Recovering on the phone

A big part of life’s journey for people is making connections and interacting with other people who share common interests. If you’re recovering from an addiction, then making connections and interacting with people is seemingly even more important.

For people interested in making a connection, there is a program being offered through Rehab Services Inc., which can provide telephone support to individuals who are in alcohol and drug addiction recovery.

Volunteer trainings will take place May 14 on the second floor of the Recovery Services Inc. building, above Restore Thrift Store at 112-2nd Ave. SW in Minot. There will be two standalone training sessions offered, from 1 to 3 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m. Food and refreshments will be provided. People are encouraged to RSVP by calling 839-4240 and there is no cost for the volunteer trainings.

The training program, called Recoveree Connection is a telephone service where the volunteer contacts the person recovering from alcohol or drug abuse to encourage them to stay clean and sober, explained Colman Quill, the statewide coordinator for Recoveree Connection. The word recovery is spelled wrong as a catch or a way to get people’s attention, he said, and is based on a Connecticut program. RSI recruits and trains volunteers to make the phone calls and how to offer support and encouragement, Quill said, and is meant for people in recovery to be aware of resources available, to do something different, reach out for positive influences, keep trying and not give up on recovery. “A lot of people fall down 90 to 100 days into recovery,” he added. “This gives the person another leg to stand on to facilitate long-term recovery.”

“Change is the essence of recovery,” Quill said. “If you go back and do the same thing with the same people, then the chances of falling are astronomical.”

The mission of Recoveree Connection is to help recoverees maintain sobriety by providing peer support through communication via phone.

The phone calls are free of charge, Quill said. Confidentiality is highly stressed and conversations are between the recoveree and volunteer, he also said. Recoverees are called at least once a week at the time they specify and volunteers use a call blocker as the calls are outgoing only.

Rehab Services Inc. contacts treatment providers for referrals, Quill noted. Recoverees must be 18 years old and sign a consent form to be contacted, he added. There is no obligation to continue if they do not wish to keep getting the contact calls.

Volunteers must be 18 years old and are asked for a six-month commitment, Quill said. All volunteers must pass a background check to assure they have no predatory offense, he continued. Also, many of the volunteers are in recovery or have been prior participants, Quill noted. “It’s good if they have a basis in recovery, but not mandatory,” he added. Quill also said the coordinator matches men to men and women to women based on the times they are available. The volunteers make the calls whether the recoveree has fallen down or not, he noted, and are trained not to be judgmental.

The use of texting has worked, Quill said, but it’s hard to tell in a text message if a person is high or drunk. They try to take advantage of social media as well, he added. Quill thought the phone works the best, though.

“If we can keep one person from getting drunk or getting high or getting in a car and killing someone, that’s a victory,” Quill remarked.

Recoveree Connection has been operating in North Dakota since 2008 and have served close to 800 clients, Quill said. It extends to all of North Dakota, he added, and they have served people outside of the state but those people have typically received treatment in the state. Recoveree Connection is an ideal program for people in rural areas, Quill said, because people can be out in smaller communities that don’t have recovery meetings available. People in recovery often feel isolated, he added.

When the program first started, they routinely had 25 to 30 clients served by the program and had a peak of 190 clients, Quill noted, and right now they have about 170 clients being served. Currently, the list has 25 active volunteers, he added, and over the course of time have possibly had 75 to 80. “We’d like to bring on at least 10 new volunteers, but we can fit 20 in the room.”

Quill said folks who receive the calls are very appreciative. “Sometimes they don’t have that and this has been a good program in that one-fourth of our volunteers have been participants in the program,” he said. It’s hard to recover alone, Quill noted, and the more supports a recoveree has, the better chance there is of recovery. “The more legs you have, the less likely you’ll be to fall. It’s hard to trip a centipede.”

Currently in North Dakota, there is possibly in excess of 2,000 people each year going through drug and alcohol treatment, Quill said. “The scope of the problem in North Dakota is pretty amazing.”

Recoveree Connection encourages people to have outside, healthy, good, clean hobbies to make recovery fun, Quill said. He also encourages people who are interested to come to the training.

“You can make a difference in one person’s life and with that being said, the rewards of that are really priceless.”