Blame, shame and the endless cycle of addiction and alcoholism

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

Where do you go when you’ve finished your formal treatment program for addiction or alcoholism? For many, returning to old habits and habitats, old friends and old ways of coping can undermine even the best intentions to live without drugs or alcohol.

We don’t become addicts or alcoholics overnight; by the same token, we don’t cement our sobriety overnight. Getting out of treatment and returning to “society” without support for recovery is like an ice cube melting in the hot sun. Without support for sobriety, it’s just a matter of time before we give in to familiar routines, old ways of responding to life’s challenges, and the siren song of old drinking buddies.

I recognized this minefield of risk and developed a model of transitional living in 1989 when I completed rehab and wondered, “Where do I go now?” That’s what inspired me to create a sober living and eventually flesh out the “bio-psycho-social” approach that addresses the physical and mental obsessions, as well as the need for a social system of support and recovery. Basically, I was looking to provide what I had needed in early recovery.

When I ended treatment, I noticed the vulnerabilities of returning to old triggers (environment, friends and stressors). I had worked hard to change, but the stresses and solutions of the world were the same as before. I had done the physical piece of rehab, but I needed a place to go that had a sober social element. That’s when I launched Clean & Sober Transitional Living. It’s based on a model of intentional recovery, which is is a two-sided coin. Intentional recovery means empowering our 120 residents by giving them ownership of their recovery. And it means creating a space and a structure that facilitates recovery. Communal dining in the central house discourages isolation while encouraging connection and conversation. The resident-elected Congress makes and enforces the house rules. Hosting AA and NA meetings in the central meeting house integrates residents into the larger recovery community and builds a wide bridge of strength and support.

Now, none of this makes any difference if people are shamed and blamed about their disease. The shame and stigma of substance use disorder forces people and families into dark corners where they can’t find help. And the “blame game” creates such anger and animosity that people don’t seek help. Instead, they point fingers and hurl hateful words that tear families apart.

I’ve created an empowering environment where people find the structure, tools, wisdom and purpose that have helped the vast majority of our 6500 residents claim long-term recovery from their dependency on drugs or alcohol. Let’s help open the door to recovery by ditching the shame and blame that prolong personal suffering.

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