BANGOR, Maine — Why do some people recover successfully from drug and alcohol addiction while others repeatedly relapse and struggle to get clean and sober again?
How, for some individuals, does the very process of falling off the recovery wagon increase the likelihood of eventual success?
“Recovery is really hard for most people,” says Kristina Minott, a graduate student in social work at the University of Maine. “What we’re trying to do is find ways to help people.”
Minott is the lead investigator in a research project that aims to draw a connection between long-term success in addiction recovery and the qualities of personal resiliency. Those qualities include social competency, problem-solving abilities, a sense of independence and self-determination, and a hopeful attitude about the future, Minott said.
Minott’s four-student research team is seeking individuals in various stages of recovery to anonymously fill out a 14-question survey designed to measure their resiliency.
The survey also asks for basic information about participants’ substance abuse history and whatever programs or treatment models, if any, they may be using.
Whether participants are addicted to opiates or alcohol, whether they’re regular attendees at 12-step meetings or using methadone replacement therapy or if they’ve simply made a decision to kick their self-destructive habit on their own, Minott’s team is hoping to include a breadth of personal experiences in its research study.
People who have the characteristics of resiliency often are able to take a larger view of their recovery from addiction, she said — anticipating that the road ahead may be rough, maintaining optimism and self-worth if they experience a relapse, and trusting their ability to persevere despite setbacks.
“We think the people who have gone the longest in recovery will show the highest levels of resiliency,” she said.
According to Bruce Campbell, a program director at Wellspring, a Bangor-based treatment program for men and women seeking to kick their addictions, the qualities of resiliency can be nurtured over time. Even adults whose early lives have been scarred by abuse or neglect, or whose emotional health has been eroded by the long-term effects of alcoholism or drug addiction, can benefit from the supportive influence of others in recovery, he said.
“The recovery community is inherently equipped to foster resiliency,” Campbell said.
He said recovery groups help develop the critical qualities of resiliency in their members by maintaining high expectations of those who seek to stay sober or stop using street drugs and by providing a safe, caring and accepting environment. The groups also offer opportunities for counseling, volunteerism and other “meaningful participation” in recovery-oriented activities, he said.
Campbell, who chairs the Bangor Area Recovering Community Coalition, said information about Minott’s research project would be available through local 12-step groups, treatment programs and other venues in the Bangor area. The survey can be filled out anonymously on paper or on a computer and can be found online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/V55NSDC.