The Black Community and Addiction – Celebrating Black History Month

Since Black History Month was first observed in 1970, it has honored the contributions and sacrifices the Black community has made to help shape our nation. It serves as an opportunity to celebrate the rich cultural heritage, adversities, and triumphs that are an undeniable part of our country’s history. During this month, The Next Door wants to take time to emphasize the importance of Black History Month as well as take a closer look at how the Black community is impacted by addiction.

When looking inside the addiction treatment space, there are a multitude of disparities when it comes to substance abuse patterns, medication recommendations, and other treatment related decisions that are often linked to race. In 2016, according to the NSDUH, 20.4% of African Americans aged 18 years and older in the United States reported using illicit drugs in the past year. “This was higher than the national average of 18.2%” (Kaliszewski, 2020).

However, research also indicates that Black people are less likely to have alcohol use disorders. “Alcohol use disorders are less common among African Americans (4.5%) than the rest of the population (5.4%)” (Kaliszewski, 2020).  In the end, drug and alcohol use in the Black community show statistical differences from the rest of the population and often tell a different story than what stereotypes suggest. Knowing substance abuse history, current trends, and reliable data over this topic can help inform treatment centers on best practices when serving the Black community.

Even medications being prescribed to individuals struggling with substance abuse are sometimes influenced by race and insurance coverage. In 2002, the approval of buprenorphine marked a milestone in the recovery community. Buprenorphine made a powerful and relatively safe partial agonist treatment available for the first time in doctor’s offices. However, a retrospective cohort study, published in 2016 examined patients receiving buprenorphine and found that minority patients were much less likely than whites to be retained in treatment for at least 1 year (Volkow, 2019). While the type of medication should be determined by the severity and other characteristics of an individual’s opioid use disorder, a study found that demographics were more often the determining factor.

While these relationships have been heavily researched, discussed, and remedies have been happening with time, that is not what I want to focus on. Instead, I would like to ponder what would happen for our clients when staff, of all races, unite in an intentional effort to lead with love. Imagine what that would look like on a personal level for our clients while they are receiving treatment. It is my hope that every treatment center makes an intentional choice to work side by side each other to ensure quality care for every client.

While institutions and policies have “red tape” and “hoops” to jump through to ensure there is equality for all potential clients – our hearts do not have the same obstacles. Unity does not come easy, unfortunately. It is easy, and sometimes even tempting, to find differences amongst ourselves and others to avoid addressing the reality that we too are one or two decisions away from being in the same situation our clients currently are. But when we can see our similarities, rather than our differences, we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of another person. The simple ability to empathize may just be what we need to create genuine unity.

In Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, King reminds his listeners to remain in the “majestic heights” of nonviolent resistance and to not see their white allies as enemies. To bring true justice about, King says, Americans of all races will need to unite and remain true to the values of nonviolent solidarity. In celebration of Black History Month, I want to echo King’s sentiments to encourage everyone who works in the addiction space to fight the battle of equality together. This is the only way we will be able to keep our clients as our primary focus.

 

2021 in Reflection: Featuring Tambi Swiney

 

Tambi Swiney serves at The Next Door as the Spiritual Wellness Coordinator. She has been a part of the TND since the very beginning – she is one of the original Wild Praying Women who founded TND! Tambi’s patience, wisdom, and hope for this organization have been such a bright spot at TND this year! Please enjoy her reflections over 2021.

 

As I reflect on my ministry at The Next Door during the past year, the word that immediately rises to the forefront of my mind is grief. How many conversations have I had with clients and with staff this year about grief? I couldn’t begin to count them. So many people have lost loved ones this year – many due to the COVID-19 pandemic or the overdose epidemic.

 

Grief and addiction are interrelated. For some people, the loss of a loved one can be a precipitating event – a tipping point when the bereaved turns to alcohol or drugs to comfort or numb themselves. For others who are already living in bondage to addiction, a significant loss can lead to increased abuse of substances. The source of this grief may not be a death. Divorce, estrangement from family and friends, loss of custody of a child, loss of a home, loss of a job – all of these can lead to deep mourning.

 

In the spirituality groups that I lead at The Next Door for detox, residential, and partial hospitalization clients, we regularly focus on grief. Our clients need to be reminded that grief is a normal life experience, and the grieving process is unique for each person. Although denial, anger, bargaining, and depression are common stages of grief, the experience is rarely linear; there is not a set timeline or a one-size-fits-all template for those who mourn.

 

As our clients lean into their newfound sobriety, the intense anguish of grief often takes them by surprise. In the midst of their addiction, they postponed the inevitable; the feelings they once sought to suppress surface with a vengeance in the early days of recovery. Some suddenly find themselves grieving for people who passed away many years ago; their grief is out of sync with that of family members who began processing the loss in real time. For others, the recent death of a loved one imperils their recovery, especially if the departed was one of their stalwart supporters. How can I go on living without them? they wonder.

 

Jamie Anderson’s observations are poignant: “Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”

 

The depth of one’s grief for the one who has died is often in direct proportion to the breadth of one’s love for that person during their life. Grief and love do go hand in hand; life and death are indeed a matched set. I often encourage those who are grieving to look for ways to channel this love that seems to have no place to go. How can they extend their loved one’s legacy? How can they pass on what they have learned from their dearly departed to others? How can they keep the love flowing?

 

In one of his letters to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul refers to God as the source of all comfort: “God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4). As I listen to clients and staff share their stories of grief with me, I am able to draw from the reservoir of comfort that God has showered upon me in the past. I know what it feels like to lose someone to addiction. I know what it feels like to mourn the death of a family member to cancer, to lament the loss of a friend to COVID-19. I have grieved deeply. I have also experienced immense comfort in times of grief.

 

During the holidays, feelings of grief intensify, especially in the first year after a death. An empty seat at the dinner table magnifies the loss. Once cherished traditions now evoke sorrow rather than joy. Things will never be the same. Strings of colorful lights do little to break through the darkness of a grieving soul.

 

Yet the season of Advent is a time for remembering that darkness will not have the last word. Long ago, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; for those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine” (Isaiah 9:2). In the prologue to his gospel, John declared, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5). God’s light was made incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. This divine light is an eternal source of comfort, one that illuminates our way as we navigate the pathways of grief.

 

On Christmas Day we will celebrate once again the birth of the One who called himself the light of the world, the One who also called us to be the light of the world. We can be a source of divine light for those who are grieving when we comfort them with the same comfort we have received from God.

 

In her celebrated inaugural poem, Amanda Gorman reminded us: “There is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” May we look for the light in days of darkness. May we find the courage to be the light in times of grief.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Matthew 5:4

National Recovery Month 2021 – Recovery is for Everyone

In 2020, there were 619 suspected fatal drug overdoses that occurred in Nashville  – an increase of 32% over 2019. Yet, during the first two quarters of 2021 fatal drug overdoses are up 11% compared to the same time period in 2020.  During this time of an epidemic that is surging in our nation and our community, it is important to remember recovery is possible.

Wednesday, September 1 begins National Recovery Month, with the purpose of educating  Americans that substance use treatment and mental health services can enable those with a mental health and/or substance use disorder to live a healthy and rewarding life.  This year’s theme, “Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community, reminds people in recovery and those who support them that no one is alone in the journey through recovery.

“Just as our whole community is affected by substance abuse, overdoses, and the resulting poverty and family fractures,” says Ray Brocato, the CEO of The  Next Door.  “Our whole community benefits when addicts achieve lifetime recovery.  This year, The Next Door will strive to give 1400 women the chance for a life of sobriety.”

Rebuilding Families to Succeed

As an addiction affects the whole family, a recovery can also have a powerful effect.  When a woman succeeds at achieving sobriety, many positive things result:

  • She is a better mother, providing her children with safety and security.
  • She has the tools to break the generational cycle of poverty and addiction that often exists in families of those with substance use disorders.
  • She can enter the workforce and be a stable employee, providing for the basic needs of her children.

The Next Door offers a Family Education Group each week for family members of current clients. This family group teaches families:

  • about the disease of addiction, family recovery, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and medication assisted treatment;
  • how the disease of addiction has impacted their family units, and;
  • how to become a healthy, positive support for their loved one in recovery.

Our therapists also offer family therapy sessions when they are deemed appropriate and/or necessary to facilitate a client’s healing.

“One of the greatest joys we see at The Next Door is women able to regain the custody of her children, “says Amanda Dunlap, the Clinical Director of The Next Door. “As she becomes sober and has the tools to maintain sobriety, she is a better mother, greatly benefiting her children’s future.”

Benefiting the Whole Community

The effects of drug abuse go far beyond the family unit, having consequences for the whole community, costing our nation around $300 billion each year.

As people recover from addiction, the whole community benefits:

  • Crime and incarceration decrease. (More than a quarter of women in jail are held for drug crimes. Another 32 percent are held for property offenses, which are often linked to drug abuse.)
  • Homelessness decreases as women are able to hold a job and become independent.
  • The workforce gains sober, dependable workers, benefiting the business community and the economy as whole.

How Can You Help?

We know addiction is a big problem, but what can you do?

  • Talk openly with your children about drugs and alcohol. Educate your children about the consequences about substance abuse and give them ways to cope with peer pressure.
  • Welcome those in the recovery community into your body of faith. Being a member of a church or faith community can give these people a support system they need as they rebuild their life.
  • Educate yourself about the signs of addiction so you are aware when a friend or family member is developing a problem with substances.
  • Avoid placing a stigma on addiction. Experts view addiction as a condition which often results from genetic disposition or a way to deal with severe childhood trauma. Compassion and encouragement can go a long way.
  • Support organizations – either financially or with volunteer hours – that are working to help individuals achieve lifetime recovery.

At The Next Door, we provide individualized addiction treatment to women so they may return to their homes and communities with the skills and resources needed to live full lives in recovery. Recovery improves all aspects of a woman’s life – family, community involvement, physical health, and employment. The Next Door’s impact results in stronger and healthier families and helps make the Nashville community a better place in which to live, work, and do business.

To find out more about treatment, contact us at 1-855-TND-HOPE (863-4673).

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or financial supporter, contact volunteer@thenextdoor.org.

Pregnancy and Addiction

The most vulnerable women The Next Door serves are our pregnant clients. These women walk through our doors in active addiction and are in dire need of  treatment services for both them and their unborn children.  If women don’t get help, there can be serious negative health outcomes for pregnant women and their developing babies, including preterm birthstillbirth, maternal mortality, and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Unique Issues for Addiction During Pregnancy

Becca Humphreys, a peer advocate with Strongwell, discusses the unique stressors that come with addiction during pregnancy.

  • Physical Stressors – Along with morning sickness, exhaustion, and weight gain, pregnant women can experience lower back and pelvic pain, which is especially challenging for women whose substance use disorder stemmed from treating pain with opioids.
  • Hormonal Changes – Fluctuating hormones can create anxiety and depression, adding to mental health problems a woman may already have.
  • Contraindicated Medications – Medications taken for anxiety or depression may need to be stopped during pregnancy, leading to a worsening of a woman’s mental health condition.

Signs and Symptoms

There are several signs to look for if you are worried that a pregnant woman you know or love is struggling with a substance use disorder.

  • Isolation – Pregnancy is a time when many women want to be around loved ones. However, a woman with a substance use disorder may isolate herself to keep her secret.
  • Avoiding OB appointments – A woman may avoid medical care fearing the doctor will discover her substance use disorder and judge her.
  • Lack of weight gain – A woman may not gain weight like in a typical pregnancy. She may even experience weight loss.
  • Erratic Behaviors – Addiction can lead to erratic behavior, poor hygiene, aggression, and other unpredictable emotions.

Barriers to Seeking Treatment

Humphreys says a primary barrier for pregnant women is knowing where to go to find help. “There are not a lot of resources. There is also the stigma around pregnancy, addiction, and concerns with the Department of Children’s Services. It is difficult to admit something that may take your child from you.”

There is also a lack of OBGYNs who will take on women with substance use disorders as patients. A woman is often referred to a high-risk OBGYN and may lack insurance to pay for the extra cost.

Detoxing during pregnancy is another barrier. A pregnant woman detoxing from opioids can suffer dehydration, which can cause contractions resulting in pre-term labor.  Detoxing from alcohol and benzodiazepines can actually be deadly for both mom and baby.

“To try to hunker down and detox on your own seems reasonable,” says Humphreys. “But, I tell people they may get through the worst of withdrawals, but if you are not actively supported and not seeking recovery support, your odds of staying sober decrease phenomenally.”

The stigma also prevents women from seeking help. Humphreys recalls being in active addiction with her second pregnancy.

“You have so much shame and guilt as a mother” says Humphrey.  “But we are talking about substances that you are physically and mentally dependent on. It’s not whether about you care and love that baby. Just admitting your addiction can be really difficult.”

Treatment Options that Work

Advances in addiction treatment now present pregnant women with several options.

  • Medication Assisted Treatment involves a prescribed medication that is less harmful to the baby but helps with drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Working a recovery plan and receiving behavioral health care for co-occurring conditions increases the women’s chance of success.
  • Many women in addiction don’t seek basic health care, and these visits increase in importance during pregnancy so doctors can monitor the health of mother and baby.
  • If a woman knows she can seek help and have a team of doctors and treatment professionals aid her recovery without judgement, she is more likely to seek help.

Treatment Options

Humphreys says if you don’t know where to turn, the first call is to a high-risk OB in your area. Also, The Next Door accepts pregnant women up to 38 week gestation, and they are given priority in admissions.

To hear the complete discussion on pregnancy and addiction, watch The Next Door’s panel on Addiction in Seasons of a Women’s Life on our YouTube Channel

Is Your Teen At-Risk for Addiction?

The statistics about the use of drugs and alcohol by our nation’s teens are alarming. The Centers for Disease Control reports that by 12th grade about two-thirds of students have tried alcohol, about half of high schoolers have used marijuana, and 20% of 12th graders have used prescription medicine without a prescription. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics says drug use among 8th graders increased 61% between 2016 and 2020 and overdose deaths due to opioids have increased 500% among 15- to 24-year-olds since 1999.

Unfortunately, in the modern world, drugs are readily available to adolescents.  Many teens say the easiest place to access drugs is school, as students sell and trade substances.  Some raid their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets for opiates or benzodiazepines. And, of course, drugs are easy to find on local streets, ranging from Percocet to adult cough medicine to psychedelics.

Risks of Substance Abuse Among Teens

There are numerous negative consequences when teens abuse alcohol and/or drugs, including

  • Damage to the growth and development of teens, especially brain development.
  • Encouragement of other risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex and dangerous driving.
  • Increase in the risk of health problems in adulthood, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders.

One of the biggest risks is that this early use of substances can turn into an addiction that follows them into their adult years, wreaking havoc on their health, relationships, and employment.

Cases of Substance Abuse Among Teens

Paris Brown, a recovery partner at Axial-Healthcare, says there are several factors that can lead teens to begin using drugs or alcohol.

“I would say mostly what I see as main stressors is peer pressure.  If their peers use, they want to try it,” says Brown. “Also, family stressors. If their parents used, the kids were more likely to use.”

Often, girls who struggle with anxiety, depression, and childhood trauma, use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. These girls deal with a co-occuring disorder – substance abuse combined with a mental health condition.

“I see girls using super early and trying a wide assortment of things, wanting to numb themselves and not feel some of the things they are feeling,” says Brown.

The rise in social media activity has greatly impacted teens’ likelihood to experiment with new substances.  Different type of drugs are readily available for sale through social media, and when celebrities and influencers talk about the substances they use, it lends a “cool” factor.

“I had a teen client that saw and heard his favorite musician use a specific drug and decided to try it,” says Brown. “However, for this teen, that experimentation became a full-blown addiction.”

Symptoms of Teen Substance Abuse

How do you know if your teen might be experimenting or abusing drugs and alcohol?  Experts say there are some common signs:

  • Increased isolation. The teen may begin to spend more time in his room alone.
  • A marked development in mood, poor hygiene, lack of interest in prior hobbies.
  • Behavioral problems at home and school.
  • School performance. The teen may have a drop in grades or a drop in attendance.

Brown adds another sign to this list. “ I see a number of teenage girls who are influenced by an older boyfriend. This type of relationship is connected to an onset of addiction and relapses. I would consider a 15-year-old girl dating an 18- or 19-year-old man a considerable risk factor.”

How to Get Help for Your Teen

Unfortunately, there is a service gap for addiction treatment centers for adolescents in the Nashville area, with the nearest inpatient facility being in Jackson, Tennessee.

However, there are some options for outpatient services, including Meharry Medical College, Stars Nashville,  and Bradford Health Services.

For more information on Addiction in Adolescence, watch The Next Door’s production on Addiction and the Seasons of A Woman’s Life at https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/478669812.

When Addiction and Mental Health Disorders Coexist

Often, when women walk through the doors of The Next Door, they are not only dealing with addiction.  Many have what therapists term a “co-occurring disorder,” otherwise known as a dual diagnosis.

Having a co-occurring disorder means a woman is struggling with a mental health disorder along with a substance use disorder. Some of the most common co-occurring disorders are social anxiety, general anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia.

 

Which Comes First – Addiction or a Mental Health Issue?

“What comes first is not such a cut and dry issue,”says Adrienne Hlavati, the medical director of Emergency Psychiatric Services at Nashville’s Mental Health Cooperative. “Sometimes you have to see a person for a while and look at periods of sobriety. Some people can identify the trauma that began their illness and led to addiction. Others’ lives fall apart after they start using substances.”

Receiving a mental health diagnosis can be initially scary for a woman already dealing with addiction.  However, at The Next Door, women are assured the diagnosis can help with their treatment.

“I think one of the benefits of a diagnosis while in a supportive environment like The Next Door is that you have a team around you,” says Jolene Underwood, a therapist at The Next Door. “I had one client that said ‘well I have PTSD – a whole other thing to deal with.’  I told her that she had been dealing with that all along. The diagnosis is actually a gift because it calls attention to some things that we really need to help and support.”

Dr. Finlayson adds the focus on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), or trauma people experience in childhood, has shed some light on co-occurring disorders.  In fact, research says every ACE experienced increases the likelihood of prescription drug abuse by 62%.

“A lot of people who have gone through trauma in childhood use the substance to anesthetize them,” says Finlayson. “They get a sense of relief that they can use the substance to cope.”

 

To Medicate or Not Medicate

One of the difficult decisions professionals face when treating co-occurring disorders is whether to put someone in early recovery on a new medication when they worked so hard to stop using alcohol or illegal substances.

“Some medications can be extremely helpful when people are trying to detox and stabilize,” says Dr. Finlayson, “However, certain medications can definitely be overused. Some are not very helpful because they are very similar to the drugs people have abused.”

Often, when people self-medicate, the substances end up exacerbating the symptoms they were trying to treat. This may cause them to further self-medicate, eventually leading to a crisis point.  Hlavati says changing a person’s mindset about medications is important.

“Teaching them that self-medication makes things so much worse while prescribed medication can help them feel better,” says Hlavati. “Often a person needs to get through withdrawal and have a period of sobriety for the new medication to help. We are aiming for true health and healing.”

 

The Next Door’s Approach

In many cases, people with co-occurring disorders are left with the option of either a treatment center for their mental illness or a treatment center for their addiction.

“Too many places consider them separate problems,” says Dr. Finlayson. “People bounce from one treatment center to another, never getting a chance to move ahead.”

Thanks to an expert team consisting of medical professionals, social workers, and trauma informed therapists, The Next Door is uniquely positioned to properly treat women who present with both substance use and mental health disorders – especially those that are struggling with self-injury, eating disorders, intense anxiety, or clinical depression.

“One of the great things is that at The Next Door, when clients present with concerning behaviors, our interdisciplinary team can work together to keep these clients safe and help them change their behaviors.  We can meet them where they are – helping them truly heal,” says Underwood.

Addiction and Faith

As The Next Door delivers its addiction treatment services, it does so with faith being at the heart.

“Everything we do, from staff meetings to client care, upholds a Christ-centered focus,” says Ray Brocato, the CEO of The Next Door.  “Our goal is to meet the women’s spiritual needs as well as their physical and mental ones.”

But exactly how are faith and addiction related?

How Should Christians View Addiction?

Much of the world views addiction as a problem, a result of bad choices, or a disease.  However, Pastor Glenda Sutton, the founder and senior pastor of Family Affairs Ministry Fellowship, says people of faith need to define addiction very differently and that a crisis in identity can be the root of substance abuse.

“Addiction occurs because of pain. Hurting people are looking for something to heal them,” says Pastor Sutton. “Faith tells us we were created in the image of God. If you don’t know what you were created for, you gravitate to something else to deal with the pain.”

Dr. Monty Burks, Director of the Faith Based Initiatives of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, warns of Christians sticking labels on people. “You start calling someone an ‘addict,’ and that’s how they feel like they have to operate.  As Christians, no matter what people are going through, we need to be the way out.”

The Role Faith Plays in Recovery

“Faith was everything in my recovery,” says Joel Frame, Director of Outreach & Community Life at Hope Church. “I struggled with drug and alcohol addiction for 20 years, attempting to stop using on my own power. When I completely and fully surrendered to Jesus Christ, I actually found freedom from addiction.”

The well-known 12 step program, which serves as the foundation of many recovery groups, finds its roots in the Christian faith, tracing its origins back to the Oxford Group, a religious movement in the early 20th century. After a spiritual experience led him to quit drinking, a man known as “Bill W.” founded Alcoholic Anonymous using the principles of the Oxford Group.

Step 2 in the program is believing that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  Is it possible for someone who doesn’t believe in a higher power to recover from addiction?  Amanda Dunlap, the Director of Clinical Services at The Next Door, believes this lack of belief makes it a much harder journey.

“Those that don’t think of something higher than themselves often hit a block,” says Dunlap. “Recovery is not a solo journey.  It’s necessary to believe in a higher power and later on, we give our power to the higher power.”

What the Church Can Do

Drug overdoses recently became the leading cause of death in the United States for people under 50—claiming over 72,000 lives last year. Tennessee is 13th in the nation of fatal drug overdoses.  In Nashville alone, overdose visits rose 30% in 2020.  What role can the local church play in what has become a public health crisis?

Recovery advocates say, first of all, churches need to stop piling shame and guilt upon addicts.  By doing that they are missing their opportunity to offer the healing and true redemption only they can give

“I heard the fear church goers had of addicts and the shame they associated with it,” says Frame.  “I knew it wasn’t a safe place to find help.”

Dunlap adds that people need to be welcome in the church before they feel comfortable seeking help for addiction. “We have to find a sense of belonging before we believe.  I am not going to seek help from where I don’t feel like I belong.”

That is the aim of The Next Door. As a hurting, broken woman walks through the doors of The Next Door, she is welcomed with open arms by a loving, Christian community that is invested in her recovery.

For more information on Faith and Addiction, view our recent panel discussion on our YouTube Channel

Do You Believe in Miracles?

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

During the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, broadcaster Al Michaels uttered these memorable words as the final seconds ticked off the clock during the medal round of the men’s ice hockey tournament. This game between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would determine which team would go on to face Finland in the gold medal round. On paper, the U.S. team seemed to be no match for their Soviet counterparts – amateurs vs. professionals – yet the U.S. won that pivotal game 4-3. The event would henceforth be known as the “Miracle on Ice.”

Do you believe in miracles?

Jesus’ disciples did. So did the crowds who witnessed his compassionate acts of healing, his stunning acts of power. The lame could walk again. The blind could see again. The deaf could hear again. Those in pain found lasting relief. Those plagued by demonic spirits were restored to wholeness. Those afflicted by seizures were made well. Those with leprosy were made clean.

Jesus not only restored individuals to health; he also resurrected people from the dead. Jairus’ daughter was raised from her death bed. A widow’s son arose from his coffin. Lazarus walked out of his tomb.

But Jesus’ miracles were not limited to healing and resurrection. Jesus walked on water. Jesus calmed a storm. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast. Jesus fed thousands of hungry men, women, and children with five loaves of bread and two fish.

The Greek word that is translated as “miracle” is dynamis; this word is also rendered in the New Testament as “mighty work,” “strength,” or “power.” When the crowds witnessed one of Jesus’ miracles, they marveled at his mighty works and praised God. Those who were healed by Jesus experienced transformation that exceeded the cessation of the original symptoms of sickness. Jesus offered holistic healing of body, mind, and spirit. Jesus offered restoration of relationships. Jesus offered reengagement with community.

Do you believe in miracles?

That’s a question still worth asking. If you could be a fly on the wall of my office, I think you would believe in miracles. The word comes up often in conversations as clients sit across from me and share their stories.

“I overdosed. I flatlined. But the paramedics revived me with Narcan. It’s a miracle that I’m alive today.”

“I shouldn’t still be alive. I’ve overdosed too many times. It’s a miracle. I don’t know why God saved me, but I now believe that God has a plan for my life.”

“After the wreck, I was told that I would never walk again. But look at me! Now I’m walking. It’s a miracle.”

The evidence of God’s healing, redemptive power is abundant at The Next Door. The full spectrum of miraculous transformation is on display daily. Clients who once thought they had lost everything realize that all is not lost. They do not have to be defined by their past. Day by day, the claws of addiction loosen their grip. Day by day, freedom is regained. Day by day, hope is renewed. Day by day, health is restored.

God still works miracles in our world. God is working miracles in this place. The Next Door is able to empower women for lifetime recovery because God empowers the staff to use their gifts and training and skills and compassion to facilitate healing – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. Hope and encouragement are freely dispensed by staff members who are further along on the road of recovery. As clients are welcomed into our community by our staff and volunteers and treated with respect, they realize that they are worthy of love and deserving of the best treatment we can provide. Seeds of faith are planted and nurtured as clients reconnect with God or connect for the first time with their Higher Power. Wholeness is no longer an impossible dream.

The offices, medical suites, clinical suites, group rooms, dining rooms, consult rooms, and bedrooms at The Next Door’s treatment center in Nashville are filled with walking miracles. The apartments at the Freedom Recovery Community in Nashville are filled with walking miracles. The community spaces and group rooms and bedrooms and offices at the Correctional Release Center in Chattanooga are filled with walking miracles.

Do you believe in miracles?

I do.

Thanks be to God, who continues to work miracles in our world. Thanks be to God, who continues to work miracles at The Next Door.

“You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.” – Psalm 77:14

Monday Meditation: Healing

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

As a child, I was fascinated by the story of the four men who carried their paralyzed friend on a mat to Jesus because they believed that Jesus could heal him. Since a large crowd had gathered to hear Jesus that day, when the friends arrived at the house in Capernaum where Jesus was preaching, they could not get in the door. Unwilling to give up on their mission of mercy, the friends carefully carried their friends to the roof of the home and made a hole directly above Jesus.

I wonder how much debris fell on Jesus before he stopped preaching. I wonder what the homeowner said when he saw a mat being lowered by ropes through his new sunroof. I wonder what the paralyzed man was thinking when his mat came to rest on the floor in front of Jesus and he looked up into Jesus’ face.

What happens next is somewhat surprising: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:2-5) When Jesus witnessed the faith of these friends – a faith that led them to go to great lengths to access healing for their friend – Jesus responded with mercy.

Interestingly, spiritual healing preceded physical healing. “Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So Jesus said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ The man got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (Mark 2:9-12)

Faith is one of the core values of The Next Door. Often our clients’ family and friends keep the faith long after our clients have given up hope that they might experience healing. They are the ones who call our Admissions Team and drive their loved ones to our door seeking help; they are the ones who pray for healing for their incarcerated mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends who are completing their sentences at the Correctional Release Center.

Where do you see yourself in this story? How have you helped a loved one access healing in the past? Who has helped you experience physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual healing? Who needs your help this week to receive the healing they seek?

Alcohol Awareness Month: Withdrawal

– Written by Vanderbilt School of Nursing Students

The Positive Effects of Quitting Alcohol  

Stopping and reducing your alcohol use has many positive effects on your body. This includes lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and reducing your risk for heart failure and cancer. Quitting alcohol significantly increases life expectancy. Once you stop using alcohol, your liver has time to heal and restore itself. Alcohol cessation can also elevate your self esteem, decrease anxiety, and promote better sleep.

What is alcohol withdrawal?

After long term use of alcohol, your brain starts to adjust to the constant presence of alcohol in your system. Because alcohol is a central nervous depressant, your brain must work harder to communicate with your body when using alcohol. When alcohol use is suddenly stopped, or seriously cut back, the body experiences alcohol withdrawal. During withdrawal, your brain cannot adjust quickly enough to the removal of the depressant and continues to work in overdrive causing a potentially dangerous set of symptoms.

What does detox feel like?

Detox is the process of removing the substance out of the body. Symptoms typically develop within several hours to a few days of quitting and usually worsen after 48 to 72 hours. These symptoms include:

  • Cramps
  • Increases in heart rate
  • High Blood pressure
  • Hyper alertness
  • Jerky movements, tremors and shaking
  • Irritability
  • Easily startled
  • Vomiting

How detox can become a medical emergency

The medical emergency that can occur due to withdrawal from alcohol is called Delirium Tremens. Delirium Tremens can be deadly and should be managed with the help of medical professionals. Delirium peaks at 2 to 3 days after cessation of alcohol and lasts 2 to 3 days

Symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive Sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Disorientation and Clouding of Consciousness
  • Seeing or Hearing Hallucinations
  • Extreme Mood Swings
  • Agitation
  • Delusions
  • High Grade Fever
  • Seizures

These symptoms can be severe, even deadly. If you have an alcohol use disorder or are worried about your alcohol use and want to quit, it is safest to find a treatment center that has a detox level of care so that you can detox safely.

Treatment for an Alcohol Use Disorder can significantly improve quality of life, but it’s not something anyone should go through alone. It can be made easier with support from places like The Next Door. If you or someone you love are thinking about quitting alcohol, please reach out to your provider or a facility such as The Next Door for emotional and medical support.

Ready to detox safely with help and support?

  • Call The Next Door at 855-863-4673

Looking for more information about alcohol addiction or withdrawal?

Experiencing a medical emergency related to alcohol withdrawal?

  • Call 911