Peer Recovery Philosophy

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell

The third and final pillar of our Peer Recovery Philosophy is Respect. Another goal of a CPRS must translate to anyone they are working with is: “You are who you are, no apologies required”; and we are here to help, however you wish to be helped, which includes being left alone. A CPRS must demonstrate through words and action to the person they are helping that “I am someone it is safe to tell the truth to, without fear of consequence” (except, of course, duty to warn/report). The word “respect’ has the following synonyms: admiration, esteem, reverence, veneration. Imagine the impact on a suffering individual if used we used those words with that individual rather than words they have always heard; “dirtbags”, “junkies” and “drunks”. What if we looked into the eyes of the person we are helping with admiration and respect for simply staying alive, or for simply willing to be helped?

The act of judging is a neutral activity; it is neither good, nor bad, by itself. To “judge” is sometimes a useful, sometimes harmful, human behavior.  Judgement is mostly unconscious or instinctual and occurs constantly.  It is an ancient instinct. Judgement, bias and prejudice are hard-wired into the human brain since the dawn of time. It cannot be easily controlled is a safety mechanism for survival that lives in the oldest part of the brain. It will act and should act to protect peers from dangerous situations, behavior – on the other hand – can be controlled. As a CPRS, you are required to practice non-judgmental behavior. Learn and know your biases and prejudices, work to re-train them into forms of compassion and curiosity.

Judgement is defined as: Forming an opinion after careful consideration.

As a CPRS, you will need to exercise sound judgement in dealing with the individuals you encounter to best serve them effectively. However, being judgmental occurs when we form strong opinions about a person too quickly and too critically.  This can happen when we allow first impressions to drive our actions. Remember, individuals in active addiction and early recovery, are usually not at their best.  Pre-conceived notions about an individual’s appearance, attitude and experience can be deceiving.  Critically comparing, instead of mutual identifying, can be damaging to the individual, and we must remember that peer relationships only work when there is respect, mutual identification, and reciprocity (give and take).         

Not everyone can do the work of a CPRS. Working with people who are trying to recover from addiction is not easy work. Those who are good at it make it look easy and natural, just as a professional athlete or musician does. While it is true that your own unique personality and lived experience are the special ingredient in peer work, we cannot overlook the importance of preparation and practice. Much like a professional athlete or musician, the hardest part is the inner game, where one is playing against oneself and the key to the inner game, is being fully prepared.

Success in peer work requires several abilities; becoming educated about and respecting multiple pathways of recovery, practicing the tools and resources presented in this training, as well as navigating the complex course of treatment providers, insurance, law enforcement, and family dynamics. Thus, peer work also has an inner game one must master: How do we allow ourselves room for failure, to learn, and to grow? Consider the following:

  • What qualities of personality may trigger you in working with someone you just met?
  • Realize you will always be learning, growing, testing, and making mistakes.
  • Stay right sized and remain teachable.
  • Do not deny your thoughts and feelings, allow them to exist.
  • Practice non-judgmental behavior (both verbal and non-verbal).
  • Always return to the issue the individual is having (not yours).
  • Avoid judgmental talk with co-workers.

Looking forward to seeing you next month. Thank you for your time.