Posts

Monday Meditation: The Beatitudes

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

When Jesus sat down on a mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee to deliver what would come to be known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” I imagine that the women and men and children who gathered around him leaned forward, straining to hear his provocative words. The opening passage of this sermon is called “The Beatitudes” – a list of blessings. Jesus’ litany of those who are blessed is somewhat surprising. For example, how can those who are mourning be considered to be blessed? And yet, upon closer inspection, we can see a pattern in Jesus’ words.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-10)

The poor in spirit are those who have learned that they must rely on God in all circumstances. Those who mourn depend on God to sustain them as they move forward into a future without the companionship of their dearly departed ones. The meek are not people who are weak; they are those who approach God and others with humility. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness trust God to guide their lives, to direct their paths. Those who are merciful demonstrate Christ-like compassion for others. Those who are pure in heart manifest integrity – there is no differentiation between their public life and their private one. Those who are peacemakers desire to live in harmony with God and others. Those who are persecuted for doing what is right take comfort in knowing that they do not walk alone on the path of righteousness.

Do you see the connection – the thread running through all of the blessings? Jesus does not equate blessing with fame or fortune. Blessing flows from an individual’s intimate relationship with God, from an individual’s dependence on God.

Jesus’ words remind me to look for blessings in unexpected places, in unanticipated ways. May you experience the blessing of God this week

Monday Meditation: “The Hill We Climb”

– Written by Rev. Tambi Swiney

I can’t get her words out of mind. Last Wednesday, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman burst into the world’s collective consciousness as she recited her poem “The Hill We Climb” on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Gorman began and ended her poem with references to light.

In the opening line of her poem, Gorman poses a timely question:

“When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”

The word “dark” has been used repeatedly to use to describe the historical period in which we are living. Where can we find light in these dark days?

Amanda Gorman answers her own question in the closing lines of her poem:

“For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

 

Poet June Jordan would agree with Amanda Gorman. In her “Poem for South African Women,” Jordan declared: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

We are called to be the light. Jesus declared this in his Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Let your light shine, Jesus said. How do we do this? By remaining connected to One who is the source of all light. The psalmist wrote, “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” (Psalm 18:28) We do not have to draw from our own limited resources to be light in the world; instead, we can allow the power of God to flow through us. With God’s help, we can illuminate the darkness. With God’s help, we can be light for women who are searching for a way out of the darkness where they have dwelled for far too long. With God’s help, we can be bearers of the light for one another on those dark days when we can’t see the way forward.

To be light in the world requires courage and connection. May Amanda Gorman’s words be true of us in our work on behalf of women and their families at The Next Door:

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true,
Even as we grieved, we grew,
Even as we hurt, we hoped,
Even as we tired, we tried.”

photo from politico.com

Published on January 25, 2021

Not Just Another Statistic

– Written by Jane Saffles-Granville, LMSW, Treatment Therapist

As a therapist in alcohol and drug treatment, one of the first things I ask my clients in our initial therapy sessions is a simple question: “Why did you come to treatment?” It has a handful of common answers. “For my children,” “I want to learn how to be sober,” or “I need coping skills.” One of the responses that has always given me pause is “I don’t want to be another statistic.”

When my clients say that, I hear not just “I don’t want to die,” but also “I don’t want to be forgotten.” The statistics of overdose death are harrowing. Most see the headlines, shake their heads, and go about their day. It can be hard to truly internalize the sheer number of deaths, the amount of loss, the number of grieving loved ones left behind.

For the past few months, it has felt like so many more people are dying. COVID has taken so many lives, and I think the full scope of its toll cannot be fully understood until you also look at so-called “deaths of desperation”—drug overdoses and suicide.

I have this seen firsthand in the past few months in a way I haven’t in my near decade of work in social services. The truth is, I’ve been navigating my own grief for too many clients of mine who have died. Women who had been in my outpatient group just days before, and women who had graduated residential treatment years ago, and many more in between. Women I saw cradle their pregnant bellies and cradle their infant children. Women who shared their own grief for loved ones who died of overdoses. Women who cheered on their peers for leaving an abuser, just as they had once done. Women who fought so hard for a way out of a system that was stacked against them. Women who made me laugh and exasperated me at the same time. Women who gave me hope. Women who were so vitally alive when they were sober, it was hard to imagine them in their addiction then and even harder now to imagine them gone.

I don’t know what led to their relapses. I don’t know what their last days were like, or how long they had been sober after the last time I saw them. It can be so easy to focus on the death by overdose, and see it as failure. But when I reflect on this feeling, a line from the poem “Failing and Flying” echoes in my head: “Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.” When we hear about the mythological Icarus, it is a cautionary tale of hubris and preventable tragedy; but what of the miraculous flight that happened first? His wax and feather wings did not last indefinitely, and yet he did fly. Isn’t that true for people who die from addiction? We struggle to look past the death to see the successes before it, the love before it, the life before it.

And so, I believe “I don’t want to be another statistic” has another meaning: “If my addiction kills me, I don’t want my memory to be reduced to my cause of death.” Sadly, some of those women who told me this have since lost their battle with addiction. They became what they feared: a statistic, one of the many lives lost this year. Overdose is a lonely and tragic way to die, stealing the futures of too many worthy people. On National Overdose Awareness Day, it is our job now to remember their lives, not just their deaths; their names and not just the numbers. They cannot, and will not, merely be a statistic.

Published on August 31, 2020

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.

Life-Saving Ministry! 

Written by Kate McKinnie, Director of Development

In the world of development, our goal is to effectively tell the story of The Next Door’s services – whether that is one-on-one with donors, through grant funding applications, during special events or marketing efforts.  One “buzz-word” that is often used is that The Next Door is a “life-saving ministry.”  Because I’m not a clinical team member and I’m relatively new to the field of addiction and recovery, I wasn’t sure what this really meant until recently.

Anyone with eyes and ears is constantly hearing about the opioid crisis in the news.  Last year, The Nashville Prevention Partnership trained the entire TND staff about how to administer Narcan, which is given to a person who has overdosed on opioids.  As a result of the training, each of us walked away with our own Narcan “kit,” which included a pair of gloves, two doses of Narcan, instructions, and a reporting form to fill out if/when we ever used it.  I remember feeling so empowered leaving the training that I could potentially save someone’s life!  From that day on, that Narcan kit sat in the bottom of my purse – where it stayed for almost a year.

Two months ago, I had just finished what felt like a normal day in the world of fundraising – I had a few meetings, worked on the E-newsletter content, wrote some donor thank you notes, proofread a grant application, etc. That morning, when the TND lot was full, I parked my car on a side street, which required me to drive around to the back of our building, something I rarely do.  As I drove down Clifton Ave on my journey home, I noticed two members of our nursing staff who appeared to be pulling someone out of the bushes behind our facility.  As I slowed down, I noticed it was not a female client they were helping, but a thin male who appeared to be unconscious.  I rolled down my window and yelled, “Emily, do you need Narcan?”  With a panicked look on her face, she said, “Yes – do you have some?”  I jerked my car in park, grabbed the Narcan kit that was in my purse in the passenger seat, and raced over to help.

Because a Nurse Practitioner and a Nurse were the first responders, my only role was to give them the gloves, unwrap the first dose of Narcan, and hand it over.  I watched as Emily talked to the man, telling him that she was about to administer a dose of Narcan and asking him to “stay with me.”  She sprayed the Narcan in his nostrils quickly and there was no response.  I asked her “do you want the second one?” and quickly unwrapped it and handed it to her.  After the second dose, the man’s eyes began to flutter open, right as I heard an ambulance approaching nearby.  Seeing that my non-medical services were no longer needed and that this man was in kind, capable hands, I went back to my car to drive home.

As I got in the car, still shaking, I began to process what had just occurred.  What are the odds that a man experienced a drug overdose directly beside/behind an addiction treatment center?  What are the odds that TND nurses spotted him stumbling outside their office window?  What are the odds that I would be driving by at the exact moment someone’s life needed saving, and that I had Narcan in my purse?  GOD’S PLAN BEATS ALL ODDS!  He was and IS at work in the countless lives needing saving from addiction, which confirms why I choose to work in this life-saving ministry.  At the next stoplight, I took a minute to praise God for using me, Narcan, and TND nurses to save a life that day and to pray that anyone battling opioid or any addiction would seek the help they need to beat the disease of addiction.

On Wednesday, July 24th, The Next Door will offer a FREE Narcan training at our facility from 10-11 am to the first 50 TND supporters who would like to be trained on how to administer this and receive their own life-saving kit.  If you are interested and available that day, please register by emailing:  RSVP@thenextdoor.org.

The Next Door is a TOP Workplace!

We’re proud to announce that we’ve been named a Top Workplace by The Tennessean for the FIFTH year in a row! We are officially in the Hall Of Fame. We ranked 11 out of the 25 finalists in the Mid-size Companies.

This year is particularly special, as we received the “Meaningfulness” Award. This means that our staff believe that the work they do at TND is meaningful.

A big thank you to all of our employees, who helped to make this happen!

You can find more info on the Top Workplaces website!

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.

Best Graduation Party Ever!

           By Linda Leathers, TND CEO

High school graduations are always a time for special recognition and celebrations, and typically a “what comes next” question is attached. TND recently had the honor to share in a momentous event with Phyllis, a six-year Freedom Recovery Community (FRC) resident and her son Christian. As Phyllis stood before the crowd gathered to celebrate Christian’s graduation, she said, “FRC is a community of women who stuck with me and Christian. It wasn’t easy. At times I wanted to give up. At times, Christian wanted to give up. The community may have wanted to give up, BUT NEVER AT THE SAME TIME. Thank you for sticking and staying with my baby.”

Almost six years ago when Phyllis and Christian arrived, only a very few people believed that this Pearl Cohn graduation celebration would take place. Christian was not happy to live at the FRC. He described his emotions as angry and hurt. He shared that he was depressed the whole first year. He missed his life in Georgia. Times were difficult.

However, no one was giving up on Christian or Phyllis and they had a host of caring people pouring into them. Things began to change when Christian joined the Pearl Cohn football team.  At home, he and his mom began to get into a rhythm. I remember those early years when Vanderbilt football players and Freedom Recovery Community summer interns Johnny McCrary, Torrey Agree and Tre Herndon took a special interest in Christian and mentored him. Those friendships continue to this day. Over time, FRC became an oasis for Christian to call home. He had the unwavering love of a mom and 20 other women cheering him on. He had staff, volunteers, teachers and coaches all invested in his future.

Christian, a tall, handsome, linebacker-looking young man, stood before the group and said, pointing to his mom, “I love this woman and want to thank her for all she has done for me. Through this community I have learned to respect women. I am thankful for this place.” About that time, one of the FRC children came running over and jumped into his arms. Christian embraced the child and lovingly held him up in the air. Another child came running awaiting the same treatment. It was an incredibly special moment.

I am so proud of Christian, Phyllis and The Next Door for being a part of God’s story of a FUTURE and a HOPE. Christian is a loving, caring, kind and wonderful mentor to the other children at FRC. He is joining the Navy as the next step in his future. Christian, Thank You in advance for your service to our nation.

On behalf of The Next Door Board and Staff:  Well done for your accomplishment as the Freedom Recovery Community’s first high school graduate! We cannot wait to see how the Lord will guide your steps in the future. 

 

                                                              Proud Mom and Graduate!

                                Current and Former TND Staff celebrate with Phyllis and Christian

The Next Door’s Homecoming 2018: Hands up for Recovery!

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!

That Glow!

by Holly Cammuse, Assistant Director of Nursing of The Next Door

As I waddle around the building the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I have heard this phrase over and over again, “You are just GLOWING, Holly!”  I have assured all parties involved that the “glow” they are imagining is probably just sweat glistening from my newly formed mustache… O the joys of pregnancy hormones!  As we encroach upon temperatures nearing 100, I can’t help but reflect on the ease and simplicity of carrying my first child through the winter months. The other comments such as “There must be more than one in there!”, “You must be due ANNNYY day now!”, and “WOW, you’re carrying low!” make me giggle at the transparency of those women that we serve at The Next Door… transparency that I respect and have learned to love over the course of three years.

As I squeeze onto the elevator (because who wants to take the stairs at 9 months pregnant?!), I bump bellies with another Momma-To-Be, only this Momma is a client of The Next Door. So many things make The Next Door unique, but this is by far my favorite. We serve and embrace ALL women, even those fighting to better a life other than their own.

The Next Door took a leap of faith and began serving pregnant women in the winter of 2016. It was obvious that because we were one of few treatment facilities to accept a woman with child, the services that we provided would be sought out by women all over the state of Tennessee. NICUs were at capacity with children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a condition in which a newborn withdraws from drugs it was exposed to while in utero. Why couldn’t The Next Door play a part in ending this vicious cycle?

To date, we have served nearly 100 pregnant women, can you imagine the glow that has radiated from these walls!? Obstetrics certainly wasn’t our specialty, and we proceeded that first year with caution and good faith, putting some restrictions on what risks we were willing to take. All pregnant women using illicit drugs are high-risk, most have experienced many other births, some with poor outcomes, but if we weren’t willing to accept them into treatment, who would? There is such a small window of opportunity to make such a generational impact. It was a no-brainer to our ambitious team.

Although the future still holds many exciting opportunities for pregnant women at The Next Door, we have certainly come a long way in terms of knocking down barriers for this population. We are currently revising our admission requirements to allow pregnant women , even those with little or no prenatal care, to walk through our doors free of stigma and full of hope. We have a Registered Nurse Care Manager who assists these women with finding an obstetric provider and keeping appointments, an OB-GYN that assesses these women once a week, a Licensed Therapist that spends time unraveling fears and instilling lifeskills related to parenthood, and valuable resources like 180 Health Partners that provide a warm hand-off once discharged from The Next Door and through those critical postpartum months.

A dream of mine would be to provide housing for newborns with their mothers upon delivery; however, my view is still pretty sweet, as is, from my desk window. One of the first pregnant clients ever served at The Next Door now resides in our Freedom Recovery Community apartments, just behind our building on 22nd Avenue. What a precious sight to see her sober, successful, and pushing her little miracle in a stroller. Now THAT glow is one that cannot be beat.