Working in Treatment

  February 27, 2018    

There are numerous addicts and alcoholics in recovery that work for treatment facilities. This article is geared toward gaining an understanding of why so many people in recovery choose to do so. Given the fact that many of us have had or currently have resentments geared toward treatment facilities.

The Root of a Resentment Toward Treatment Facilities

A large portion of teen year were spent in various institutions. Those institutions were intended to help people suffering from substance use disorder and other mental health issues. Those facilities left me feeling as though no one in those facilities cared about seeing their clients get better. I could not escape my obsession with drugs and alcohol and soon found myself homeless and destitute. There were numerous instances where I ended up hospitalized due to my inability to stop using drugs and alcohol on my own. Every time treatment options were discussed I refused. I feared being placed in a facility where I would be viewed simply as a paycheck.

Something I discovered while in treatment, was that many of the people that worked in those facilities were recovering addicts and alcoholics. I wasn’t surprised. It made sense that people with firsthand experience would want to help other people dealing with the same issues they themselves had dealt with. The issue I had though, was that many of those addicts and alcoholics seemed disconnected. They seemed to have lost interest in the people they were supposed to be helping.

At that time though I wasn’t ready to get clean and sober. I couldn’t imagine living my life without drugs and alcohol. So, any flaw within a treatment facility led to me being dismissive of that rehab. Looking back they weren’t all terrible. Although, none of those drug treatment facilities are places I would recommend to anyone else.

A Change of Plans

When I began my first steps in recovery, I still distrusted other addicts and alcoholics that worked in treatment. I met people in recovery, who became important parts of my life, and my recovery. one of them is a therapist, another person was a drug-counselor, and the third worked at SOBA College Recovery. I began to reassess the reasons as to why addicts and alcoholics work in treatment. It became clear to me that many addicts and alcoholics work in treatment facilities because it helps them in their own recovery. By staying in touch and in tune with addicts and alcoholics just beginning their journeys in recovery, people who have years and even decades clean and sober, are reminded of the misery they themselves lived through while under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

After I graduated from Rutgers University, I was looking for a place to work, while I was preparing my PhD applications. After several people suggested I try working for SOBA College Recovery, I decided to put in an application. I was more interested at the time in tutoring or teaching positions and interviewed for those jobs as well.

An Opinion Can Be Changed

When I interviewed to work at SOBA College Recovery I was incredibly unsure of what to expect. The interview for the job caught me off guard. To begin with I knew my interviewers I’d seen them in 12-step meetings. Still, I was reserved, as I often am in interviews, however the interview quickly became a conversation.

I was shocked how amiable Stephen McNeer and Sonya Elephante were, they quickly explained that the program was geared toward developing a loving and caring environment for the clients. They broke down how College Recovery offered the clients levels of support that allowed for the clients to gradually adjust to living clean and sober. I was impressed and hopeful that I would in fact be working somewhere that cared about the clients’ well-being. I decided that it might be worthwhile to take a position at SOBA, besides the other jobs I’d been offered didn’t start until September, so I had time to revise my position.

Still, I was uncertain if my coworkers would care about the clients or have any interest in their recovery. I believed was that most of the people that work in treatment  lose interest. I thought anyone working in treatment would inevitably become detached from the people they once genuinely sought to help. Like many alcoholics and addicts, I have experienced, and heard stories, where people in recovery have lost touch with those who are still suffering from this disease. I have even heard of facilities and places owned and operated by alcoholics and addicts in long term recovery, who take advantage of addicts and alcoholics, while those newcomers are at their most vulnerable. So, it was with much apprehension that I accepted my job at SOBA College Recovery.

I was quickly dispelled of my doubts. My coworkers were all active in their own recovery. They were working 12 step programs, and doing all that they could to aid the clients in learning how to live clean and sober lives. It was refreshing and unlike anything I had experienced while in treatment.

Finding Faith in the Process

I didn’t expect to like College Recovery. I genuinely believed it would simply be a job I worked at, while working toward my goals.  From the first moment I began working for College Recovery I found myself in love with the way they were geared toward making a difference in young people’s lives. The longer I worked for College Recovery the more faith I placed in the way they helped young people find success in their lives.

When my brother passed away a few months ago from an overdose. I do not believe that any other job would have offered me the love and support that my coworkers did. I was even told that it was okay to let the clients know where I was at. Because, it would help them to know that I was going through my grief clean and sober. It was at that moment that I understood why they chose individuals in recovery to work at College Recovery. The success of the staff and our ability to live our lives without the use of drugs and alcohol serves as an example to the clients. If we can do it, so can the clients, and they do.

In my time at SOBA, I have seen clients ushered into college programs, discover and refine their career goals. Some of the clients are uncertain of what they desire to do with their lives. They don’t know what sort of future they might have. The staff members of college recovery are fortunate enough to help those clients figure out what they want out of life and help them to begin achieving their goals.

How it Helps

What I have also come to understand from working in treatment is that it helps with my recovery. It makes sense that other people in recovery would choose to work for treatment facilities. There are numerous benefits to working for a facility. Working for a facility allows us to share our experiences with people, who are just getting clean/sober. It’s difficult to make the decision to abandon our recovery, when our work life revolves around helping people in recovery. Which helps keep us from slipping into unmanageability in our recovery.

Working in treatment also allows us to give back to communities we harmed. Everyone that comes into a treatment facility that decides to stay clean and sober is causing less harm to themselves or their families. By helping people make the decision to stay clean and sober, we are helping the larger community. It may not be the greatest contribution to society, however every little thing we do helps. Many of us did a great deal of harm when we were using. So, anything that we do that helps the society we harmed helps to heal our spirits.

One of the greatest benefits to working in treatment, for many of us, is simply knowing we are doing our best to provide better treatment than we received.



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Michael Satterfield

Michael is currently the Clinical Outreach Coordinator for Soba College Recovery. From the ages of 14-21 was frequently homeless and in drug treatment programs. Michael struggled with Substance Use Disorder. To support his drug habit he burglarized houses and committed robberies. He was arrested at the age of 21 for armed robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in state prison. Upon release, Michael became an active member of the recovery community. Michael graduated from Rutgers in May of 2017 with highest honors. Michael's brother died after buying heroin laced with Fentanyl and overdosing.

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