Domestic Violence Awareness Month

– Written by Jane Saffles-Granville, Therapist

Many years ago, at a different job in a different state, I had a client who came to my agency with the worst black eye I had ever seen. She had fled an abusive relationship and was homeless in a strange city. Within a few weeks, her partner had come looking for her. We did our best to support her and protect her, but it wasn’t long before we saw them together, holding hands, the bruise having only just faded.

My colleagues and I were upset, of course. We’d seen how badly she had been hurt, how determined she’d been to escape, and how quickly she ended up back with her abuser. How could she, we asked ourselves? How could she go back?

As social services professionals, we knew the answer was far more complicated than it appeared on the surface. The cycle of violence is a vicious one to break, often like the cycle of addiction.

Domestic violence (DV, also known as intimate partner violence/IPV) and addiction often overlap; many of our women are survivors of domestic violence, and drug abuse among partners can escalate physical or emotional violence. Sometimes in group therapy, we talk about how similar they are. Early drug use may feel like falling in love. The drugs make you feel special and important. The drug is your closest friend, your confidant, your lover. That feeling doesn’t last long, though, and over time, it starts to hurt you—but you keep chasing that feeling you knew existed once, that first high.

Or maybe you know you can never get back there to that first high. You know how dangerous it is to keep trying, but getting away is even scarier. It’s the unknown; it’s risky and scary in ways you don’t know how to deal with, and at least you know (or think you know) how to be an addict.

When I make this analogy, I often see recognition in my client’s eyes as they nod, as if to say I know both those things. Clients have come to me, crying, asking both “How can I still love him?” and, “How can I still want to use?” It’s not a perfect analogy, but even though I know the psychology of relapse and the disease of addiction, part of me aches when I ask myself, “How could she go back?” when someone relapses.

From the outside, it seems simple: get away, get sober, don’t go back, but the tragedy of addiction and the tragedy of IPV are often the same.  At The Next Door, we exist to empower women—for recovery, for survival, for safety. For many of our women, lifetime recovery depends on breaking both the cycle of addiction and the cycle of violence.  Our core values help support this mission and give our clients the love, respect, encouragement, and resources to begin their lives safe and sober.

There’s another heartbreaking similarity between addiction and domestic violence: both are deadly. If you or someone you know might be experiencing abuse, please read more about the signs here (https://www.ywcanashville.com/domestic-violence/warnings/) and call a free, 24/7 crisis line 1-800-334-4628 for help.

Faith, Hope, and Recovery

– Written by Anna Derrington, Certified Peer Recovery Specialist

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

One day while I was sitting in treatment at The Next Door, a volunteer came to share some hope with my fellow group of residential clients. She read this scripture to us and shared a motivational story about having just the tiniest bit of faith and how it can be life changing to believe in something. When I think about faith the size of a mustard seed, I think about hope. Hope is one of our core values at TND, and it is the one that stood out to me most during my first days, weeks, and months of recovery.

The Next Door has a program for alumni called Aftercare. It is a support group for program graduates, and it was so impactful for me to be able to come back to The Next Door after leaving residential treatment. My first night attending Aftercare, the facilitator asked us to pick a word that meant something to us and to write it decoratively with paint pens on natural rocks. “Hope” is the word I wrote on my rock. I kept that rock with me everywhere I went. When I was asked a couple of months later to come share my story with current clients, I brought my rock in with me and held it while I shared my experience, strength, and “hope” with ladies sitting right where I had just been. That was in 2016. In 2017, I had the honor of being asked to speak at the main fundraising event for The Next Door. My rock was with me then as well. The following year, I was honored to transition from alumni to staff. Also, in 2018, TND’s big fundraising event’s theme was “Lead Me to The Rock.” During the event, all attendees were given rocks with positive and affirming words written on them. “Hope” is the word that was written on the random rock given to me that year. I found hope here at The Next Door, a little over three years ago.

At the beginning of treatment, I did not want to be here. The idea of getting sober seemed as impossible to me as moving mountains. The first two weeks were some of the most difficult of my life, but there is something special about The Next Door. It creates a safe and healing space for women. After I let go and began to trust the process, I found peace here. There came a point in my treatment where a shift happened, and I surrendered. A place I had not honestly wanted to come to became a place I did not want to leave. A lightbulb had turned on. I realized I didn’t have to use anymore. That realization flooded me with relief and freedom. I heard people say that before, but it took me a long time to accept the personal freedom in that truth.

Aftercare gave me an opportunity to keep coming back to the place where my life had changed and where my new life had begun. I came every Wednesday night from 6-7. On Thursdays and Sundays, I volunteered to bring a 12 Step meeting to the residential clients with the help of my sponsor and other women in the fellowship. I was encouraged to go back to school and finish my degree. One of my classes at Belmont asked me to do a service project, and I chose The Next Door. I started volunteering to serve lunch once a week. Sometimes I was asked to facilitate the Aftercare meetings. This was a huge honor! Eventually, a front desk volunteer was needed, and I was offered to start training for that position. I volunteered at the front desk and then applied to work there as an employee. I was hired part time! It was an absolute dream come true. A goal I had set for myself in early recovery had become a reality.

This recovery stuff is magic, I promise you that. When we keep doing the next right thing we are amazed at what transpires. This IS a promise. There are no words for the gratitude I have for this place, the people who work here, and the women who come here for treatment. Shortly after, I was asked to apply to be a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist. By staying connected, volunteering, and being asked to participate, I was able to set and achieve goals for myself. This was a huge contributing factor in my recovery.

Consistently coming back and engaging in meaningful participation helped me stay rooted in my recovery. I’ve always been interested in helping and adding to my community. Back in high school, I created a club called Hillsboro Helps to offer volunteer opportunities for the local students as well as Sudanese and Somali exchange students living in Nashville. I lost the desire for being involved with my community in active addiction, but Aftercare provided the opportunity for me to get reconnected and involved in my community. This was a gift. The Next Door, and being in recovery, has given me numerous gifts, including my life. And my life is tremendously wonderful today.

I did not fully realize in the early days of my recovery how important this place had become to me. It is only through reflecting back that I can see how essential The Next Door has been to my journey of finding my true and purposeful self. Being in recovery has given me the chance to figure out who I am. The person I’m turning into doesn’t want or need drugs and alcohol. I used drugs and alcohol as my solution for a long time. Now, I’m even better than I was when I first started using. I do not even slightly resemble the person I was before. That realization happened here, and The Next Door will always hold a very special place in my heart

Recovery can sometimes be hard, but it is far from impossible. Even if you start out with faith the size of a mustard seed—with hope—you can take steps towards healing with love and support.

Homecoming

You Matter!

– Janie Elkins, Certified Peer Recovery Specialist

My dream wasn’t to be an addict. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a veterinarian. But addiction is not a choice. Sure, I made the choice to experiment, but it stopped being a choice quickly. It’s a brain disease. It makes our brains distort the truth. At 49 years old, I found myself in prison having lost the will to live. I’d been using drugs for 30 years. I had resolved to live the life of an addict. When I got to prison, I made a choice to get sober. I wanted to do something different. I didn’t know how or what – just that if I was going to live, something had to change.

I joined a therapeutic program in prison and ended up being asked to be a mentor. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I had anything to offer. The counselors pointed things out to me—that other women looked up to me, that multiple women had mentioned my name as someone who helped them through a struggle. I wondered if maybe I could make a difference.

For so much of my life, I felt like I didn’t matter. Like I was a lost cause. Hopeless. That program was the start of building my confidence. Getting to The Next Door helped my healing process. For me the hardest part of recovery was self-love, but the staff at The Next Door gave me the blessing of love. They loved me until I learned to love myself. Now, I try to offer that gift to every woman that comes to The Next Door. I want them to know that they matter.

While I was in prison, I started reading the Bible. I paid close to attention every time God said something about who He was. Growing up, I thought God was mean and hurtful. I didn’t want that God. But as I read His word, He said He was loving. And that love was unconditional. Nothing I could do or had done could change His love for me. He was accepting. He was kind. If those things were true about Him, then what He says about me is true, too. I’m not the monster I thought I was. I am forgiven. I am loved. I matter.

I think that addicts are God’s chosen people. If you read the Bible, you see that Jesus hung with prostitutes. He touched lepers. He wasn’t afraid to go near the sick. No one wanted these people. They had been secluded from the rest of society. But Jesus hugged them and loved them. The world does this with addicts—withholds things from them. Labels them. Judges them. Pushes them to the side. God says there’s a purpose on my life, that He has a plan for me. That plan is not to bring me harm. He tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made. So I believe it.

Recovery is full of ups and downs. Acceptance is the key. Life hasn’t gotten easier. I’ve just learned how to deal with life on life’s terms. There’s always a solution that doesn’t include getting high. Keep a list of sober contacts. Get a sponsor. Keep yourself rooted in the recovery community. Remain humble. Give God the credit. He’s the one who saved me.

You matter. You are loved. You can do this. You don’t got it, but you can do it.

 

Overdose and Suicide: How do we categorize tragic deaths?

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. In recent years, awareness about suicide has increased, but there are still so many questions surrounding this type of death, especially as it relates to drug use and overdoses.

Overdose or Suicide?

Losing someone who has overdosed leaves us with so many questions. How could this happen? What did I miss? Did they do it on purpose? In the early stages of grief, we find ourselves obsessed with finding the answers, investigating the lives of our loved one until we can hardly bear to see what we find. And ultimately, we rarely get the answers we seek. And the answers don’t change the most important thing: that person is not coming back to us.

In the case of overdose, the question of suicide almost always arises. Recently, people in the fields of public health and addiction treatment and research have started asking are any overdoses accidental? Should they be lumped into the category of suicide rather than separated?

An Economics professor at Princeton says that overdoses and suicide are both “deaths of despair” and that overdoses are “suicides in one form or another” [1]. His reasoning, outside of economic factors like marriage and labor statistics, is that the same issue lies behind both deaths: hopelessness.

But what about the other side? Today, it’s hard to tell what’s actually in a pill bought on the black market. You may think you’re buying Percocet, but it could be laced with Fentanyl. If someone dies because of this, it isn’t necessarily suicide. That person might have a level of hopelessness due to their addiction, but it doesn’t mean they wanted to end their life over it. They could have been unaware of the actual toxicity of that batch of drugs.

The Real Issue

The real answer is that in most overdose cases, we will never know the answer. Fentanyl in a toxicology report doesn’t automatically mean the overdose was accidental. You would have to know that the person taking the drug was unaware of the Fentanyl. Some overdose cases are probably seen as accidental when it’s actually a convenient solution for someone already considering suicide. There’s also the issue of how relapse plays into overdoses. During periods of sobriety, a person’s tolerance to a drug lowers. If they relapse and use the same amount they used before sobriety, it can kill them. The scenarios are endless and unique, like every individual life behind the startling statistics about suicide rates and the opioid epidemic.

So where does that leave us? One of the most common risk factors for suicide is substance abuse. The desire and need to escape pain are often indicators that someone may eventually want to rid themselves of that pain forever. Substance use disorders are often rooted in trauma and emotional pain. These two things are also reasons so many people choose to take their own lives. Does it matter how we categorize the deaths? Overdose? Suicide? Intentional? Unintentional? There’s an underlying issue that’s much more important. Our society needs to prioritize mental and behavioral health if we are going to see a change in overdose and/or suicide death rates.

What You Can Do

We cannot change the past or raise the dead, but we can work toward a better, healthier future. If you think someone you know or love might be battling suicidal thoughts or desires, ask them about it. It feels counter intuitive, like something we should avoid. But bringing it out into the open can actually make a person feel relieved. It takes away the burden of secrecy and shame. It can allow you to get them the help they need.

If YOU are struggling, know that there is help available. Whether you believe it or not, you matter! God has something beautiful waiting for you on the other side of the darkness. Come into the light.

RESOURCES:

Call our hope line if you need treatment for a substance use disorder: 1-855-TND-HOPE (1-855-863-4673).

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Text the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741

Click the link below to find other mental health resources.

https://twloha.com/find-help/

[1] https://www.thedailybeast.com/are-fatal-overdoses-a-form-of-suicide

Reflections from a Summer Intern

Written by Helen Phillips, Development Team Intern

When you think of a teenager’s job, you might think of a retail store or fast food restaurant. My brother, for example, worked as a “bag boy” at Richland Country Club until he left for college a few weeks ago. This summer, I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Development Team at The Next Door, and it was an experience unlike any other.

My grandmother, Candy Phillips, was one of the wild praying women. However, I never heard the term “The Next Door” until after her death in 2017. To be fair, it is a little difficult to explain to a child that her “CanCan” helps women in re-entry and addiction recovery. Wanting to learn more about the amazing life she lived, I tried to attend a few TND events with my grandfather, Bill, and mother, Kathryn, who serves on the Board. This is how I met Kate McKinnie, the Director of Development, who asked if I wanted to gain experience in the world of fundraising.

They gave me a cubicle with a desktop and a key card to get in and out of the building – I was feeling very official! The small Development Team of 3 had turned into 4, and I was immediately put to work with community outreach. I emailed churches, Chambers of Commerce, heads of high schools and colleges. I reorganized spreadsheets and donor data. I asked for donations and sold tables for the Fall Benefit. I assembled bulletin boards in residence halls. I ran the TND social media, and I assessed preliminary grant work. My favorite work was creating programs and flyers for the different events TND will host this fall. In this, I got to be creative, and I didn’t feel like an intern. Maybe you saw my program at Songwriter’s Night or the flyer for TND Homecoming! You probably saw some of my Instagram posts and stories!

Trust me when I say: there is always something going on at TND. My very first day, I was thrown into the energy of the Operations Department celebrating June birthdays with a potluck. The main dish? A homemade strawberry cake large enough to feed an army made by the one and only Wanda. Boxes and boxes of donations came in at least twice a week that had to be sorted and distributed. Walking down the hallways, I met clients who had lived a thousand lives and had a thousand stories. People wrote letters telling us how grateful they were for saving their life. I will never get over those.

Although most people my age would never dream of spending their summer at a desk earning no money, I gained so much “real work” experience that I am forever grateful for. I learned the behind the scenes of nonprofits and fundraising. I learned that sometimes you have to call someone again and again to accomplish a task. I learned that a smile goes a long way in a meeting and, no matter what, to always treat someone with respect, because you have no idea what they are going through.

Most of all, I miss my friends. I got to meet Malinda, who bravely opens every donation box and handles all volunteering on top of being a rock star liaison. There is Rachel, who manages just about everything at TND while being a mom to the most adorable girls. Ren, our tech savvy guy who loves John Mayer and never failed to mess with my laptop every time I left for the day. I’ll miss Sharon, who is so genuinely nice to everyone. In my little Development team, I miss Laryssa and her quirky food choices and her love for God. Kate, the best boss I could have asked for, who was always proud of my work and always kept an upbeat attitude. I found an office best friend in Morgan, who besides being one of the smartest people I know, is undoubtedly the bravest. I look forward to more car rides full of bad country songs.

God is present at TND; you can feel it as soon as you walk in the building. I cannot wait until I am back inside and seeing the smiles of clients and employees alike.

Waiting For Morning

Written by Joy Fanguy, Clinical Associate

In the spring of 2008, I sat in a small kitchen inside a children’s home that ran out of an abandoned hospital in the tiny town of Garca, Brazil. As I chatted with the mother of the home, she shared with me that sometimes the children came to the home in the middle of the night kicking and screaming, and that she had to hold them tight until the Enemy no longer had control over them. She told me that you could literally feel the evil exiting their bodies. Knowing that I had shared my story of my fall into addiction at a local juvenile prison there in Brazil, she asked me a daring question: “When you were using drugs late at night, did you ever feel like you were not alone in the room? Like the Enemy was just there waiting for you?”

“The enemy comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” John 10:10

Wow. Yes, I did. I had never told anyone that. It always seemed like something was out there lurking in the dark, just waiting to snatch me from God. I stayed terrified of nighttime for a long time. Nights at The Next Door for these frightened and vulnerable women are not much different. You see, there’s just something about the darkness that makes everything scarier and leads us to believe that everything seems more hopeless. Under the cover of darkness, the Enemy comes out to play. Sometimes nights can drag us deeper and deeper down as we wait for the sunrise. This especially seems to apply to those desperately trying to escape the Enemy…like the ladies here at The Next Door.

“When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” Micah 7:8

It is such a great gift to be able to be here at The Next Door during the night. We get to take what we have gone through ourselves and turn that darkness into hope. We get to soothe these precious women when the nightmares come and when they don’t feel safe from themselves. We get to remind them that the Enemy has already been defeated. We get to assure them that morning will always come and that everything will seem clearer in the light of day. Because it always does. And when morning comes, we don’t have to fight our battles in the darkness. God tells us that joy always comes in the morning. I have never found a single reason to doubt that. My hope is that these women will come to believe the same during their time with us. The darkness tells lies, but the Light…the Light saves us.

“Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Three Common Misconceptions About Your Mental Health

Over the last decade, there’s been a significant trend in organizations doing work to raise awareness about the importance of mental health. Historically, there’s been a stigma around mental health diagnoses and treatment. Though things have gotten better, they still aren’t perfect. The negative stigma around mental health continues to create a barrier to treatment for many.

Here at The Next Door, we treat both substance abuse disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. Every patient that comes through our residential treatment program receives a full psychiatric evaluation within 48 hours of their arrival by one of our Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners. Some of these NPs, along with a few members of our clinical staff, sat down with me to discuss common misconceptions about mental health.

Three Common Misconceptions About Mental Health

  1. If I have mental health symptoms, I must have a mental health disorder
    Symptoms can exist without fitting to any specific diagnosis. We get stressed. We feel depressed. We have mood swings. These things don’t always indicate a mental health disorder. Not everything is a diagnosis. We live in a broken world that can be difficult to navigate. These difficulties don’t always equal mental illness. Sometimes, life circumstances and learned coping methods (healthy and unhealthy) combine in a way that makes life Working through these things in therapy can be helpful, even if there is no official diagnosis. Mental health is something everyone can work on, in the same way we could probably all eat a few more vegetables.
  2. There is a “magic pill” that will fix everything
    It would be nice, wouldn’t it? A person with diabetes can take insulin and live a great life. If you’ve got high blood pressure, there’s a pill that can help regulate it. Sure, there are medications proven to treat the chemical imbalances that exist in the brain. Many are quite effective, especially for diagnoses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; however, it’s a combination of medication and therapy that is most effective. That “magic pill” doesn’t exist.
  3. Having past trauma means I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    A lot of factors that play into how we individually manage trauma. It’s different for everyone. Common images of trauma include veterans and victims of sexual and childhood abuse. All of these certainly fall into the category of trauma and may even lead to PTSD; however that’s not always the case. PTSD isn’t an automatic diagnosis based on trauma. Because trauma can be so different for everyone (abuse, grief, loss, war, violence, etc.), it leads to different effects as well. Just because someone doesn’t have a PTSD diagnosis, doesn’t mean they haven’t experienced trauma.

It can be scary to start the journey of paying close attention to your mental health. Processing past trauma, feelings, and experiences can leave us feeling vulnerable and unsafe. A crucial part of the process is finding a therapist you trust and having an open conversation with them. We see the change this can make in a life every day here at The Next Door. Women take brave steps in vulnerability with their therapists, case managers, and each other. If you talk to one of our clients, this is what she will tell you: it will be hard sometimes, but it will be so worth it.

Somebody’s Daughter

Written by Dani Branham, Clinic Nurse

Driving to work today, I heard a song on the radio that reminded me of the clients that we serve at The Next Door—“Somebody’s Daughter” by Tenille Towns. In this song, she reminds us all that we are valued, we have family, and there are always people in our corner rooting for us, regardless of who we are. No matter what is going on in your life, how you are feeling, what you have done, if you are homeless or you suffer from substance abuse, you are still a person. You are “somebody’s best friend,” “somebody’s sister,” or “somebody’s daughter.”

The lyrics to this song embody the environment at The Next Door. It is a safe place for women to come, despite their pasts, where they will always feel listened to and no one will judge them. I am a Clinic Nurse at TND, and I also work as a Labor and Delivery Nurse. One of the main things we see with obstetric substance abuse clients is that patients feel they are greatly mistreated or judged when coming to the hospital. This often causes women to not seek treatment or to stray away from health care providers because with so much already going on in their lives, they do not need one more person placing judgment on them.

In today’s society, it is so easy to be stereotypical, especially with clients in this population who are pregnant. It is easy to wonder why people do the things they do or why they cannot change. What we need to remember is that regardless of a patient’s decisions, she is human. She makes mistakes. She is someone’s best friend. She is someone’s sister. She is someone’s daughter. And now, she is going to be someone’s mother. She has an army of people surrounding her, and her recovery and sobriety mean as much to her as they do to the people rooting for her.

The Next Door accepts pregnant clients to be admitted up to 38 weeks. These clients are showered with love and support by TND staff to help them maintain sobriety. Clients who arrive at TND later in their pregnancy remain in treatment until they go into labor and return to treatment once they are medically stable after delivery. Returning to TND after giving birth is an emotional time for most women, because they are away from their new baby just days after delivering. A client’s choice to return to treatment following delivery exemplifies her first duty as a mother. Although she may miss the first few weeks, by staying in treatment, she is taking the first steps to be able to stay in her child’s life forever as a sober parent.

I had the pleasure of meeting a pregnant client when I first started at TND. When she first arrived in treatment, she went through the stages that most go through. She was in the midst of her withdrawals. She did not feel well and was anxious, irritable, and often stayed to herself. As the days went on, her personality slowly started to shine through. It was obvious that she was feeling better. She was cheerful and excited about her new baby. She had other children at home that she had felt she failed, but she was eager to take her life back and show them how much she was willing to change. Working at TND is inspiring because you hear traumatic stories from these women and watch them overcome obstacles and make huge strides in only 28 days or less.

I had contact with this client only a small number of times in a few days. Due to my schedule at the hospital, by the time I returned to work at TND, she was no longer a client. Whether she had completed the program or not, I was unsure. A few months later, on a shift in Labor and Delivery, the nurse I was getting report from had limited nice things to say about the patient she was handing off to me. The nurse stated that the patient just got out of treatment and that she and her family were unnecessarily rude. As I walked into the patient’s room, it took me a moment to realize I knew her from somewhere. As the night shift went on, I realized she was the client I had seen at TND.

I did not experience the same rudeness or disrespect that the previous nurse had. As we spoke throughout the night, she began to warm up to me. We spoke about her life, the people in it, her fears about labor, and her excitement for her future. Regardless of her past, we spoke about the endless possibilities she could have, and what she would be doing when she left the hospital. Never once did we talk about her substance abuse. Our connection from TND was not something that was discussed, and honestly, I don’t know if she even recognized me. Her baby was born that night, and I was lucky enough to be her nurse for her delivery. Working in labor and delivery is always rewarding, but it was incredible to see how far this patient had come. The joy in her eyes as she held her baby for the first time. Her accomplishments and pride shining through. It was emotional and raw and beautiful. Her delivery room was filled with her parents, her children, and her grandchildren, all ready to support her and cheer her on.

She was somebody’s daughter.

When Words Fail

Written by Morgan Coyner, Grant Coordinator, and Cindy Birdsong, Art Therapist

Our residential and partial hospitalization clients have weekly art therapy sessions. Cindy Birdsong, TND’s art therapist, curates a safe, nurturing space for women to open their minds and create.

Observing art therapy is not allowed. Cindy requires everyone to participate. That’s how I found myself in a smock, painting a white canvas turquoise, cutting paper, and gluing it onto the background. I wasn’t sure what I was making, but Cindy kept reminding me, “there’s no mistakes in here.” It surprised me how that simple phrase made me feel like whatever I made would turn out well. It gave me freedom to be patient and see what I needed to express.

As I worked alongside the clients, they talked about their lives outside of treatment. I was with the partial hospitalization group, and they come to treatment five days a week but live at home. As they worked on projects, they shared stories and encouraged each other in their recovery. There was freedom in the air, freedom from judgment or expectations. Each woman was free to be who she was. Her struggles, her flaws, and most importantly, her successes.

Cindy says, “The process of creating art in any form is healing for the heart, soul, and mind.  Clients at The Next Door often share their personal journey with addiction not only verbally but through symbolism in paintings, collages, clay-making, and mixed media activities while they are in treatment.  Each client is encouraged to express themselves without judgement in a non-verbal way that tells a story.  Art Therapy classes allow the clients to be independent thinkers, develop self-esteem and self-worth, and find the person they used to be before their addiction took over. I’ve heard clients say things like this in class: ‘My day has felt meaningless. The opportunity to create something of my own has helped me to process my negative feelings and turn the day around.”

Trauma, the main root cause of addiction for our clients, creates certain neuropathways in the brain that are helpful for survival in that moment, yet these same behaviors end up being harmful when the body is no longer in danger. Art therapy is so effective because it helps a person express feelings that have been so deeply buried that they no longer have words for them. It creates a safe environment to work through pain. As the artist Edward Hopper said, “If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.”