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.

A Prayer on International Overdose Awareness Day

Carrie Fraser

As we take time today to remember those we’ve lost in our personal lives and in our life together at TND I wanted to share one of my favorite prayers with you. Thank you for all the work each and every person here does to break the stigma of addiction and provide safe space to help transform lives.

Reverend Mike Clark

O God, we pray for all those in recovery whose demons are kept at bay one day at a time;

for those clean twenty-four hours and wondering if they will make it another day;
for those in the middle of ninety meetings in ninety days;
for those whose years clean and sober are like a resurrection from the dead.

We acknowledge

all the times they cannot remember and the days of pain they will never be able to forget;
the families that they lost and the community that they have found;
the lives they have now that they once could not even have imagined.

We remember those who tried and did not make it.
We pray for all those still out there using today. We pray also for all of us whose addiction is not heroin, but money;
not cocaine but nationalism; not alcohol but ego.
May we be ruthlessly honest with ourselves and willing to admit our need for you and for others.

O God, when your people wandered in the wilderness, you nourished them one day at a time.
When Jesus and his friends asked you for what they really needed, it was bread for today.
We confess that there are days when this one day at a time business seems like very little, but
we are grateful that there are days when it seems like more than enough.

Let this day be one of those.

Carrie Fraser serves as the Director of Spiritual Wellness and Alumni Services and sent this email out to staff today as a reminder to pray for all of those who have lost someone to addiction and all who are affected by the disease.

Blog Post – The AA Promises

Ramie Siler

1. If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.
2. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.
3. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.
4. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.
5. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
6. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.
7. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows.
8. Self-seeking will slip away.
9. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.
10. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.
11. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.
12. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do forourselves

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

Alcoholics Anonymous p83-84

The AA Promises seek to help individuals remain grounded in their recovery. The first promise draws our attention to pushing through the hardships of recovery. Every day is a battle yet another day clean and sober. Every day we want to want to empower the women we serve with the tools needed for their recovery. We want to help women reconnect with children, family, friends and most importantly themselves. The second and fourth promises speaks of freedom, happiness, serenity, and peace. These are words that are part of the everyday vocabulary of the staff. I am passionate in helping women discover a new life free of drugs and alcohol. In order to help foster this change, I am sure to include positive words of hope and faith with the women. Addiction can be a time of darkness and hopelessness. Positive words of encouragement offer light from a place of darkness.

The third promise speaks strongly to me. It says “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” We all have a past whether its positive or negative. Our pasts can direct us towards our future. We are not defined by our past but who we become because of it. Addiction is part of our clients past but it does not dictate what they do in the future. Their addictions are a reminder of who they use to be and the work they have to do to not return to the past selves.

Lastly, the twelfth promise is the fruition of the other promises. “We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.” Your higher power provides something for you to depend on through your trials and tribulations. As a Christian, I turn to God to talk about my problems and seek refuge. For those who chose God as their higher power, I would encourage them to turn to God during the midst of their storms. Recovery is a bumpy road. However, the road is drivable with the tools of recovery and having God in the driver’s seat and faith in the passenger seat.

Ramie Siler serves as the Recovery Support Services Manager at The Next Door.

Blog Post – Not So Different

Ginger Gaines

I have the privilege of serving as the COO at The Next Door (TND). I came to TND with 20+ years of Business Management experience and a lifetime of being active in my church and serving in ministry with my husband. I always attended Sunday School and church every Sunday morning, Church Training and worship again on Sunday evening, Prayer Meeting on Wednesday night, and of course I was in Vacation Bible School every year until I was too old and then I worked in VBS every year. I was a part of each age group’s missions program–Mission Friends, Girls in Action and Acteens. I then led these programs as soon as I outgrew them. However, the only “action” I remember any of our groups doing was visiting the elderly and singing or having birthday parties with them, and collecting needed items and gifts and taking them to the children’s home. In all of my 50 years of “doing church” and being involved in “missions”, for some reason, I never had any interaction or involvement with prison or jail ministries. In fact, I don’t think I had ever even known anyone who’d been arrested. And my only connection to any form of addiction was my dear Uncle Ralph who struggled with alcoholism that ended with suicide. His father, my grandfather, struggled with chronic health issues and addiction to pain medication. Because of that family history I was never tempted to try drugs or alcohol–for fear I couldn’t handle it, and I didn’t associate with anyone who did.

When I first came to The Next Door I was unsure and a little afraid of how I would relate to women who had come straight from prison or who were addicted! I expected to feel intimidated, threatened or afraid. I had no idea how I could relate to the women, and without a clinical background, I was also certain I would say the wrong thing or give a wrong answer and derail their progress!!

Then I started to meet the women who arrived and worked so hard to find their place in MY strange world, where people had regular jobs and cars and money and good health and ID cards and seemingly no problems! Then the strangest thing happened…we talked with each other about our kids, our grandkids, our dogs (our other “family members”), and every day struggles, and we started to see all of the things that made us ALIKE and we gave each other smiles and words of encouragement and learned that we all still desperately need to have and to give the core values of TND to each other every chance we get. Because until we reach our eternal home we are still desperate for hope, wholeness, encouragement, respect, community, and faith.

I love hearing the many stories of healing and hope, and have been so blessed and challenged by the strong, amazing women who come to TND and work with fierce determination to battle the horrible disease of addiction every day.

Sadly, after nine years at TND, probably like most of you, I can no longer say my life, friends, and family are not impacted by addiction. It continues to spread it’s awful tentacles throughout my world, affecting lives of every neighborhood. I am so grateful that TND began several years ago laying the groundwork to help women of every walk of life who need hope for a future of healthy recovery. I am so thankful that I can recommend my friends bring their loved one if they have a private health insurance plan OR Medicaid. We really can be THE NEXT DOOR that any woman walks through to receive compassionate, Christ-centered care and the most excellent clinical and medical services she needs to start her new life!

Ginger Gaines serves as the Chief Operating Officer for The Next Door.

Blog Post – “Way to go, keep it up”

Linda Leathers

I committed to myself at last year’s Heroes in Recovery 6K in Leiper’s Fork that I would run the 2017 race. The annual race on Saturday, September 9th is an inspiring and beautiful event that brings together individuals living in recovery – moms, dads, siblings, cousins, friends, and sponsors, to celebrate the recovery journey, gain hope for love ones currently struggling and others honoring the memory for their love ones who did not survive the disease of addiction.

When I made that commitment, the 6k could have very well been a marathon. The truth is I let a decade pass without an emphasis in my personal health. I realized early in 2017 that my diet and weight were out of control and gratefully made significant strides to get both in a reasonable range. My endurance was still embarrassingly low. In early June, the whispers of running the Heroes in Recovery race commitment began to sound like drums in my head. I could not block or ignore it any longer. I had to get my lazy butt off the couch, significantly reduce my daily after work HGTV watching, and hit the streets. This race challenge was going to take more than a 30-minute FIXER UPPER show.

Admittedly, it ain’t pretty.  I can laugh about it, but I am that woman striving to walk/run who you drive by and wonder it you should STOP and CALL 911. Some runners glide. I need you to visualize the opposite of glide running and then you will receive a glimpse of my style. Some runners look like they enjoy it. Not me, not yet. I walk/run alone because I have not figured out how to talk without hyperventilating. My running pace is slow and looks like a baby step maneuver. As I started, I strived to survive mailbox to mailbox, walk a long while and attempt another mailbox to mailbox goal. I have now gratefully promoted most of the time from mailbox to mailbox to block to block. Please know that at this point I still have a LONG way to go until I am able to run 3.6 miles, but I am making progress. I can feel it!

It was one of my earliest attempts after work to walk/run on a HOT June evening. I was near finishing up and almost in site of the house. After the great majority of the experience being walking, I convinced my feet, legs, heart and mind to try running to the next mailbox. I was a mixture of exhausted, hot and thirsty. In all my loveliness, sweat pouring everywhere, I looked up to see this beautiful 20 something, most likely, college student approaching me running in glide form. This beautiful young lady was the same one that had politely lapped me earlier. As she approached she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Way to go, keep it up.” She did not have to make eye contact or say a word, but she did.

My soul soared. I ran with all strength to not one, two, three, but six mailboxes to my home. Oh the difference an encouraging voice provided to my experience. I thought about this sweet aroma of encouragement hundreds of time since.

I want to be the ENCOURAGER. The Heroes in Recovery Race and each moment of every day I have the privilege of saying, “Way to go, keep it up.” This little phrase at the right time may be just the words that someone needs to take the step toward his or her next personal challenge or mailbox.

I have six more weeks to gain the strength to run the Heroes in Recovery. It’s really not about running or walking the 6k race. It is about encouraging men and women to take the next step in their recovery. It is about encouraging the mom, dad or spouse that has a loved one struggling with the heartbreaking disease of addiction. It is celebrating the memory of beautiful friends and loved ones that have passed as result of overdose. It is also a plead to someone currently lost in his or her addiction to take the next step and reach out for help. I see it every day in my work. Courageous women saying YES to help and treatment. I have the privilege to say, “Way to go, keep it up!”  We all can!

I would love to have you join me in running this year. For more information and to register, please click here.

Linda Leathers serves as the CEO of The Next Door.

Blog Post – Soul Work

Carrie Fraser

“Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it” – 1 Timothy 4: 15

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.” – Alcoholics Anonymous, pgs. 83-84

This week The Next Door launched our new Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). Our PHP program allows our women to step down into another level of care which helps them continue their mental health and substance abuse treatment. It adds another level to our continuum of care that can begin with medically monitored detox all the way to lifelong involvement with our alumni services.

Research and our own experience informs us that the longer we can keep a woman engaged in treatment services the better chance she has for maintaining long term recovery.

It takes time for growth to occur. It takes time for any of us to integrate new practices and ways of living into our daily lives. Think about how many times you’ve made the same New Year’s resolution over and over again. We may desire the change and growth, but actually growing and changing doesn’t usually come quickly or easily. It’s tempting to think that growth will happen with little time or effort, but this hasn’t been my experience. It’s not the experience of most of the women that come to The Next Door. Soul work is hard work and it evolves slowly over time. Our women are asked to go deep within themselves and discover their authentic self, that person that God created them to be. I believe that we are all called to learn who it is that God created us to be, and then learn how to collaborate with God in the fullness of our lives.

It is hard to find that inner place where we meet God when our lives feel chaotic and we are responding from one crisis to the next. Our women need the safety of time and space for grace to happen. They need a safe place where they can empty out the pain and chaos that has built up over time so God’s spirit can pour into them. They need the time and space to learn that they are beloved and worthy of being poured into by our staff, our volunteers, the recovery community, and most importantly by God.

A book I had as a child was, Trina Paulus’s book, Hope for the Flowers. It was the story of how caterpillars became butterflies. One of the caterpillars shares this wisdom, “I’m making a cocoon. It looks like I’m hiding, I know, but a cocoon is no escape. It’s an in-between house where change takes place. During the change, it will seem….that nothing is happening, but the butterfly is already becoming. It just takes time.” We also know what happens if the cocoon is opened too soon. The butterfly hasn’t had the time to fully grow, It’s wings aren’t fully developed and the butterfly is unable to fly.

Providing a continuum of care for our women allows them to have the time to fully develop in a safe and healing environment. They can transition to the next level of care knowing that they are going to receive what they need to continue their growth and learning the next level of skills needed for their recovery.

The Gospels show us that when Jesus went into an important time of transition, he entered enclosures of waiting. He entered into a cocoon of sorts- the wilderness, a garden, the tomb. This space provided him with the time of entering more deeply and closely with God so that he could live into God’s call on his life.

Recovery is soul work. It requires that our women descend into the deepest parts of themselves, to God, and into deep places of prayer and reflection. It involves learning to hear their voice and God’s voice, facing the wounded places in their soul. It means struggling with who they have believed they were, and discovering the vision of who they really are in God and molding the courage to live that vision.

The PHP program is another step in offering our women the opportunity to strengthen their recovery, their relationship with God, and themselves. This soul work is deep and difficult. When they have the time to truly experience God’s transformative power we all benefit from watching them spread their wings.

Carrie Fraser serves as the Director of Spiritual Wellness and Alumni Services at The Next Door.

Blog Post – Reflections from Elevator Rides at TND

Kate McKinnie

In the last few months, my office moved from the first floor to the second floor of The Next Door. Prior to this, I only rode the elevator upstairs when I gave tours of the building. Now, I am up and down on the elevator multiple times each day and I get the opportunity for short, yet powerful encounters with our clients as we ride together.

For example, a client recently opened up to me out of the blue by saying, “you should be really proud of me.” Or course, I asked her to tell me more! She explained that she been addicted to suboxone for 5 years and after coming to The Next Door for treatment, this was the first time she’d ever been clean for 5 days in a row! She praised our Medical Director and couldn’t believe that this doctor actually took the time to listen to her, and pray for her, specifically that her nightmares would stop. This was all in 1 minute elevator ride!

Just this week, a client walked in the elevator after Art Therapy and had in her hand a t-shirt that she had painted. I asked her to show it to me, and shyly, she turned the shirt around and the words painted on it were so poignant, “I got 99 problems but drugs ain’t one.”  In response, I had to chuckle because I believe this quote is a lyric from an old rap song, but it struck me how true this probably is of the clients we serve. I bet this woman could have rattled off to me 99 different things that were wrong in her life, but it inspired me to know that because of her courage to walk through this next door to her recovery, she can now say that drugs aren’t one of those problems. I gave her a high five and told her I hoped I’d see her wearing that shirt around the building with pride!

Sometimes, the encounters I am privy to are a co-worker hugging a client and wishing her good luck on her job interview that day, or simple compliments shared back and forth about someone’s make up or hair style. One day, a woman was crying in the elevator, and I asked her if she needed a hug. It’s those short moments of kindness that seem to go so far with the population we serve.  Since I first became involved with The Next Door as a volunteer in 2008, I remember that the tiniest bit of encouragement I would offer a client would go a long way to give her confidence and positivity in her day.

That’s what keeps me coming back to work each day. That’s what motivates me in my role of event planning and fundraising to further the work we do and expand services to more and more women who need our help. The core value of this ministry that speaks to me most is that of ENCOURAGEMENT. Not only do I get the chance to encourage women each and every day in the elevator with a hug, a high five or finding some common ground during our short ride together, but I also walk out the elevator doors feeling encouraged myself!

I am grateful to serve in such an amazing ministry that encourages women to focus on their future and looking ahead to a new life – without drugs and alcohol. And, I love how small gestures of kindness make such a difference in a woman’s day. Who knew elevator rides could be so inspirational, educational and affirming to me in the course of my work day?

Kate McKinnie serves as the Development and Events Manager at the Next Door.