Using Military Training To Recover

02 June 2016 Written by 

Learning From Band Of Brothers To Recover


From Addiction Professional By Heidi Voet Smith: Addiction treatment is not meant to be easy, and the group rewards from common struggle are many.

As my staff and I were discussing the launch of our new curriculum based on the 2001 television mini-series “Band of Brothers,” a co-worker of mine began musing about how many principles of the curriculum related back to his own experience. “I feel like my recovery really happened in my treatment dorm room every night after curfew—that’s where the real work was happening—talking to my roommates, getting real, getting clarity and figuring out what this whole recovery thing was about,” he said. “It was just us, being raw, wearing no masks, and not trying to impress staff.”

What mattered most when he remembers getting sober was his own Band of Brothers. As treatment professionals, we often make the mistake of overestimating our influence in the process of change. The people who have the most influence in an individual’s recovery process are most likely those who are in the trenches with them. But how can treatment professionals help create an environment to support those healthy bonds?

As we studied “Band of Brothers,” a 10-part HBO mini-series that chronicles the experiences of young men who served in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army during World War II, I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather. He never missed a reunion of his Navy crew that he served alongside in the Pacific during World War II. He loved those men until the day he died. He cherished those reunions. In honor of him, I am excited to reflect on what we can learn from “Band of Brothers,” and the military in general, in creating effective group cohesion.

In watching “Band of Brothers,” I was fascinated by how many parallels I saw to the recovery and treatment process. As the owner and clinical director of an extended-care program for young-adult men, I want to foster a brotherhood that changes the lives of each of our clients.

Preparing for battle: boot camp

In “Band of Brothers,” the first few episodes focus on boot camp and the preparation of each individual and the group as a whole. No one goes to war without rigorous and meticulous training. Bootcamp is unrelenting—and I propose that addiction treatment should be the same way (of course, within proper ethical boundaries and with unconditional positive regard for each client).

Read more: A recovery community can foster military-like camaraderie

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