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An Interview with Lee FitzGerald: Director of Clinical Outreach at Promises

Five years ago, Lee FitzGerald had made up her mind that she was moving to Australia to open a bed and breakfast. But before she left, a friend suggested that she apply for a new opening at Promises Treatment Centers. Lee responded that she didn’t want a job as she was moving, but she ended up submitting her resume.

Promises staff instantly loved her and wanted to hire her on the spot, but she was told she needed to meet the founder and former owner of Promises, Richard Rogg. When she arrived to meet with him, she recognized him from her Saturday group meetings. “Are you applying, too?” she asked him. Richard laughed and explained that he owned the place. Lee was shocked as he had never shared this in any group meetings over the years; she was so impressed by his humility—and by Promises as a whole—that she immediately accepted the job as a Marketing Representative. Five years later, she is now the Director of Clinical Outreach.

“I’m in recovery—in three weeks I’ll have 10 years. Before I started working at Promises I owned a marketing company. But after getting sober, I realized that I needed to be of service to others, and I didn’t feel that I was helping others in the marketing field, so I sold the company to my business partner. I had started a sober volleyball team, and one of the members told me about a job opening at Promises. When I resisted, he told me that the job seemed made for me, as it was a marketing position where I could help other people in recovery. After interviewing with Richard, I knew I was meant to stay here and work for Promises instead of moving to Australia, and I’ve been here ever since,” Lee explained.

In her position as Director of Clinical Outreach, Lee, who is a CADC (California Association of Alcohol and Drug Counselors) and a BRI (board-registered interventionist), oversees alumni services and plans alumni events; heads up a quarterly newsletter, which is sent out to all Promises alumni; organizes a monthly advisory board, where alumni discuss ways to improve the programs at Promises; surveys alumni weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly to check on their aftercare; and sets up speaking conferences for Promises staff.

“I reach out to alumni, doctors, hospitals, other treatment centers, interventionists, therapists, holistic healers, and more. I’ll arrange dinners or other meetings with the potential referral source because we don’t want to send our clients to people we haven’t met. We want to make sure they adhere to the 12-step model and the same treatment modalities as we do,” Lee said.

Lee also runs a not-for-profit treatment center for women in Nepal. She traveled to Nepal with a friend for three weeks and volunteered to help addicted women, who have little support in Nepal. Together they started the first Narcotics Anonymous group for women on the outskirts of Kathmandu. “Alcohol isn’t very prevalent there because it’s so expensive, but poppies grow on the side of the road so heroin is very popular,” Lee explained, adding that the program also provides clean needles. “We hope that when women come to the Drop-In Center to get clean needles, they’ll see all the other women who have gotten clean and are in NA meetings, and they’ll want to get clean too.” Lee explained that one of the women spoke English and was her translator, and Lee still sponsors her via email. “I ship books over there to keep them well stocked and educated, and we’re opening another center in Dharan, a small town south of Kathmandu.”

Lee explained that volunteer work is an important part of Promises. Female clients help out at Miriam’s House, which is a recovery home for mothers and their children, and clients also help out at the Venice Community Housing Corporation, which houses homeless people. “When clients come back from doing service work they tend to feel a lot of gratitude for what they have. Most of our clients haven’t been homeless, so when they see others in that situation, it makes them feel grateful,” Lee said. “Richard Rogg instilled the importance of being of service to others in everyone who works here or comes through here—he’s helped countless people. The idea behind Promises is that this is your home, and we will always open the door for you.”

“Being of service to others is one of the most important parts of recovery. I see some people in meetings that are very lonely, and I’ll invite them to events or ask them to play volleyball, or I’ll introduce them to other clients who are having a hard time,” Lee said. “I also sponsor people whenever they ask me, and I never say no to speaking. The premise of the program is that if you don’t help other people, you can’t help yourself.”

Lee added that she believes the staff at Promises makes it stand out from other treatment centers. “Promises has a great reputation, and we make our clients feel special. About 90 percent of our staff is in recovery, so we know what it’s like to be in the clients’ shoes. Adhering to our original modality and the 12-step model is also important—we’re not about harm reduction. If someone is resistant to the 12 steps, we can help ease them into it,” she said. “Our 24-hour admissions policy is also great. We’ll take a call at any time—addiction doesn’t take a weekend.”

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