Blog Post – Soul Work

Carrie Fraser

“Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it” – 1 Timothy 4: 15

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, pgs. 83-84

This week The Next Door launched our new Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). Our PHP program allows our women to step down into another level of care which helps them continue their mental health and substance abuse treatment. It adds another level to our continuum of care that can begin with medically monitored detox all the way to lifelong involvement with our alumni services.

Research and our own experience informs us that the longer we can keep a woman engaged in treatment services the better chance she has for maintaining long term recovery.

It takes time for growth to occur. It takes time for any of us to integrate new practices and ways of living into our daily lives. Think about how many times you’ve made the same New Year’s resolution over and over again. We may desire the change and growth, but actually growing and changing doesn’t usually come quickly or easily. It’s tempting to think that growth will happen with little time or effort, but this hasn’t been my experience. It’s not the experience of most of the women that come to The Next Door. Soul work is hard work and it evolves slowly over time. Our women are asked to go deep within themselves and discover their authentic self, that person that God created them to be. I believe that we are all called to learn who it is that God created us to be, and then learn how to collaborate with God in the fullness of our lives.

It is hard to find that inner place where we meet God when our lives feel chaotic and we are responding from one crisis to the next. Our women need the safety of time and space for grace to happen. They need a safe place where they can empty out the pain and chaos that has built up over time so God’s spirit can pour into them. They need the time and space to learn that they are beloved and worthy of being poured into by our staff, our volunteers, the recovery community, and most importantly by God.

A book I had as a child was, Trina Paulus’s book, Hope for the Flowers. It was the story of how caterpillars became butterflies. One of the caterpillars shares this wisdom, “I’m making a cocoon. It looks like I’m hiding, I know, but a cocoon is no escape. It’s an in-between house where change takes place. During the change, it will seem….that nothing is happening, but the butterfly is already becoming. It just takes time.” We also know what happens if the cocoon is opened too soon. The butterfly hasn’t had the time to fully grow, It’s wings aren’t fully developed and the butterfly is unable to fly.

Providing a continuum of care for our women allows them to have the time to fully develop in a safe and healing environment. They can transition to the next level of care knowing that they are going to receive what they need to continue their growth and learning the next level of skills needed for their recovery.

The Gospels show us that when Jesus went into an important time of transition, he entered enclosures of waiting. He entered into a cocoon of sorts- the wilderness, a garden, the tomb. This space provided him with the time of entering more deeply and closely with God so that he could live into God’s call on his life.

Recovery is soul work. It requires that our women descend into the deepest parts of themselves, to God, and into deep places of prayer and reflection. It involves learning to hear their voice and God’s voice, facing the wounded places in their soul. It means struggling with who they have believed they were, and discovering the vision of who they really are in God and molding the courage to live that vision.

The PHP program is another step in offering our women the opportunity to strengthen their recovery, their relationship with God, and themselves. This soul work is deep and difficult. When they have the time to truly experience God’s transformative power we all benefit from watching them spread their wings.

Carrie Fraser serves as the Director of Spiritual Wellness and Alumni Services at The Next Door.

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