Dr. McCauley became interested in the problem of addiction after witnessing the success of the Navy’s program for treating pilots with alcohol problems. He advocates strongly for the rights of recovering persons as patients and as valued members of society.
Today, Dr. McCauley is the Director of Program Services at New Roads Treatment facility in Sandy, Utah and is also a graduate student in Public Health at the University of Utah.
We asked him to share some of his thoughts on his new role with The Meadows:
What do you think differentiates The Meadows from other addiction treatment programs?
When you think of all the treatment centers around the world, the big and the small, the humble and opulent, if they have that spirit of recovery we so desperately want the newcomer to feel it’s because it resembles the spirit that is held (and nurtured) at The Meadows. For so many of us in recovery, the ideas we rely upon to stay sober, and then to grow personally, can be traced to the scholarship of its Senior Fellows.
When I think back to my own treatment experience I remember the warm desert nights and the purple bougainvillea, but I also remember what I learned there: the words I first heard that began to turn the turmoil of my addiction into a process of healing.
And when I think of what we—my fellow travelers in treatment and I—did there on a daily basis—the words we used, the ideas we talked about—I realize much of it came from this special place in the desert, hundreds of miles away. Claudia Black taught us what it meant to be an adult child of an alcoholic. Pia Mellody introduced us to the concept of codependency. John Bradshaw started us down the path of overcoming our shame. A stack of books on my nightstand held words that are, today, as familiar and as comforting to me as those in the Big Book.
I loved my treatment center, and because I meet many people who did not I realize how fortunate I am. But I will always owe a special debt of gratitude to The Meadows, because it was the keeper of the flame - the source of the foundational idea of my recovery: that I could turn the terrible tragedy of my addiction into something good, that I could not just heal but grow, and that I would not just get well but get - as my therapist liked to say - “weller-than-well” … and perhaps even, someday, help others do the same.
Wherever I go in recovery that spirit goes with me. I think there’s a little bit of The Meadows in all of us.
What are you most looking forward to in your role as a Senior Fellow?
I’m certainly looking forward to working with good friends whom I’ve known for many years, but also getting to know the other seasoned clinicians at The Meadows, and still others I’ve yet to meet but long admired. And I’m looking forward to just being in the spiritual atmosphere The Meadows creates in each of its programs.
The Meadows is a first-tier treatment center, yes, but it is also a center of thought about addiction and its’ recovery. It’s an environment where people collaborate, challenge their ideas and beliefs, learn from one another, and enjoy the spiritual benefits that spring from that.
I’ve been in such environments before.
For instance (and I don’t recommend this), prison.
No, seriously. It’s hard to imagine a better social psychology symposium. You find yourself in a cell and immediately start asking yourself questions: What’s the history of incarceration? What role does it play in our society? How does the prison boom interact with the war on drugs, and how does my experience fit into all of that?
Prison fueled my curiosity. It turned out to be a period of intense study and fruitful time of my life (with many spirited debates with my fellow “scholars”). I discovered many of the same insights that scholars of the subject write about today. I wrote out the framework for the arguments in both my films on a pad of newsprint with a stubby pencil. It also helps to have the ability to do it (time away from work, a quiet place to study, a little encouragement)
So I’ll trade in my tin cup for a cactus and just enjoy being among the gifted people at The Meadows. I would like to see what curiosities it triggers, where they lead me, so I can better understand addiction and, hopefully, continue to be a conduit - perhaps through filmmaking - for the information in those dusty medical journals to the people who need it most.
I’m very grateful to The Meadows for this extraordinary opportunity.
And they don’t count me four times a day.