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The Four-Week Plan: Helping Men Build a Foundation for Lifelong Recovery

By Hugh C. McBride

Compared with the scope of one's entire life - and especially when contrasted to the magnitude of problems as immense and insidious as alcoholism and drug addiction - one month sounds like a fleeting, almost inconsequential amount of time.

But at Sunrise Recovery Ranch, 30 days can make all the difference in the world.

A FOUNDATION FOR RECOVERY

When Keith Miller was working to establish Sunrise Recovery Ranch as a unique and effective program for men who were struggling to overcome alcoholism and drug abuse, his efforts were guided by one primary question: "What is a 30-day program capable of accomplishing?"

The answer, it appears, is "quite a lot."

By subdividing a typical 30-day stay into four distinct weeklong experiences, and by devoting each week to the exploration of one core concept, Mr. Miller said that Sunrise Recovery Ranch is able help patients make dramatic and lasting progress in a relatively short period of time.

Mr. Miller, who serves as Sunrise's director, said the philosophy behind the program's four-week plan isn't aimed at "curing" addicted individuals, but rather is intended to put patients in the best possible position for pursuing lifelong recovery. "We work hard to build the strongest foundation [for recovery] that we can," he said.

Building that foundation, he said, is accomplished by focusing on the following four topics: the impact of one's disease; anger management and effective communication; relapse prevention; and spirituality. Established so that men can enter the program at any time and progress through the four phases, Sunrise Recovery Ranch equips its patients with skills and strategies that are deceptively simple - and stunningly effective.

"The results speak for themselves," Mr. Miller said. The programs that patients transition into after completing their four-week stay on the Sunrise campus report that "these are some of the most well-prepared people that they're getting," he said.

WEEK 1: THE IMPACT OF ONE'S DISEASE

The first week of a typical patient's stay at Sunrise is devoted to the ways in which his addiction or alcoholism has affected his life and the lives of those who love and care about him. "We want them to take a good, hard look at how their addiction has negatively impacted their lives, and hurt their families, friends, employees, and others who depend on them," Mr. Miller said.

As with all four of Sunrise's topic weeks, the "impact" sessions begin with lectures, progress into task groups, and end up with the men working to personalize the information by completing workbook exercises. By moving from general to specific, Mr. Miller said, "the facilitator can personalize the topic and help every patient apply it to his own life."

For five days, during nine separate group meetings, the Sunrise residents explore and reflect upon the effects of their disease. Though some might see this as overkill, Mr. Miller stresses that repetition is necessary to ensure that the program's core ideas are accepted and embraced by all participants.

"The material is both thorough enough and simple enough that they can take it all in," he said.

WEEK 2: ANGER MANAGEMENT & COMMUNICATION

Again following the lecture-group-workbook progression, the communication week allows the recovering men to evaluate how their anger and their ability to properly contain or express their emotions has hindered their ability to function in a healthy manner.

Because many individuals turn to alcohol and other drugs in a misguided attempt to numb their inner torments or to avoid dealing with their inability to effectively communicate, this week is an important step both in their understanding of their past difficulties and in their preparation for a healthier future.

"The general concepts can be challenging, but the way we break things down and review them over and over again helps them to understand what we're getting at," Mr. Miller said. "Our facilitators do a great job of working with the patients to help them make personal connections with every concept we cover."

WEEK 3: RELAPSE PREVENTION

At its simplest, it could be said that addicted individuals who enter a treatment program have two primary goals: getting sober and staying sober. Though all aspects of the Sunrise program are designed to provide residents with skills and strategies for lifelong sobriety, the third week is particularly focused on how to stay drug-free once an individual has transitioned out of treatment.

During the third week, Sunrise clients develop relapse-prevention skills based upon the model that was established by internationally recognized substance abuse expert Terence T. Gorski. On his website, Gorski describes his approach as a nine-step process that is grounded in the identification of, and proper response to, common warning signs that indicate an imminent relapse:

People who relapse aren't suddenly taken drunk. Most experience progressive warning signs that reactivate denial and cause so much pain that self-medication with alcohol or drugs seems like a good idea. This is not a conscious process. These warning signs develop automatically and unconsciously.

Since most recovering people have never been taught how to identify and manage relapse warning signs, they don't notice them until the pain becomes too severe to ignore.

Because the majority of Sunrise clients have previous experience with drug rehabilitation programs, and thus have also relapsed after temporarily achieving sobriety, Mr. Miller said that the third week is an important building block in the establishment of patients' foundation for lifelong recovery.

WEEK 4: SPIRITUALITY

While completing weekly activities related to mastering the program's four core principles, Sunrise residents also work through the 12 Step model of addiction recovery.

Because one of the fundamental principles of the 12 Steps is a willingness to turn one's life over to a higher power, successful recovery is often infused with a sense of spirituality. To help Sunrise residents develop the spiritual connection that will enable them to progress through the steps, the fourth week is devoted to lectures, group sessions, and individual workbook activities on this topic.

"Most 30-day programs do steps one through three," Mr. Miller said. "We want to at least get our clients to make a fearless and searching moral inventory [which is step four]."

A key contributor to this effort, Mr. Miller said, is Timothy Bernardy, who serves as a spiritual advisor to Sunrise's residents. "He's one of those incredible people that you sometimes have the opportunity to meet," Mr. Miller said. "He brings God into focus for our patients."

In addition to playing a major role in the spiritual week and guiding the recovering men in their spiritual development, Bernardy offers a special one-on-one workshop in which those who wish to do so can progress through steps four to eight in one three to four hour session.

"It's a completely voluntary, completely confidential workshop," Mr. Miller said, adding that the opportunity has produced such successful results that Sunrise alumni have been known to return to the ranch to take part in sessions with Bernardy.

"Sunrise Recovery Ranch is just the first step," Mr. Miller said, "but with comprehensive, personalized treatment plans, certified counselors on duty 24 hours, and weekly phone sessions with family members, we're able to help people build a foundation for lifelong recovery and sobriety."

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Viewed in some circles as the less-threatening "little brother" of the dangerous and highly addictive crystal meth, amphetamine remains a significant threat to the adolescents and adults who use the drug in misguided attempts to fight off fatigue, enhance concentration, or gain a competitive edge in an athletic event.
 

 

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