Posts

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.

Recycling is Mindfulness

by Kellie Kroening, TND Intake Specialist and avid baker

Recycling is a mindfulness practice. Maybe you know someone who recycles like it’s their full time job. Maybe you know someone who thinks the whole thing is a joke. Unfortunately, the movement for recycling sometimes get a bad reputation because of the way it’s been presented – for instance, “if you’re not recycling, then you hate animals and the eventual disappearance of the polar ice caps is on you and your empty Dr. Pepper bottles.” (Can we all just agree that harsh and judgmental extremes don’t really help anyone?) If the newest research is true, we have already passed something of a “point of no return” with the climate problems at hand, and it doesn’t just have to do with recycling. There are a myriad of contributing factors. Yet, while we will have to put our heads together in years to come for solutions to this issue, it doesn’t mean we should stop doing what we already know to be important.

The Next Door has recently started a recycling initiative called The Green Team, which I am honored to be involved in. We’re a small group of people who go around the building once weekly to collect recycling and take it to Nashville’s many drop-off centers, in addition to brainstorming ideas of how TND can be more sustainable and focus on how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. However for me, there’s a bigger picture to why I recycle. I’m hoping that as TND participates in the Green Team’s new efforts, the conversation can turn toward mindfulness and how recycling aligns with some of our core values. I believe that recycling actually impacts how we interact with other human beings in the world. Let me tell you why.

When I was in 4th Grade I went to a magically special school called School in the Woods. In the middle of the Black Forest on the Eastern slope of the Rockies in Colorado, there exists a haven for fourth graders where you spend 80% of the school year outside, with the goal of learning how to be a naturalist. A naturalist is a type of biologist who studies the impacts of living species on each other and the environments in which they live. So, a troupe of 10-year-olds including myself spent the year walking around this piece of forest observing, notating, drawing, studying, identifying, counting, quantifying, qualifying, and appreciating the ways that all parts of the earth interconnect and impact all other parts of the earth. This experience was extraordinarily formative for me, and I carry that naturalist heart with me into all facets of my life. As an adult, I came to realize that this is why I was drawn to be a counselor; because counseling is really just naturalism. It is observing, listening, identifying, and appreciating all the ways that each part of someone’s life impacts each part of their own “ecosystem.” How, perhaps, someone’s childhood trauma impacts the beliefs about the self, and how those beliefs impact behaviors, creating gaps in emotional regulation, and how maybe, like for our women and many others, it may result in substance abuse or other dysfunctional coping mechanisms. We can study how the family system can be incredibly resilient even through the harshest blizzards and how the most frozen hearts thaw with enough time spent in the glow of a new sun. Or how when the lightning strikes one too many times, it may set someone’s whole life ablaze. The counseling relationship is there to give witness to all the life and death, growth and change, and to mindfully love the system through the process.

One very important lesson that naturalism taught me was that for the whole ecosystem to be healthy, each part must work in healthful cooperation. This is one of the things that brought me to the Next Door – it attracted me originally because it felt like the sort of place that encourages all parts of the whole to be healthy and to give and take, when needed. For instance, the core values encourage that if we want our women to understand values such as love, respect and community, then we need to also demonstrate love, respect, and community. Health begets health. Love begets love. Respect begets respect. You (be)get the idea.

Which brings me back to recycling. I believe that recycling is a mindfulness practice because for me, when my body makes that habitual motion toward the trash can with something paper, plastic, metal, cardboard etc. in my hand, I pause, and bring my awareness to the moment, instead of mindlessly letting go my waste into some hypothetical landfill. I could throw it away. No one would know. Would it make a difference? Does this one piece of paper or this one straw really matter in the scheme of things? Maybe not. But did you know that every person produces about 4 pounds of waste a day? (Don’t ask me to do the math on that; as you can imagine, School in the Woods didn’t help much with my math issues.) In that momentary pause, I consider that waste begets waste.

So, I mindfully turn my body instead to the little box where I collect recyclables. Because even though I’ll have to make an extra trip, and even though I’m just one person, recycling begets recycling. It is an act of love, and respect, and community because it says “I know that YOU live here too, and for the ecosystem to be healthy, all parts must work in healthful cooperation.” Maybe we are past a point of no return in climate change or melting ice caps but the naturalist in me urges you to believe that we are not past a point of no return within ourselves. It’s what we ask our clients at The Next Door to do every day: to believe that they are not past the point of no return, but that there is still hope that change can happen and that it does matter. Think about the impacts of living species on each other and the environments in which they live, and how that does start with you, within you, sitting at your desk, or standing in your kitchen, practicing mindfulness, and knowing in the grand scheme of things that whether you recycle something to be repurposed or just throw it away, it does matter.

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.

 

Nashville Public Television Opioids Town Hall

 

As our country grapples with the opioid epidemic, NPT held a public forum about how Middle Tennesseans are dealing with this health crisis, recorded on April 9, 2019, in studio A. Our audience discussed how this substance is affecting communities, families and health systems. Participants included members of the public, addiction experts, medical and public safety professionals. Learn more about NPT Reports: Town Halls at https://www.wnpt.org/town-hall/

Rx Summit Spotlight: Blending Faith and Science a Winning Combination

Even amid a crippling opioid crisis, medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder remains highly controversial in the state where April Barnes, RN, works. At this month’s Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, the outreach director at Nashville, Tenn.-based The Next Door will argue for a treatment approach that fully integrates physical, emotional and spiritual components.

“Many other ministries have great programs but don’t have medication,” Barnes tells Addiction Professional. “We’ve had difficult situations where it’s hard to find a placement for a patient, because at many facilities the patient can’t be on medication.”

At her April 25 workshop session at the Atlanta conference, Barnes will outline how the faith-based treatment organization where she works has moved in a different direction from some similar programs. The Next Door was launched 15 years ago as a halfway house for women reintegrating into the community from incarceration, and has grown into a multi-level treatment provider at a time when the opioid epidemic was intensifying in the state and nationally.

“We’ve always been about adapting to what the greatest need is in the community,” says Barnes, who formerly served as director of admissions and business development at The Next Door. “With the number of overdoses that were occurring, that’s when it went from strictly re-entry into treatment. We’ve been learning and growing over the last five years.”

Chronic illness factor

Barnes sees the role of medication treatment for opioid use disorder in the same way she views medication for type 2 diabetes: an essential component but not the cure-all. Medications such as buprenorphine can keep the patient alive and engaged so that there is time for the other elements of comprehensive treatment to have an effect, the logic goes.

“You’re not going to achieve complete healing unless you have all of the components,” Barnes says, referring to the physical, emotional and spiritual. “All these areas of human life are interconnected.”

That is not an attitude universally put into practice in faith-based programs, however, she suggests. Barnes will discuss in her session how The Next Door’s perspective has evolved over the years.

“Even within our own facility, we were for years abstinence-based,” she says. “This took some time even for our leadership, for our team, to stop moralizing it.”

The Next Door has inpatient capacity for 82 female patients (12 detox beds and 70 residential beds). It is now adding to its outpatient offerings a recovery care clinic where medication-assisted treatment will be at the core of programming.

Buprenorphine and extended-release naltrexone are both available to patients in programs at The Next Door. The organization has a diverse payer mix that includes both public and private insurance sources.

Barnes says she still sees a great need for community education on the importance of comprehensive, integrated treatment. “When I tell people we’re a faith-based program, they often say, ‘Oh, you must not prescribe,’” she says. “We absolutely believe in the power of prayer, but we also believe in science.”

The Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, April 22-25 in Atlanta, is where solutions are formulated, stakeholders from Federal to family convene, and change begins. It is the annual gathering for stakeholders to discuss what’s working in prevention and treatment. For more information, visit rx-summit.com

 

https://www.addictionpro.com/article/rx-summit-spotlight-blending-faith-and-science-winning-combination

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.

 

There’s Something Special About This Place

By Karen P., volunteer at The Next Door

“There’s something special about this place,” she said, dabbing her eyes. We all nodded in agreement.

We sat in a circle — eight clients, myself, and my co-leader on a rainy Wednesday night for our weekly Spiritual Wellness small group gathering. The subject of the teaching had sparked some meaningful dialogue —an opportunity to affirm these precious women of their worth and value in the eyes of their heavenly Father.

“Today is a great day,” I commented, focusing my attention on another young woman, who had shared how difficult it was to be separated from her children while working on her recovery at The Next Door. She was not alone in her anguish. “Today is a great day because you are right where you need to be. You made it through another day of sobriety! The Lord has good plans for you. He has good plans for your family. And that ache that you feel for your children tonight? God’s love for you is infinitely deeper than that. God tells us in His Word that He is making all things new— all things.” The room was quiet. I watched their faces, their body language, as glimmers of hope rose within them. “Lord,” I prayed silently, “heal their wounds, bind up their brokenness and shower them with your great love.”

For many of the women who come to The Next Door, grasping the truth that they are worthy of God’s love and treasured by Him is daunting. Often, they feel guilt and shame, regret and fear that God is angry at them, or that He has forgotten them.

As a regular volunteer, it is my great joy and privilege to share the Good News with them—to encourage them and remind them that they are not alone — that our gracious, powerful God longs to walk this journey with them. Sometimes a door opens for me to speak these words of truth. Other times, it is simply by being a calming presence in an intake room with an anxious newcomer, or walking with a weary client to the clinic, or believing God for miracles as I pour over the stack of prayer requests at home on my kitchen table.

I’m just one person of many who share the vision of The Next Door, and my small contribution sometimes feels insignificant. But I know that God is working through all our contributions of time, money, talents, and prayers. He is making streams in deserts, He is quieting storms, He is writing beautiful stories.

There truly is something special about The Next Door, and I’m humbled and thankful to be a tiny part of the big things God is doing!

One Word for 2019

by Kate McKinnie, Director of Development of The Next Door

For the past 8-9 years, I have chosen a word of the year.  I begin praying in December for how I want the next year to be different.  I pray for wisdom of what one word of focus could be to help me get there.  This year, my word is INTENTIONAL.

What led me to this word was that I felt like at work in my role as Director of Development, everything I do is with great intention, purpose and strategy to achieve the fundraising goals for The Next Door.  However, outside of work, I don’t live with much intention.  I chose this word for 2019 because I want to be intentional with relationships in my life I want to strengthen, and I want to be intentional with my health, fitness and dietary habits.  There are several other ways in my personal life I need to be more intentional, because I believe when you approach things with intentionality, you are more likely to see change that you want in life.

Because I love this annual exercise of choosing my word of the year, I decided to ask our clients about theirs.  On New Year’s Day, I put up a sign next to the elevators on each residential floor and asked a simple question:  “What one word do you want to guide you and define you in the new year?”   During the entire month of January, as new clients have come into the program, I have enjoyed seeing their responses.  Here is what they wrote:

  • Happy
  • Humble
  • Serene
  • Sober
  • Peaceful
  • Recovery
  • Thankful
  • Strong
  • Productive
  • Sunshine
  • Resilient
  • Amazing, sober mother
  • Real
  • Different
  • Blessed

While I thought, prayed and toyed around with several words that I wanted to guide and define me in 2019, the women in treatment at The Next Door last month most likely came up with theirs in a brief period of time, while waiting for the elevator!   The simplicity of their answers was inspiring.  To merely want peace, serenity, happiness, strength or sobriety as they look at a new year may seem simple to me, but for our clients, this could be a major shift from the life they are living now.

Each day I work in this ministry, I realize that I have MUCH in common with women of The Next Door.  I may not struggle with addiction, trauma or mental illness, but what I do long for – like each woman within our doors – is a new start and moving from weak to strong in some area of our lives.  Whether that’s to be more intentional in my approach to relationships and fitness or women simply wanting to wake up sober and productive each day of 2019, we each seek change.

See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

I hope each of you is having a wonderful start to your new year.  Remember:  we love to have visitors at The Next Door!  If you feel led to be involved in some way in this life-changing ministry for women and find common ground with these courageous women like I do each day, come see us!  To arrange a visit, please contact me:  kate.mckinnie@thenextdoor.org.