When it comes to dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, the ongoing support of friends and family is every bit as important as identifying the problem and signing up for treatment. That’s the sentiment of James Patterson, executive director of The Right Step Conroe – an intensive outpatient treatment facility that is part of the nationally accredited, 20-location The Right Step “live life sober” network. “There are a lot of supervised programs that offer medical, psychological and emotional support,” Patterson said. “But outpatient treatment is where the rubber meets the road. At some point, an addict needs to learn how to live in the real world.” And that can be a problem for individuals with a history of drug, alcohol or other addictive behaviors. Family and peer support are key components to helping individuals break the cycle of addiction. Patterson, a recovered alcoholic, was a well-paid oilfield tool specialist until the industry declined in 1983. Faced with economic cutbacks, he went back to school to learn about addiction treatment. “The pay wasn’t nearly as grand,” he acknowledged, “but the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing something productive for the community and helping someone is so much greater.” Patterson, in conjunction with The Right Step, facilitates group and individual treatment programs; participates in interventions; provides personal counseling; and serves the corporate business community on drug- and alcohol-related issues in the workplace. He opened the facility in Conroe, Texas two years ago. “Our goal is to be a one-stop shop for addiction resources in Montgomery County,” he said. “If we can’t provide the help needed, we can refer you to a resource that can.” The biggest misconception about substance abuse and addiction is that many people believe it is a personality flaw. Patterson said research clearly shows addicts have a bio-genetic predisposition to the problem. “It can certainly be affected by psychological or sociological issues,” he said. “But genes and heredity play a very real factor in the likelihood an individual will be subject to addictive behaviors.” While The Right Step program has some similarities with the Twelve step program from Alcoholics Anonymous, he said the treatment programs of The Right Step incorporate a broader spectrum of activities and resources, including educational programs, recovery strategies, and the involvement of families and friends – as well as ongoing support programs for graduates and alumni. Texas, unfortunately, has a poor track record among addiction treatment professionals, Patterson said – ranking 49th in the U.S., ahead of only Mississippi. “The attitude in Texas regarding chemical dependency is lock them up rather than offer treatment or counseling,” Patterson said.“Fortunately, Montgomery County is ahead of the curve in terms of offering treatment options and alternatives to jail.” That doesn’t mean the area is without problems, however. Teen alcohol abuse is higher than normal in Montgomery County as is the amount of abuse of methamphetamines –particularly in East County, Patterson said. While much of The Right Step’s work is conducted in conjunction with paid insurance support, Patterson’s long-term goal is to establish the Montgomery County Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse as a nonprofit resource for the community – for addicts, their families, employers and the court system. “Untreated, addiction can destroy lives,” Patterson said. “As a community, we need to prevent that from happening.” For more information about The Right Step, visit www.rightstep.com or call [phone].