Springtime Reflections

by Ginger Gaines, Chief Operating Officer of The Next Door


Every year when I spot the first little tiny crocus petals peeking up through the ground (or sometimes the snow!), quickly followed by the beautiful bright yellow daffodils sprinkled throughout my drive to and from work, I get so excited about Spring! I know that very soon I’ll also see the forsythia and redbud trees in bloom and the pear trees looking so glorious everywhere! Every March I always say, “Spring is my favorite time of the year!” I break out my sandals, put away my heavy sweaters, and happily move my winter coat from the back seat of my car to the inside closet.

But then, inevitably, the temperatures drop again, and I race to cut and bring in at least a few daffodils before the freeze kills them, I pull on my fur lined boots again, and feel like a cold wet blanket was thrown over my spring spirit.

Sometimes I feel like my relationship with God is a lot like the changing seasons. There are days when I recognize Him as the Light, in bright moments all throughout my day, and my heart and life feel like the “well-watered garden” in Isaiah 58:11:

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden; like a spring whose waters never fail.

But on other days, my heart and soul feel like that cold wet blanket. I dwell on the disappointments, the problems, or my failures, rather than His provision and love. Whether one’s struggle is with substance addiction, mental illness, financial difficulty, broken relationships, loss of a loved one, or any other life issue that might knock us sideways, there are some days we are better than others at recognizing that God’s blessings are given according to His rich grace, not the depth of our faith or our performance!

We are also slow to recognize that the troubled times magnify our need for Him, and we can recognize that even “in the valley of the shadow…” HE is with us! He comforts us and gives peace that only He can.

I will move forward on this cold spring day by remembering and accepting His great love and grace with every beautiful bloom I see. I will trust His timing for every blessing, and lean in closer to Him, not trying to live only for the next bright spot, but taking in the harder times and growing in them. I will be still long enough to get a glimpse of His “big picture.”

(I’ll also put on my big fuzzy socks again before climbing into bed tonight!)

Light Bulb Moments at The Next Door

by Kate McKinnie, Development and Events Manager at The Next Door

One of my favorite things about working at The Next Door is hearing about or observing numerous “light bulb” moments that take place in a given day. They come from many different people who make up TND’s community (clients, family members, guests, current supporters) and happen in various settings.

Here are a few examples:

  • At the front desk of The Next Door, there is always a basket of encouraging scripture verses on slips of paper for clients to pick up as they pass by. I love it when the light bulb turns on and I hear clients say, “Ooh, that is just what I needed to read today!”
  • When donors or other visitors come for a tour of The Next Door, typically several of them will have a light bulb moment when they learn the full history of the organization and scope of its services. Often, I hear this remark: “I had no idea The Next Door did so much!”
  • At our annual Benefit Luncheon, after hearing a previous client share her story on stage, many donors reveal to me that they have that light bulb moment when they realize the women receiving care at The Next Door could be their daughter, sister, or friend, and how close to home addiction could be.
  • During a weekly group session facilitated by our amazing team of therapists on the topic of healthy relationships, many clients have the light bulb come on when they are able to identify an unhealthy pattern from past relationship choices, and how it’s led them down a destructive or dangerous path.
  • At evening family sessions or weekend visitation, many parents, family members, or spouses/significant others of The Next Door clients often see that light bulb come on when they learn that addiction is a disease and not just a poor choice on the part of their loved one.
  • Many mornings, after clients have had their morning devotional time, it is not uncommon to hear about that light bulb turning on when women say to staff, “Did you read Jesus Calling today? I swear – it was written just for me!”

Lord, thank you for the LIGHTBULB moments of awakening and new insights you are making possible through The Next Door’s ministry. We praise your name that change is possible when you speak to us and our hearts are open to what you have to teach us.

I Am Powerless.

by Nita Chester, Director of Nursing at The Next Door

The future.

Some view it with excitement and anticipation. Others view it with fear and dread. I personally struggle with this! When a new year begins I compel myself to think on the positive things that could happen, versus all the negative. For me, this is crucial, but not easy.

One reason for this fear is that the new year and all that the future holds is unknown. Why do I fear the unknown? Is it a control issue? Is that it? Yes! That’s it and it means I am powerless. Powerless over the future, powerless over my kids, powerless over my job, powerless over LIFE!

This is the first step of the 12 Steps and should be the first!

I can’t get anywhere until I give it up and admit I am powerless over what has been, what is now, and what will be. I get to live one day at a time. Some days only one minute at a time! This is all we have anyway, so I’ll remind myself to stay in the present and allow God to handle the rest.

Change Can Be Hard

by Cindy Sneed, Chief Clinical Officer of The Next Door

Depending on the day, if you look up “New Year’s resolution failure rate,” the number is as high as 80% by February 1st. Change is hard! It’s also uncomfortable, especially when staying with the status quo is so much easier.

But then there are times we want change. We need change. And it can come at the most random times. For some it’s on New Years’ Day. For others it’s on their birthday – their personal “new year,” or the middle of a Tuesday morning in the summer. Where does this desire come from? What is behind those sudden bursts of motivation?

Oftentimes, when we answer the call to change something in our lives it can be beneficial–but it’s the sticking with it that matters.

Every day at The Next Door we ask women to change – change their thinking, change old influences, change their motivation, and change their perspectives. But our clients–like all human beings–can be resistant to change.

“One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up, instead of what they have to gain.” –Rick Godwin

Regardless of what leads women to want to change by seeking help at The Next Door, women under our care are encouraged and empowered to make the necessary changes to move into a new phase of life– one that does not include drugs or alcohol or unhealthy relationships. Our integrated team of healthcare professionals work together to help clients focus on their present – to live one moment at a time. We also help women dream, imagine, and explore their future GAINS–rather than viewing things they are giving up and focusing only on their past. A common phrase used in 12-step meetings and in group therapy sessions at The Next Door is, “nothing changes if nothing changes.” Just like making a new year’s resolution to lose weight or stop smoking, it begins with making small changes we can commit to, that eventually lead to new, healthy habits.

The most rewarding part of my job at The Next Door is engaging with our clients and witnessing their growth and return to healthiness. I love watching them become more open to willingness and possibility and making commitments to changing unhealthy behaviors. Recently, one of our clients made this statement to me on her final day of completing our 30-day residential treatment program: “you’ll be seeing me again – not as a client, but as your co-worker. I want to work at The Next Door one day and help other women like you all have helped me.” Now that’s not just change – that’s transformation!

For any of you who support The Next Door with prayer, volunteer time, financial donations, thank you for helping us make CHANGE possible in the lives of the women in our community.

Embracing our Changing Landscapes

by Linda Leathers, CEO of The Next Door

The Next Door’s Midtown neighborhood is one of the fastest growing areas in this amazing city. From my desk, I can see our awesome neighbor, Tri-Star Kimbro Oil, in front of our building at 22nd and Charlotte – though they’re probably better known as the Shell Station. They recently began renovations to build an incredible Twice Daily market, and are tearing down the current structure as I write. The market will provide The Next Door team, as well as the community around us, fabulous convenience to eat healthy and not-so-healthy goodies and buy GAS in a lovely new location.

The TN Oncology group is renovating a currently empty building just to the left of me that will provide a center for patients, and back office services for their practice. Across Charlotte Avenue, within a football field of my desk, implosions of rock take place several times daily to make way for a beautiful and much needed area Staybridge hotel. Starbucks built and opened a hip, cool location in late 2017 within 30 yards of our front door, creating an amazing second BREAK ROOM for the staff team. New homes, new condos, new restaurants…it is all happening!

The architectural landscape of The Next Door’s immediate neighborhood is rapidly changing. Renovation, restoration, tear downs, new builds, construction fences, cranes, implosions, porta-potties surround us… and I love it! The growth is a visual sign of new opportunities and possibilities.

I remember just 4 years ago, The Next Door’s current home was an abandoned parking lot enclosed by a barbed wire fence. We preferred to refer to it as a “gated community.” I am incredibly grateful that this one acre “throw away parcel” is now home to a beautiful, world class addiction treatment center for women that served more than 1300 women in 2017.

The signs of growth remind me spiritually that the Lord desires to continuously remodel and restore my soul. The Lord has a way of providing daily personal implosions to remove the rock formations that hold me hostage. By His grace, goodness and kindness, He can bring beauty out of the ashes of my personal implosion.

I pray this year for the courage to embrace the way the Lord wants to remodel or change the landscape of my life. I pray that He would lovingly implode the areas that need to be torn down, renovated or restored. I will not complain about the growth all around me. I will embrace the growth and look for the possibilities. Bring on the cranes both in the neighborhood and in my heart!

Hope, Redemption, Recovery, Restoration, and Love

by Eleanor Brakefield Wells, TND Volunteer, donor and board member of The Next Door

Five women: A woman who sleeps with her father-in-law; another is a prostitute. One marries outside her faith and is considered an outcast; still another is a married woman who is raped, leading to a pregnancy and murder of her husband. And lastly…  a young teenager who finds herself as an unwed mother.

All these women lived hard lives. Lives of scandal. These women could be seen as hopeless and unworthy of love; certainly not women whose names should be remembered.

Yet, these women are listed in the genealogy of Christ as found in the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Urriah (Bathsheba), and Mary. Women who probably have no reason to be remembered, but that they were chosen by God to be in the family of Messiah. Their stories paint a beautiful picture of the gospel – stories that lead to Hope – Redemption – Recovery – Restoration – Love.

Every day at The Next Door, women who may feel that their stories are beyond hope, find these gospel truths. Their stories (and mine) are embraced by our Savior who promises new life. Hope can be found, redemption is a reality, recovery is possible, restoration is imaginable, and love is promised.

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, let’s celebrate that we are all in need of gospel hope and love.

Ansley’s Hope

by Ansley Bartlett, Publicity Chairman for The Next Generation Board of The Next Door

I was 14 when I first started hearing the word “drugs” thrown around, but I wouldn’t see the impact and toll it took on a person until my senior year of college.

It was Thanksgiving break. A high school friend and I went out for a night on the town in downtown Nashville. Not more than 15 minutes passed before two guys started hitting on us. They bought us drinks, one put his number in my phone and vice versa, and the rest is history.

A few weeks went by and I got a call from the guy from the bar; we’re going to call him Bennett. He asked what I was doing for New Year’s Eve. I had no plans and decided to tag along with him to a party. I saw a lot of “party drugs” that night; cocaine, Xanax, and ecstasy all being done right out in the open. Little did I know this would be something I would be seeing a lot more of.

Bennett and I became “official” around March of my senior year in college. I always went to visit him because he said coming to visit me in Mississippi was too much of a hassle for him. Finally, he came down for my graduation. I remember vividly one dinner where he was pouring sweat, shaky, and told us he had to go out to his car for a bit. He was out there for an hour, doing pills. He did so many pills and was so high on my graduation night that he made me drive him all the way to Memphis to buy him three more pills to make it through the rest of the weekend until he got back to Nashville on Sunday afternoon.

That was the night I realized this wasn’t normal.

That whole summer I remember doing late nights with him, riding around meeting people to do some deals. He always told me to stay in the car. A few times I saw guns pulled out in the deals—but no one was ever shot, or hurt—that I saw.

That same summer we started hanging out with a couple who had two kids. They were opioid users and dealers too. The pills they sold were called “moons” because there was a little half-moon printed on each pill. They always had thousands of dollars of cash on them and thousands of pills in every portion of their home. Their house smelled like smoke and I always felt like their kids were neglected.

I remember storming out of the house in tears one night, saying that this place was not good for kids and that I felt just like those children: neglected. My boyfriend told me he would start to act right. But you know how it goes. Words are just words if there are no actions behind it.

Instead of Bennett’s problem getting better, his pill problem got worse. After standing me up for a date, I finally got a call from his mom. He had been stopped by the police who found over 100 pills in his lap.

This incident landed him in an addiction treatment facility. I visited Bennett in rehab a few times. He was really good at manipulating me into thinking he was getting better. I started going to Nar-Anon meetings with my mom every Sunday night. It was crazy hearing about all the families that were going through drug related problems and how it was affecting them, too.

The first weekend he was out of rehab, we took a road trip to visit friends. He did cocaine right in front of me! I knew then he hadn’t changed at all—he was just trying to make everyone think he did. A master manipulator. But, I stayed with him. Soon, he started stealing money from me and others; any extra dollar he could get to keep up his habit. He stopped going to work. He stopped going out in public. He just stopped being a human that I thought I knew and once loved. It was then that I knew I couldn’t stay in this relationship.

I had lied to my parents and friends for far too long because of a boy and his crippling addiction. I still have a hard time forgiving myself because of that betrayal, but my parents ended up finding a way to forgive me and I will always be thankful for that.

Through this ordeal, I learned that I am loyal to a fault. I am stronger than I ever thought possible. And most of all, I have seen and lived someone’s addiction and what it does to people, and I think that my experiences will be able to help those that are in the same boat.

When the opportunity presented itself to apply to serve on the Young Professionals board of The Next Door, I jumped at it and knew this was a way to give back. I am proud to be a part of The Next Door. They do amazing things for women each day, who are battling the disease of addiction like my ex-boyfriend was.

Today, I’m thankful that my story has a happy ending. I am in a great relationship with someone new and know that hope and change is possible. That’s just what The Next Door does – they help women and families find a new way to live and find hope in hopeless situations.

Reflections from Our Event Planner

Kate McKinnie

As an event planner for more than 15+ years, I can honestly say that the best part of the event is when it’s OVER! You spend months and months working on seating charts, guest lists, menu selection, thematic details and decorations and then, in a flash, all the hard work comes to fruition and you get to sit back and enjoy it!

I’m excited to share with you that the biggest event of The Next Door’s calendar year just happened!  Since 2004, we have had an Annual Benefit Luncheon in the fall, where current and prospective donors are invited to come and enjoy lunch, while hearing about the impact this ministry has on women in our community.

Today, 974 guests (to be exact) attended the 2017 Luncheon, which was called “We are God’s Masterpiece.” Two clients bravely shared their testimonies and what brought them to The Next Door. I am amazed at their courage to stand up in front of so many people and share openly about the pain their addiction caused in their past and how grateful they are for a future – without drugs and alcohol!  That’s evident when they introduce themselves as, “Hi, I’m Liz and I’m a grateful, recovering addict.”  I NEVER get tired of hearing an introduction like that!

The neatest part of the Benefit Luncheon today was when a former treatment client, Anna, shared her testimony. I was amazed when she spoke about going to jail 8 times, securing and losing over 30 jobs, buying and then wrecking her dream car and then overdosing from using heroin intravenously. Yet, she bravely shared that NONE of those things were a “wake up call” for her to seek help. Without addiction in my own past, this is hard to wrap my head my head around. Thanks to generous donors, Anna was able to come and stay in the residential treatment program for 32 days (includes 4 days in detox) and didn’t pay a dime. Talk about being grateful – I am grateful for donors who make this possible!

After finally putting my feet up to relax after this big event, I pray that hundreds of people were moved like I was today and understand more clearly that addiction does not discriminate in who it can take ahold of and how The Next Door is uniquely positioned to be a part of the solution for the growing opioid epidemic that is taking so many lives each day. I also pray that when we open the donation envelopes tomorrow, we will be able to give more Annas the gift of NEW LIFE and that much needed reminder that they are God’s masterpiece.

Thank you for your support of The Next Door and making recovery possible for women in this community.

Kate McKinnie has volunteered with TND since 2008 and joined our Development staff in 2015. Her role is to cultivate financial support from church congregations, corporate sponsors, individual donors and handles TND’s fundraising events. 

Blog Post – Early Mornings

Sallie Hussey

As I think others have noted in this blog before, every morning at 8:30, TND staff gather together for a very brief time of prayer to start the day. We’re so very blessed to have the opportunity to take 15 minutes at the start of each day, any staff member who can, and shout out a praise or two for blessings and answered prayers during the week.

We also use the time to prayer, sometimes specifically when we can, for a staff member going through some challenging times or even an entire department handling changes. Of course, we pray for the women we’re privileged to serve. The number of staff members attending may differ each day, depending on what’s happening in the building, but it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is the chance to praise, ask, and give thanks.

Our PAT gatherings aren’t a chore to attend, like I thought they might be. We can over-schedule ourselves with meetings, but this one, PAT, is probably one of the most important things we do. Our work is hard, and we talk often about supporting each other. Actually taking time daily and praying, asking God for His help with this work, is what do every morning at PAT. On the day I wrote my blog, how very fitting that Jesus Calling (often read in multiple meetings throughout the day) began with the words “Come to Me.” We are fortunate to be able to do that every day at TND with our colleagues and “marvel at the wonder of communicating with the Creator” knowing He is accessible to us.

Sallie Hussey serves as the Chief Development Officer at The Next Door.

Blog Post – Heroes in Recovery 6K

Ashleigh Rakestraw

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”
John Bingham, running speaker and writer

The Next Door staff pictured at the Heroes in Recovery 6K

It was a perfect fall morning last Saturday, September 9th.  A crisp breeze was blowing and by 7:45 am the anticipation of the crowd began to rise as runners and walkers lined up at the start line to begin a 6K up the hills of Liepers Fork, TN. I stood next to a TND client whose excitement shone all across her face as she held a sign cheering on the participants that stated, “We are all winners!” I’ve run a lot of races in recent years, but none get me as excited and emotional as the Heroes in Recovery 6K every fall. The Next Door is fortunate to have been selected as the charity beneficiary for the race, and we are so thankful to Heroes in Recovery for making that happen. However, the race means so much more to The Next Door and our clients than the funds it provides us. This race allowed for The Next Door clients to engage in sober fun – something many of them have never experienced in their adult life, a chance to be surrounded by a community in Nashville that is supportive of recovery and most importantly, courage to continue facing the challenges ahead and be overcomers.

As I watched our clients, many just a week or two sober, I felt overwhelmed with pride that they had the courage to complete this 6K.  The sixth kilometer of this race separates it from a typical 5K to symbolize the extra effort it takes to sustain recovery. I watched the clients throughout the race, each one either panting or drenched in sweat, but determined to finish. Along the race, I stopped to ask a client if she felt strong enough to finish, her reply: “Yes, I’ll be fine. Whatever it takes.” Oprah Winfrey once said, “Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” These clients put everything they had that morning into finishing that race. And they did! Each one proudly crossed the finish line and received their medal.

Once the race was done, we packed up and went back to TND, dedication and determination in hand. You see, dedication and determination aren’t just things they brought with them to help them cross the finish line that morning- it’s something they carry inside them- and it grows every day. They are training for a race of their own- this marathon called life. And they are doing it completely sober, ready to take on the potholes, hills and blisters that come with it. Some days their journey will have beautiful weather and they can do it with air in their lungs and sunshine on their face; other times, it will be less easy and they will fall, drenched in sweat, pushing themselves to simply take the next step. Regardless of how the journey looks, I’m more confident than ever that they can do it. They have exactly what it takes to be winners: it’s been inside them all along, they just needed the courage to start.

Ashleigh Rakestraw serves as the Clinical Services Program Manager at The Next Door.