My physician directed me to have knee-replacement surgery. What followed taught me some valuable lessons about recovery. My experience is a reminder to us all that we must continue to speak-up as a community for ourselves and our loved ones, to demand the quality of care warranted by the chronic disease of addiction.
In the case of my knee, the health system provided ample diagnosis, prescriptions, education and supports prior to, during and after surgery. First, the surgeon directed me to have a check-up by my primary care physician to get pre-surgery approval. Then I had to visit my dentist to make certain I had no dental infection that would complicate my surgery by making my knee vulnerable to infection. My wife and I then attended a knee-replacement orientation together. A nurse called afterwards with pre-surgery instructions on what to purchase to ease recovery obstacles, and inform me about who to call if I had questions. A nurse and physical therapist visited my home to provide my spouse and me with directions and exercises, and to answer our questions about recovery issues that arise post-surgery.
Nothing comparable exists for most of us in addiction recovery. Everything is left to the patient and the family to discover on their own. Most who have an addiction disorder face an array of hapless, haphazard and sometimes contradictory recommendations that impose more rather than fewer obstacles to a continuum of care. Often, these obstacles are the reason a person has difficulties in accessing or sustaining long term recovery. The person with the disease is then blamed for not having enough will-power.
Twenty-nine years ago, due to the fortuitous observation of someone in recovery, I was helped in getting an assessment for a substance use disorder. That was my first indication that I had a problem with alcohol. I was given choices of outpatient followed by inpatient care. I was ultimately directed to inpatient by an informed expert. At that time, volunteers in recovery actually assisted the inpatient professionals with patient counseling.
Also 29 years ago, my family was offered orientation and therapy. My spouse also went to a family program at the residential rehabilitation facility I attended. After leaving the rehab, a designee took me on a guided tour of 12-Step Meetings and instructed me as to which ones would and would not be helpful and why.
The health system and volunteers both wrapped their arms around my wife and I, and didn’t let go. I owe my unbroken sobriety to excellent care before, during and after treatment.
Such quality of care still exists today if one is having their knee replaced and has excellent insurance coverage. However, the same quality of care if you need recovery from addiction is unlikely. The excellent insurance coverage I had 29 years ago is today rare.
After years of actions by managed care that eliminated treatment and recovery options, the period of enlightenment that provided me with such excellent care 29 years ago has dimmed. Decades of coverage cuts have had dismal effects.
So we have our work cut out to turn back the clock. The Affordable Care Act creates an opportunity. But for others to have the same key to success I did, we must work hard as a community to define and enable a continuum of recovery planning and support.
It’s now our turn to volunteer, wrap our arms around the health system and not let go – until it recovers.
PRO-ACT, Bucks County