The man who taught me to fly-fish said something our last time on the water together before he died that I have always remembered; “it’s all a big circle” he told me with a smile as I was bragging about the day I’d had fishing versus his.
Dr. Barnes was walking out of the Foundry office this morning as I was parking to go in and I laughed a little remembering those words, it’s all a big circle. I was walking into an office next door to Dr. Barnes, again. We had the same setup working together at CeDAR a few years back, and sharing/problem-solving/listening/laughing with him in the morning is well-practiced and something I have missed. I didn’t expect to work inside of this field again but here I am and I’m here with some remarkable people.
After a few laughs and a few problems discussed/solved Dr. Barnes told me again why New Years day is his favorite day of the year. He talked about intentional practices he has to plan for improvement and growth in the new year and forward as well as refocused efforts in certain areas of self-improvement. He talked to me about how this is a time to reset and refocus, to break cycles…..
Working inside of the treatment and recovery world we often find ourselves straddling a line. On one side, it’s all a big circle, things will repeat and on the other, there is breaking a cycle and changing trajectory. This duality is something that I want to hold walking into 2020.
This year marks my 13th in the field. Ten years into my sobriety I had never imagined that my vocation would be tied to my recovery until I found myself sitting in Scott Strode’s living room trying to write policy and conduct codes for what would ultimately become The Phoenix. Back then this whole scene was totally new, I knew nothing of treatment other than the county mandated programs I was ordered to attend a decade earlier. For me, recovery from my own addiction came through the rooms of a 12-step community. In those early days at The Phoenix, we thought it would be cool to try to extend the sober community outside of church basements and into gyms, races, climbing crags, etc. The five years I spent doing that taught me a great deal about recovery and a little about treatment. We embedded inside of several programs and even helped our friends at West Pines build a gym with a great climbing wall that integrated what we did into their treatment program. I started to learn more about treatment working with and inside of programs and saw how different programs approached the same goal. Much of my job at Phoenix ended up focused on these relationships and programs and through this, I was able to spend real time inside of most of the programs that were in Colorado in those days (Harmony, CeDAR, Jaywalker, Raleigh House, West Pines, Arapahoe House, Stout Street, Parker Valley, and AIM House) building programs to integrate fitness and putting together events. I made good friends inside of those programs and am so grateful for all that they taught me about why they did what they did. Most of those leaders have moved on, retiring or taking smaller or larger roles, a few have passed away. Their knowledge and insight persist and I am proud to do my best now to contribute.
After The Phoenix and through my time at CeDAR (University of Colorado Hospital) where Steve Millette showed me how much I still had to learn about this field, I started to work more nationally and gained exposure to what Treatment looks like throughout the country and internationally. One of the most brilliant psychologists I have known, LaTisha Bader, used to say that CeDAR in those days was like Camelot, as good as it got. My last day there was exactly three years ago today, 12/31.
Since leaving CeDAR I have learned even more about how treatment works nationally. Building approved provider lists for professional sports leagues and teams as well as labor unions and consulting inside of a handful of programs outside of Colorado has taught me a great deal, as has working with local and state governments and agencies that they support. I have had a chance to go onsite and assess well over 100 of the finest (and not so fine) programs in the country and learned something on every visit.
In 2020, it is my hope and intention to help the Foundry Steamboat Springs to become an even better treatment program. I never considered working for a program again but have been drawn to this place and these people. They have a genuine desire to help and provide healing as well as a team in place that is equipped to do just that. While our footprint is small, a men’s only program in the mountains of Colorado, the idea is huge; We will demonstrate that the best of services can be provided in-network with insurance. With enough money, anyone can get comprehensive treatment but the reality is that replicating these services in a program that is insurance-based has been near impossible. To do so takes work, a good deal of work. It also means accepting much lower margins than are traditionally seen in this field but we are convinced that it can be done and are off to a strong start doing so.
Hopefully, I have helped to elaborate on why I find myself holding those two contrasting ideas; It’s all a circle and dramatic change is possible. My hope is to draw on the knowledge and experience that exists collectively inside of the treatment world to help those we serve to find new and hope-filled lives.
I have already learned so much in this role as CEO and know that 2020 will both teach and humble me further as I look for these opportunities. May your 2020 see you both enjoying the circle and embracing the change.
Ben Cort is the Chief Executive Officer at the Foundry Treatment Center Steamboat, a rehab and substance use disorder treatment center located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.