Putting Addiction into Focus: A Podcast with Tom Hill

In a new episode of Behavioral Health Today, a podcast by Triad Behavioral Health, host Graham Taylor, PhD, sat down with the National Council’s senior advisor for addiction recovery, Tom Hill, MSW, to discuss the recovery process, the power of community and other topics that provide a broader view into addiction and recovery. Listen to the podcast below, view the transcript or continue reading for a
learning preview.

On the challenges of starting the recovery journey:

Tom Hill: “I often liken it to somebody who is airdropped into a foreign country where they don’t know the language, they don’t have the currency, they don’t know the customs, and they have to unlearn and relearn everything in a moment. For me and my recovery journey, everything I thought was right was actually counterintuitive. I had to relearn so many things. It’s very difficult to do it alone. That’s why we recover best in a community. We need that connection with other people who’ve gone through, or are going through, the same thing.”

On the importance of peer involvement in the recovery process:

TH: “Lived experience equals lived expertise. We need to see people in recovery as experts of their own lives, as well as experts in recovery. And that expertise is the same as if you have a doctorate degree. There’s a level playing field there regarding what experience looks like, which is why having a community is so important. Connecting with someone who’s ‘been there, done that,’ and who can help you walk through that, that’s powerful.

“Addiction is a chronic condition, not an acute condition. There is no cure, but you can manage it. And it’s easier to do that in a peer setting than by yourself, because behavioral change is very difficult. No matter what you go through, you will always have a support network and a community that can absorb some of that trauma, pain, shame and all of the other things you’re working through. People will hold it for you.”

On seeing addiction through a trauma-informed lens:

TH: “Trauma, I think, is a very helpful framework. Substance use and addiction can happen to anyone, especially those who have adverse childhood experiences and trauma in their background. If I had a trauma-informed framework early on in my recovery, it would have helped me so much. I was dealing with things I couldn’t name. A lot of unresolved things around shame and my sexual orientation. And then in early recovery, I had this clarity. I had all of the pieces, but I didn’t have a framework to fit them into.”

On understanding the shame that may occur during recovery:

TH: “The significance is in acknowledging the shame and working through it, along with realizing that it doesn’t own you and that you can shed it. You can reauthor your story – reduce or get rid of shame – and that’s a very empowering thing. It’s also why early recovery can be so exciting for people because they can feel very liberated in terms of old baggage being left behind, and processes and skills are needed for that to happen.”