Posts

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.”

Impressions Through The Eyes Of A New Employee

By Morgan Coyner, Grant Coordinator

When I came to The Next Door for my final interview, I was surprised to see clients huddled around the front desk. One needed help making a phone call for a ride upon discharge. Another was waiting for her to go get a snack. A few others asked if they got any mail that day, while even more waited for their group facilitator to begin an afternoon session.

The surprise wore off quickly because this shows the heart of The Next Door. Our clients are at the center of everything we do! Typical desk jobs in a treatment facility like ours can make it easy to create a “we” and “they” attitude. We can easily forget the purpose behind the work we do and distance ourselves from the women who seek treatment within our programs. The Next Door eliminates that possibility by the way staff and clients share this beautiful facility. We eat lunch with clients, ride the elevator with them, and through this, we learn their stories. We see them. We know them. We love them. A simple “how are you” can be met with tears after a tough therapy session or any number of responses ranging from joy to gratitude to acceptance.

I’ve only worked here for two weeks, but I can already see the way God moves through this place. After observing parts of the client treatment schedule in my first week, I had the opportunity to pray with a client that her legal circumstances would change, and they did. I prayed with a client that she would find the strength within her to make a better choice than she had planned, and she did.

I’ve heard stories where women get saved and their addiction disappears immediately. I do believe that God is capable of this. However, Scripture often shows God’s people wrestling through hard things to get closer to Him. This is a more accurate picture of treatment at The Next Door. The Israelites wander for 40 years in the wilderness because God knows if they see the struggles that await them when they first leave Egypt, they’ll be afraid. He knows that He has to teach them how to live in community with Him, how to act, how to trust, before leading them into the Promised Land. They have to learn a new way of life. The Next Door is a little like the wilderness, though we’ve got way better living accommodations and a chef who keeps us well-fed on a variety of meals and not just manna. Here, women gain and practice the skills they will need for their Promised Land, a life at home with their families and children, living in recovery.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Exodus 2:24-25, which says, “God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”

It’s one thing to know that God hears us. It’s another to watch Him answer prayers in real time, without delay. This has been one of the joys of the past two weeks for me, watching God show up in circumstances that only He can, changing things and moving things so that it is evident that He is in control. My faith is strengthened daily by seeing God answer prayers at The Next Door. I’m excited to continue my career at this incredible Christ-centered ministry.

Grateful to Serve

by Suzanne Lanier, volunteer at The Next Door

Serving is not what we have to do; it’s what we get to do. My daughter and I look forward to Thanksgiving every year, to come to this treasure of time and place – The Next Door.
A few years ago, I volunteered and served lunch every Monday at The Next Door. I remember the looks on the faces of the new clients…a little scared, sometimes a little disheveled, usually a little pale, looking at their new surroundings in this lunchroom. Unsure. Several different times I saw a client, food from the serving line and salad bar stacked all together, mountainous on her plate, just looking at it in awe. Then she ate – every morsel.  So hungry for this delicious and nourishing food.
Who knows what these women have been through? Who knows why they have the lives they have? Not me. But I know they hunger. They hunger for nutritious food. For visibility. For love. For a chance. For a change.
And so, at The Next Door, they are fed. A wise and loving man once said, “You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.”
Why do my daughter and I come every year to The Next Door to serve a meal on Thanksgiving Day?  Why do we wear goofy turkey hats, play Motown music, laugh, sometimes dance, serve good food, sweep the floor, and wipe the tables?  Because we GET to!  And, although I cannot explain it, I will tell you that we always leave with more joy than we had when we came.

Encouragement in Recovery

by Kristy Pomeroy, Community Services Manager of The Next Door

Freedom Recovery Community is a very busy place this summer. We currently have 21 women and 22 children living on property full time and have 12 children who come for visitation. Most of the days are quiet as women are working and children are at day care or day camps. Their evenings are spent in family time outside or playing games, going to groups and much more. My favorite thing about our community is the way this group encourages each other. In order to reach all of the families we have a group text where we send reminders about group schedule, activities and chores on a weekly basis. The women also communicate to each other through the group text. Here are some examples of the recent texts that have been posted:

“Went to a really good 12-step meeting at a church tonight. Going back next Wednesday for anyone who wants to ride along.”

“Thank you for the fresh vegetables from the garden as we are having cucumbers and tomatoes for dinner!”

“Good girl! Change the Stigma!”

“You have some amazing and awesome kids who helped me carry in my groceries. You have no idea how much I needed that today!”

“So what’s next? You heal. You grow. And you help others.”

“Trying Celebrate Recovery tonight…who wants to go?”

“I have never led a meeting, but I am willing (to try) today.”

“I am so grateful for my sisters at FRC.”

The women at FRC are truly living out the scripture to “Encourage one another and build each other up” (Thessalonians 5:11) on a daily basis.