If you’re in recovery, one of the best ways you can be of service is to become a Renascent Alumni Contact. These important volunteers introduce newly recovered clients and their loved ones to 12-step members and meetings in their community. For many, it’s a meaningful way to give back – and a life-changing opportunity for both the alumnus and those they support.
For George, the road to recovery has been filled with lessons he’s eager to share with others.
“After 30 years of active addiction and 21 years in recovery, I’ve learned so much,” he says. “But initially, my coming to Renascent was my wife’s idea.” When he arrived, however, George began to see the value in learning from others.
“I thought, everyone in this house – the people in the kitchen, the manager, the counsellors – are all in recovery. Maybe if I pay attention, it might help me. That realization changed my life dramatically. I opened myself to learning, and I was no longer doing it for someone else. I was doing it for me.”
While in treatment, George learned about alumni meetings and “was really impressed with these people who would take time out of their day to come,” he says. “After I left treatment, I joined a group, got a sponsor and started going to meetings.
“During a group session, another alumnus asked when I was going to start sharing my experience. That was over 20 years ago, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
It’s a commitment that resonates with Stefano, who has been involved with Renascent since 2015. “As soon as I was in recovery, I was interested in serving,” he says. He began by answering phone calls at Renascent’s Madison Avenue Centre.
“Sometimes it was the person struggling with addiction calling, or a concerned family member,” he recalls. “I could hear the desperation in their voice and felt so grateful to be of service there. Every weekend I answered the phones, giving people guidance and following up to see if they were doing their aftercare. I sometimes shared about my early recovery, to help people understand the types of challenges they may face.”
As Alumni Contacts, both George and Stefano have taken fellow alumni to meetings and supported them while they get reoriented from after inpatient treatment. It is an important role that is distinct from sponsorship – and one that also comes with a great deal of personal satisfaction.
“I get refreshed by connecting with people who are newer in the program,” Stefano says. “It’s really important to remember where we were and to honour where we came from. The comradery at meetings, supporting others and attending the aftercare all keep you connected. It keeps you learning.”
Alumni Contacts are also critical in helping others transition to life in recovery, George notes.
“One of the scariest things about being in treatment is thinking about what happens when you come out,” Stefano explains, “because in treatment, the staff help keep you safe. As an Alumni Contact, I always try to visit clients when they are in the house to learn when they are getting out, so I can and invite them to a meeting. I try to be the person who explains recovery outside of the centre.”
Stefano is grateful to encourage others with a message of hope.
“Having been around so long, I can talk to people about addiction,” George says. “One day I realized that I hadn’t thought about having a drink for weeks. It happened without me even noticing it, but others did. Those messages are worth sharing, too.
“I have a friend in the program and now we always say to one another ‘you never had it so good.’ It’s true. It’s just a fact of life.”
Learn more about becoming a Renascent Alumni Contact.