Addiction is an isolating disease. Although drug and alcohol use may begin in a social setting, chemical dependency eventually results in isolation. To keep up with the demands of the addiction, a person necessarily detaches from family and friends. Seclusion triggers loneliness and depression, and the addict suppresses these painful feelings with drugs and alcohol. The cycle is relentless.
Clients are brought out of isolation as soon as they come to MARR. Our counseling staff helps the clients learn to facilitate healthy relationships through the use of the therapeutic community model. Community members share their life stories with one another, assist housemates in developing a contract of personal goals, and attend 12-Step meetings as a group.
Even seemingly insignificant tasks take on a therapeutic dimension. Grocery shopping, cleaning, or figuring out transportation provide opportunities to practice honest, respectful communication as a way of life. The constant practice the clients receive through navigating daily community life at MARR allows them to carry these skills back to their families, professional settings, places of worship, and any other communities they participate in.
We want our clients to take the relationship skills they learned at MARR into their lives outside of treatment. But that transition is painful and also frightening for the client. The bonds that clients form during treatment are strong. They create a sense of safety.
Fortunately MARR maintains a strong alumni network and clients frequently maintain their relationships with fellow alumni and counselors after completing treatment. But what those relationships look like will change when they are no longer in treatment. Their counselors and community members will still be available to them but will not be the constant presence that they were in treatment.
Acknowledging that the relationships they have formed are going to look different as they transition out of treatment is a difficult process. But rather than avoiding that pain and allowing clients to slip out unannounced, we emphasize the importance of saying goodbye.
We believe meaningful goodbyes at the end of treatment honor the healthy relationships that have been established. Thoughtful, intentional goodbyes allow for reflection and an appreciation of the importance of connection in their recovery. Goodbyes also provide necessary closure for the recovering addict and community members. Emotional wounds surrounding abandonment are common among addicts and alcoholics; therefore, verbal farewells appropriately acknowledge the relationships and the connections made.
During Goodbye Week, the clients address each person (including volunteers and counselors) in every group throughout the week prior to successfully completing the program. Once the client reflects on what that individual has meant to him or her during treatment, the addressee reciprocates. Both parties feel a sense of loss but also liberation from the meaningful exit.
Life is full of changes. To the recovering addict, change yields fear; fear can lead to relapse. Saying goodbye is an important part of relationships. MARR offers the opportunity for clients to experience healthy relationships and goodbyes, both of which are vital for lasting recovery.