An Interview with Vicki Piper, Program Counselor

Over 17 years ago, Vicki Piper made a decision that changed the rest of her life: She went to rehab. She met with a therapist; she worked the 12 Steps. Today, her recovery remains one of her top priorities as well as one of her most treasured accomplishments.

Finding the Answers Within

Vicki is finding the answers in her own life but she doesn’t pretend to have all the answers for her clients. “The answers lie within them,” she says. “My role is to help clients identify solutions to their problems and take responsibility for their own happiness so they can get what they want and need out of life.” When working with her clients, Vicki is honest and direct. She needs to be because, as she explains, addicts “have a disease that tells them they don’t have a disease.” At the same time, she’s caring and supportive, meeting clients where they’re at and bringing them up from there. Although everyone must find their own path to sobriety, Vicki is a strong supporter of the 12-Step program. As she puts it, “There are many ways to get to Dallas, but most of us have found going straight down 45 works best.” Same goes for the 12 Steps. There are many ways to get sober, but the 12-Step program is one of the most effective. In addition to 12-Step work, Vicki takes a cognitive-behavioral approach. Through structure and accountability, clients are able to change their thoughts and thereby change their behaviors. “Our behaviors are driven by our thoughts, which are driven by prior life experiences,” she says. “In treatment, instead of numbing or escaping from feelings, or making choices that perpetuate unhealthy behaviors, clients learn to tolerate difficult emotions.”

Addiction: The ‘Great Destroyer’

When people go to rehab they are often frightened and nervous. They don’t know what to expect. And even though their lives have become unmanageable, the unknown seems more intimidating than maintaining the status quo. “Addiction is a great destroyer, physically, emotionally and spiritually,” Vicki explains. “No one ends up in rehab that is experiencing life to its fullest, or that is happy with where their life is at and where it’s going.” To make the process as comfortable as possible, Vicki’s first priority is to make sure clients know they’re safe. Her message is simple: “I don’t care where you go or how you do it as long as you reach out for help. If you just reach out, there’s a hand that will grasp yours and show you you’re not alone.” After clients recognize how far off track addiction has taken them, the team at The Right Step helps them identify the root causes of their drug use so they can regain their balance and rebuild their sense of self-worth. Among other things, clients can expect to learn about the disease of addiction, strategies for handling relapse triggers, life skills and how to have fun sober. Clients receive treatment in The Right Step’s adult residential program for about 30 days. Rather than taking it easy or simply checking the days off a calendar, Vicki encourages them to make the most of every day by grasping every concept they can and picking counselors’ brains for new recovery skills and tools. For clients who are resistant to or unsure about the 12-Step program, Vicki asks that they trust the process. Just being open is enough to experience dramatic changes. “Within the first couple weeks of treatment, the fog starts to lift. Clients are learning about their disease and being met with acceptance,” Vicki says. “So many times, if clients are willing, open and honest, they can make tremendous strides. The only barriers are those they place on themselves.”

The Right Step Difference

Working at The Right Step was literally an answer to Vicki’s prayers. Born and raised in Texas, she had heard great things about the program for years prior to joining the team. “People choose The Right Step because they feel safe and heard here,” Vicki says. “They know the treatment team understands and genuinely cares about them.” The Right Step was named one of the best places to work in Houston and, as Vicki came to find out, it’s because of the people who work there. “I work with people for whom this is not a job but a life mission,” she says. “They are all of like mind – client-oriented, caring, compassionate, trustworthy and honorable. But more than that they truly are like a family. The care we have for each other is the same care we have for our clients.” Eleven years later, Vicki still shares wholeheartedly in The Right Step’s mission of giving people their lives back. “How many people get paid to see miracles? Every day we see people get out of the bondage of addiction, get their lives together and move forward,” Vicki says. “My Higher Power opened the door to my coming here and has been keeper of that door since.”

A Lifetime Journey

Vicki knows firsthand that recovery is a long-term process that evolves over time. Even after 17 years in recovery, Vicki takes life moment by moment, one day at a time. She has fully embraced the 12-Step principle of surrender, saying, “I can’t, He can. I’m going to let Him.” In her free time, she takes care of herself in the same way she teaches her clients. She relaxes, meditates, attends 12-Step meetings and immerses herself in nature in the Texas hill country. “You can’t keep one foot in recovery and the other in a ditch and manage to stay sober,” Vicki says. “Recovery requires a full commitment – one day at a time, but also as a journey for life.

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