Blog Post – Not So Different

Ginger Gaines

I have the privilege of serving as the COO at The Next Door (TND). I came to TND with 20+ years of Business Management experience and a lifetime of being active in my church and serving in ministry with my husband. I always attended Sunday School and church every Sunday morning, Church Training and worship again on Sunday evening, Prayer Meeting on Wednesday night, and of course I was in Vacation Bible School every year until I was too old and then I worked in VBS every year. I was a part of each age group’s missions program–Mission Friends, Girls in Action and Acteens. I then led these programs as soon as I outgrew them. However, the only “action” I remember any of our groups doing was visiting the elderly and singing or having birthday parties with them, and collecting needed items and gifts and taking them to the children’s home. In all of my 50 years of “doing church” and being involved in “missions”, for some reason, I never had any interaction or involvement with prison or jail ministries. In fact, I don’t think I had ever even known anyone who’d been arrested. And my only connection to any form of addiction was my dear Uncle Ralph who struggled with alcoholism that ended with suicide. His father, my grandfather, struggled with chronic health issues and addiction to pain medication. Because of that family history I was never tempted to try drugs or alcohol–for fear I couldn’t handle it, and I didn’t associate with anyone who did.

When I first came to The Next Door I was unsure and a little afraid of how I would relate to women who had come straight from prison or who were addicted! I expected to feel intimidated, threatened or afraid. I had no idea how I could relate to the women, and without a clinical background, I was also certain I would say the wrong thing or give a wrong answer and derail their progress!!

Then I started to meet the women who arrived and worked so hard to find their place in MY strange world, where people had regular jobs and cars and money and good health and ID cards and seemingly no problems! Then the strangest thing happened…we talked with each other about our kids, our grandkids, our dogs (our other “family members”), and every day struggles, and we started to see all of the things that made us ALIKE and we gave each other smiles and words of encouragement and learned that we all still desperately need to have and to give the core values of TND to each other every chance we get. Because until we reach our eternal home we are still desperate for hope, wholeness, encouragement, respect, community, and faith.

I love hearing the many stories of healing and hope, and have been so blessed and challenged by the strong, amazing women who come to TND and work with fierce determination to battle the horrible disease of addiction every day.

Sadly, after nine years at TND, probably like most of you, I can no longer say my life, friends, and family are not impacted by addiction. It continues to spread it’s awful tentacles throughout my world, affecting lives of every neighborhood. I am so grateful that TND began several years ago laying the groundwork to help women of every walk of life who need hope for a future of healthy recovery. I am so thankful that I can recommend my friends bring their loved one if they have a private health insurance plan OR Medicaid. We really can be THE NEXT DOOR that any woman walks through to receive compassionate, Christ-centered care and the most excellent clinical and medical services she needs to start her new life!

Ginger Gaines serves as the Chief Operating Officer for The Next Door.

Blog Post – “Way to go, keep it up”

Linda Leathers

I committed to myself at last year’s Heroes in Recovery 6K in Leiper’s Fork that I would run the 2017 race. The annual race on Saturday, September 9th is an inspiring and beautiful event that brings together individuals living in recovery – moms, dads, siblings, cousins, friends, and sponsors, to celebrate the recovery journey, gain hope for love ones currently struggling and others honoring the memory for their love ones who did not survive the disease of addiction.

When I made that commitment, the 6k could have very well been a marathon. The truth is I let a decade pass without an emphasis in my personal health. I realized early in 2017 that my diet and weight were out of control and gratefully made significant strides to get both in a reasonable range. My endurance was still embarrassingly low. In early June, the whispers of running the Heroes in Recovery race commitment began to sound like drums in my head. I could not block or ignore it any longer. I had to get my lazy butt off the couch, significantly reduce my daily after work HGTV watching, and hit the streets. This race challenge was going to take more than a 30-minute FIXER UPPER show.

Admittedly, it ain’t pretty.  I can laugh about it, but I am that woman striving to walk/run who you drive by and wonder it you should STOP and CALL 911. Some runners glide. I need you to visualize the opposite of glide running and then you will receive a glimpse of my style. Some runners look like they enjoy it. Not me, not yet. I walk/run alone because I have not figured out how to talk without hyperventilating. My running pace is slow and looks like a baby step maneuver. As I started, I strived to survive mailbox to mailbox, walk a long while and attempt another mailbox to mailbox goal. I have now gratefully promoted most of the time from mailbox to mailbox to block to block. Please know that at this point I still have a LONG way to go until I am able to run 3.6 miles, but I am making progress. I can feel it!

It was one of my earliest attempts after work to walk/run on a HOT June evening. I was near finishing up and almost in site of the house. After the great majority of the experience being walking, I convinced my feet, legs, heart and mind to try running to the next mailbox. I was a mixture of exhausted, hot and thirsty. In all my loveliness, sweat pouring everywhere, I looked up to see this beautiful 20 something, most likely, college student approaching me running in glide form. This beautiful young lady was the same one that had politely lapped me earlier. As she approached she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Way to go, keep it up.” She did not have to make eye contact or say a word, but she did.

My soul soared. I ran with all strength to not one, two, three, but six mailboxes to my home. Oh the difference an encouraging voice provided to my experience. I thought about this sweet aroma of encouragement hundreds of time since.

I want to be the ENCOURAGER. The Heroes in Recovery Race and each moment of every day I have the privilege of saying, “Way to go, keep it up.” This little phrase at the right time may be just the words that someone needs to take the step toward his or her next personal challenge or mailbox.

I have six more weeks to gain the strength to run the Heroes in Recovery. It’s really not about running or walking the 6k race. It is about encouraging men and women to take the next step in their recovery. It is about encouraging the mom, dad or spouse that has a loved one struggling with the heartbreaking disease of addiction. It is celebrating the memory of beautiful friends and loved ones that have passed as result of overdose. It is also a plead to someone currently lost in his or her addiction to take the next step and reach out for help. I see it every day in my work. Courageous women saying YES to help and treatment. I have the privilege to say, “Way to go, keep it up!”  We all can!

I would love to have you join me in running this year. For more information and to register, please click here.

Linda Leathers serves as the CEO of The Next Door.

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.

Blog Post – Reflections from Elevator Rides at TND

Kate McKinnie

In the last few months, my office moved from the first floor to the second floor of The Next Door. Prior to this, I only rode the elevator upstairs when I gave tours of the building. Now, I am up and down on the elevator multiple times each day and I get the opportunity for short, yet powerful encounters with our clients as we ride together.

For example, a client recently opened up to me out of the blue by saying, “you should be really proud of me.” Or course, I asked her to tell me more! She explained that she been addicted to suboxone for 5 years and after coming to The Next Door for treatment, this was the first time she’d ever been clean for 5 days in a row! She praised our Medical Director and couldn’t believe that this doctor actually took the time to listen to her, and pray for her, specifically that her nightmares would stop. This was all in 1 minute elevator ride!

Just this week, a client walked in the elevator after Art Therapy and had in her hand a t-shirt that she had painted. I asked her to show it to me, and shyly, she turned the shirt around and the words painted on it were so poignant, “I got 99 problems but drugs ain’t one.”  In response, I had to chuckle because I believe this quote is a lyric from an old rap song, but it struck me how true this probably is of the clients we serve. I bet this woman could have rattled off to me 99 different things that were wrong in her life, but it inspired me to know that because of her courage to walk through this next door to her recovery, she can now say that drugs aren’t one of those problems. I gave her a high five and told her I hoped I’d see her wearing that shirt around the building with pride!

Sometimes, the encounters I am privy to are a co-worker hugging a client and wishing her good luck on her job interview that day, or simple compliments shared back and forth about someone’s make up or hair style. One day, a woman was crying in the elevator, and I asked her if she needed a hug. It’s those short moments of kindness that seem to go so far with the population we serve.  Since I first became involved with The Next Door as a volunteer in 2008, I remember that the tiniest bit of encouragement I would offer a client would go a long way to give her confidence and positivity in her day.

That’s what keeps me coming back to work each day. That’s what motivates me in my role of event planning and fundraising to further the work we do and expand services to more and more women who need our help. The core value of this ministry that speaks to me most is that of ENCOURAGEMENT. Not only do I get the chance to encourage women each and every day in the elevator with a hug, a high five or finding some common ground during our short ride together, but I also walk out the elevator doors feeling encouraged myself!

I am grateful to serve in such an amazing ministry that encourages women to focus on their future and looking ahead to a new life – without drugs and alcohol. And, I love how small gestures of kindness make such a difference in a woman’s day. Who knew elevator rides could be so inspirational, educational and affirming to me in the course of my work day?

Kate McKinnie serves as the Development and Events Manager at the Next Door.

Blog Post – No One is Able to be Your Personal Messiah

Heather Crane

I recently shared with the ladies at a morning meditation out of Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies devotional that we were all designed to live in community with others, but we cannot look to people to provide for us what only God can provide. This illusion that someone – a spouse, a child, a parent or even a friend can give us the life we are looking for, ultimately places a burden on someone that no human relationship can bear.

Prior to moving to Nashville 3 years ago, I led a weekly bible study in Dallas at one of their county jails. Similar to being with the ladies at The Next Door, the most meaningful times were when the ladies would open up and share some of their story. We all have a story. Many of our stories overlap and have similar themes. Many times I can see the common bond we have, the human struggle, the reality that we are only a few decisions away from very different circumstances.

Paul David Tripp lists these powerful truths:

  • No person can be the source of your identity
  • No one can be the basis of your happiness
  • No individual can give you a reason to get up in the morning & continue
  • No loved one can be the carrier of your hope
  • No one is able to change you from the inside out
  • No human being can alter your past
  • No person is able to atone for your wrongs
  • No one can give your heart peace & rest

I explained that oftentimes we focus on the fact that we want other people to change – those people that we have placed too great of a burden on to meet our own needs. It is so easy for us to put people in God’s place – propelling us to disappointment as a result of our unrealistic and unattainable expectations.

We have to look vertical to Jesus for our deepest needs. When we tap into the power that only God can give us to meet our desire for security and strength for the battles we face, then our human relationships are enhanced. Only God can save you, change you, and deliver you from you.

One young woman hung around as everyone exited the room and softly told me that these thoughts I shared with her gave her a new revelation. She explained that she realized she had pushed her boyfriend out of her life – she had been so mean to him because she was placing too big of a burden on him and he wasn’t able to measure up. She pushed him away before he was able to learn about her pregnancy of 12 weeks. She said she was going to write him a letter that day and I encouraged her to do just that. So I have hope that a broken relationship was brought back to life and Jesus took his proper place in that client’s heart that day…

Heather Crane is a volunteer and serves on the Board for The Next Door. She chaired our first Golf Tournament in April and will co-chair our annual luncheon in October.

Nashville’s Top Workplaces: 2017 winners

Blog Post – Community

Kristy Pomeroy

By definition, COMMUNITY means a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common; a feeling of fellowship with others who share common attitudes, interests and goals. I believe the women at Freedom Recovery Community (FRC) embody those two definitions. They are connected to each other not just by address but in heart, mind and spirit also. Much like the women we serve in other programs at The Next Door, the women/moms we serve at FRC all have common themes in their past such as mental illness, homelessness, history of incarceration, substance abuse/addiction, inconsistent employment and broken families. They have received treatment for their mental health disorder and/or their addiction and are ready to work on living in recovery independently. But they are scared and worried and they still need the extra support that they can find from the community of peers as well as staff at FRC.

It is an absolute pleasure to be on the small team at FRC! Currently we have 21 women and 21 children who reside on Clifton Avenue full time (and an additional 6 children who visit with their moms on weekends.) No two days are alike at FRC because just as our other programs, we experience many highs and lows of everyday life with our families. Looking back at last week, here is a snapshot of the highs and lows experienced in a typical day:

Telling the women to have a good day as they head out to work

Celebrating that someone has 6 months clean and sober

Listening to the women when they hear that another friend has lost their battle to this disease

Teaching a mom to advocate for her child who is being mistreated at school or is not getting their needs met

Educating the women on budgeting and building their credit

Celebrating another clean drug screen (and we do celebrate each one!)

Discussing conflict resolution skills so they may use them in the community, in their families and on their jobs

Helping someone who is working on a paper for their college essay class

Motivating a woman to keep her house clean as an outward sign to her children that they are living a life of recovery

Handing someone their first set of keys to their own apartment home

Holding women accountable for chores, 12-step meeting attendance and paying her rent

Congratulating a client for a promotion on their job or purchasing a car

Assisting a client with getting into substance abuse treatment after learning of a relapse

Coaching a mom through a difficult discussion with their child

I really enjoy watching the relationships build between the women but it brings me so much joy to watch these recovering women learn to parent, sometimes for the first time.  At FRC we have the opportunity to personally connect with the women and children in a way that will hopefully break the cycle of addiction in their families for generations to come.

When I think about Freedom Recovery Community, I recall the verse, Psalm 133:1 which says “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” I am so grateful for the strong, courageous women and their children that choose to live in unity with us at FRC. I pray that God continues to watch over and provide for our community!

Kristy Pomeroy, LBSW serves as Community Services Manager at the Next Door

 

Blog Post – Women’s Friendships

Carrie Fraser

Fifteen years ago I was sitting in an airport on my way to an exploratory weekend at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. There was a woman sitting across from me who was reading a spiritual book. I was reading a similar type book and we exchanged smiles and those airport pleasantries.  We both got on the plane, and when we disembarked from the plane we continued our small talk all the while walking in the same direction toward a person holding a sign that had both of our names listed. We laughed together as we realized we were both going to the same place for the same reason, and a lifelong friendship was formed.

This friendship grew to include other women who also listened to God’s call to ministry. We journeyed together through Hebrew and Greek; which we are convinced is like the boot camp version of seminary. We supported one another through ordination exams, the ordination process, and our various calls into ministry. A sacred friendship was formed.

This past weekend four of us were able to gather together in Huntsville, Alabama for a girl’s weekend. One of the gifts of these friendships is that it doesn’t matter when we gathered last; it feels like no time has passed. We laughed, cried, shared about our ministries and our lives, prayed, and loved. I asked them to help me with this week’s blog by sharing why women friendships are important, sacred, and a reflection of God’s love for us. Here are a few things that they shared along with one of their favorite scripture passages.

Romans 8: 38-39 tells us that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God. Having strong friendships helps remind us of God’s love for us. “Having women friends is a reminder that you are able and good enough because they reflect back to you God’s love.” These friendships offer support and strength to overcome the things in our lives that try to separate us from God’s love. The power and strength of sacred friendships help remind us that we are God’s beloved. When we are hurting, these friendships are what can love us through the hard times and reflect how God loves us.

Psalm 8: “O God, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”  “We say it when things are going well and when things are going badly. Life is a long and winding road that included different careers and cities. I met these women in seminary who had winding journeys too. When we answered God’s call to ministry, we grabbed onto each other in a wonderful way and our friendships grew stronger. We’ve been where the other has been. We lift each other up and deeply care for one another. It is a magnificent God who has brought us together.

Psalm 19 rejoices in the beauty and wonder of God’s creation. God’s voice is also a part of creation.  “Our friendships and understanding of scripture are life-giving and affirming and freeing. Freedom is by our faith.” These friendships are sacred because we have an “intense shared experience. We continue with our learning, searching, and finding new answers in our time together. These intense shared experiences make these friendships a different depth and quality.”

Studies have found that even in the face of major life losses, women with close friends fare better than women without close relationships. Women find it healing to tell their stories and talk about their emotional experiences. They find healing in processing what has happened in order to find ways to move forward.  When life becomes challenging, women tend to seek out friendships with other women as a means of coping with their stress.

Women’s friendships embody God’s love for us. Healthy friendships emerge from a deep love and care for one another and weave together a necessary support system. Taking the time to build good friendships and a healthy support system is an investment in your over-all health and well-being.

Many of the women who walk through the doors of The Next Door haven’t experienced the depth and strength of women’s friendships. They come in guarded and wounded from a lifetime of not being able to trust. One of the gifts they receive at The Next Door is witnessing the power of women supporting one another and reflecting God’s love through that support. This begins with the staff showing them love, care, and genuine hospitality as soon as they walk in the door. Our staff, regardless of their job, engages with our women with encouragement and compassion. It may be a conversation in the elevator or taking the time to help the new person find where they need to be next in the schedule. Over and over again I hear our women comment about the kindness and love shown by our staff.

Our women then in turn show this love and support to one another. For many of them, it is the first time that they have built relationships with other women. They are able to begin the healing process and find hope through sharing their story, listening to others, and being present with one another. They discover the importance of healing in community and building a sober support system. They discover that God often shows up in the words and support from another peer and that others can see God reflected in them.  Our faith life stresses the importance of loving others as God loves us. Our recovery life stresses that we have to give away what we’ve received in order to keep receiving. In the midst of all this is God’s unending love and grace for all of us.

O God, our God, how majestic is your name in all the earth. Thank you for the sacred gift of friendship. May we all nurture our relationship with you and one another.

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

Blog Post – Accepting the Women We Are

Juanita “Nita” Chester, RN

From my earliest memories I have compared myself to other women. Am I as pretty, smart, skinny, curvy? Does my hair look that good? Are my clothes as stylish? On and on and on. Although some may not be as willing to admit to this bad habit, I think there are many others like me.

But why? Why do we do this to ourselves? For some, it starts close to home with our parents; our mothers to be exact. An argument can be made that they are insecure so they teach their daughters (as little girls) that we need to be perfect. Almost all of us have at one time heard, “don’t be so loud,” “don’t say that,” or something similar. Maybe we’re encouraged to put on a façade and make it appear that everything is all good! Is that when the comparison game starts?

I think somewhere deep down we know in our little childhood lives that we are living a lie. Some things or even everything is not good. We feel a need to pretend to be something that we’re not. Then we begin to look at everyone else and we want to be like them because obviously we can’t be ourselves. Some women are even taught from a young age that “little girls need to be seen and not heard.” She can’t be real because real doesn’t look very good to others. But who defines good?

I encourage every single adult woman to be real! There are no perfect women, no perfect families, no perfect kids, no perfect relationships and on and on and on. It is all just real and when we embrace the real we have acceptance. Acceptance that you need to either make a change or to “just be” who God intended you to be.

Women! We have been divinely created! Maybe we have to be put through the fire a time or two to bring out those impurities but if we hang in there we will become shining precious metal; a jewel in the eye of our Maker.

Juanita “Nita” Chester, RN serves as Director of Nursing at The Next Door.