The road to recovery, whether dealing with abuse of alcohol or drugs, or even the loss of a loved one, is never an easy path to walk alone. On Friday, the Rational Recovery program held for free every Thursday night in the Holy Trinity Parish Center in Dunkirk celebrated its one-year anniversary.
Over the past 365 days, the program led by Michael Tramuta, a credentialed alcohol and substance abuse counselor with the state of New York with over 25 years experience in chemical dependency counseling, has assisted nearly 100 people with their troubles - from dependency in alcohol or narcotics to anger and grief counseling. Tramuta said the first year has been rather successful and he hopes to see it grow in the year to come.
"The initial outset we had between 15 and 20 people. Five of them all got sober and moved away from here and got jobs, and they're still sober. Other people were in and out, and then during the course of the year we got Drug Court people and some of them graduated and you can't force them to come back if they don't want to, some have, some haven't," Tramuta said. "Some went to jail, some violated their probation, some went to rehab. But the majority of the group, six to eight people, have stuck with the group."
Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor Michael Tramuta utilizes sports psychology in some of the therapy methods during Rational Recovery meetings which take place every Thursday from 7-8 p.m. at Holy Trinity Parish Center in Dunkirk.
Having been on both sides of the coin during his life, Tramuta, now 26 years sober, Tramuta said people today simply aren't getting the same treatment from years ago and noted how counselors today sometimes seem to get caught up more so with the diagnosis for the state rather than the feelings of the clients themselves.
"A lot of the clients tell me why aren't we working on this stuff in treatment ... a lot of the treatment methods are in the '80's, and the clients are looking for good treatment," he said. "They come here and they start being able to do stuff on their own and then settle their issues and look at some of the stuff that has been holding them back and they wonder why they're not getting it elsewhere."
Rational Recovery utilizes three components for treatment: Sports Psychology, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), and Lifetraps.
What they're saying:
What clients of Rational Recovery say about the program:
"I as a recovering alcoholic need programs such as these to keep my mind and spirit coherent."
"I started this program when I was 19 and have seen and learned many things. REBT has helped me with my addiction to alcohol, self esteem, rage, anger and depression."
"You can be yourself and open up at the meetings. We learn how to heal. I wish more people would come."
Tramuta utilizes some of the ideas in the book, "Golf is Not a Game of Perfect," by Dr. Rotella, which speaks of the thinking problems created by golfers who believe they should hit every shot perfect.
"Golf, like life, is a game of mistakes," Dr. Rotella notes in the book. "Those who learn to tolerate and correct these mistakes, knowing they will never be perfect, usually achieve success."
"I've used sports all along in counseling," Tramuta said. "It's kind of unheard of in chemical dependency counseling, but it works. It's the same idea. Teaching people you're up, you're down, you win, you lose, you relapse, you come back. Being a coach and seeing athletes go through this, watching clients go through this is basically the same thing. There are treatment methods today that have to change and come into the 21st century which will make it fun for the people."
Tramuta notes that a coach's job in sports is to motivate players, and likewise as counselors they too are trying to motivate their clients to get and stay sober by using the provided tools.
Rational emotive behavior therapy, or REBT, claims that people to a large degree consciously and unconsciously construct emotional difficulties such as self-blame, self-pity, clinical anger, hurt, guilt, shame, depression and anxiety, and behaviors and behavior tendencies like procrastination, over-compulsiveness, avoidance, addiction and withdrawal by the means of their irrational and self-defeating thinking, emoting and behaving.
Tramuta actually began Rational Recovery following the Gowanda flood that devastated Tri-County Hospital. He counseled those in recovery using the REBT recovery program with good success and a lot of the people he treated asked if more meetings could be conducted somewhere, somehow.
"All too long we've relied too much on counselors. We really don't get anyone sober and we don't get anybody drunk but we give them a lot of tools and hopefully they'll use them.
"I've been in this program for 26 years. I've been through AA and have been sober 26 years and I had a good counselor but when I found REBT 20 years ago. That made a lot of sense to me. It makes a lot of sense to our clients," Tramuta said. "We say nothing is awful, terrible or horrible. We don't carve stuff in stone. It's kind of unconditional. If you relapse put down on the sheets what happened and bring it back to the group, because they make it a big thing in AA like you're going to die. Well you're not going to die but you're thinking is unclear of why you went out."
It's not a coincidence that the program is entitled "Rational" Recovery as clients are expected to make rational decisions on their own eventually. Tramuta noted a gambler who has gone through thousands of dollars and is now beginning to manage it. She never thought some of her issues, like her parents dying when she was 2 years old, Tramuta said, would come back in her 40s but she still hasn't resolved it.
"It allows them to become their own counselors," Tramuta said of the REBT method. "They can start to depend on their own thinking and if it's not rational they can start disputing it and ask what am I trying to change I'm trying to change this behavior over here and put a new one in."
The third component of the treatment program, along with REBT and sports psychology is lifetraps. Lifetraps are things taught to us when we are young, Tramuta explains.
"We would hope that many of them are rational and create healthy thinking patterns. Unfortunately, these thinking patterns often become irrational and become lifelong problems for individuals," he said. "The lifetraps dealt with in Rational Recovery are abandonment, mistrust and abuse, dependence, vulnerability, emotional derivation, social exclusion, defectiveness, failure, unrealistic standards and entitlement. Lifetraps are self-destructive."
Rational Recovery is not meant to replace any program, but simply enhance an individuals chance of managing addiction by working on their issues.
"The people that come keep coming back because they feel it's safe, the group has something to offer," Tramuta said. "And when a newcomer comes in say six months down the road when someone was where they started I said you're going to be able to help somebody and you don't have to though, because all of a sudden you can just see the giving back 'you need to go to rehab, because I was where you are and if you don't you're not going to make it."
For more information about Rational Recovery contact Mike Tramuta at 983-1592, or by visiting a session inside the Holy Trinity Parish Center, Central Avenue in Dunkirk on Thursdays from 7-8 p.m.
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