Drug Abuse Aftercare and Holding Your Peers Accountable

Drug abuse aftercare is getting a bum wrap – or is it?  “Funny story – over the last week I’ve had two different people ask me, ‘So, is what you do: telling people when they are ‘acting out’ during their recovery process a ‘Boot Camp method’?”  Mike Joly is bewildered by the misconception that people have about programs like his that emphasize a “Holding-Your-Peers-Accountable” approach.  He’s intrigued that people associate the term, “Boot Camp” with an “accountable” recovery process.

Mike Joly has been in the recovery world for eighteen years and for almost thirty years, New Life House has operated on the foundation of “Holding-Your-Peers-Accountable.”  Over the last few years he’s watched as the new age level of aftercare has erupted.  Not only is he seeing fewer people stay sober because of it, but families are being gouged with high price tags.  These places emphasize the amenities and how great the client is going to feel being there because of all the cool stuff they get to do.  “At the end of the day it’s recipe for disaster because addicts are already self-interested and the only way to change is contrary action.”

How can you change and deflate the ego without getting uncomfortable and having to hear the truth about yourself?  Answer: You don’t!!  You can fill anyone up with external distractions, but sooner or later the appeal fades away and if they haven’t done the work necessary for an internal change they relapse.  “Pulling Covers” (the art of telling someone about their unhealthy behavior) saves lives and the last time anyone checked – drug addiction is about life or death!!

Joly believes the misconception about methods like his is that the staff is yelling at clients while pulling covers all day long.  He cannot speak for other sober living homes but there is much more to the process in New Life House’s recovery community.  Pulling covers only takes place approximately 15 to 30 times per year, it’s what happens beyond that which keeps young men sober and active for years to come in New Life House.  There are the late night talks, commitments in home group meetings, service related outings together, Big-Brother and Little-Brother relationships, sponsorship, book studies, cooking and caring for the house, mentoring each other with skills someone else may not possess, a yearly camping trip and fun and physical activities with healthy competition.  Addicts come into recovery with low self-worth and over-sized egos.  Instead of inflating the ego, the false sense of self, the New Life House recovery community plugs up the holes of low self-worth with love, spiritual principles and camaraderie.

Structure in recovery facilities that promote health and wellbeing through the tools of “Holding-Your-Peers-Accountable” are being categorized as Boot Camps.  “At the end of the day the most effective form of recovery/treatment is through lasting character and psyche changes (the way addicts think, the way they act, the way they communicate, the way they lead their lives, and the way they feel),” says Joly.   The only way an addict or alcoholic can make these lasting changes is for the truth be revealed to them through the people they revere – their peers – on their own they haven’t been able to find these solutions.

Some attempt to make the necessary shifts in character and psyche solo, but it takes a lot longer and with a lot more pain.  They carry on acting out in behaviors that cause more wreckage – in sobriety – damaging relationships, losing jobs, etc. until they finally get to the place where their lives are so unmanageable that they run the risk of relapse.  It’s extremely counterproductive and much like being a rat on a wheel.  In the long or the short run really – not hearing about oneself doesn’t help a drug addict see or experience the contrary action necessary to begin to live life another way – a happier and healthier way.

So, that process – what does it look like at New Life House?  Addicts and alcoholics – especially when new in the program – are so selfish, so self-centered that the work is all about helping them get outside of them selves.   It’s about looking at the deeper issues that are painful.  Whatever lies, manipulations or fashion a drug addict hides behind, the hidden troubles inside are still there.  When peers hold each other accountable – the false exterior behaviors are brought into the light and seen for what they truly are – false.   By giving and accepting help from peers, a bond is formed and they are no longer separate.  Joly stands behind his statement, “This is a process that cannot be side stepped; being accountable is essential and ultimately the saving grace for a drug addict.”

verified by Psychology Today

  • Stephanie Addante
    Posted at 10:24h, 20 May Reply

    Well said, Mike. I just forwarded this on to some parents needing to hear this.

  • Mike Joly
    Posted at 15:16h, 20 May Reply

    Thanks Stephanie, our goal in creating “into the heart of addiction” was not only to provide insight to the parents involved with New Life House, but also to other parents that do not have this resource. Let us know if there is any other topics you would like to hear about and I will be sure to make it happen.

  • [email protected]
    Posted at 17:31h, 20 May Reply

    Your words are words of wisdom. Keep up the good work you do with these men. I agree with your ideas I keep you and all the members in my prayers. I can see the results sometimes it takes them a little longer to get it but hopefully they see the light. Each one is special in the heart of their mothers and fathers. God please give them the courage to see the things they can change and the wisdom to see the difference. Addiction is a disease that cannot be left alone I wish that when my children were young and was face with this disease I would have taken the steps that my daughter has taken to help my grandson. Thank you Mike and New Life House

  • Debbie O-A
    Posted at 11:46h, 21 May Reply

    Mike, having seen the results of peers holding each other accountable, I too stand by your statement and plan to share this with every parent grappling with after-care decisions. It’s never easy. Ultimately, the decision to change rests with the addict, but we parents need to “get out of their way” so their “need to change” morphs into a “want to change”. More parents should see this post to gain insight and perspective.

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