Several years ago, still finding my way in a new leadership role, I realized the importance of work culture. I asked myself, “What type of environment do I want to work in?” Given I was (and still am) the Executive Director, I had an opportunity to influence the CCAR culture. I thought about how we operated. What was our platform? I concluded that CCAR held five fundamental beliefs that served as our foundation. I wrote them down. Now they are posted in all our locations. Staff has heard me speak about them so often they use them to present solutions to me. To be gently persuaded (and sometimes corrected) with my own words, knocks me down a few pegs.
Today, October 9, 2018, I’m suggesting at our monthly staff meeting that CCAR adopt a 6th foundational principle. This one is so profound that it needs to be elevated to the Number One position. It holds top honor, exceeds all others, it is that fundamental. In fact, it is so essential that we’ve taken it for granted. It is…
1. Recovery First
Recovery must come first. That’s our whole purpose, our reason for existence. It seems blatantly obvious, but the point was driven home in a discussion with staff on how we advocate in public. We believe that we carry a message of recovery first. Any reference to CCAR is second (a distant second). And as for the individual, well our personal stories are used to illustrate that recovery is possible, not to place ourselves in the limelight.
Following up on the “Recovery First” principle are five others. I’ve included a brief narrative.
2. You Are in Recovery If You Say You Are
We embrace this notion that no one can determine for another if that person is in recovery. I explore this idea in detail here. One of our two most powerful questions asks, “What does recovery look like for you?” We will not define recovery for someone other than ourselves.
3. Multiple Pathways of Recovery
As Bill White so eloquently penned, “There are multiple pathways of recovery and all are a cause for celebration.” This is the umbrella under which we operate. On the flip side, there is nothing more ridiculous than two people who survived addiction, arguing about who climbed out of the pit the correct way.
4. Focus on the Recovery Potential, Not Pathology
When in public, we identify ourselves as people in recovery, family members, friends and allies. We don’t describe ourselves as alcoholics and addicts. See the difference? Again, think of the other one of our two most powerful questions…
“How can we help you with your recovery today?”
The focus is on recovery. We don’t ask about the addiction, or the problem, or the past. We focus on the possibility, and more importantly, the hope of recovery.
5. Err on the Side of the Recoveree
I’ve heard the term “client-centered care” bandied about. But what does it really mean? That when faced with an ethical decision that we first consider the person being served. Too often, decisions are made based on policy and/or procedure. Or what’s best for the organization.
6. Err on the Side of Being Generous
We want to be kind, considerate and compassionate with everyone. That includes being generous with our time, talent and treasure. Genuine generosity goes a long way to building trust and fostering good will.
Over many years, these principles have withstood the test of time. They have served CCAR well. As we rapidly approach 20 years, my hope is that CCAR never loses sight of what built us.
In 2015, I finished a thruhike of the entire Appalachian Trail, a trek of 2,189.2 miles. It took 189 days and 6 pairs of boots. During all that time alone with my Creator, my purpose in life became more precisely defined. I am, simply, to coach recovery. Recovery saved me from an early demise and brought purpose to my tattered life. I have learned that I’m a coach to my very core. I am blessed to put the two together. I started work at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) in 1999. I became the Executive Director of this recovery community organization in 2004. I have trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© dozens of times and have a hand in modifying, improving and adapting various recovery coach curricula. I’m old enough now to start considering my legacy. This is a way for me to share things I have learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. I find that when I speak I present the same messages over and over. It’s time to write them down.
Phil “Right Click” Valentine
Recovery established 12.28.87