We asked Becky Flood, CEO and Executive Director for New Directions for Women, to give us a general reflection on her experience and employment in the treatment field. We asked her to give us honest reflection about why she works so hard and continues to pursue a sober world. She kindly obliged and we have transcribed her response for educational and empowerment purposes.
Read and enjoy this one-on-one conversation with Becky Flood.
Question: Can you give us general reflection on the treatment field?
The treatment field is only about 65, 70 years old. So as a profession, it’s a new profession. So there’s gonna be an evolution. It’s not like the medical profession or the legal profession that’s been around since the beginning of man. So we need to be change agents, we need to always strive for excellence.
Only in the last five years have we [treatment field professionals and representatives] gone from believing that this [alcohol and drug addiction] was a medical model disease to now looking at it as a chronic illness. The medical model looks at it being very finite. The medical field treats this disease with 30 days’ worth of treatment, and you’re good to go, go to meetings, and life is good.
A chronic disease model, which is now what we are wedded to, says that you have to monitor that person over a lifetime. It’s like having diabetes; it’s like having heart disease; in that once you have it, you always have it. It means that there’s a larger acceptance to the fact that people may relapse at some point throughout their life. Relapses, then, is not necessarily seen as a treatment failure or a failure in their recovery process, but a journey of their recovery process.
Leaders need to realize that as this is a new profession and as a disease that’s relatively new, identified as relatively new, it’s been around since we’ve been crushing grapes with our feet. The treatment of it is relatively new, and so we have to always be willing to be involved in research and understand that new treatment regiments and best practices will evolve over time.
I think it’s important to realize that true recovery from this disease is threefold. It’s physical, it’s emotional and spiritual. Any treatment service that does not encompass the spiritual, the emotional and the physiological is doing a disservice to the people who are being treated.
You know, I refer to addiction as the hole in the soul of America. Until that hole gets filled… I always say that we don’t have to worry about being destroyed from outside entities ‘cause we’ll self-destruct. It’s a disease of denial. When I talk about denial, I’m talking about our government denies it, our medical profession denies it, our spouses deny it, the guidance counselors deny it. There’s just a lot of minimizing, justifying, and rationalizing why Sue isn’t that sick or why, you know, James really – his life could have been different having made different choices, when in reality, had he ever received the treatment he needed for the right duration of the time, the right intensity of time, his life would have been dramatically different.
Question: Why do treatment centers exist? For those who do not know anything about chemical dependency rehab, or addiction treatment centers?
The first thing I would say is that there’s very few of us in this country that don’t have a loved one, either a family member or a close friend or a coworker that we care about, that has not been affected negatively by the use of alcohol or drugs, either prescription or illicit drugs.
Treatment facilities exist to address the symptoms of someone that you care about who has a drug and alcohol addiction. Treatment centers exists because alcoholism and drug addiction are diagnosable diseases by the AMA, the American Medical Association. Like any other disease, there are treatment services, some hospital-based, some freestanding, that are available to care for people who suffer from this disease.
Question: Why are you so passionate about treatment?
First and foremost, I’m a recovering addict and alcoholic. Secondly, I’m passionate about helping people. I’ve been doing this since I was eighteen years old. So it’s my life’s vocation, my life’s work. It’s what I get up in the morning to do. In particularly, women and children and adolescents. Also, adolescents and women seem to be an underserved population that tend to be marginalized and have the least services and the most barriers in order to get care. So any population that is marginalized or has limited resources suffering from this disease is a population that I put my energy into.
Question:What would you say to the CEO’s in the treatment field? (Advice to the CEO)
One is education, two is education, and I could go on saying it. Make sure that you have the right degrees, the right licenses, the right certifications in order to practice specifically in this field. Just because you’re a doctor or just because you’re a counselor; just because you’re a therapist does not qualify you, necessarily, to treat addictive disorders.
I do not believe that you need to be in recovery to be good at assisting those that suffer or their family members. I do believe that if you are non-recovering, you need to take time to go to twelve-step meetings. You need to read the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous. You need to read the basic text of Narcotics Anonymous. You need to read the big book of Overeaters Anonymous. You need to make sure that you read, study, and participate in open meetings as the CEO. That doesn’t mean going to one or two. It means go to them over a period of years so that you understand how to integrate self-help into your clinical practice or your medical practice, and that you can seek from your heart, not just from your head, about what recovery is all about.
You can’t expect others to do what you, yourself, aren’t willing to do. I think it’s important to work at lower levels. It’s important to work in the trenches. It’s important to work in billing and collections. It’s important to work in the admissions office. It’s important to be on the front clinical lines. It’s important to work as a salesperson.
Secondary Question: Why is it important to work at the lower levels and in the trenches?
Because it’s hard to understand and provide leadership if you don’t have an intimate understanding how a treatment program really operates. But make sure that over time, even as things change, that you always take time to sit within your departments and understand what changes have taken place.
We hope that this article has helped you to understand the passion of the leadership at New Directions for Women!