, and that’s why we’re living here – in a robust community where recovery comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. And that diversity makes us strong.

As residents begin to leave alcohol and drugs further and further behind, they can start to look around and appreciate the diversity of residents in our community. There are a lot of friends to be had among the five “Phase 1” houses on our block. If you don’t happen to click with your roommate, there’s no reason for conflict or prejudice: simply pick another friend from the many who live literally right next door. When you break bread daily with 60 other people in our communal dining room, you’ve got a wide range of people and personalities to pick from.

People who are truly working the principles of a recovery program are not going to be judgmental of others; in fact, they are going to embrace the opportunity to learn from someone different than themselves. I’ve seen residents who broke laws bond with residents who work in law enforcement. I’ve seen members of opposite political parties bond over common concerns. The beauty is that, when opposites attract, people can learn a lot from each other and grow. And some of the strongest sponsors and their "sponsees" are cut from very different cloth. In fact, an “iffy” sponsor is someone who merely agrees with everything you say. A powerful sponsor is someone who calls you on your stuff and tells you how it really is. That’s where the seeds for personal growth are planted.

People in recovery tend to be so accepting of diversity. During our meetings, we’ve got a whole roomful of people cheering others on. A person who gets that kind of acceptance gives that kind of acceptance in return. It’s a two-way street. Some call it diversity, some call it acceptance. We call it Mad House on Madison Avenue, and we call it home.

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