When Scott McLane stood before our class and told us that treatment failed him from day one, I felt sick to my stomach. McLane’s honesty was powerful and sharp and it reminded me of countless friends I’ve met through mental health treatment — and myself. I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health and addiction treatment and who it’s actually for. McLane made it clear that treatment wasn’t “for” him when he started — he was homeless, living in an uninsured car and would walk for hours to make it to AA meetings. Traditional treatment was another challenge he had to face, just like it is for thousands of poor people, homeless people, people with families and others who face barriers to treatment.
But here I am, a white, upper middle class girl from suburban South Jersey attending a good university on a scholarship and facing more opportunities that I could possibly take in one lifetime, and yet recovery isn’t “for” me either. I find myself forced to choose every day between going to school, getting good grades and working on my career goals or going to an intensive outpatient program to continue my recovery from PTSD and other mental illnesses. McLane and I have completely different experiences, lives and disorders, and yet neither of us felt like we quite fit into traditional treatment plans.
McLane reminded me that treatment, whether it’s for addiction or other mental health concerns, is not always accommodating to the people it’s supposed to serve and it’s difficult for most to fit traditional treatment programs into their lives. McLane made me feel optimistic for the first time in weeks that I could somehow make it through treatment and still make a life for myself, and that sometimes things like school and careers need to be put on hold in order to get well.