One thing you’ll notice about addiction recovery treatment centers is that, despite increasing demand, they sometimes have trouble staying financially afloat and have to shut down. Yesterday, I read this article about how Hope for New Hampshire Recovery is having to shut down 4 out of 5 centers due to lack of funding.
It wasn’t long ago in my article about video game addiction that I mentioned one of the first video game addiction recovery centers was started in Amsterdam but was no longer around. That center also had to shut down due to lack of funding.
It seems odd to see things like this in the United States when we are currently staring down the barrels of a full-blown opioid addiction health emergency, but there it is. Hearing about the New Hampshire shutdowns got me to thinking about the issue, and I’d like to talk about how recovering addicts can actually help and how it can even fit into your recovery program.
Addiction Recovery Treatment Centers Typically Depend on Support
I should note at the beginning that there are a wide variety of addiction recovery centers and they all have varying means of funding. For example, a very wealthy person might fund a center. Treatment centers in very affluent areas may be able to keep going because they offer paid services in a community that can afford them.
Many centers, however, are privately run as a non-profit, typically under a Board or a larger, parent organization. It may surprise you to learn that most centers are not government provided or run, but that is a somewhat rare arrangement compared to the centers that are privately run as non-profits.
It is possible that a privately run center may receive funds from the government to some extent or another, but the fact is that most addiction recovery centers – just like any other non-profit – depend heavily on donations and volunteers.
The point I’m trying to make is this: very few, if any, addiction recovery centers have a steady, guaranteed source of money that will keep their doors open indefinitely. Even the ones that receive some amount of funds from the government – there’s no guarantee that money will be in the budget next year. While some centers may also offer some paid services, addiction recovery is not exactly a moneymaking industry. Most recovering addicts are just trying to get their lives back together, and that includes a very chaotic financial situation.
So, the bulk of the financial weight of running a recovery center is usually resting on support – donations, volunteers, fundraising, etc. – just like any other non-profit. If the support isn’t there, the center has to close down.
You can probably see the problem here right away: the very people who benefit the most from addiction recovery treatment are also usually the least able to financially support a treatment center. If treatment centers charged high amounts for their services to keep the doors open, they would end up denying treatment to large segments of people who need it the most.
Between Step 8 and Step 9: Making Amends
Even if you aren’t in a 12 Step program, an important part of your recovery is repairing the damage you have done. This is not limited to people you have harmed directly as a result of your addiction, but people you have harmed period. The goal here is to begin a new life where, when you harm someone else, you are the sort of person who seeks to make it right as soon as possible. It is about changing who you are going forward, not just dealing with your addictive behavior.
The 12 Steps codifies this piece of recovery in Steps 8 and 9. In Step 8, you make a list of all the people you have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. In Step 9, you directly make amends where possible unless doing so would lead to more harm.
Do you see the narrowing of scope that happens between Steps 8 and 9? I have to be willing to make amends to everyone I have harmed, but I also recognize that it is neither wise nor possible to make direct amends to all those people. The group shrinks between those steps.
This is for very good reasons. We don’t want to use the “harm clause” as an excuse to making amends, because making amends to someone you have harmed can be very embarrassing and possibly risky. We’ll be tempted to cut people from our amends list for some pretty paltry reasons, sometimes.
But on the other hand, there are damages that may be wisely left unaddressed directly. If a sex addict has been moving toward an extramarital affair with someone, it may be best for all parties concerned to simply end that relationship rather than trying to repair it. Someone addicted to narcotics should probably cut off all contact with their supplier rather than trying to make amends to them. Obviously, individual circumstances will be different; I’m just trying to give you some examples.
The problem is that we may end up with a decent portion of our list being people that we can’t (or shouldn’t) directly approach and make direct amends.
Hold that thought.
Step 12: Carrying the Message to Other Addicts
Once again, this is a recovery component whether you’re in a 12 Step program or not. Once you are at a point where you have done the difficult work of recovery and are now looking at your ongoing lifestyle, you turn your attention toward helping others. We want to become the sort of people who do not just take from others. We offer service and value in return. We actively think about how we can benefit other people with how we spend our lives, especially those who also need the freedom we have experienced.
But, like making amends, this can be tricky. A lot of times, for our own health, we have severed relationships with people who aided and abetted our addictive behavior. We may look around and discover that we no longer know any addicts who are not already in recovery like we are.
As we go through life, we will probably run into people in whom we recognize the signs of addiction, and we can further our own recovery and growth as a person by being a help to them. Nobody understands an addict like another addict, and I can tell you from personal experience that sharing this struggle with someone creates instant trust and hope. In fact, you may be the first person to begin to break the power of shame and isolation in that person’s life.
Some of us may naturally meet others we can help in the course of life, but others of us may not. Some of us may even have to completely steer clear of other addicts, at least for a while, to protect their own recovery.
So, we end up running into the same potential problems as we do with Step 9. How can you do this step when doing so may be unwise or impossible?
Helping Addiction Recovery Centers: Indirect Amends and Carrying the Message
Early on in my own recovery, I heard a story about man who was a sex addict. As he grew in his recovery, he wanted to make amends, but he also realized that making amends to many of the people involved might do great harm to himself, them, and his marriage. Furthermore, pornography played a role in his addiction. How could he make amends to the women he had used and exploited? Contact a bunch of porn stars? That didn’t seem like a good idea.
What he decided to do was donate money to an organization that helped women get out of the porn industry, and he volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center.
Obviously, this is not the same thing as making direct repairs to the specific people you have harmed. However, it allowed him to address this need in his recovery by working to repair the damage he had done, except in a broader, less direct way. He saw this as making amends, and I don’t think he was wrong about that at all.
It’s sort of genius, really. You may not be able to repair all the damage on your list directly, but are there ways you could repair the damage more generally and be a force for healing in that area instead of destruction?
One idea is to donate money, donate items, and/or volunteer your time to addiction recovery treatment centers.
You’re killing two birds with one stone. On the one side, you’re repairing the damage you’ve done by repairing the damage to the lives of others ruined by addiction. On the other side, you’re bringing a message of hope to other addicts and helping them to realize it in their own lives.
I’m not suggesting this as a substitute for making direct amends to someone or directly sharing your message with an individual and helping them find recovery. We all need to be doing that to the extent that we actually can, even if it’s unpleasant, inconvenient, or scary.
But what I am saying is that you will have damages in your ledger that you can’t directly fix. And you will have times in your life when you cannot directly carry the message to other addicts. Donating or volunteering at a recovery center is a way to increase your growth in both of those areas. In fact, your indirect reach may be broader than you could imagine.
The Recovery Centers Need You
I am a wizard at coming up with indirect ways to make amends, and I’m sure you can come up with many ideas as well. I give talks to groups about compulsive behaviors (people don’t like the “addiction” word in many settings, but for some reason, they’re ok talking about behaviors they can’t stop). I help lead support groups. Even this website is a way to make amends and carry the message forward.
But consider giving of yourself to a recovery center you believe in. They can’t keep their doors open without direct support from other people. And if you have benefited from the road to recovery, you are in the best position to contribute to the recovery of others.
Consider it, both for their welfare and your own.