Why We Gather in Fellowship

By Joi Honer BA, CAC, CADC, National Alumni Director, Pinnacle Treatment Centers

Two years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to help build touch points and connections for the clients in Pinnacle Treatment Centers’ continuum of care. As an “alumni” professional in the field of substance use disorder treatment for many years, I wanted to take a fresh look at the language around our programs.

I’ve always been challenged by the word ‘alumni’ because to many it implies and is defined as a former associate or graduate—the end of something versus the acknowledgement of a journey. Knowing that we often treat clients in a multi-level continuum, and that recovery is a journey, it did not seem to fit. And, in a spiritual sense, we are a family of kindred spirits, not simply acquaintances.

So I borrowed language from the 12-step group community and settled on a word that made me smile, fellowship. Fellowship in 12-step circles is sometimes defined as the meeting or the meeting after the meeting, a place for common connection and camaraderie to happen. Fellowship is defined by the Oxford dictionary as a friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests or aim. That is the vision for us!

The word fellowship is also helpful as we begin, as we should, to offer recovery support to clients who are utilizing medication as part of their recovery process. Because these clients are receiving ongoing addiction treatment at a clinic, they may not necessarily “graduate” a program in the traditional sense, and therefore, the word “alumni” doesn’t really fit.  However, all of our clients can benefit from the social and recovery support connections that fellowship programming provides—perhaps our medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clients even more so, given the challenges they experience in navigating a recovery community where the stigma around MAT still unfortunately exists. Individuals utilizing MAT are in recovery from substance use disorders right alongside those who participate in residential or outpatient treatment, or attend self-help based support. The beauty of recovery is that there are many pathways to choose and we need to honor every one of them in order to give our clients the freedom to grow.

Finally, in full (and somewhat cheesy) disclosure, the word fellowship holds a deep place in my heart as it conjures up the JRR Tolkien trilogy, The Lord of the Rings—the tale of a band of lost and troubled companions that sets off courageously to do something great together.  Much like our fellowship members, it is their unity that sees them through troubles and triumph.  That is our wish for our fellowship at Pinnacle Treatment Centers.

I leave you with this quote:

“Courage is found in unlikely places… Be of good hope!”

—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

*To learn more about our Fellowship programs and Fellowship recovery app, contact Joi Honer at joi.honer@pinncaletreatment.com.