By Troy Clarkson
The scourge of addiction continues to impact every village, every corner of our community. Nary a family has not been—in some way—touched by the fateful fingers of this disease. It is indeed a community challenge that requires a community solution.
This week marks 10 years that one community solution—Bill Dougherty’s Recovery Without Walls—has been changing lives and helping women find a way up and a way out. Ten years of solutions. Hundreds of lives beginning anew. Ten years of renewed hope. Hundreds of families beginning to heal.
When I highlighted the work of Bill and his nonprofit and what it means to the Falmouth community a few years back, I offered a simple but poignant overview that is even more powerful on this milestone anniversary:
“Caroline was wondering what life would throw at her next. Newly sober and ending her treatment program, she was committed to a life free of the gripping and powerful chains of addiction, but had no home, no job, and no direction. ‘I didn’t want a handout, but a hand up,’ said this vibrant and able woman as we chatted last week. Just when the gift of desperation that led her to her first days of sobriety was shifting into the curse of despondency and defeat, something happened that changed her outlook—and her young life.
“Bill Dougherty walked up to Caroline and handed her a $20 gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts and an offer of work. That was her hand up. Like he has done with so many other young women, Bill simply offered Caroline a chance to be a part of something. The clinicians and analysts call that the ‘attachment model,’ where newly sober people are engaged in a program that makes them ‘part of,’ that is, committed to the success of an organization, and in turn, themselves. I simply call it Bill’s gift.
“As the founder, director, driving force, cheerleader, energy, and optimistic force behind Recovery Without Walls, Bill Dougherty has helped hundreds of women get the hand up that Caroline talked about. The program, with a modest office on Gifford Street in Falmouth, provides as Bill calls it, a “bridge for women coming out of treatment.” That bridge acts as a pathway to housing, employment and engagement in recovery and the Falmouth community. Even the most optimistic statistics on substance abuse recovery tag a success rate of about 20 percent. Stated less optimistically but more realistically, a full four out of five people who embark on the journey of recovery typically don’t make it. Addiction is one of this nation’s most pressing public health issues. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of arrests nationwide can be directly linked to the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Numbers like that are what makes Bill’s gift—Recovery Without Walls—so special and so important. In its eight-year existence, close tracking and follow-up place the success rate of those who have been engaged in RWW at 74 percent, more than three times the national average. Success, for RWW participants, is defined by far more than sobriety, which is difficult and achievement enough standing on its own. Program participants are polled a year after they enter the program and are deemed successful if, in addition to sobriety, they have safe housing, are working in career-focused employment, pay taxes, and volunteer in their communities. Program participants have gone on to stellar colleges like Mt. Holyoke and Smith; they have attained professional licensure as clinical social workers. Bill’s goal is to go far beyond creating a pathway to sobriety. His goal when RWW started was to encourage participants to be good—and productive citizens. His goal, his dream, his gift is being fulfilled.”
The dream endures, the work ever-important, and the support needed now more than ever. Words of praise and gratitude have been flowing in since the anniversary date this week. One former beneficiary of the love and support of Bill’s gift noted in a Facebook post that, “You didn’t know it then, but when you made this choice that day, you made the choice that would someday save my life. For that I will be forever grateful, thank you my friend, for saving my life and continuing to grow this organization to save many many, many others. Thank you is an understatement, but the least I can do and say. To you and all of the volunteers that keep it going, thank you.” No slogan, advertisement or even a column like this can more powerfully convey the raw but ebullient emotion of someone whose life was saved by RWW.
But, of course, the work is far from over. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, more stories in our region that need the hope and help of Bill’s gift, so this anniversary, although a cause for grateful reflection and celebration of a transformational accomplishment, is also a call to further action to support RWW and programs like it that, one story at a time, are turning around the sad tale of addiction in our community. Learn more at www.recoverywithoutwalls.org.
Happy anniversary, Bill. Happy anniversary, Recovery Without Walls. Thank you for 10 years of the gift of hope.
This article appeared in Troy’s Take.