Starting Over in Recovery

Timothy Bambara, MA, MAC, QMHP-T

I’ve been clean and sober since October 24th, 2016, and Bridging the Gaps played an integral part in my recovery.  I had an unusual path through treatment.  I had attended a 30-day rehab in Florida and after I completed the program I planned to live with my parents in Frostburg, Maryland.  My case manager found Bridging the Gaps set up an intake appointment for me the following Monday when I returned from rehab.  I would end up commuting from Western Maryland to Winchester to attend treatment at Bridging the Gaps for over a year, going through the IOP program and attending the Aftercare program.

Substance abuse treatment was a new concept to me.  I had never been through a substance abuse treatment program, and I this was my first experience being involved in process groups, psychoeducation, and individual counseling specifically to treat my alcoholism.  I had dabbled here and there in employee assistance programs, and I had walked into a few AA meetings and decided it ‘wasn’t for me’.  I can not begin to estimate how crucial it was to have the support of the BTG staff along with the support of my counselor during the first year of my recovery.  When you start off on this journey of recovery you need guidance (and I still need continued guidance today) as well as support from your peers.  BTG guided me in all the right directions, pushed me to do the difficult things that are so uncomfortable in early sobriety, and provided me with the care that I truly needed to succeed.

During this time, I also had the bright notion that I, too, would like to be a substance abuse counselor.  While this isn’t the recommended path for everyone, and I certainly had my critics as well, it was a decision I knew would lead to a commitment to my peers as well as myself, to continue to promote wellbeing, and I might get a chance to save a life or two.  I had done several things before, bartending, teaching, I even wanted to be a professional actor when I was younger.  But to be a counselor, to help others the way that the BTG staff helped me, that was my calling. So, I went back to school and in 2019 I graduated from the Addiction and Recovery program at Liberty University.  I was 37 when I graduated, embarking on my 4th attempt at a career. 

I worked in Cumberland, Maryland for three years in an outpatient center called Alternative Drug and Alcohol Counseling (ADAC).  I became very involved in the recovery community as well.  Things were going well, and I was enjoying the work.  Then March of 2020 occurred, and life happened on life’s terms.  A few staff kept the practice going throughout the pandemic via telehealth and we were able to continue to provide services to the many clients that needed them in our community.  While I loved my co-workers and was appreciative of the experiences, I felt there was still something else I had to do. 

After Christmas of 2021, I reached out to my old counselor here at BTG, just to catch up, to find out how BTG got through the pandemic, and to talk about Star Wars stuff.  It was great reconnecting and at the end of the GoToMeeting he let me know that BTG was hiring counselors.  The seed was planted.  It only took a few more weeks for me to contemplate the decision, and by the end of February 2020 I had sent my resume in to BTG.  I immediately got a phone call for an interview.

I ended up starting as a counselor here at BTG the first week of May 2022 and I have been here four months. It has been an interesting time for me.  A lot has changed since I was a client at BTG five years ago.  Two big changes are that I now have a wife who I love dearly, as well as a 7-month-old bulldog puppy.  It was a big change for my new family and navigating the transition has been, to say the least, an adventure.  As we are coming to the end of the summer though, my wife and I are settling into our new jobs, our puppy, Tony, is starting ‘manners’ classes at the local Pet Smart, we think we found a church, and we are getting the lay of the land.  Still, starting over in a new town in recovery can be difficult. 

Something that has helped me tremendously is that I keep in close contact with my recovery community from Maryland.  I have an excellent friend in the program who texts me every morning.  And I know I must still go to meetings! So, I’ve been branching out, and I have been using my When and Where, just like when I was doing my original 90 meetings in 90 days. I’ve been getting out there, searching for the meetings in church basements, finding my people. One of the coolest things about being in recovery is that we are everywhere, you just have to find us.

Starting over is never easy, whether it’s moving to a new town, or trying to get back on the wagon after a relapse.  But the way we do this is one day at a time, one step at a time, and we always ask for help along the way.  Slowly but surely things start to fall into place, if we remember those one-liners from the meetings, ‘easy does it’, ‘first things first’, ‘this too shall pass’.  We learn to trudge along the road to happy destiny and we do make it to where we need to be.  It’s something else to have come full circle from my days as a client at BTG to be working with clients at BTG as a counselor.  A year ago, this was not ‘in my plan’. That’s how it goes though, life on life’s terms.  I have found it’s a lot easier to go with the flow than to try and swim upstream.  I am at the exact place where I am supposed to be today and so are you. If you don’t like the place you are at today, then take those steps toward change.  Remember ‘nothing changes if nothing changes’ and change is always possible because each day we live in recovery we get to start over and try again. That’s the beautiful thing about being sober today.

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