Ken Feldstein Discusses the Significance of Community and Connection in Recovery on the Airing Addiction Podcast

The importance of lived experience in the recovery community can’t be overstated. Stories that detail recovery from addiction can be profound sources of hope and inspiration for those beginning their own recovery journey. It’s for this reason that Airing Addiction, a podcast hosted by New England Recovery Center’s Lisa Blanchard and Jesse Chaison, offers a platform for figures in the recovery community to tell their story. On a recent episode, Lisa and Jesse hosted Ken Feldstein, who has been a certified Recovery Coach at Signature Healthcare’s OBAT program for the past five years. His primary work involves engaging clients in community-based recovery to complement their MOUD treatment and strengthening his deeply established and new agency partnerships within the greater Brockton community.

The Impact of Community-Centric Recovery

A self-proclaimed “recovery-saurus” of sorts, Ken’s personal story begins in the late 1960s. He spent about three years using heroin between the ages of 15-18 before entering treatment in January 1972. At this time, many programs were available to individuals battling addiction to spend as much time in treatment as they wanted or needed, so Ken spent a year and a half living in what he fondly refers to as a “therapeutic community” and he believes it saved his life.

As he reflects on this experience, he feels the fellowship of the co-ed program was an opportunity for him to break down existing behaviors and re-learn the tools and skills that he would need to go back home. “It’s all about coming home, it’s all about coming back into the community and figuring out how to keep the recovery momentum going,” Ken summarized.

As a result, Ken maintains this community-centric approach in fostering others through their own substance use recovery journeys. “I try really hard to connect people to a recovery community (in addition to the medication) because then it makes the chances for a sustained recovery more realistic – gives people the opportunity to get counseling and the counseling with the medication together makes for better outcomes in general. People need to make new friends, need to find sober social activities, and getting that community and getting their ‘family’ set up is a really big part of recovery in my opinion.”

No One Pathway Through Recovery

At Spectrum and NERC, we truly believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction recovery – something Ken echoed from his lived experience. In his time in recovery following inpatient treatment, Ken would attend various types of outpatient and peer recovery care including AA meetings. He would see the same people there he was seeing in the SMART Recovery meetings he was also attending. For some, he learned AA was “too religious” or “spiritual.” They preferred the more behavioral approach SMART Recovery took, but for many, there was “cross-pollination” between these approaches. “I’m a big supporter of all pathways to recovery,” he said.

Co-host Jesse Chaison shared that his early experience in recovery was at a program similar to Ken’s first treatment program, where his eight months among this type of fellowship and camaraderie also had lasting impact on him. “I still talk to some of these people today,” Jesse confirmed.

“Connection is so important,” summarized co-host Lisa Blanchard. There’s a difference between stability, safety, harm reduction and recovery and often that difference is that connection. Regardless of what your pathway is, that connection is important – whether that’s 12-step, SMART recovery, refuge recovery, it really does fall back on that connection.”

Family & Parenting: In Sickness and In Health

As with many families impacted by substance use disorder (SUD), Ken is not the only one who has experienced addiction and maintained recovery in his family. Like Ken, his son, Brendan, experienced heroin addiction following an opioid prescription to treat an injury.

Brendan ultimately entered treatment an estimated two dozen times during the height of his battle with addiction. With the prevailing stigma and misconceptions around navigating addiction, Ken and his then-wife, Barbara, were told “tough love” and cutting Brendan off were the only courses of action to make a significant change in their son’s life. Ken shared that at the time, “if you let him live at home, you feed him, if you gave him money, if you put gas in his car, it’s virtually the same thing as perpetuating his addiction. We didn’t want to do that but that was the conventional feedback at the time, so we didn’t let him come home.”

After Brendan spent several months living in his car and came close to death, Ken and Barbara began to question, is this really the best way? Ultimately, the instinct to let their son come home, to love and nurture him and to fall back into Ken’s “natural lane as a father” was the right thing to do.

Brendan recalled a watershed moment when he met his father at a gas station so Ken could put gas in Brendan’s car. “[Brendan] described me as looking so tired and sad but there was love in my eyes too and he recognized that.” Shortly after, Brendan entered treatment.

Navigating the Holidays in Recovery, with a Loved one in Recovery

The holidays seem to bring up some challenging, triggering moments for people. Ken acknowledges that holiday dinners and gatherings can bring out the best and the worst in everyone present, and it’s important to be conscious when attending them. “Just the awareness that families have to have about what they think might make their loved one uncomfortable [is critical] and try to avoid this.”

In co-host Jesse’s experience, family gatherings are centered around the celebration of alcohol as much as the holiday itself. He shared, “Something that I adopted at the suggestions of many other people in recovery is, you know, I don’t have to be there at 10, 11 o’clock at night when people are sloppy drunk and making a fool of themselves. I’m going to be the first one there – what can I do to help, what can I do to set up? Then I spend my time there, have a good celebration and do what I feel I need to do to celebrate my particular holiday… and then I leave and whatever they do after that, that’s their own thing.”

Holidays and how we connect with our loved ones can look a little different, and that’s okay. Whether it’s a shortened time frame, connecting on a different day or time, or doing something new might be what your loved one in recovery needs. If certain family members are difficult to be around, setting boundaries can help avoid triggers. Above all, it’s okay to have the conversation – that’s the only way you’ll know what will be best for those navigating recovery around the holidays.

Like Ken Spectrum and NERC support the idea that families can love and support each other through addiction and that families need support too, thus, we have  partnered with Magnolia Recovery Resources to create the FAST© Family Support Meeting Series. On Wednesdays from 6-7:30 p.m., this free, virtual support group series provides families with loved ones navigating substance use disorder and recovery with the knowledge, connection, and inspiration they need to navigate this challenging journey. To join these meetings, email for the Zoom link to join the virtual meetings.

To listen to Ken’s story and hear from others who have reclaimed their lives in the wake of their battle with addiction, click here to access all episodes of Airing Addiction. Our podcast will return for another season this week, and we’re excited to kick off the year discussing the importance of peer recovery support and the evidence behind its effectiveness with Dr. Corrie Vilsaint. A community psychologist and an international speaker, Dr. Vilsaint serves as the Associate Director of Recovery Health Equity at the MGH Recovery Research Institute and Instructor at Harvard Medical School. Her research endeavors have focused on reducing recovery-related discrimination, building recovery capital, and the effectiveness of recovery support services. Tune in at 9:00 a.m. ET this Thursday, January 4th, to learn more about her research on peer recovery centers’ acceleration of quality of life and recovery for individuals with SUD.

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call the New England Recovery Center today at 1-877-MyRehab. 

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