For many of us, emerging from a life of addiction into a world of community, fellowship, and friendship is not something that we thought would come from getting clean and sober. However, we often find that the phrase, “You can’t pick your blood, but you can pick your family” rings true in the world of addiction treatment.
“We commence to make many fast friends and a fellowship has grown up among us of which it is a wonderful thing to feel a part. The joy of living we really have, even under pressure and difficulty. “ Page 15 Bill’s Story – Alcoholics Anonymous
As we continue to grow and live a life of recovery, we soon find that one of the most important pieces to the puzzle of sobriety is the fellowship that we build up around us. Alumni programs are often the first glimpse into creating our own, sober family.
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What is an Addiction Treatment Alumni Program, Anyway?
Every addiction treatment center is different, therefore, many alumni programs can look different, depending on where you went. However, alumni programs usually remain the same throughout, some offer things others don’t, but they have the same goal:
The other main goal of Alumni Programs is one that centers around the idea that those clients who are actively working a program of recovery can be of service and can provide a comfortable transition for those clients who are still in treatment and newly graduated. If we want to chop it down to its basic forms, there are three main reasons why joining an alumni program is so beneficial for early sobriety.
1. Strength in Numbers
In times of struggle and chaos, when it feels like prayer isn’t working and everything is falling apart, one thing that will always work is the other people in the rooms, our sober supports. However, a lot of people struggle with the initial, finding the fellowship phase, as it can be pretty uncomfortable to even think about making friends at a meeting for the first few weeks.
However, creating that network of sober supports is a guaranteed way to ensure a successful sobriety, especially when that network is filled with people who are working a solid program, and who have found a new way to live.
You hear old-timers share at meetings all the time about “picking up the phone” in times of struggle, and how it helped them get outside themselves every single time. This is because sobriety and recovery, while individually based, are programs of community and involvement. The whole point of the 12 steps is to get you sober and clean so that you can help someone else get sober and clean. If that isn’t an example of being a part of a community, then I don’t know what is!
Statistics show that the relapse rate for newly recovering addicts and alcoholics is 40-60%
To be honest, that number is way too high. The most common reasons for relapse are isolation and boredom. These two ingredients can bake up a recipe for disaster for newly recovering addicts and alcoholics. This is why alumni can be so helpful. Not only do most addiction treatment alumni programs encourage a community environment for graduated clients, but they do so in ways that are fun and exciting.
Besides the whole fun in sobriety aspect, there is a certain sense of accountability for people who are apart of alumni programs. This is because they get to continue to be involved in the program in which they got sober, and they get to act in almost a mentor sort of role for people who have not yet graduated, or who have just recently graduated.
This creates a sense of gratitude and dedication to the treatment center that they attended, as well as for the program of recovery for which they are working.
According to the steps and traditions of the 12 step programs, the ultimate goal for anyone who wants to stay clean and sober and live a new way of life is to begin to be more conscious of the needs of others. This is called service work and is the number one, guaranteed way to stay sober when combined with a working of the steps.
After a while, the intended goal is for each alumni member to continue on with alumni, and help the next newcomer that graduates from the program. These people can help the newcomers find a good meeting, or even point them in the direction of some quality sober people, and maybe even a good sponsor!
This not only helps the newcomer to feel welcomed and invited into the world of sobriety, but it also helps the alumni member to feel as though they are doing some service work in their own lives. This is especially helpful if they have not yet completed their steps but still, want to be helpful for newcomers.
Different Types of
Addiction Treatment Alumni
HRC prides itself on a strong alumni program for their graduated and future clients. For the most part, you can generally expect from HRC or any other alumni group:
- Frequent Gathering – some places are weekly, some places are monthly. Some centers have them at the center, other centers coordinate dinners off campus.
- Recovery based Activities – sometimes there is a 12 step style meeting, where a graduated client will tell their story, sometimes they have fun and games in the park.
- Milestone Celebrations – Many centers offer milestone and anniversary celebrations and coins to the people who have been graduated for some time.
- Special Speakers – some centers will even have a big annual alumni celebration, bringing back clients that have maybe gone home, or who have stayed in the area and bring in a special speaker for the event.
For a long time, we lived lives that were detached, disconnected, and lonely. Getting involved in alumni programs opens the doorway that leads us into a compassionate network of like-minded people in recovery. Alumni programs help to not only keep us in the loop but to walk us right up to the loop and put is into it. We learn that we can trust other people and that we can be proud of ourselves.
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