Through funding from SAMHSA’s BRSS TACS program, the Missouri Recovery Network hired eight Regional Peer Outreach Specialists throughout the state in order to establish a statewide peer learning network. Since May these individuals have been working to promote educational opportunities for peers, share their recovery stories, plan Recovery Month events, and much more.
Recently, the Regional Peer Outreach Specialists spoke to this author about their experiences as a Missouri Recovery Support Specialist — Peer (MRSS-P).
What made you decide to obtain your MRSS-P credential?
Patricia S.: Being an alumni of the Stone County DWI Court Program, I realized the lack of community supports that were available. The struggle of sobriety isn’t while you are in a structured program, it’s in your everyday life… it’s those other 23 hours of the day that you are trying to find the resources that seem to be in hiding — that brings stability in your life.
David: I wanted to be recognized as a person in long-term recovery, and this was the best way to do it. It gives legitimacy to my recovery and brings it out into the open. I can now better assist my peers in recovery, as well as those who are still struggling and trying to find recovery.
Brandi: I wanted to help people one-on-one in the same way that I was helped.
Patricia B.: After being given a brief introduction to the training and credential at the Phoenix Program in Columbia, I was very intrigued and inspired to take my recovery to the next level and begin sharing my recovery with others on a deeper level.
What do you find most rewarding about providing peer support?
Brandi: The most rewarding thing about my job is the growth that I get to see on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Watching them “get it” and seeing the pride in their eyes when they realize they were the ones [doing the work] all along.
Patricia S.: What is most rewarding is when I see the ease come over their face when I tell them I understand their frustration… I have been there.
David: Seeing people struggling create better lives for themselves, rejoin their families, and become integral parts of their community.
Angela: I have been supporting peers for about 14 years and to see them keeping going through their struggle until they make it is the greatest thing.
What are some challenges you have faced in your role as a peer?
David: Losing people I have worked with to suicide, overdose, and violence. Also, trying to make sure I am seen as a support for the teams I work with.
Patricia S.: Educating the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) community on the difference between a Peer Support Specialist and a sponsor.
Brandi: One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my role as a peer is that some of my clients are older than I am. So, they feel that I have not been through as many experiences that they have. Getting them to understand that it’s not the age that matters or the differences, but what we have in common is sometimes difficult.
How do you see peer support services progressing in the future?
Brandi: I see us growing and changing people’s view on “addicts.”
Angela: I see it as a treatment process. The public needs to see how crucial this component is to a person’s recovery and helping them back into the community.
Patricia B.: I see agencies across the nation utilizing peer support services in the future. The benefits of having an individual with similar, or even the same lived experience as you is motivating and beyond measure.
Jackie: My hopes are that we are able to place a Peer Support Specialist in every prison, probation and parole office, Department of Social Services office… in every treatment center, and to be able to open recovery houses that have a Peer Support Specialist on staff 24/7.
What advice do you have for other peer support providers?
David: Don’t take anything personally. Even if you only were to help one person (and, trust me, you will help many more than that), you have also made a difference in the lives of everyone who loves that person, cares for that person, works with that person, and comes into contact with that person.
Jackie: The best advice I can give is to network. Anytime you go anywhere use it as a networking opportunity. Everyone you meet is a resource, or knows where to point you.
Angela: Have compassion.
Brandi: You don’t have to relate to all your clients, you just have to believe in them. That will get you — and them — a lot farther.
Patricia S.: Get to know your community! Be complete and up-to-date on all resources in your area and beyond. Network, educate, collaborate, and network some more!
If you’re interested in becoming an MRSS-P, click here to find a training in your area.