NOTE: This is the Summary of a proposed program developed in 2004 in response
to a specific RFP for a peer support program in Rockland.
A Peer Support Learning Community
Rockland Recovery will focus on recovery peer support for the almost 2000 adults each year who move from institutional settings (hospitals, jails, or prisons) into the Rockland area community and who have addictions issues. This transition from institution to community is a crucial and delicate moment in the recovery process that has received far too little community attention. In order to foster and enrich the process of change that is the recovery process, Rockland Recovery will provide a sense of hope, support, education, and the empowerment of a learning community.
Rockland Recovery will provide a drop-in facility and learning center for adults, staffed primarily by trained peer support member workers, where members can find company and resources. Membership in the Community will be free and available to anyone who self-identifies themselves as in recovery or seeking recovery and makes a commitment to the orienting principles of the Community. There will be regular Fellowship meetings—peer support recovery groups—where members can check in about their lives, share their experience, strengths, hopes and challenges, and discuss topics of concern to those in the meeting. The Community will have on–going peer facilitated, collaborative programs on relapse prevention, recovery skills and recovery strategies, such as WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) sessions, education programs about addiction and coexisting disorders, and a peer support training program. The Community will also provide programs on issues such as employment, housing, and self-support life skills. The Community will develop and maintain close relationships with other resources in the community so that it can be a resource center for members in search of specific assistance and opportunities. Governance and programming decisions of the Community will be through regular membership meetings.
Rockland Recovery: A Peer Support Learning Community is committed to the recovery of all its members through mutual support. We believe that recovery is possible. We believe in the dignity and worth of each person and that each person has the strengths, capacities, and potential for recovery. This is a learning community where we can be safe and draw on each other’s strengths, joys and sorrows, where we respect each other and help each other learn and grow. We believe that if we have the honesty to accept the need, the courage to hope, the willingness to learn, the strength to change, the openness to share the journey, and a commitment to celebrate our progress we can restore ourselves to healthy productive lives.
The need for transition support is clear—without it relapse is considerably more likely and relapse is expensive both for the individual and the community. This generally takes the form of renewed episodes of acting out, often in ways that are destructive to the person and to others. It is one of the major reasons offenders “come back”—repeat the same or other offenses (Travis, 2003)—and non-offenders “come back” to crisis units or, worse, end up incarcerated. In any event, relapse has huge costs beyond the individual—beyond potential harm to direct and indirect victims, there are the huge costs of mental health and correctional programs. There is an urgent need to reduce these costs by reducing relapse.
Change is difficult. This is nowhere more daunting than the process of transition from an intensive institutional environment back into a community. The transition itself is change—moving is always stressful. But recovering people are faced with the additional task of implementing the changes in their own lives that are essential to recovery. They are moving from a narrow and controlled environment, often replete with disempowerment and helplessness, into an almost dazzling and immense social environment. A multitude of persons, places and things await to trigger thoughts and feelings that threaten to overwhelm them, along with their own abiding and often reinforced sense of shame and stigma. This is the fragile beginning of a new life and it is not surprising that this new beginning often collapses or is crushed. And, as Bullock, et al, put it, “Critical ingredients for recovery such as hope, empowerment, self-determination, and a new valued sense of self, are clearly in double- or triple-jeopardy for the mental health consumer who is also a criminal offender.” (2001)
Many Roads, One Journey*
Rockland Recovery and the 12-Steps
Our vision is that Rockland Recovery will complement 12 Step programs, not replace them or compete with them. Our goal is to serve people suffering from alcoholism and other addictions who are not attracted to 12-Step programs as well as to serve as a bridge to AA and other 12-Step programs.
There is a strong and vital 12-Step community in the Rockland area, primarily Alcoholics Anonymous. Unfortunately, only a bare handful of Rockland Recovery’s target population find their way into this community. There seem to be various reasons for this including a lack of knowledge and comfort, especially among ex-prisoners. Many people with multiple addictions and addictions other than alcoholism have a very hard time finding a self-help community in the Rockland area. In addition, stigma, lack of mental health education, and hostility to medications among many members, means the necessary environment of empathy and acceptance may not be present for mental health consumers—those who have a co-existing mental health disorder.
Beyond complementing 12-step programs and serving as a bridge, we hope that Rockland Recovery will supplement existing 12-Step programs. We will offer structured recovery oriented learning opportunities, including education about addictions, relapse prevention, stress management, etc. that may be of interest to current 12-Steppers.
Service is an important, even necessary, part of 12-Step recovery and all 12-Step groups dedicate themselves to, and claim responsibility for, the addict who still suffers. This includes the addict who still suffers and has not found or chosen a 12-Step path. We hope that members of 12 Step programs will be active, involved members and peer support workers in Rockland Recovery to reach out in loving service.
* The title of a book by Charlotte Davis Kasl (Harper, 1992), also author of Women, Sex, and Addiction.
 A substantial proportion of addicts, including alcoholics, have co-existing disorders and this proportion is even higher among those in jails and prisons. Double Trouble in Recovery, a New York City self-help group for dually diagnosed people, notes that the issues mentioned here are a fairly common.