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Everyday Witness to The Sacraments

Written by Amanda Dunlap, Director of Clinical Services

Let it be known right off the bat that I do not claim to be a theologian or pastor by trade, but a therapist by profession, one who is constantly seeking the Lord’s full purpose in my professional and personal life. Over the last six months, I have had many contemplations and stirrings on the subject and action of the sacraments; particularly the sacraments of Healing: Reconciliation and Anointing. Most of us experience the need for healing in our lives at some point and it’s through these Sacraments that healing has the potential to happen.

At The Next Door, women enter our doors yearning for reconciliation and healing of self, family, community… and addiction. It’s not always said in those words; however their eyes tell us they desire something different – making promises to themselves and their families and hoping they can change. They seek realness and grace.

As soon as they arrive at our facility, our staff joins them, walking side by side with them to figure out what this desire and a new beginning looks like. We do this by providing sound clinical and medical expertise, solid 12 step recovery knowledge, and a community that is unwavering. We encourage each woman to begin with admitting that she is powerless and that her life has become unmanageable (Step One in the 12 Steps). This, my friends, is a cornerstone that launches change and hope for a woman seeking recovery. In my time at The Next Door (over eleven years!) I have witnessed this time and time again and it never gets old.

Daily, I am reminded by our incredible team just how to live out the Sacraments in our everyday lives. TND’s foundation has been solid from day one. We strive every day to live out God’s purpose in our work and pass that on to every woman and family that enters our care.

You see, that can be seen as a tall order to live up to everyday; however, being grounded in our core values (Love, Faith, Hope, Wholeness, Community, Respect, and Encouragement), we simply share the grace that has been given to us, i.e. the Sacraments. We do this not to worldly or perfectionistic standards, yet to the standards and mission that we were founded on. The Sacraments of healing are seen throughout our care for our women at TND, and to this, I am humbled to be a part of such true and meaningful work. As Mother Teresa said so beautifully, “Wherever God has put you, that is your vocation. It is not what we do but how much love we put into it.”

May we take these words to heart as we live out our lives, professionally and personally. I know I will try to.

A Building Filled with Hope

by Rachel Morris, Operations Director of The Next Door

I have been employed by The Next Door for almost 12 years.  During this time, as the Operations Director, my mission and purpose have been to provide a safe, clean, and functional facility to the clients of TND.  When I joined the staff in 2007, we were providing services from a small three-story building in downtown Nashville off 8th Avenue and Demonbreun.  This facility served our purpose well until we began expanding to meet the growing needs of the community. Our goal to serve more clients was coming to fruition, but the reality was that our facility could not keep up.  The staff were literally working on top of one another, and the building was deteriorating faster than it could be repaired.

In 2012, we began dreaming of a new and improved facility that would enhance our services and productivity.  In August of 2014, by the grace of God and generous donations from our beloved donors and vendors, our dreams came true! Staff and clients moved from 8th Avenue to a new state-of-the-art facility off Charlotte Avenue.

As Operations Director, this was more than I could have ever imagined. We went from a 13,000 square foot building housing 40 clients to a 44,000 square foot facility that can house 82 women.  We upgraded to all new equipment, bedding, furniture and beautiful decor. We now have:

  • A commercial kitchen that a restaurant owner would be ecstatic to have
  • Group rooms with comfy chairs and essential oils
  • Computers that actually work
  • Beautiful, professional artwork on the walls displaying our core values
  • Attractive bathrooms with fancy tile
  • Ergonomic chairs and new functional desks

Our hearts have been incredibly grateful since our dream became a reality in 2014.  But speaking as someone that worked in the old facility for 7 years, and the new facility for almost 5 years, I can tell you that it is not the building that makes the real difference in the lives of our clients. It is the professional and dedicated staff who truly care about our clients finding their way out of addiction.  When you walk into our facility you will immediately sense a dedicated team that come to work each day ready to serve with their whole heart.

TND has been providing consistent, compassionate care since we opened our doors in 2004.  On May 4, 2019, we will celebrate 15 years of service.  I am honored to be a part of an organization that is willing to serve our clients in any environment. We are proud of our facility but even more grateful for those who truly make The Next Door a success.  If you know someone that needs treatment – a daughter, sister, or friend – I can guarantee they will be in the hands of providers that truly care at The Next Door.

 

Lost Sheep

by Rev. Ashley McFaul Erwin, Clinical Pastoral Resident at The Next Door

 

So he (Jesus) told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15: 3-7

During my childhood I came across many lost sheep. There were many days that on my walk home from school I would arrive at my house and see three or four sheep in our front yard. They were adventurous sheep and would often push themselves through the hedges behind our house to venture into this new land. Each time they appeared in our yard, I would go into the house, pick up the phone and let the farmer know that his sheep had escaped again. The farmer would arrive at our house with his sheep dog to round them up. There are many differences between 1st century Palestine and modern-day Ireland; however, one big difference between the lost sheep in my yard and the lost sheep in Jesus’ parable is that the owner noticed the sheep were missing in Jesus’ parable.

Often when we think of this parable we think of the shepherd as God searching for the missing one. AJ Levine, my New Testament professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, suggests that when this parable was initially told 1st century Jews would not have viewed the shepherd as God, because God does not lose us.  I remember the moment she shared this interpretation with us in class. My mouth opened and I thought, “You’re right God doesn’t lose us! God would have known where that sheep was all along.” AJ suggests a new name for this parable, “The Parable of the Initially Oblivious Owner.”  Those who first heard this parable would have heard a personal challenge to become like the shepherd, to notice when someone is missing. God might just be saying to us, “I know where my child is, I am still with them, you have lost them! Go and bring them back into community.”

May we find comfort and challenge in this parable. May we be challenged to become like the shepherd, to notice when someone is missing, to go and search for them, and welcome them home. As we do this work of welcoming people into community, may we be comforted by the knowledge that each of us are known and loved by God wherever we are. There is nowhere we can go where God is not right there with us. God is with us in our moments of deep darkness and of bright light. God does not lose us.

 

(AJ writes more about this and other parables in her book, “Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi”.)

Rev. Ashley McFaul Erwin is a Clinical Pastoral Resident at TND – this means that she is completing her Chaplaincy training. Ashley is a PC (USA) pastor and has been a Nashville resident for 7 years, having moved here from Northern Ireland. Ashley spends her time at TND providing spiritual support for clients and staff.

Spring Fever

by Rebekah Bohannon, LPC-MHSP, Director of Clinical Systems of The Next Door

Temperatures are rising, the sun is coming out and spring fever is among us! With record amounts of rainfall this year we have been trapped inside for far too long. Parking ourselves in front of our favorite binge-watching app and eating everything in sight is the new normal for a good old fashioned American good time. The average American sits 13 hours a day[i]! Aside from the physical effects this prolonged sitting and eating have on us, what are the effects on our mental health?

Making exercise a part of a routine is a struggle for us all. Making false promises and fluctuating commitments are the crux of failure for most new year’s resolutions. Getting up and prepared for the gym, regretting every moment of your decision and looking for ANY reason to change your mind. But, you don’t change your mind, you suck it up and show up! You get a great workout and leave the gym feeling like a champ! Sound familiar? Working out releases endorphins. But what are those?

When we workout, our body releases endorphins that interact with our brain chemistry to produce feelings that help relieve pain and create a sense of euphoria[ii]. To be honest, just walking 20 minutes a day, three days a week can help keep fitness gains and food goals on track. Not to mention the benefits exercise has on our mental wellness. Exercise can help reduce the likelihood of depression and promote overall mental wellness as we get older [iii].

If knowing how good something was for us was all it took; obesity rates would be down, and we would all eat healthy. However, simply knowing the facts is not all it takes. In most cases seeing isn’t even believing. How many times have you knocked some weight off just to get comfortable and gain it back? I think we look at wellness in separate categories and do not spend enough time examining how they overlap. This could be because it is overwhelming to try and overhaul our entire life. However, if we try and make incremental changes in each area perhaps we will be more successful. For example, if you do not exercise at all, walking only a few minutes each day is a great place to start. Likewise, cutting out unhealthy snacks or fast food is a small change you can make today. Making these small changes will greatly impact our mood and overall mental health.

When all else fails, TRACK EVERYTHING! Tracking our eating, as well as our fitness and mental health goals, can yield trends that may be sabotaging our success. Some may enjoy tracking every calorie while others may just write down what they eat in a day, not necessarily the calories in every bite. A small mark in your calendar to indicate what days you exercised and what time you exercised can help determine a routine that works for you. Finally, tracking our mental health. I recommend tracking your overall daily mood on a scale from 1-10; 1 being very sad or low mood and 10 being energized and happy. Hopefully after a week of tracking you can see what types of food and exercise have the greatest positive impact on your mental health. At the end of day enjoy your life! Incremental changes add up to make a big difference without setting yourself up for failure from day one. Get out and enjoy the sunshine, take in the day, get good rest and look forward to tomorrow!

 

[i] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-survey-to-sit-or-stand-almost-70-of-full-time-american-workers-hate-sitting-but-they-do-it-all-day-every-day-215804771.html

[ii] https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1

[iii] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-works-and-why/201803/how-your-mental-health-reaps-the-benefits-exercise

What a Beautiful Thing it Can Be to Finally Feel Again

by April Barnes, Director of Outreach of The Next Door

Recently, I was able to lead group with our women here at The Next Door. I was excited to share some intimate time with the ladies where I could pass out my essential oils and fill the chapel with the smells of patchouli and lavender. One of my greatest joys in working at The Next Door is to be able to connect with the women in this setting.

We started the group by randomly selecting a card from The Language of Letting Go and spending some time in meditation to let the words from our chosen cards resonate in our spirits and asking our divine power to meet us there in that space.

After the meditation, I opened the group up for anyone who wanted to share about their reflection. While my intention for the group was to educate the ladies on holistic ways to support your body in early recovery, we spent most of our time sharing about the content on the cards, given the intimacy of the moment. As one of the ladies read aloud from her card, we all leaned in as those words connected to each of us around the room.

“Today I will face discomfort, trusting that feelings of HEALING and release are on the other side. Help me, God, to FEEL whatever I need to feel to be whole and healthy. While I am doing this, I will trust that I am cared for and protected by myself, my friends, my higher power and the universe. “

These words immediately reminded me of something a therapist once told me years ago. “You gotta feel it to heal it”. While sounding cliché, how profoundly true are these words?

Many of the women who come into our program at The Next Door have been avoiding pain and discomfort. At the root of their addiction is pain, whether mentally, physically or spiritually. Identifying the root cause and working through that discomfort is essential for the healing process and freedom from the bondage of addiction.

The women shared their experiences, some stating they had not “felt” in years. Others stated that they were scared to “feel” or that they didn’t know how to process feelings in a healthy way. While in treatment, the women work with their therapists and clinical team members to learn how to recognize and process feelings and explore healthy emotional regulation. What a beautiful thing it can be to finally feel again. 

One of the women shared her experience of how much shame, guilt and anger she must work through, but also stated how refreshing it is to now be experiencing JOY, HOPE and EXCITEMENT as she releases that shame and guilt and anticipates a new life found in recovery.

Recovery isn’t just about abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Recovery is about a process of change. A change in thoughts, perceptions, emotional regulation and behavioral habits. We change the way we cope with uncomfortable feelings and bravely step into experiencing those moments, trusting that on the other side of that discomfort, is healing.