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Sanford House in Grand Rapids, Michigan is a drug and alcohol rehab and recovery center for women. We offer residential and outpatient treatment options. The mission of Sanford House is to inspire women to know the beauty, vibrancy and richness of a life in recovery.
I’ve never liked the carnival game, whack-a-mole. Bashing heads with a cartoon hammer, while an endless succession of new rodents appear, is too stressful and unpredictable. But, I could relate when someone in group said they thought eating disorders popping up during addiction treatment reminded them of whack-a-mole.
Wham! That came out of nowhere!
Because, just when you think you’ve pounded down the substance use disorder (SUD) that was taking over your life, a newfound obsession with jelly doughnuts might come to the fore. It’s not that the sugary treat is addictive per se, but the compensatory behavior is.
And it’s hard to talk about. It’s embarrassing. When you have a binge or binge-purge disorder, it is not exactly something that comes up in polite conversation. But it should. Especially during group therapy in an addiction treatment center. As high as 50% of those who have eating disorders also have co-occurring SUDs. And 35% of people with an SUD also have an eating disorder.
And eating disorders affect both men and women…
Eating disorders and SUDs do not always present at the same time. One may flare up while the other is at bay or appear without forewarning. And for those battling substance use disorders, dormant eating disorders can resurface when least expected. Just like a whack-a-mole…
Treating SUDs and Eating Disorders Together…
We believe that the best treatment for an eating disorder involves a team of professionals providing a combination of approaches. Although the eating behavior is only a symptom of an underlying emotional conflict, it does need to be directly addressed as new, healthier coping mechanisms are being learned. Gail Hall LMSW DCSW
I have had the privilege of sitting in on a group session with Sanford House guest speaker, Gail Hall. Gail is a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. She is also the owner of Comprehensive Treatment for Eating Disorders, LLC. And she has a lot to say about eating impulse control…
It’s not about abstinence from food. It’s about abstinence from addictive behaviors… Gail Hall
Gail tells us that an eating disorder is a coping mechanism for anxiety and depression. And, like substance reliance, there is often a genetic factor – the disorder runs in families. Gail says that with new associations and tools to address underlying stressors, a person can fully recover from an eating disorder.
In therapy, Gail challenges her clients’ “food rules”. She addresses “fear food” (such as pizza and jelly doughnuts) by taking her clients to a fast food restaurant and asking them to find something on the bill of fare to eat. For some (the author included…), just entering a hamburger joint creates anxiety. And since eating disorders are often secretive and marked by shame and guilt, Gail encourages her clients to begin to explore the social aspects of eating.
Unlike a substance use disorder, a person can’t quit eating. So we must separate the eating from the disorder and deal with the continuous barrage of potential triggers… Gail Hall
Types of Eating Disorders:
…is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Symptoms include: refusal to maintain body weight; fear of getting “fat”; extreme focus on shape and body weight; and loss of menstrual periods. Anorexia/Orthorexia is not usually co-occurring with an SUD. Both are characterized by the need to control – not something characteristic of a SUD. Orthorexia is an addiction to exercise or “clean eating”.
…is more commonly co-occurring with SUDs. It is characterized by the binging and purging of food. Bulimics eat excessive amounts of food in short periods of time. After the binge, they get rid of calories by vomiting, taking laxatives or excessively exercising. Symptoms include: eating beyond comfortable fullness; lack of control, frequent dieting or fasting, extreme concern with weight; and abuse of laxatives, diet pills, and diuretics.
Binge Eating Disorder
… is also a commonly co-occurring with SUDs. Binge eating disorder or compulsive overeating is characterized by uncontrolled, continuous eating beyond the point of feeling comfortably full. Symptoms may include fasting or yo-yo dieting, feelings of shame or self-hatred; and changes in body weight or severe obesity.
Babies come into this world as intuitive eaters – this is learned behavior… Gail Hall
What’s the Solution?
For those who are in treatment or early recovery from an SUD, it is tempting to “treat oneself” to sugary or processed foods. After all, when you are forgoing alcohol or other drugs it feels like you deserve to indulge in something. Suddenly, food tastes good again and days seem long. And processed foods are designed to give you a dopamine rush.
Education and caution are key to introducing healthy food back into the recovery diet without developing a new disorder. And Gail feels that education is paramount to developing a healthy relationship with food for everyone. Until the obsession with body type and the societal requirements to look a certain way are changed, there will continue to be eating disorders.
Gail looks to parents and the schools to guide children and teenagers. She feels there is an inappropriate focus on thinking “thin,” causing undue pressure and anxiety and she intends to change things. She says its a difficult task, but she’s a one-woman army and this is her mission.
Sanford House Addiction Treatment Centers is pleased to announce our latest partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield and Blue Care Network. We are excited to serve even more clients, and committed to providing exceptional care. You can read more about our insurance and financing options here.
Residential and Non-Residential Care
Sanford House understands that people in different stages of the recovery process need different levels of care. And our residential and non-residential options help clients to establish a foundation for long term recovery.
Sanford House at John Street for Men
The Sanford House Environment
There are many options for addiction treatment. And we encourage you to find a location that suits your expectations and your lifestyle. Our facilities are historic homes on tree-lined, residential streets in Grand Rapids. We are privately held and offer an environment that is homelike, intimate and decidedly non-institutional.
“Won’t you please, please help me? This isn’t a plea you’re likely to hear from most men today. Particularly men in the throes of addiction. Yet in 1965, a young mop top named John from Liverpool, melodically pleaded for help in the smash hit Help by the Beatles. A “real man” asks for help in times of trouble about as much as he asks for directions when lost. The act of asking for help (seeking counseling) to many men feels like weakness. An act of going soft when the going gets tough. Men are supposed to be sturdy as an oak, rather than propped up or supported by others. The creed of manhood – suck it up – makes it especially hard for men to call a counselor for help.
Men often suffer in isolation or secrecy.
In fact, the first step in recovery, to acknowledge our powerlessness over something bigger and stronger than us, can feel like emasculation. I’m not man enough to beat this. These men are bullied and chastised by a toxic inner voice. Man up. A real man makes it on his own. The first step for a lot of men successful in recovery is re-envisioning their masculinity. From a toxic narrow version to a more healthy, relational and wholehearted masculinity. This version allows for acknowledging weakness, and asking for help. Because ultimately, sacrificing your humanity, your recovery, your wellness for the sake of some twisted form of masculine performance—going it alone—not only is an outdated, toxic masculinity, it is a debilitating barrier to recovery and wholeness.
Help, not just anybody…
Although men may prefer to not talk about it, feelings of pain, sadness, or anxiety don’t magically dissolve with the disappearance of words. We have three choices when it comes to feelings: we either talk about thembury them or act themout.
Male socialization has given men harmful mandates and practices regarding emotional health. Just as we used to bury hazardous waste in big holes without consideration for environmental health, burying our feelings doesn’t work well for emotional health either. When men bury feelings it eventually spills out with violence in our homes or streets. It slowly deadens emotional life—our life force. Or insidiously scars livers and explodes hearts.
Help, you know I need someone…
We aren’t rocks unto ourselves. Or oak trees standing alone in an open field. We are humans. We are born into relationships — it is in our design. Yet men are given the toxic message that the pinnacle of masculinity is the achievement of rugged individualism and insularity. This achievement creates intense loneliness. And angst about asking for help with untreated mental, emotional and behavioral health problems.
When I was younger, so much younger than today…
Research shows that boys are prematurely kicked off parents’ laps and shamed for crying more often than girls. This, along with other male-specific practices, sets in motion a debilitating pattern for males to want to make it on their own. And if they can’t, they hear the cacophonic voices in their head. You’re weak, a sissy, a loser, a mama’s boy.
The fact that women are the primary consumers of counseling services isn’t because they have more problems. It is merely because they have more permission from our society to ask for help. This whispering voice—I can’t live like this anymore, this is insanity, my life is unmanageable—is your soul crying out for healing and recovery. And asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of your humanity, an act of hope, a display of wisdom.
Here I never needed anybody’s help in any way…
Yet men will ask for certain kinds of help. Perhaps to improve their golf swing or investment portfolio. Why? Because no one questions their manhood. Remember when society questioned a female’s womanhood? When she pursued a degree and worked outside the home? The societal landscape has changed for women in the last 50 years. The emotional landscape for men needs to change. The 21st-century evolutionary pulse is requiring fit males to explore their inner landscape. To know and manage feelings and thoughts while relating to others. The worn out masculine trope—a man is a rock, an island, a sturdy oak—is giving way to new and openhearted masculinities. These allow for strength in community and connection rather than in isolation.
But now these days are gone; I’m not so self-assured…
Men can change and evolve too. They can become cross-trained, learn the language of emotions, talk about them, ask for help, and hang onto their masculinity all at the same time. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of maturity, humanity, and smart emotional fitness. Yes, there is professional help for men too, when they are feeling down, lonely, or confused.
In group therapy, I ask members to “keep within their own experience.” No advice giving. No telling others how to feel. This helps create safety within the session. A college mentor of mine once said, “Never assume to understand the experience of someone else. Even if it’s one you’re familiar with, like sadness or fear. Thousands of lived experiences have made that sadness unique.”
Below is part of the talk, Anxiety and Art Therapy:
I’ve worked with addiction, trauma, sexual assault… And one of the most common experiences I hear from my clients, across a number of presenting problems, is that the individual is also struggling with anxiety or depression.
From a clinical standpoint, we’re learning that anxiety and depression travel together. They can be expressed similarly or at the same time. One may feed the other… one may be stronger than the other… but they often occur together.
Most of us have experienced anxiety. And most people describe that feeling as jittery, on edge, or nervous. When we’re anxious, we “worry excessively” (or more than what the situation warrants). Physical symptoms often accompany anxiety. These include nausea, rapid heartbeat, GI issues, or feelings of unreality.
We may feel anxious in the face of our phobias, before an important presentation, or during a life-threatening event. These anxiety responses are normal. Our brains have evolved to signal, “Something isn’t right! Take action!” when we need to make quick decisions. For some folks, however, anxiety occurs without a life-threatening event. And the anxious brain produces that signal over and over, regardless of what is going on, and as if something life threatening happening.
And that’s exhausting. It’s no way to live. Anxiety prevents us from enjoying ourselves and living in the present. It can get in the way of our relationships, our passions, and our work.
My anxiety started at age 12 after a traumatic event. Sometimes, anxiety develops in response to our environment (at work, home, etc). Other times, folks begin to feel anxious “out of nowhere” and that anxiety builds until it becomes unmanageable. We also know that anxiety and depression are highly hereditary.
Speaking in front of a crowd can produce anxiety…
Art Therapy and Anxiety
I am an art therapist. Art therapy is a modality of mental health treatment that relies on metaphor and introspection. Art therapists utilize visual and tactile stimulation alongside traditional counseling techniques. We’re similar to talk therapists… we cover the same topics and have the same goals. But I incorporate artmaking into my practice. And this helps to break down barriers to an individual’s ability to communicate.
So, for example, my nonverbal client can express how they’re feeling. My angry, uncooperative, teen client can tell me with her body language and choices how she’s feeling. My client who is so debilitatingly anxious that she can barely sit in the room with me can: self-sooth through artmaking, help herself feel comfortable, and ground herself in the room. And then, together, we can be introspective about that experience.
In art therapy, we engage in “mark making.” My clients aren’t worried about technical training, expensive materials, properly using materials, or advancing their skills. We simply use art materials as a vehicle to express. We see a color or texture in our mind, and do our best to get it on the page.
I created this image when I was feeling anxious. What visual elements can you identify in this piece? Are the figures isolated? In pain? Look at the color, texture, shape, and choices the artist made. Notice how the artist chose to use the materials. Can you imagine the type of care took when she made this? Her motion and pace?
What do you notice about the line-work? Can you imagine how long it took to make this piece, or how soft or hard the artist was pushing down the material? The entire page has been filled. Are the figures are lost or obscured?
This image communicates a great deal. And it’s my role, as an art therapist, to give this artpiece a voice and facilitate the conversation.
In this way, we aren’t asking the artist directly, “How are you feeling?” We ask, “How is this image feeling?” It’s a small shift but it’s an important one. Especially when I’m sitting with someone who is struggling and unsure of whether (or how) to disclose information.
This art piece says to me,
I’m trying to disappear.
I don’t want to be seen.
I can’t stop moving.
Disecting the Image
Now, I feel comfortable dissecting this image because I’m the one who created it. And when I’m with a client, I know the only person that can “explain” an art piece is the artist. When I sit with someone, I’m asking them to share their story. Stare at their story. Dissect their story. That story, or in this case the feeling of anxiety, sits on the page. It takes up space in the room, almost as a third person.
Because as we know, when you create something you put a piece of yourself into it. As an art therapist and an artist, I know my stories, emotions, opinions, and passions come out in my work. Even when I’m not trying to put them there. And even when I don’t want to include them.
For me, as I grew into adulthood the object of my anxiety began to change. As a teen, we typically brood about our bodies… our clothing… looking “cool.” And I don’t mean to diminish those things, they feel like real issues while they’re happening. But as adults, we aren’t as focused on them anymore because they don’t define our identity. But other things do: Our partnerships. Financial status. Line of work and education.
My anxiety began to attach itself to my performance at work. I became anxious, or excessively worried, unfocused, and nauseous, while I was at work and when I thought about work. Which was constantly. (That’s the nature of the disorder, it doesn’t leave you. You can’t shut it off.)
So now, I had moved past being an anxious teenager- excessively worried about my weight and looking like the outsider I convinced myself I was- to being an anxious adult woman. Who worried excessively about my ability to do my job well. Everything terrified me. And maybe terrified isn’t the right word- everything sent me into panic. Everything made me sick. So throughout my clinical internships and first positions as a therapist, my productivity went down. I didn’t complete projects. I missed work and lost jobs and said “No” to opportunities I should have said “Yes” to. All because I convinced myself I was an incapable fraud.
I thought I was just a perfectionist, an over-achiever. Except I wasn’t achieving anything because I was too busy throwing up in a bathroom to show up. My supervisors perceived that inability to show up as disinterest. In reality, I was too invested in the work. So now, in addition to feeling anxious about not doing my job perfectly, I was anxious about the fact that folks were seeing me as disinterested. (It’s a vicious cycle.)
Perception of Others
One thing you might notice is the emphasis I placed on the perceptions of others. The way my anxious brain convinced me that not only did I know what other people were thinking, but my worth depended on it.
So, I tried to figure out what was helpful to me. As I explained, “showing up” was difficult because I was frozen by the possibility of not executing everything perfectly. So I decided to simply notice those things that helped me feel less anxious. Or prevented me from becoming more anxious.
When I got home from work, I asked my body what it needed. And then I listened to what it told me. I sat on the floor… took a long drive… cleaned my shower… or went to sleep. Instead of feeding into the message, “You’re failing at this,” I was gentle with myself, the way I am gentle with my clients. Second, I spent time with people who helped me to feel less anxious because they inspired me, accepted me, and listened to me when I talked.
I also started an art ritual. \When I’m creating art, I feel present. I can’t think of anything else except what I’m doing. Art making is tactile, so it brings me back into my environment and out of my head. It’s repetitive and requires focus, so it soothes me. It also helps me feel confident and practice completing projects.
And the more I practiced these rituals- of listening to my body, being vulnerable with people I trust, and self-soothing through art- the less I beat myself up for feeling anxious. And the easier it became to handle my panic. Work was still a difficult thing for me, but it became easier when I addressed my anxiety and quit ignoring it or using it as a reason to speak harshly to myself. And although I still battle some anxieties, I know that it’s okay to feel anxious. I’m proud of myself for validating that and naming it. But after I do, it’s important to answer the question: “What am I doing about it?” Or, if things are really bad, “What am I able to do in this moment?”
I shifted the emphasis on the perception of others, and focused it inward.
And I encourage you to do the same. Listen to the messages your body tells you, the messages that come out in your work. Allow your artwork- whether its “work” art or “play” art (or “break up” art or “anxiety” art) to cue you into what you need. What you’re thinking about. Notice, be curious, look closely at the choices you make and the things you create. Be gentle with yourself as you allow yourself to improve.
But I don’t want to listen to that voice of reason in my head. I’ve found, in life, that the calling to unreasonableness is far stronger than the call to normalcy. I don’t want to hear that voice that tells me to quit this rant.
Words are everything…
I keep typing because words are everything to me.
Words gave me something to do in my first thirty days sober.
I wrote a poem every day. When I didn’t write one, I couldn’t sleep until one came to me.
The poems were bad, I admit. I look back on them now. They perplex me—nonsensical scribblings, descriptions of objects, internal mappings of emotion, mismatching ideas or overdrawn concepts. In retrospect, they were gibberish. But at the time, they were everything.
Early on, I associated things like writing and the discovery of written expression with the good feeling that sobriety gave me.
There are biochemical explanations for the elation we feel in early recovery. The small victories then—a steady hand, a sturdy voice, a poem here and there—feel like landmark victories to someone whose entire life has been ruled by mental and emotional instability.
And they are major, the victories. After all, aren’t all victories as large or small as we make them out to be?
During the course of my newly sober life, I became hooked on words, hooked in the same way I was hooked on pills, plants, powders, and plants. I told myself I needed them in order to live, the same way I convinced myself I needed a self-prescribed drug regimen to live.
Words helped me stay sober, and sobriety helped me create more words. Their relationship was dynamic and reinforcing. The trajectory of drugs and alcohol was a one-way path of destruction. Words took me—and still take me—forwards and backwards, while always upwards.
Substances took me from, words pulled me through.
Words remain my daily reprieve from the lash of addiction.
I’ve found other reprieves as well, like fellowship and self-reflection. I’m even hooked on honesty. If I tell a lie, it eats me alive, whereas lies were what I lived on in active addiction.
My life sober is so markedly different and so utterly the same. My brain latches on to what feels good.
Being honest is uncomfortable…
The main difference between then and now is not that I no longer suffer from addictions of all kinds, but that I am addicted to a deeper source of contentment than I used to be. Being honest is uncomfortable, but ultimately rewarding. Writing story after story while receiving rejections for their publication is humbling, but it strengthens my resolve that I am a writer no matter what the results of my writing will become. Exercise is painful, but it gives you a good night’s sleep and a confident mind.
Like before, I am hooked on anything that makes me feel good. Only now I’m better experienced in what exactly it is that makes me feel good in the first place.
When I was in rehab, my counselor convinced me to pray twice a day because, as he said, a camel goes without a drink of water by starting and ending each day on its knees. When he told me that, the story clicked in the bizarre way that things click in early recovery. All of a sudden, we say things like, “One day at a time,” or, “First things first,” or, “Live and let live,” like it’s personal scripture. I prayed from my knees every morning and night for six straight years. And good things began to happen.
And I kept praying…
I got a job teaching. I met my wife. We bought a house. I kept praying. Our children were born. I found a scholarship opportunity to get my masters in teaching. I kept praying. While I couldn’t stop and tell you the literal connection between prayer and the good things that were happening, I developed faith that good things were happening because of prayer.
If I missed my morning prayer halfway through my teaching schedule, I found a quiet place to get on my knees and pray. And while I rarely if ever felt the immediate effect of prayer, I understood that prayer led me to a higher quality of life. The evidence is impossible to deny.
Considering it, I can write with confidence that prayer feels good. So yes, I am hooked on prayer.
Hooked on an illusion…
I have thought about this topic for the nearly ten years of my time as a clean and sober man. Exactly what was I hooked on then that filled my life with shame? And exactly what am I hooked on today that gives my life fulfillment? Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Drugs and alcohol gave me an immediate rush. The immediate rush gave me a sense of control over how I feel. I was hooked on that control. Never wanting to face any misery or pain, I was hooked on the illusion that I could turn my emotions off and on like light switches.
I’ve learned that feeling good is more about long-term satisfaction. What provides a rush in the moment leads me to misery in the long run. Connecting my immediate thoughts and actions to the longer-termed requirements of happiness and satisfaction keeps me praying, writing, and getting honest with myself and others.
Getting hooked on the cure means transferring my craving for instant gratification to my longing for prolonged satisfaction.
It’s why I wake up early to write, even on mornings I am up late doing the same. I am still hooked on that which alters my mood; only I better understand what truly makes me happy.
Gerhard Richter once said, “Art is the highest form of hope.” And hope is the message for the men of Sanford House at John Street. As part of a yearlong renovation to this historic site, now serving as a treatment center, art was key to making a house a home. With more than 60 original works on the walls of Sanford House, the mission is clear. An inspirational environment can serve as a vehicle to healing.
If you’ve been in a clinic, doctor’s office or hospital recently, you will probably notice that the institutional green paint of old is gone. Often, in its place are bright colors and the works of regional artists. So too, in the addiction treatment world. An integral part of the Sanford House philosophy has always been that treatment begins in a particular place. And although residential treatment is just the beginning of a life in recovery, living with original artworks can encourage self-reflection and reduce stress and depression.
Artist Kathy Mohl
One of the featured artists at John Street is Kathy Mohl. Mohl’s work is influenced by places that stir the senses. And her artist statement reflects a kindred spirit with Sanford House. She says, “My work is inspired by light, nature and the power of place.”
Sanford House founder David Green saw Kathy Mohl’s work at an opening at LaFontsee Gallery in Grand Rapids. He was taken by her landscapes. He purchased several and commissioned two large paintings, Sanford House Rooftop View and Empire Bluff. They are the foundations of the John Street collection.
These commissions were admittedly a challenge for the artist. Mohl is a “plein air” painter. Because of this, she is most comfortable painting in the “open air,” inspired by the ephemeral quality of light. The commissions required that she work from photographs. And according to the artist, “Photos lie. Images flatten. Shadows darken…” It took her about eight weeks to finish the paintings, adding personalized elements to the canvases and making the inspiration her own.
I was drawn to Kathy’s use of color, especially in water scenes. Also, I was intrigued by the mystery in her work – what you might find around the painted corner or a bend in the river. I am continually impressed by Kathy’s appetite for discovery and experimentation… Sanford House founder David Green
Many of Kathy’s art challenges sound like a metaphor for recovery:
The reason, is because she had to:
Take the job step by step
Look at the big picture
Give herself credit for the small successes
Allow room for miracles
And in the end, “let come what comes…”
Viewing original art can relieve mental fatigue, stave off cognitive decline and even trigger the brain to be more open to learning. Kathy Mohl is an artist who believes “our surroundings can shape our thoughts and art can open our minds”.
And science agrees – our brains respond when we look at a painting. This is because viewing art triggers emotions. And for those people in addiction treatment, a reawakening of emotions and inner thoughts can reactivate the pleasure centers in the brain. In fact, art can be restorative in the same way a walk out of doors can relieve mental fatigue and clear the head.
In her article for the National Endowment for the Arts, Maria Popova says, “…people who partake in ‘creative culture,’ by playing an instrument or creating art, or ‘receptive culture,’ by going to museums, concerts and art galleries, are less stressed, report higher levels of life-satisfaction and well-being, and are less likely to feel depressed or anxious.”
Optimism and Art…
Entering addiction treatment is an act of optimism in itself. And as Kathy Mohl suggested, there is a great deal of power in “place.” Recovery from substance use disorders is like a widening path. The overwhelming joy of sobriety after the long, rocky road of addiction is like looking out over a spectacular vista. Or living with one of Mohl’s landscapes. And taking in its intrinsic human value – light filled and promising.
Without intention, my paintings often seem to ask questions. What is around the bend? Where does the path lead? What is beyond? These are the questions we all have as we go through life… Standing back – taking the long view – sometimes that is when we see things more clearly.” Kathy Mohl
I was scrolling through Instagram a couple of days ago when I saw a photo that a local celebrity had posted. It was of a takeaway cup filled with wine and the caption read: “Sneaking a light beverage into the school prize giving tonight.”
The photo was liked by over 2,000 people and there were over a hundred comments. All of them of the “love your style!” and “this is genius!” variety. I thought for a second about posting an alternative viewpoint (“this isn’t healthy behaviour!”) but stopped myself. I didn’t want to come across as the “fun police” (a dreaded thing to be in my country), nor did I want to judge this person publicly. But I was being a bit judgmental I have to admit.
The truth is, I do think it’s dysfunctional taking wine into a public place not meant for drinking. A school prize giving, I mean, really? Are you that desperate for your fix? I know these events can be torturous and long, but they don’t happen often. Can’t you wait until you get home to have a wine?
I also felt dismayed because it was yet another example of an outward normalizing of dysfunctional drinking. This celebrity has a following, many people like and admire her, so her actions have power. With this post she is influencing people to think this type of behaviour is ‘cool’ and acceptable. Which in my view it’s not.
I’m bringing plenty of my own personal baggage into my judgments. And not just because of how I view things now as a sober adult. I was actually kicked out of my own senior school prize giving for being drunk. In 1989, at age 17, I arrived at my school hall full of gin and a sassy attitude and made a spectacle of myself, so I was asked to leave. I thought I was cool and hip and got kicked out. I didn’t give a toss.
Didn’t give a toss about how people saw my drinking behaviour for the next 20 years either. In fact truth be known I probably had a similar attitude as the wine-sneaking celebrity when it came to my alcohol consumption.
I thought it was fine to drink pretty much anywhere, any time, and I did firmly believe that booze was vital for fun and guaranteed to make events fun.
The Times are Changing…
But times have changed for me. I’m 6 years past my last drink now and have had a complete turnaround in my thinking. My eyes are now fully open to the fallacy that alcohol is necessary, fun, cool and ok to drink whenever and wherever.
Now I just see it as an expensive, soul-numbing liquid that shifts reality unnecessarily and detaches me from my natural emotions. But this is me now. And not everyone needs to live and feel like me.
Actually, as I write this and reflect on my judgments I think I need to not be bothered when I see social media posts like this one. I think I need to not care what others are doing. I think it’s probably best if I just focus on what I’m doing and the impact it’s having on me and the people around me.
That way I won’t end up being a judgemental cow, I’ll just remain content in my personal life choices and comfortable with the fact that other people are free to make theirs.
As the New Year approaches, we find ourselves reflecting. The staff of Sanford House Addiction Treatment Centers hosted events and forged new partnerships in 2017. This year was a big one for us, from the opening of our men’s facility to the development of our alum program. Our treatment team partnered with clients to build a fulfilling life in recovery. The places where we work- 540 Cherry Street, 221 John Street, and 74 Lafayette Avenue- have grown along with us. And for that we are thankful. Since establishing Sanford House at Cherry in 2015, we’ve had incredible opportunities to learn and progress. As we look back on the previous year, we remember…
Sanford House partnered with the addiction treatment community to exhibit with Unite to Face Addiction Michigan (UFAM) and the Michigan Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (MAADAC). Vonnie Woodrick of I Understand spoke with the women of Sanford House at Cherry Street about the stigma of mental illness. Also, we teamed with I Understand for an evening “Conversation About Mental Health” at John Street. And at the Innovators Symposium in Chicago, we listened to researchers, doctors, and leaders in the field speak about the future of addiction treatment.
We developed an option for clients to get some AM exercise with Walks with Mare and Walks with Craig. These peer support lead walks took residents out of the house, and into downtown Grand Rapids. Additionally, residents visited 10 different Michigan National Parks during our 2017 excursions.
The Sanford House Admission & Outreach Center found a new home at 74 Lafayette Avenue. Co-Founder Rae Green says, “It’s a fulfilling experience to bring these homes to life… After the restoration process is complete, they have a new and powerful purpose.” Before the Greens purchased the property, the historic Macabe Marlow Mansion was owned by Grand Rapids Community College.
Sanford House at Cherry Street hosted its first annual Alumna Picnic. On the lawn and in the summer sun, alumna shared stories about their recovery. The event created a space for former and current clients to connect. We value community at Sanford House, and the Alumna Picnic demonstrated the importance of support in early recovery.
Walkthrough Tour of 221 John Street - YouTube
Sanford House at John Street opened its oak doors in October. The restored historic mansion at 221 John Street has room for 20 residents and provides the same resources as its sister site at Cherry Street. Sanford House at John Street is a residential and non-residential addiction treatment facility for men. Further, Sanford House programming is gender-specific and individualized. After the opening, Sanford House at John Street was awarded CARF accreditation. Visit the Sanford House at John Street page for a virtual tour of the facility.
Friends and colleagues gathered around the table to christen the John Street dining room, during our Addiction Professionals Dinner. Chef Leslie prepared a beautiful meal while we dined and discussed how to best serve our community. This was a special evening for us, as we strengthened our bonds with those doing good work. Those in attendance represented Acadia Healthcare, Timberline Knolls, Foundations Recovery Network, and beyond.
Teri Keegan-Castrop, “Marci Waiting”
As summer came to a close, the city of Grand Rapids geared up for ArtPrize. ArtPrize is an open, international art competition in West Michigan. Due to its size, ArtPrize been named one of the most attended public art events in the world. Art Therapist Jess Kimmel accompanied the women of Sanford House at Cherry Street to view art pieces throughout the city.
With the addition of our new facility, as well as moving offices, the Sanford House family expanded. We hired several new addiction professionals, including Sanford House COO Jack Feinberg.
In December, we announced that Sanford House at Cherry Street and Sanford House at John Street are in-network with Blue Cross Blue Shield and Blue Care Network. As a result, this partnership widened our reach and allows us to serve more clients. For more information about insurance and payment at Sanford House, click here.
Clinical interventionist Tom Gilbert of Touchstone joined us as our first guest in the “Recovery Speaker Series.” Gilbert shared his recovery story with Sanford House clients and staff.
2017 marked our first Holiday Open House. For the event, residents invited family members into their Sanford House home to celebrate the season. Christmas trees were decorated, cookies warmed in the oven… and, in the safety of treatment, residents shared the holidays with those who love them. Co-founder Rae Green commented, “when family members began to arrive, they were able to see where their loved one was living and healing. As a result, we all felt the Christmas spirit.”
… And into the New Year
If 2017 was for planting seeds, 2018 is all about deepening our roots. In the coming year, Sanford House Addiction Treatment Centers is looking forward to establishing our strength. And we wish the same for you…
I have never been a fan of New Year’s Eve. Too many expectations. But the thought of a brand new year, free of mistakes (you get to erase everything you’ve done wrong in 2017, right?), is fun to think about… And as to resolutions – according to Forbes, only 8% of resolutions are successful. So why bother?
Honestly, Let’s Do Unto Ourselves…
I propose that this year, we try to be kind. And we all just take good care of ourselves. At Sanford House we know that getting help for a substance use disorder is the best way to demonstrate self-care. And the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones in 2018 and beyond…
Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!
And for your reading pleasure, we present the “Best of Excursions – Self-Care and Wellness”:
In the musical Oliver, there is a scene where a long line of adorable, strategically smudged orphans imagine they are eating a feast instead of the gruel they are being served. They warble, “Food, glorious food – we’re anxious to try it! 3 banquets a day. Our favourite diet. Just picture a great big steak fried, [read more…]
Working in the field of addiction, it is not uncommon for me to hear people say; “I should be able to indulge in all the sweets, fats and junk food I want.” There is a shared belief that “treating themselves” to processed foods is better than using their drug of choice. This, however, is proving to [read more…]
How do I know when I’m ready for change? How do I enact change in my life? When we anticipate profound change, we believe the moment will come to us in an equally profound way.We want the moment. We expect it. I’ll change when the moment presents itself to me… someday… when it’s right. [read more…]
Sanford House Wellness Coach, Kathy Morrow, is always scouting out new places to encourage and excite our clients to challenge themselves physically. And when she heard that Blandford Nature Center was opening a new section to their trail map, she loaded up the van. The former Highlands Golf Club in Grand Rapids, Michigan is beginning [read more…]
This week, we had a visit from clinical interventionist Tom Gilbert of TouchStone. Tom shared his journey of addiction and recovery with our clients and staff… And a part of his journey was to spend the holidays in residential treatment. It’s something our residents could relate to – with Christmas approaching and the festive season in full swing.
Because we understand that spending the holidays in treatment isn’t easy. The circumstances aren’t ideal. But what better gift to close friends and family than the safety, health, and sobriety of someone they love?
Below are our favorite holiday reads, from Excursions Magazine…
I quit drinking in the month of July, so I had some time to get used to the idea before the onslaught of the holiday season and the reality of a sober holiday. By Halloween I knew I was committed to sobriety. I spent the first abstemious trick-or-treat of my adult life, dressed as a surly Cruella DeVil (a character I resemble a bit too much in the best of times), drinking gassy water out of a champagne glass and diving into the candy bowl with the zeal theretofore reserved for Vampire Chardonnay… [Read more]
I regularly go to a meeting, where once a month we have a “fireball” format in which the sharer picks someone from the group and gives them a topic. It seems I have been given the topic of “being a parent in recovery” multiple times. I always get the feeling that everyone is expecting me to talk about how “I bring my kid to meetings all the time, what’s your excuse?” or lament about how stressful being a parent is. Snapshots of, “Wine: mommy’s little helper,” and other stereotypes run through my head. But I know what to say… [Read more]
This week started with “Blue Monday.” Blue Monday – January 16th. It’s known as the most depressing day of the year. It is when the post-holiday blues set in, when New Year’s resolutions have typically failed, and when the weather is at its worst. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, there are things you can do to lighten your mood and environment. Historically, the term ‘Blue Monday’ was coined by psychologist, Cliff Arnall, who formulated an equation to describe the most depressing day of the year… [Read more]