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!