A Formal Amends

by Chris Budnick

A Formal Amends

My name is Chris Budnick and I am a licensed clinical addiction specialist. I began working in the addiction treatment and recovery field in 1993. 

There are many people involved in the broad issue of substance use disorders and recovery: employers, first responders, the criminal justice system, policymakers, politicians, companies, advertisers, treatment providers, addiction professionals, the recovery community, families, not to mention the individual with the substance use disorder. Of all these people, it is the individuals with substance use disorders who face the greatest scrutiny, stigma, discrimination and blame. For too long, they have stood alone bearing the full brunt of the responsibility while systems of care and policies impacting housing, education and employment have largely conspired to undermine any chance of a sustained recovery.

Last week, I found myself approaching a police department to apologize for failing them. When they had reached out in the middle of the night seeking services for a young woman, we told them “No, we can’t help her tonight.” She was killed within hours of this decision, leaving behind a two-year-old daughter.  I pledged to the officer that we would do better.

This experience nudged me to put to paper some ideas I have articulated and others I have only contemplated. As an addiction professional, I was compelled to make amends and pledge to do better.

While I have changed my attitudes and practices over the years, I have not spoken up to apologize, so here are my amends: Box or highlight

  • I am sorry for the barriers you confront when you attempt to access help.
  • I am sorry for the contradictory “sobriety” and “active use” requirements you encounter.
  • I apologize for the harm that has come to you, your family, your unborn children and your community because you have not been provided services on demand.
  • I apologize for expecting you to provide all the motivation to initiate recovery while I assumed no responsibility for enhancing your readiness for recovery.
  • I am sorry for creating unrealistic expectations of you.
  • I apologize for provider success statistics which misled you and your family.
  • I am sorry for discharging you from treatment for becoming symptomatic. I’m even sorrier, though, for abandoning you at your time of greatest vulnerability and for this failure contributing to the heartbreak of your loved ones.
  • I am sorry for abandoning you when you left treatment, either successfully or unsuccessfully.
  • I am sorry for the irritation in my voice when you returned following a setback because you didn’t do everything I told you to do.
  • I am sorry for my arrogance when I assumed I was an expert about your life.
  • I apologize for privately finding satisfaction in your failure because it reinforced the fallacy that I know best and if you’d just do as I say, you’d recover.
  • I am sorry for not enthusiastically celebrating your successes when you achieved them through a different pathway or style than mine.
  • I apologize for being a silent co-conspirator for the stigma that has resulted in systems of punishment and discriminatory policies and practices.
  • I am sorry for turning you away from treatment because you have “been here too many times.”
  • I am sorry for not referring you to alternatives services when you did not respond to the services I’ve offered.
  • I am sorry for allowing you to take the blame when treatment did not work, instead of defending you because you received an inadequate dose and duration of care.
  • I am sorry for reaping the benefits of recovery while failing to do everything I can to ensure those benefits are available to anyone, regardless of privilege, socioeconomic status, education, employability and criminal history.
  • I apologize for being an addiction professional who did not provide you with the recovery supports you needed to sustain recovery. More importantly, I apologize for conspiring through silence and inaction with a system that ill prepares you for success.
  • I am sorry for not calling to check on you when you didn’t show up for treatment. I’m sorry for not calling to support you after you left treatment.
  • I apologize for allowing society to maintain the belief that you “chose” to use again.
  • I am sorry for not fighting harder for adequate treatment and recovery support services. All persons with substance use disorders should be entitled to a minimum of five years of monitoring and recovery support.
  • I am sorry for not advocating for safe and supportive housing and non-exploitive employment.
  • I am sorry for being so self-centered that I only thought about you in the context of treatment, while failing to fully understand the environmental and social realities of your life and how they impacted your ability to initiate and sustain recovery.
  • I apologize to your loved ones who were robbed of the chance to have a healthy family member. I am deeply sorry that your community was robbed of the gifts your recovery could have brought them.
  • I’m sorry that during drug epidemics, systems of control and punishment have been the response to communities of color.
  • I am sorry that, with my silence and inaction, I contributed to the belief that persons with substance use disorders are criminals and should be punished.
  • I am sorry for not speaking out as a recovery ally to families, friends, neighbors, colleagues, policymakers and public officials about why I support recovery.
  • I am sorry for all the things I have left off this list because I failed to regularly solicit your feedback about the effectiveness of my support for you in your recovery.

My sorrow is the foundation of my commitment to improve the accessibility, affordability and quality of addiction treatment and recovery support services, and to create the community space in which long-term personal and family recovery can flourish.

Chris Budnick, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, CCS, has been in recovery since 1990 and has worked in the addiction and recovery field since 1993. Since 2002, Chris served as an adjunct instructor with the North Carolina (NC) State University. He is the Executive Director for Healing Transitions and the founding board chairperson for Recovery Communities of North Carolina, Inc. He also serves on the NC Lawyer Assistance Program Board, the Recovery Africa Board and the City of Raleigh Substance Abuse Commission. His most rewarding work has been collaborative research, publication and presentation with Boyd Pickard and William White of the history of mutual aid recovery fellowships. ckbudnick@gmail.com




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