It Takes a Village…


I was a little hesitant to use this title. It’s taken from the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and I didn’t want to give the impression that I viewed addicts and alcoholics as children. I do not. I am in recovery myself, and I would have bristled (or worse) at being labeled a child when I entered treatment at the ripe old age of 39. However, were you to have asked my family at that time if my behavior or approach to life was immature, their response would have been a resounding, yes! What I mean by the proverbial reference is that it takes the involvement of a community to provide the consistent connection, support, and accountability necessary to ensure growth in recovery and affect lasting change. Ask our former clients what had the most profound impact on them during their time at BRC, and you will most often be told it was their community.

The “community” is the community of clients. The community does not include the staff. Although our dedicated team works tirelessly every day, they are not there to simply provide our clients with answers. Our direct-care staff, all of whom are in long-term recovery, are there to create the container in which a client’s experience of awakening can safely take place. Achieving that awakening depends on the action a client takes to seek and discover their own answers. The staff’s role is to ensure a safe environment, educate on Twelve Step principles, concepts, and mechanics, and implement structure and discipline. BRC is a social model program, and it is by design that we direct clients to each other to solve their problems. Spend an hour on either the men’s or women’s campus and you will undoubtedly hear some version of the following in response to a client: “talk to your community about it,” “what does your community say?,” or “have you asked your community?”

The typical BRC client arrives carrying the baggage of multiple treatment failures. Even with a powerful desire to change their life, if they are being honest, they are rarely optimistic about their chances of success. They desperately lack self-efficacy, which, oversimplified, is the belief in their capacity to execute the necessary tasks to achieve their goals. I have yet to encounter a client who lacks the ability to change, but I have met many whose past disappointments have contaminated their motivation and led them to conclude no amount of effort they make toward their sobriety will ultimately make a difference. Dispelling this delusion is most effectively done by their community of peers.

Why? Because they see themselves in each other. No amount of encouragement from someone in a position of authority can match the persuasive power of an awakened client telling a newcomer, “if I can do it, you can.” Our clients work extensively with each other daily. They connect and identify with each other by sharing honestly and support each other through early discomfort. They use each other to hone their Twelve Step disciplines and practice the act of working with others. They challenge each other to live by principles such as responsibility and integrity and hold each other accountable when they fall short. Struggles will arise, but when a client has developed the humility to ask for help, they will always find someone in their community who can show them how to overcome the obstacle.

The Twelve Step immersion program at BRC requires clients to engage with and rely upon each other. By moving clients out of their more familiar state of isolation, they can quickly discover, develop, and master the skills they will need to be active participants in Twelve Step fellowships. Consistent interaction with their community uniquely prepares them for a successful life of recovery.

Written by: Tim May, Executive Director