Recovering Addicts Working in the Addiction Field
Dr. Karl Benzio Says...
This is a great question, especially because it is a very common situation. Often times, someone who has turned their life around regarding their own addiction gets involved in the addiction field. This happens for several reasons. The first is to give back to the place and arena that saved their life. The second is because addictions is one thing they have a lot of knowledge about. The third, their work history is so trashed, they have difficulty getting work in the real employment world, so a rehab is an easy job for them to get.
Those in recovery can be great assets to the treatment community, but in my experience, they often over their head regarding the depth and position they carry. Having a lot of first hand knowledge about addictions doesn't equate with having an understanding for the very complex arena of the psychological dynamics that led to the addiction, how to help a person understand those, how to engage in the relationship and build that bridge to communicate these principles to the addict, and most importantly, to help them manage their own feelings and issues when dealing with a very complex and dysfunctional patient population. This is why therapists, like myself, go to 8 years of training to be a therapist. most people in recovery, start working directly with patients in the first 6-12 months their own recovery.
i would advocate a person in recovery needs to have at least 3-5 years clean, has gone through the 12 steps, has focused on the healthy transformation of their own life, have built their own occupational functioning to a healthy place, been a healthy sponsor in the rooms for a couple years and had some intensive and long term people they were sponsoring(greater than 24 months) to get a feel for the dynamics involved when you are a mentor/treater, and have at least 2 years of masters level counseling degree(been in therapy with a good therapist for a year and you usually get this in a counseling program), and has an active and enriching spiritual relationship with God. Then i would say that person has done a good job treating themselves, getting their own life in order, has gained some professional training and some informal experience as a treater being supervised by a trained professional, and can show their life as an example. Most importantly, they will have the equipping to get involved in a pretty dangerous battlefield where if they are well equipped, they can save many lives. if they are not equipped, not only will the patients they aim to treat will suffer, but they will suffer themselves and be at a high risk for relapse, or at the very least, their issues will start strangling their life.
Thanks for your question and i am guessing you are in recovery - Congratulations!!!! I also am guessing you are looking to help others, again, that is awesome. i hope you are encouraged by my words and see them as a gameplan for success, and don't get discouraged because of impatience or wanting everything to happen now. Self-control and patience will lead to a fulfilling personal recovery, and if God puts you on a path to helping others, be equipped for maximum success.
by HIS grace,
karl benzio, md
Page last updated Sep 05, 2011