What Happens When Addiction Counselors Relapse? - Page 2

By Jeff Forester 08/30/11
Relapse plays a familiar part in the lives of many recovering addicts. And even longtime drug counselors are not immune from the occasional slip.
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Relapse among recovery professionals are not uncommon.

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Touhy agrees that monitoring is needed for chemical dependency professionals, pointing out that he NAADAC started a member assistance program in the 1990s but that it was underused. “People did not always want to be identified for fear of losing their jobs,” she says. The situation has not improved since then, she says, noting, “There is incredible stigma attached to relapse in the professional world.”

Still without a workable formal system, the NAADAC can only help chemical dependency professionals dealing with relapse informally. Those who are struggling can contact the NAADAC, who will put them in touch with local resources. “It is a huge unmet need,” says Touhy. “We need a national system for assistance for people in recovery that is agreeable to the addiction world.”

An organized monitoring system is one end of the spectrum, says Rice. “The other end are the peer support systems like Physicians Serving Physicians, or Birds of a Feather for pilots.” Rice believes that there is a need for non-professional support groups for addiction professionals: One professional alcoholic or addict talking with another professional alcoholic or addict.

Touhy estimates that 85,000 people in the addiction workforce and as many as 30,000 are recovering addicts. Without a national monitoring system and strong areas of informal support, these professionals who work every day helping others to a clean life will go without the support they need and deserve. As the recovery field continues to grow, so will the need for the professionals working to help make the system work--and to ensure that their foot soldiers in our national battle against addiction remain on the straight and narrow.

Jeff Forester is a writer based in Minnesota. His book, Forest for the Trees: How Humans Shaped the North Woods, an ecological history of his state's famed Boundary Waters, came out in paperback in 2009.  He has written about sober high schools and painkillers, among other topics, for The Fix.

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