Meet Victor Vega, a Counselor in the men’s treatment program at CLARE Foundation. In our conversation, Victor talks about his personal journey to recovery, experience working at CLARE and how the community at large can be important allies in raising awareness for mental and substance use disorders.
Q: How and when did you originally become interested in addiction treatment and recovery?
After my personal journey to living in recovery, I managed a sober living facility and volunteered at a rehab center for a while. As I built my foundation, I was interested in giving back to the community that helped me and sticking to the field. So, I started going to school for a degree in addiction studies and explored new opportunities which brought me to the CLARE Foundation.
Q: Can you share a bit about your experience at CLARE Foundation?
I’ve been a counselor at the men’s treatment program since 2017 and the experience has been tough but rewarding. I am assigned to a few people in the program and help them in any way I can. I take them to group sessions, find resources for their recovery, help them find jobs or transition into the community, and manage court issues if needed. When I’m not working on a one on one basis, I catch up on their treatment plans and review goals. Working in treatment is never the same day twice as people’s needs vary every day. You never know what news they’ve received that day, where their health and mental state is at, or where their addiction is taking them. It’s a challenge but I’m grateful for the opportunity to help people and believe this is where I’m supposed to be.
Q: How do you find a balance between being in recovery and working in recovery?
When I’m at work, it’s not about me. It’s about the people here. I make sure that they are on track with their treatment plans, participating in meetings and are safe. On my personal time, I go to my own meetings and am able to share those practices with my clients when they ask me for help. Before I come in to work, I make sure I eat, pray, listen to music, and exercise. It helps me be prepared for anything at any time.
Q: September is observed as National Recovery Month which aims to increase awareness about mental and substance use disorders and to celebrate the people who recover. How do you think the community at large can be important allies in the process?
When people think about drug addiction and alcoholism, they tend to look at the problem and not the person. They need to realize that people we work with are human beings and addiction is a disease. Often times, we see that people in recovery are resourceful from their past experiences of living on nothing and getting by. I even know a few restaurants that hire people in recovery for their resilience and resourcefulness. I think that the more we can do as a community to introduce them as people who have families and professional jobs—the perception of people in recovery will change.