Hey, everyone! My name is Zach Gerrity, and I’m a Recovery Advocate here at Stonegate Center.
My goal is to be a mentor for men struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. As someone in long-term recovery, I guide each client through the 12-Steps, facilitate our daily programming regimen, and try to be someone for these guys to lean on when things get tough.
What is a Recovery Advocate (RA)?
However, when I went to treatment, and even when I first started working at Stonegate Center, I didn’t know what a Recovery Advocate (RA) was. To me, RAs seemed like the big brothers / big sisters of the rehab world. They were staff members who hung out with us after daily programming, occasionally passed out medication, and lent their ears whenever we needed to vent.
But mostly, the RAs just made sure everybody followed the rules and that nobody had run off. At Stonegate Center Creekside and at Stonegate Center Hilltop, our RAs, or Recovery Advocates, are more than rule makers; they have an active role in the recovery and long-term sobriety of our clients.
Most of our team, myself included, spend the majority of our time trying to make sure each client maximizes their treatment experience. We want our clients to fully engage and participate in each day’s activities in hopes of inspiring positive change.
To do so, my team and I develop material to cover for groups, chart client progress through clinical groups and individual therapy sessions, walk each of our brothers through the 12-Steps, and even lead Bible Studies.
But our focus isn’t limited to what happens during the daily operating hours of 9:00-5:00pm. Oh, no. We also prioritize what happens before, in-between, and after daily programming hours, and I’ll show you why.
From my personal experience in treatment, I know how much information is presented during regular programming hours. And, for my “normies” out there who don’t know… it’s a lot. The amount of material combined with any outside pressures can seem overwhelming at times.
Fortunately, I was blessed to have the help of some great Recovery Advocates throughout my recovery journey. And actually, most of the processing I did when I was in rehab occurred in the hours following programming or on the weekends when I wasn’t in class for 8 hours at a time.
Anyone can show up to groups and look good in front of staff for a few hours at a time, much like I could show up to my place of business or church every day, but no one can wear a mask 24 hours a day. I know this because I tried. It was hard for me to fully engage and dive deep into the underlying issues behind my addiction.
Eventually my façade cracked, just like it did around my loved ones and close friends, and the real me came out. That me drinks every day, whether I want to or not, and is consistently hurting myself and everyone around me. I came to realize that there was a direct correlation between how I acted when no one was looking and how well my recovery was going.
None of us come to treatment on a win-streak. I’ve never met one person who had a rough weekend and decided to check into rehab for 90+ days just to get away. Treatment isn’t a vacation, it’s requires hard work. Not only is there a lot of recovery information to process, but the wreckage of our past is also still fresh in our minds.
From hurt wives and loved ones to financial or legal troubles, physically being in a different place doesn’t remove all the troubles we’re dealing with. These issues weigh heavily on our hearts and minds and can block us off from God and our recovery.
Regardless, this is why Recovery Advocates are so important. First and foremost, our main priority is keeping all our clients safe. We do this by conducting hourly check-ins on each client, keeping an eye out for potential hazards around the facility, and making sure that the house rules of the center are being followed.
Secondly, our RAs observe how clients are doing outside of programming, when they’re just living their lives. As I said before, this is the area where our real selves tend to show up, and where the rubber meets the road as far as sustained sobriety is concerned.
Our highly trained RA staff is especially vigilant during this after-hours time. We hold clients accountable for their behavior and keep an eye out for clients that are struggling to process information or come to terms with their past. All our RA’s spend extensive one-on-one time with each client, learning about their lives and offering help and suggestions where they can. This information is then passed along to counselors and other staff members to ensure the highest quality of care for each individual client.
But that’s not all our Recovery Advocate staff is capable of.
The Benefits of Working with RAs in Recovery
Stonegate Center prides itself on hiring dedicated individuals who are willing to go above and beyond to help our clients achieve sustained sobriety. Keeping that in mind, we are always on the lookout for passionate individuals who are always bettering themselves in recovery.
From our admissions staff to our marketing team and to the RA’s on the firing line, we are proud that many of our staff are in recovery. That means we actually work the same program we teach our clients in real life. Talk about practicing what you preach!
Having sober staff members who are plugged into the local recovery community instead of uninformed techs allows us to really relate with our clients and prove to them that healing is possible. And, that’s why I love Stonegate Center. We’ve been there before and know what you’re going through; therefore, we’ll work tirelessly to help you realize your full potential.
For instance, I have a sponsor and go to AA meetings. I also have sponsees and carry the message to addicts and alcoholics like myself, independently of my job at Stonegate. Helping others overcome their drug and alcohol addictions truly is my full-time job.
I actively work the same 12-Step Program we teach and hold myself to the same high standards that each of our clients are held to, in my personal life as well as my work life. It’s so important to have a role model throughout this process and that’s what I aim to become for you. No one can do this all by themselves.
When men are struggling with the 12-Steps just as I did when I got to treatment, I can offer insight and advice that a “normal” person just can’t. I struggled with the idea of God or any Higher Power for that matter, and I did not understand the necessity of having a spiritual relationship with God for most of the program.
I didn’t understand why I had to write a bunch of stuff down; I didn’t understand why I had to tell someone else my whole life story; and I definitely didn’t think that working this program would be a life-long endeavor. To be entirely honest, I didn’t have much hope that this program would even work.
Nothing in my past suggested that I’d be able to stay sober for more than a few days, so I didn’t feel like sustained recovery was even possible for someone like myself. And yet, surprisingly, it did work. And it’s worked consistently for me – provided that I continually seek to improve my relationship with God and perform his work to the best of my ability.
The fact that many of our staff have been in the very same seats our clients are in – some of us more times than we can count – is invaluable when relating with other men who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Whether that’s methamphetamine addiction, cocaine addiction, opiate abuse, or alcoholism, we’ve overcome it all.
Our personal struggles working the Steps and practical experience with them in the real world make our recovered Recovery Advocates the unsung heroes of the treatment world.
Nothing can replace real life experience. So, when we see clients falling into some of the traps we ourselves have fallen for or when we see clients struggling in the same areas we ourselves struggled with, we can tell them exactly how we got out of the situation. What worked, what didn’t – all in effort to help.
This brings to mind a poem inspired by Portia Nelson that I encourage you to read:
An addict fell in a hole and couldn’t get out.
A businessman went by and the addict called out for help. The businessman threw him some money and told him to buy himself a ladder. But the addict could not buy a ladder in this hole he was in.
A doctor walked by. The addict said, “Help! I can’t get out!” The doctor gave him some drugs and said, “Take this. It will relieve the pain.” The addict said thanks, but when the pills ran out, he was still in the hole.
A well-known psychiatrist rode by and heard the addict’s cries for help. He stopped and asked, ” How did you get there? Were you born there? Did your parents put you there? Tell me about yourself, it will alleviate your sense of loneliness.” So the addict talked with him for an hour, then the psychiatrist had to leave, but he said he’d be back next week.
The addict thanked him, but he was still in the hole. A priest came by. The addict called for help. The priest gave him a Bible and said, “I’ll say a prayer for you.” He got down on his knees and prayed for the addict, then he left. The addict was very grateful, he read the Bible, but he was still stuck in the hole.
A recovering addict happened to be passing by. The addict cried out, “Hey, help me. I’m stuck in this hole!” Right away the recovering addict jumped down in the hole with him. The addict said, “What are you doing? Now we’re both stuck here!!” But the recovering addict said, “Calm down. It’s okay. I’ve been here before. I know how to get out.”
As recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, we’ve all found ourselves in a “hole” of sorts. What convinced me that there was hope was the ability to relate to individuals, who I knew were the real deal and just like me, and see them living full, prosperous lives in sobriety. Men and women who are happy, joyous, and free from a life of addiction.
Let me add that these individuals weren’t simply sober or abstinent. They were fully recovered. And as your Lead Recovery Advocate at Stonegate Center, that is type of individual I strive to be for you and your family.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction, we are here for you. Heck, I’m here for you! Just give one of our Admissions Specialists a call at (817) 993-9733 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about the addiction treatment process and what your life might look like in recovery.
Our long-term substance abuse treatment program offers Individual Therapy, Group Therapy, Equine Therapy, and a Two-Part s. In addition, many of our staff have been in the same position as you or your loved ones, and look at us now. Recovery is possible, just give us a call. And, feel free to ask for me by name.