Lost Sheep

by Rev. Ashley McFaul Erwin, Clinical Pastoral Resident at The Next Door

 

So he (Jesus) told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15: 3-7

During my childhood I came across many lost sheep. There were many days that on my walk home from school I would arrive at my house and see three or four sheep in our front yard. They were adventurous sheep and would often push themselves through the hedges behind our house to venture into this new land. Each time they appeared in our yard, I would go into the house, pick up the phone and let the farmer know that his sheep had escaped again. The farmer would arrive at our house with his sheep dog to round them up. There are many differences between 1st century Palestine and modern-day Ireland; however, one big difference between the lost sheep in my yard and the lost sheep in Jesus’ parable is that the owner noticed the sheep were missing in Jesus’ parable.

Often when we think of this parable we think of the shepherd as God searching for the missing one. AJ Levine, my New Testament professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, suggests that when this parable was initially told 1st century Jews would not have viewed the shepherd as God, because God does not lose us.  I remember the moment she shared this interpretation with us in class. My mouth opened and I thought, “You’re right God doesn’t lose us! God would have known where that sheep was all along.” AJ suggests a new name for this parable, “The Parable of the Initially Oblivious Owner.”  Those who first heard this parable would have heard a personal challenge to become like the shepherd, to notice when someone is missing. God might just be saying to us, “I know where my child is, I am still with them, you have lost them! Go and bring them back into community.”

May we find comfort and challenge in this parable. May we be challenged to become like the shepherd, to notice when someone is missing, to go and search for them, and welcome them home. As we do this work of welcoming people into community, may we be comforted by the knowledge that each of us are known and loved by God wherever we are. There is nowhere we can go where God is not right there with us. God is with us in our moments of deep darkness and of bright light. God does not lose us.

 

(AJ writes more about this and other parables in her book, “Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi”.)

Rev. Ashley McFaul Erwin is a Clinical Pastoral Resident at TND – this means that she is completing her Chaplaincy training. Ashley is a PC (USA) pastor and has been a Nashville resident for 7 years, having moved here from Northern Ireland. Ashley spends her time at TND providing spiritual support for clients and staff.

Spring Fever

by Rebekah Bohannon, LPC-MHSP, Director of Clinical Systems of The Next Door

Temperatures are rising, the sun is coming out and spring fever is among us! With record amounts of rainfall this year we have been trapped inside for far too long. Parking ourselves in front of our favorite binge-watching app and eating everything in sight is the new normal for a good old fashioned American good time. The average American sits 13 hours a day[i]! Aside from the physical effects this prolonged sitting and eating have on us, what are the effects on our mental health?

Making exercise a part of a routine is a struggle for us all. Making false promises and fluctuating commitments are the crux of failure for most new year’s resolutions. Getting up and prepared for the gym, regretting every moment of your decision and looking for ANY reason to change your mind. But, you don’t change your mind, you suck it up and show up! You get a great workout and leave the gym feeling like a champ! Sound familiar? Working out releases endorphins. But what are those?

When we workout, our body releases endorphins that interact with our brain chemistry to produce feelings that help relieve pain and create a sense of euphoria[ii]. To be honest, just walking 20 minutes a day, three days a week can help keep fitness gains and food goals on track. Not to mention the benefits exercise has on our mental wellness. Exercise can help reduce the likelihood of depression and promote overall mental wellness as we get older [iii].

If knowing how good something was for us was all it took; obesity rates would be down, and we would all eat healthy. However, simply knowing the facts is not all it takes. In most cases seeing isn’t even believing. How many times have you knocked some weight off just to get comfortable and gain it back? I think we look at wellness in separate categories and do not spend enough time examining how they overlap. This could be because it is overwhelming to try and overhaul our entire life. However, if we try and make incremental changes in each area perhaps we will be more successful. For example, if you do not exercise at all, walking only a few minutes each day is a great place to start. Likewise, cutting out unhealthy snacks or fast food is a small change you can make today. Making these small changes will greatly impact our mood and overall mental health.

When all else fails, TRACK EVERYTHING! Tracking our eating, as well as our fitness and mental health goals, can yield trends that may be sabotaging our success. Some may enjoy tracking every calorie while others may just write down what they eat in a day, not necessarily the calories in every bite. A small mark in your calendar to indicate what days you exercised and what time you exercised can help determine a routine that works for you. Finally, tracking our mental health. I recommend tracking your overall daily mood on a scale from 1-10; 1 being very sad or low mood and 10 being energized and happy. Hopefully after a week of tracking you can see what types of food and exercise have the greatest positive impact on your mental health. At the end of day enjoy your life! Incremental changes add up to make a big difference without setting yourself up for failure from day one. Get out and enjoy the sunshine, take in the day, get good rest and look forward to tomorrow!

 

[i] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-survey-to-sit-or-stand-almost-70-of-full-time-american-workers-hate-sitting-but-they-do-it-all-day-every-day-215804771.html

[ii] https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1

[iii] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

What a Beautiful Thing it Can Be to Finally Feel Again

by April Barnes, Director of Outreach of The Next Door

Recently, I was able to lead group with our women here at The Next Door. I was excited to share some intimate time with the ladies where I could pass out my essential oils and fill the chapel with the smells of patchouli and lavender. One of my greatest joys in working at The Next Door is to be able to connect with the women in this setting.

We started the group by randomly selecting a card from The Language of Letting Go and spending some time in meditation to let the words from our chosen cards resonate in our spirits and asking our divine power to meet us there in that space.

After the meditation, I opened the group up for anyone who wanted to share about their reflection. While my intention for the group was to educate the ladies on holistic ways to support your body in early recovery, we spent most of our time sharing about the content on the cards, given the intimacy of the moment. As one of the ladies read aloud from her card, we all leaned in as those words connected to each of us around the room.

“Today I will face discomfort, trusting that feelings of HEALING and release are on the other side. Help me, God, to FEEL whatever I need to feel to be whole and healthy. While I am doing this, I will trust that I am cared for and protected by myself, my friends, my higher power and the universe. “

These words immediately reminded me of something a therapist once told me years ago. “You gotta feel it to heal it”. While sounding cliché, how profoundly true are these words?

Many of the women who come into our program at The Next Door have been avoiding pain and discomfort. At the root of their addiction is pain, whether mentally, physically or spiritually. Identifying the root cause and working through that discomfort is essential for the healing process and freedom from the bondage of addiction.

The women shared their experiences, some stating they had not “felt” in years. Others stated that they were scared to “feel” or that they didn’t know how to process feelings in a healthy way. While in treatment, the women work with their therapists and clinical team members to learn how to recognize and process feelings and explore healthy emotional regulation. What a beautiful thing it can be to finally feel again. 

One of the women shared her experience of how much shame, guilt and anger she must work through, but also stated how refreshing it is to now be experiencing JOY, HOPE and EXCITEMENT as she releases that shame and guilt and anticipates a new life found in recovery.

Recovery isn’t just about abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Recovery is about a process of change. A change in thoughts, perceptions, emotional regulation and behavioral habits. We change the way we cope with uncomfortable feelings and bravely step into experiencing those moments, trusting that on the other side of that discomfort, is healing.

 

There’s Something Special About This Place

By Karen P., volunteer at The Next Door

“There’s something special about this place,” she said, dabbing her eyes. We all nodded in agreement.

We sat in a circle — eight clients, myself, and my co-leader on a rainy Wednesday night for our weekly Spiritual Wellness small group gathering. The subject of the teaching had sparked some meaningful dialogue —an opportunity to affirm these precious women of their worth and value in the eyes of their heavenly Father.

“Today is a great day,” I commented, focusing my attention on another young woman, who had shared how difficult it was to be separated from her children while working on her recovery at The Next Door. She was not alone in her anguish. “Today is a great day because you are right where you need to be. You made it through another day of sobriety! The Lord has good plans for you. He has good plans for your family. And that ache that you feel for your children tonight? God’s love for you is infinitely deeper than that. God tells us in His Word that He is making all things new— all things.” The room was quiet. I watched their faces, their body language, as glimmers of hope rose within them. “Lord,” I prayed silently, “heal their wounds, bind up their brokenness and shower them with your great love.”

For many of the women who come to The Next Door, grasping the truth that they are worthy of God’s love and treasured by Him is daunting. Often, they feel guilt and shame, regret and fear that God is angry at them, or that He has forgotten them.

As a regular volunteer, it is my great joy and privilege to share the Good News with them—to encourage them and remind them that they are not alone — that our gracious, powerful God longs to walk this journey with them. Sometimes a door opens for me to speak these words of truth. Other times, it is simply by being a calming presence in an intake room with an anxious newcomer, or walking with a weary client to the clinic, or believing God for miracles as I pour over the stack of prayer requests at home on my kitchen table.

I’m just one person of many who share the vision of The Next Door, and my small contribution sometimes feels insignificant. But I know that God is working through all our contributions of time, money, talents, and prayers. He is making streams in deserts, He is quieting storms, He is writing beautiful stories.

There truly is something special about The Next Door, and I’m humbled and thankful to be a tiny part of the big things God is doing!

One Word for 2019

by Kate McKinnie, Director of Development of The Next Door

For the past 8-9 years, I have chosen a word of the year.  I begin praying in December for how I want the next year to be different.  I pray for wisdom of what one word of focus could be to help me get there.  This year, my word is INTENTIONAL.

What led me to this word was that I felt like at work in my role as Director of Development, everything I do is with great intention, purpose and strategy to achieve the fundraising goals for The Next Door.  However, outside of work, I don’t live with much intention.  I chose this word for 2019 because I want to be intentional with relationships in my life I want to strengthen, and I want to be intentional with my health, fitness and dietary habits.  There are several other ways in my personal life I need to be more intentional, because I believe when you approach things with intentionality, you are more likely to see change that you want in life.

Because I love this annual exercise of choosing my word of the year, I decided to ask our clients about theirs.  On New Year’s Day, I put up a sign next to the elevators on each residential floor and asked a simple question:  “What one word do you want to guide you and define you in the new year?”   During the entire month of January, as new clients have come into the program, I have enjoyed seeing their responses.  Here is what they wrote:

  • Happy
  • Humble
  • Serene
  • Sober
  • Peaceful
  • Recovery
  • Thankful
  • Strong
  • Productive
  • Sunshine
  • Resilient
  • Amazing, sober mother
  • Real
  • Different
  • Blessed

While I thought, prayed and toyed around with several words that I wanted to guide and define me in 2019, the women in treatment at The Next Door last month most likely came up with theirs in a brief period of time, while waiting for the elevator!   The simplicity of their answers was inspiring.  To merely want peace, serenity, happiness, strength or sobriety as they look at a new year may seem simple to me, but for our clients, this could be a major shift from the life they are living now.

Each day I work in this ministry, I realize that I have MUCH in common with women of The Next Door.  I may not struggle with addiction, trauma or mental illness, but what I do long for – like each woman within our doors – is a new start and moving from weak to strong in some area of our lives.  Whether that’s to be more intentional in my approach to relationships and fitness or women simply wanting to wake up sober and productive each day of 2019, we each seek change.

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

I hope each of you is having a wonderful start to your new year.  Remember:  we love to have visitors at The Next Door!  If you feel led to be involved in some way in this life-changing ministry for women and find common ground with these courageous women like I do each day, come see us!  To arrange a visit, please contact me:  kate.mckinnie@thenextdoor.org.

I Love Data!

by Ginger Gaines, Chief Operating Officer of The Next Door

My co-workers, family and a few friends know how much I love a good spreadsheet.  I am by nature very analytical, and I want to have all the facts before making any decision.  Of course, when deciding where to eat dinner this can be infuriating to my husband who would say, “Just pick one!” and then have no angst about the choice.  If there is an unfamiliar option, I would first want to review the menu, other diner’s feedback and their prices, to start.  Are you like that?  I just love putting everything in a spreadsheet, at least mentally, to reveal the obvious best choice!

Well, did you know that January 22-27, 2019 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week?  I was recently reviewing much of the research data found on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website about substance use disorder, alcohol use, suicide rates and so forth.  Even loving data, I quickly became overwhelmed by the magnitude of the growing drug and alcohol addiction impact to communities and families today.

While all the national and state-level data is quite daunting, I am excited about the difference that The Next Door (TND) is making – one life at a time.  I am so grateful to serve at an organization that restores hope! TND exists to empower women for lifetime recovery in an environment of faith and healing.  I can really get excited about the data and feedback gathered through client surveys regarding treatment service experiences at TND.  For example, 1461 clients received treatment services at TND Nashville in 2018 and of those 1461, the overall satisfaction ranged from 91-95% positive!

Let me share just a few of the actual client comments from surveys in 2018:

  • Treatment with genuine care and respect
  • Liked opportunity to engage in service work in the dining room
  • So grateful for all of the staff, they are awesome!
  • The Next Door is an amazing, safe compassionate program
  • This place means the world to the rest of my life.
  • It means so much that the staff try so hard to love us during this crucial time.
  • Admission process was very smooth. Made us feel welcome & loved.  Staff were calm and patient. Quick response when call for treatment.
  • Detox saved my life, it was exactly what I needed.
  • Our group facilitator is wonderful.
  • The Therapist included us in the development of our treatment plan.
  • The Case Manager included us in the development of our discharge plan.
  • The accountability requirements really helped me stay in line and learn more responsibility.

Of course, TND also learns from the constructive feedback from every client. My favorite this year being that Food Services serves too much broccoli!  Seriously, we gather and utilize the feedback of our clients for continuous improvement.  We know that not only does every life matter, but also every life represents a network of more lives finding wholeness and hope for the future.  Though this is difficult data to quantify, in a spreadsheet or not, it brings me great joy!

Grateful to Serve

by Suzanne Lanier, volunteer at The Next Door

Serving is not what we have to do; it’s what we get to do. My daughter and I look forward to Thanksgiving every year, to come to this treasure of time and place – The Next Door.
A few years ago, I volunteered and served lunch every Monday at The Next Door. I remember the looks on the faces of the new clients…a little scared, sometimes a little disheveled, usually a little pale, looking at their new surroundings in this lunchroom. Unsure. Several different times I saw a client, food from the serving line and salad bar stacked all together, mountainous on her plate, just looking at it in awe. Then she ate – every morsel.  So hungry for this delicious and nourishing food.
Who knows what these women have been through? Who knows why they have the lives they have? Not me. But I know they hunger. They hunger for nutritious food. For visibility. For love. For a chance. For a change.
And so, at The Next Door, they are fed. A wise and loving man once said, “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.”
Why do my daughter and I come every year to The Next Door to serve a meal on Thanksgiving Day?  Why do we wear goofy turkey hats, play Motown music, laugh, sometimes dance, serve good food, sweep the floor, and wipe the tables?  Because we GET to!  And, although I cannot explain it, I will tell you that we always leave with more joy than we had when we came.

The Next Door’s Homecoming 2018: Hands up for Recovery!

by Ashleigh Rakestraw, Clinical Services Program Manager of The Next Door

On September 19th The Next Door excitedly hosted the first ever TND homecoming event. Staff and alumni from all over middle Tennessee came to celebrate recovery, celebrate each other and celebrate the place that so many of them call “home”. It was an absolute joy to see so many familiar faces!

When I looked around the room at the courageous, empowering women surrounding me I couldn’t help but feel inspired. I saw that women, who at one time believed that they were broken and that they had lost everything, were now mothers, daughters, entrepreneurs, business leaders, lobbyists, homeowners and advocates for recovery.  I looked around and realized that I was surrounded by overcomers. Overcomers who refused to give up, refused to give in and are now refusing to let the disease take even one more life. I watched as woman after woman celebrated their sobriety birthdays by writing their number of years, months or days clean on their hands and calling out their length of sobriety. Cheers soared for the woman who was celebrating 13 years clean, 12 years clean, 10 years clean and so on. I waited to see if the cheers would slow down as sobriety dates ranging from a few months to a few weeks were called out, but it seemed that just the opposite happened. The less sobriety time a woman had, the more the crowd cheered for her. Finally, at the end, staff asked if there was anyone with one day clean at the event. I saw one shy woman, a current client of The Next Door, with tears in her eyes, slowly raise her hand. The next events that took place filled my eyes with tears. The crowd at the event went wild. Cheers filled the room for this individual who had chosen sobriety that day. The women who had 13, 12 and 10 years clean surrounded this client with hugs, high fives and support. I heard the crowd erupt with phrases like, “That’s amazing!” “How inspiring!” “You’ve got this!” “Keep coming back- it’s worth it!” A smile spread across the face of the woman with one day clean as she realized she was not alone- that at one point, every woman in that room had just one day clean. They surrounded her because they knew that every day is a battle with the disease of addiction; and that choosing sobriety- even for one day- is something to be immensely celebrated.

Working in this field, in the middle of the worst opioid epidemic our country has ever seen, you truly begin to see how addiction is just as it’s described in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book-  “cunning, baffling, and powerful.” But looking around the room that night I saw immense hope. I realized that with women like the ones in that room, who are leading the charge on the battle against addiction and spreading the message of hope in recovery, we could in fact see a world where not even one more life is taken by this horrible disease. I am proud to share space with such powerful, courageous and bold women who share their journey with The Next Door; and I am humbled that these women call The Next Door “home.” The Next Door is ready to, alongside these women, continue fighting the disease of addiction! What a powerful time to be alive!

That Glow!

by Holly Cammuse, Assistant Director of Nursing of The Next Door

As I waddle around the building the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I have heard this phrase over and over again, “You are just GLOWING, Holly!”  I have assured all parties involved that the “glow” they are imagining is probably just sweat glistening from my newly formed mustache… O the joys of pregnancy hormones!  As we encroach upon temperatures nearing 100, I can’t help but reflect on the ease and simplicity of carrying my first child through the winter months. The other comments such as “There must be more than one in there!”, “You must be due ANNNYY day now!”, and “WOW, you’re carrying low!” make me giggle at the transparency of those women that we serve at The Next Door… transparency that I respect and have learned to love over the course of three years.

As I squeeze onto the elevator (because who wants to take the stairs at 9 months pregnant?!), I bump bellies with another Momma-To-Be, only this Momma is a client of The Next Door. So many things make The Next Door unique, but this is by far my favorite. We serve and embrace ALL women, even those fighting to better a life other than their own.

The Next Door took a leap of faith and began serving pregnant women in the winter of 2016. It was obvious that because we were one of few treatment facilities to accept a woman with child, the services that we provided would be sought out by women all over the state of Tennessee. NICUs were at capacity with children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a condition in which a newborn withdraws from drugs it was exposed to while in utero. Why couldn’t The Next Door play a part in ending this vicious cycle?

To date, we have served nearly 100 pregnant women, can you imagine the glow that has radiated from these walls!? Obstetrics certainly wasn’t our specialty, and we proceeded that first year with caution and good faith, putting some restrictions on what risks we were willing to take. All pregnant women using illicit drugs are high-risk, most have experienced many other births, some with poor outcomes, but if we weren’t willing to accept them into treatment, who would? There is such a small window of opportunity to make such a generational impact. It was a no-brainer to our ambitious team.

Although the future still holds many exciting opportunities for pregnant women at The Next Door, we have certainly come a long way in terms of knocking down barriers for this population. We are currently revising our admission requirements to allow pregnant women , even those with little or no prenatal care, to walk through our doors free of stigma and full of hope. We have a Registered Nurse Care Manager who assists these women with finding an obstetric provider and keeping appointments, an OB-GYN that assesses these women once a week, a Licensed Therapist that spends time unraveling fears and instilling lifeskills related to parenthood, and valuable resources like 180 Health Partners that provide a warm hand-off once discharged from The Next Door and through those critical postpartum months.

A dream of mine would be to provide housing for newborns with their mothers upon delivery; however, my view is still pretty sweet, as is, from my desk window. One of the first pregnant clients ever served at The Next Door now resides in our Freedom Recovery Community apartments, just behind our building on 22nd Avenue. What a precious sight to see her sober, successful, and pushing her little miracle in a stroller. Now THAT glow is one that cannot be beat.

Encouragement in Recovery

by Kristy Pomeroy, Community Services Manager of The Next Door

Freedom Recovery Community is a very busy place this summer. We currently have 21 women and 22 children living on property full time and have 12 children who come for visitation. Most of the days are quiet as women are working and children are at day care or day camps. Their evenings are spent in family time outside or playing games, going to groups and much more. My favorite thing about our community is the way this group encourages each other. In order to reach all of the families we have a group text where we send reminders about group schedule, activities and chores on a weekly basis. The women also communicate to each other through the group text. Here are some examples of the recent texts that have been posted:

“Went to a really good 12-step meeting at a church tonight. Going back next Wednesday for anyone who wants to ride along.”

“Thank you for the fresh vegetables from the garden as we are having cucumbers and tomatoes for dinner!”

“Good girl! Change the Stigma!”

“You have some amazing and awesome kids who helped me carry in my groceries. You have no idea how much I needed that today!”

“So what’s next? You heal. You grow. And you help others.”

“Trying Celebrate Recovery tonight…who wants to go?”

“I have never led a meeting, but I am willing (to try) today.”

“I am so grateful for my sisters at FRC.”

The women at FRC are truly living out the scripture to “Encourage one another and build each other up” (Thessalonians 5:11) on a daily basis.