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Advanced Recovery Systems’ Recovery Panel

Staff members from our nationwide branches of The Recovery Village share their stories about addiction, recovery and handling day-to-day life in the midst of a pandemic.

Celebrating the Our Staff’s Recovery Stories!

Estimated watch time: 36 mins

Available credits: none

Presentation Materials:

Moderator: Donald Rogers, CADC, CPRS. As a member of the Community Outreach Team at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, Don is dedicated to helping clients, families and organizations find quality treatment options. Before joining Advanced Recovery Systems in 2020, Don served as an Addiction Recovery Specialist in the Northern New Jersey region.

Panelists: As a member of the Community Outreach Team at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, Erick Giunta is dedicated to helping clients, families and organizations find quality treatment options. Before joining Advanced Recovery Systems in 2020, Erick Giunta spent five years working in his community in similar roles, helping those struggling with substance use disorder and mental health find the resources they need. He is excited for the opportunity to impact his community and this demographic further by being able to represent an exceptional resource in his community.

Heather Ann Adams brings a wealth of Business Development experience to her role at The Recovery Village Palm Beach, where she hopes to work together with her team to employ innovative strategies and ideas for recovery. Her greatest strength is the ability to connect with others. In her 18 years working in the medical industry, Heather has built an impressive book of business — she knows what it takes to engage with the local community and spread the word about ARS services. Outside of work, Heather is a board member of Women Empowering Women and holds an Occupational Associate’s Degree in Cardiovascular Therapy.

Megan Powell has a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Leadership & Management from Capital University. Megan hopes to use this experience to excel in her role as a liaison between The Recovery Village and the local community, helping patients to get the personalized help they need.

Shannon Beemer is a Community Outreach Coordinator at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake, located in Palmer Lake, Colorado. In her role, Shannon provides support and assistance to patients taking their very first steps into recovery. She works to build relationships in the local community that will provide a link between those seeking recovery and addiction treatment providers who can help them.

Welcome to the Community Education Series, hosted by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems.

Don:
Alright — welcome everybody to the Advanced Recovery Systems, Recovery Village recovery webinar. We’ve got a panel here. My name is Don Rogers; I’m the community outreach director of The Recovery Village located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and we have some guests today. Everybody here is going to share a little bit about their personal recovery, and we’ll go down and tailor some questions to fit their story and just kind of hear their experience, strength and hope.

We think it’s important to shed some light on the fact that people are in recovery every day fighting the fight, trying to make a difference and, most importantly, highlighting the process of recovery joining this COVID pandemic, which has affected millions of people worldwide. So without further ado, what I’d like to do is just kind of go around — if you could just briefly introduce yourself, take a few seconds to provide a little introduction, and then we can hear a little bit about your recovery story. Does anybody feel the need to participate first? Anybody want to share?

Panelists:
Sure, yeah. I’m Eric Giunta; I’m a community outreach coordinator at The Recovery Village of Cherry Hill. I’m in long-term recovery for nine years, and I’m excited to be on this panel — thank you.

Thanks Eric. I’m Heather Ann; I’m a grateful recovering addict. I’m a senior outreach coordinator for The Recovery Village of Baptist Health in South Florida, and I just celebrated 16 years on May 1.

Thank you, Heather. I’m Megan Powell; I’m the community outreach coordinator for Columbus, Ohio. I’ve been in long-term recovery for a little over five years, and my role is basically to get people linked up with treatment options.

I’m Shannon Beamer. I am a community outreach coordinator for The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. I’m also piloting the alumni program at our facility as well, which I absolutely love. I’m also in long-term recovery; I’ve been sober from alcohol and drugs for seven years.

Don:
Thank you Shannon. I’d be remiss if I didn’t share as well. My name is Don; I’m in personal long-term recovery. What that means is I haven’t had a drink or drug in over 11 years, and I’m truly grateful to be able to participate in my recovery every day and with y’all today. So, I guess what we’ll do is we’ll kind of move into an open discussion conversation. We do have some questions, but we love to just hear — considering we are limited on time — if you have three to five minutes to share. You know, your recovery story, how you’re kind of moving through your recovery during his COVID pandemic, working in the field but for Advanced Recovery Systems and The Recovery Villages.

It’s great to see how we’ve got a presence from all — most — of our locations nationwide. Just kind of goes to show you the bandwidth and the outreach efforts that we have as a system, so that’s great too. So yeah, why don’t we start with Eric — if we can, you’d like to share a couple of minutes, your recovery story, how you’re getting through it, what are you doing to strengthen your recovery? Talk about resilience. Let’s talk about some goals, what you’re working towards in your personal recovery, if you’ve had any trials, tribulations or stuff you may be struggling with — share the hope.

Eric:
Absolutely, thanks Donald. My story is probably much like everyone else’s; for whatever reason in my youth, I started to experiment. It was definitely socially acceptable in my family and definitely gravitated towards that atmosphere in high school. And things progressively got worse — so bad to the point that I couldn’t see my life continuing to do what I was doing and I couldn’t see my life without continuing to do what I was doing, and so I’d really kind of hit this point of rock bottom. I don’t have to sit here and tell you about all the family turmoil or the legal trouble, or any of the other things that come along with addiction and alcoholism — the hopelessness, the despair. I can just tell you that it got so bad that for once in my life, I was willing to do something about it. And my episode, my story, started. My recovery story started much like a lot of people that I help, and I found good access to good treatment and, somewhere along that journey, started to hear things that really started to resonate.

I started to feel like I wasn’t alone. I started to feel like I wasn’t malfunctioned or defective. I started to realize that I had the disease of addiction and that there was treatment for that. And that, of course, started with having to be cleared of substances through a detox process, but then also learning that there was 12-step fellowship and different things that I could get involved with when I left treatment. And quite honestly, that’s just what I did. I kind of attacked the recovery process like my life depended on it. I truly believe that my life did depend on it, and I did everything that was suggested to me and I started to get relief. You know, a big part of my story early on and still today is sponsorship and 12-step meetings, and what that’s taught me is to stay open-minded and continue to look for growth opportunities. Part of everything that I did early on is part of what I try to integrate into my life today. Those things provided me with such relief from my alcoholism and my addiction from a physical, mental and spiritual perspective that I try to stay true to those fundamentals today.

So when COVID — a pandemic— hit, it was definitely alarming. It was definitely something that I had never experienced before and that my father and my grandfather had never experienced before, and so — certainly an adjustment period. But I realized that I had an option, just like the option that I had when I hit rock bottom with my substance abuse. And that was — I could either do something about it and decide to look at it from a positive perspective, or I could crumble and fall like many times in the past. And I just took the opportunity to really try to see the positives of it and stick to the fundamentals. I have maintained sponsorship and regular contact with a sponsor, I’ve maintained regular attendance of meetings through Zoom, which has been an enormous tool for me, not just in my recovery but professionally. My ability to do what I’ve always done and the guys that I sponsor have been a big part of this. We’ve done step work, we stayed in regular communication, we’ve even gotten together; we’ve taken a lot of precautions with social distancing and protecting — you know, face masks and stuff like that.

Like I said, I just try to stay really fundamental to where I began this process. I’ve done a lot of things for self-care, which has been very important, maintaining a regular schedule. I wake up in the morning, I get right to work. Of course, I shower and I shave and I do all the things that I need to do to feel good, and I pray, and then I make sure that I work a full day and that I’m very productive. And then I work out and I have dinner with the family and I just try to maintain some sort of normalcy and, quite honestly, I’ve grown quite a bit professionally because I have to now think outside of the box. I’m used to working in the field, running around, meeting different people, making those connections, sometimes even meeting with patients that need a little bit of extra care, and that’s not been possible. So, email and fax and Zoom have been huge, huge resources for me, and these are things I wasn’t used to doing and have now become habit. So in a time where I could have used all of this as an excuse to not work or to kind of meet a status quo in some way, I’ve turned it into a positive and decided to grow professionally and personally.

Don:
Yeah — thanks for sharing. Yeah. I love what you shared about self-care, making the adjustment, really turning this obstacle into an opportunity to grow and to better yourself, further recovery, pivoting to technology for the support, and most importantly, getting through it sober, staying plugged into the fellowship, which is huge. So, great — thank you. I’m just going to kind of go around the map here on the screen. Heather Ann, would you like to share a little bit?

Heather:
Sure. So thank you, Eric, for giving me some more tools. My name’s Heather Ann Adams, and like I said before, I’m a grateful recovering addict. Through this quarantine — my clean date is May 1, 2004 — I had a celebration which didn’t get to really be celebrated because of the quarantine, at least with my people. But I’m truly grateful to have the time that I have. You know, my story is no different than anybody else’s. I’m a survivor of abuse. I come from a family that has alcoholism and drug addiction that runs rampant. I was the oldest of teenage parents, and so I always wanted to grow up fast at a young age. So all of my using started at a very young age. I have four children — my older two went through a lot of the horrors with me, which is not something I’m proud of, but it’s part of my story.

And so I, you know, I surrendered. I’d had a lot of bottoms on my journey that most people would’ve probably thought, “Gosh, I have a problem,” and mine I just kept digging, so my bottoms just kept getting worse and worse. I really was like a bottom-of-the-barrel user. I was homeless at the end and I didn’t have any resources, so I didn’t get to do treatment. I was able to go to a state-funded detox, and the 12 steps, the fellowships, are what really saved my life. I call it the knucklehead version of getting clean because I was grabbing at the chairs for like the first 30 days, but the love of the fellowship that I attend is really what breathes life back into me and the relationship that I have with God. I am too a big believer in sponsorship and a support group; that was instilled in me early on, and that is something that I’ve maintained. I’ve kept a home group throughout my journey, and I do a lot of service. I’m involved in our area convention and I’m the vice chair, and I’ve just always done service because they told me that I couldn’t keep what I have unless I give it away, and a grateful addict will never use. I say that along my journey, because I’ve maintained and stayed a participant in my recovery, I’ve been in training for this quarantine and I wasn’t aware of it until it happened.

I came into this field to work; I worked in the medical field for a lot of years because I had went through a divorce. My ex-husband, after being in sobriety for seven years, decided to use, and so I got a divorce because I love myself more. Something, again, my recovery has taught me. But in that, I was able to switch careers and come into the treatment world, and I was able to have the ability of knowing what it was like to be the addict but also know what it was like for the families, because I had experienced that. That was something I felt that was really helpful for me when working with people and trying to get them help: knowing both aspects. Through the quarantine, because I’ve always maintained my recovery on a regular basis, I was like Eric. Just — structure’s very important for me. I’m really a social butterfly, and I felt like initially when I got put at home, that it was a butterfly that got put into a box, and my perspective was awful. And because I suffered, but because of my recovery, I’ve been taught to be in solution — not problem.

So I was able to snap out of that relatively quickly, but I would say relatively quickly — it was about a week it took me to like adjust to the new “what is.” But I’ve maintained my structure, so the same thing; I get up, I take a shower, I wake up early, allow myself like two hours to have some prayer and meditation. I get dressed like I’m going to work because it makes me feel better and it puts me in that mode. I’ve been creating throughout my journey and tapping into my inner child. My whole backyard I turned into a tropical oasis, so Home Depot loves me because I spent lots of money every weekend going there, but that was my new office because the house was making me feel claustrophobic. I switched to zoom meetings as well, for my personal recovery and for work. I love them — a lot of people don’t like them, but I love them cause I get to see you guys.

I’m a feeler and I’m a hugger, so that’s been eliminated. My outlets are the beach and live music dancing; those were all taken from me. So I’ve had to really reinvent myself throughout this journey. I’ve had to face my shadows, which I believe everybody probably has in some way, shape or form through all of this — whatever that looks like for you. It’s been multiple things for me, but there’s been a lot of growth that has taken place. I make a gratitude list every single morning, all the things I was taught early in recovery or what I’m utilizing now, the spiritual principles that I’ve worked through, the steps — I’m putting those bitches to work hard. Perseverance, vigilance, hope, faith, willingness — not just in my recovery, but in my job too. Like I’m pulling that all in, and I have weekly meltdowns where I cry; that’s just the truth because sometimes it gets really, really hard, and I allow myself just to feel when I need to do that too. So, I think that’s pretty much all I have. Thank you.

Don:
Thank you, thanks for sharing. Talk about the compelling force that keeps us clean, right? Second step, coming to believe — yeah, I certainly had heard that in your message there. And I love how you shared what brought you to the process of addiction and recovery. Because we all know what brought us to our first meeting or what brought you to that point of defeat and surrender, but we often wonder what brought us to getting high, drinking, using, you know — what was the trauma? What happened? And when I talk to people in recovery that are active in the recovery, they don’t know the answer to that question. Like what brought them to their drug of choice, another drink of choice and what brought them to eviction? The underlying issues is where it’s at, you know? Thanks for sharing, Heather — phenomenal message there. We appreciate you. Next on my screen is Shannon. If you could please take a few minutes as well, that’d be great.

Shannon:
Yeah. So I’m Shannon, and like I said, I am a person in long-term recovery. I haven’t had a drink or used a drug for seven years, and I didn’t think that that was possible. I had tried to get sober before this last time that I got sober, and I don’t think that my story, like everybody else, is different than anybody else. I have this huge hole in me that I was trying to fill with drugs, alcohol, men, clothes, possessions, and it would only work for a little bit and then it wouldn’t and I was miserable again. I was constantly trying to fill that hole, and the day that I got sober, I was sitting in jail in downtown Denver and I was crying out to God and was like — I can’t live like this anymore, and I don’t know what to do or how to move forward. For the first time in my life, I listened, and God told me that I was going to go to rehab and if I didn’t stay sober, I was going to die. So that’s always been something — like when I get in a really hard time, that pops into my head. It’s like, “This is my last chance to live, and if I go down that rabbit hole again, I’m not going to make it out,” and I’ve just held on to that.

But I got to go to treatment; I was lucky. And then I went to sober living after that, and I stayed in sober living for nine months. Then, I started working in the field. I knew I wanted to be able to help out an alcoholic or an addict like people had helped me out, and that was really a huge driving force for me. I also have a daughter that I had given custody up when I was using. I just knew I was either gonna die or end up in jail, and I didn’t want my parents to have a hard time getting custody of her ‘cause her dad was never in the picture, and so I have her back in my life. I have custody of her; I’m a mom again. I also have a new baby. So, family is a big part of my recovery — being able to participate in my family and being able to be a daughter and a mom, and I have a fiance, so being able to be a good significant other.

Just like Heather and Eric said, I dove into a program of recovery. I did everything they told me to do. Got a sponsor, did service work and just tried to be a good example of what a person in recovery looks like, ‘cause I think that there’s still this huge stigma. I mean, ‘cause most of us have like sorted paths, we weren’t the best examples of participating in society. So, just trying to give back in that way. And when COVID hit, I had like this trauma response to it — this “why me, why is this happening?” I’m a survivor of abuse as well, and I think that going through that also helped me to like push through this quicker. I knew that I had those feelings in the beginning and I was like, “I need to get to acceptance as quickly as I possibly can.” And there’s no right way to figure that out or go down that path, and it’s messy. Like, there’s still days where I always cry in the shower. That’s like my safe space, you know? But, I mean, there’s still days where I cry just because like this whole thing is traumatic.

There’s people who have lost their lives because they either relapsed or they continued to up their using and drinking during this time, and that is unsettling to me. I feel like sometimes I feel that pain of theirs, and that’s what gets me into this not-okay spot. But knowing that I still need to be that good example of what a person in recovery looks like is really something that helps me out every single day. And yeah, having a routine has been amazing, and talking about how I feel — like it’s okay to not feel okay, and you need to find somebody to talk to about that — and that’s been my saving grace to be able to call somebody and just be like, “Hey, like I’m not okay today.” You know? Like, it feels like the world’s crashing today and it’s because like, I couldn’t find a shoe or, you know, these little things that add up to something huge. So yeah. I think getting to a spot of acceptance and being able to talk about what’s going on with me and keeping in normal activities, like talking with my sponsor and meetings and trying to be of service, has been really, really important in this time.

Don:
So powerful, thanks for sharing. Yeah, I mean you talk about jail, you talk about custody, you talk about that degradation, the demoralization that occurs with addiction and the horrors of all that. The message that trumps all is your sobriety, right? You know, being a family woman again and having your kids in your life and a job. Looking at you now, sitting in a beautiful home, talking about your recovery — that’s the hope, you know, so thank you for sharing. We appreciate you; thank you for your message. And I’d like to introduce our last speaker. Megan, would you like to share? Thank you.

Megan:
Again, my name’s Megan; I’m from Ohio. Yeah, I really appreciate everyone sharing their story because I get to cross paths with people where I’m like, “Yes, I feel exactly the same way.” When I was little, probably around the age of eight, was when I first identified I had something wrong with my sleep, and I had very intense anxiety. But my family just saw the physical part of that — the stomach aches, headaches, other things that might not be drawn back to the fact that it was stemming from severe anxiety. As a child, that felt very unsafe. I remember also I had a lot of self-worth issues at a young age.

I remember the first time this kid named Anthony called me chunky, and I kinda was chunky — I guess like the equivalent to wearing husky pants is a guy. I don’t know, so I was like, “I’m going to chase him down and I’m going to beat the crap out of them,” but I was a little hefty so I couldn’t keep up. I can laugh about that now, but back then, I had a lot of questions about life. I had questions about my sexuality; I had questions about why I was here, what my purpose was — probably a little bit at a higher level, which caused me a lot of pain. It kind of increased and then it came to a head when I was about, I don’t know, in my third year of college. Life seemed to be going okay, but I felt like I wasn’t living my life. I was living a life that I thought should be lived by someone like me that looked like me. I just didn’t feel authentic, and I remember trying my drug of choice. I tried it, and the only way I know how to describe it is if I was driving on a highway and it’s pouring down rain, and I go under a bridge and there’s that relief for that moment. I thought, “Aha, I found it. I found what’s going to kind of solve all my problems.”

My anxiety went away, my questions about sexuality were put aside, I was excelling in every part of my life and I could put aside pretty much everything. Eventually, it wasn’t sustainable. I just couldn’t hold that lifestyle, and I was becoming empty to my core. What I thought at the time was a moral dilemma within myself — shame and guilt — was, in reality, the disease of addiction. The way I felt towards the end was that using was equated to breathing. If someone was keeping me from taking a breath of air and holding me underwater, I would do absolutely anything, even step on someone’s face to get what I needed to breathe — AKA, survive. And that’s a scary place to be. I mean, my whole brain chemistry changed, and then it came to a head where I was like, “This isn’t going to work anymore, and it’s not sustainable.” But asking for help is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do, but it’s what saved me.

I still struggle with asking for help even now. It’s been a little over five years since I’ve used drugs or alcohol, and I really started building a life that was mine, that was authentic, and that I could be me. I was able to come out to my parents, I was able to connect with people and be exactly who I was — I didn’t have to be anybody else. I was able to make mistakes and I was able to go through pain but deal with it in a healthy way, and that felt really good. It was very hard, I think in the beginning, because it was so different for me. I’m used to kind of pushing now how I felt, and even without drugs, my life — it could be chaos. I could go to the store, I could be ordering stuff on Amazon, I could be dating all these people — like, it could get a little rowdy, and I didn’t even need drugs to be part of the equation. So, I had like-minded people in my life, I continue to go to therapy; you need to go to support groups. And there’s so many 12-step, Buddhist meditation — I really connected with people at a deep level where I’m like, “Life is good; it’s not perfect.” So when COVID happened, the isolation scared me because of my mental health on top of my history of using. I will say I didn’t have a desire to use. I really didn’t; that wasn’t really an option for me. However, I kinda got sucked into some depression and, unfortunately, a month before the stay-at-home order, my brother who was also a struggling addict for the majority of his adult life and struggled with mental health passed away.

I remember getting the phone call in February, and I didn’t want to use at that moment. I’ll tell you — that’s the positive, but at the same time, it crushed my world. What was interesting is that we went through his belongings after his accident, and what was in his right back pocket was from a 12-step meeting and it was the first step: surrender powerlessness. And in this COVID, and in this death of a family member, in a divorce, in a breakup, in cancer, catastrophe, I am powerless. But I do have control over me and my actions, and at that point, I decided that I’m going to call somebody. I’m going to talk to them, how uncomfortable it is, and I’m going to get the help that I need and I continue to do so to build off that. And I think the ability for us to be at this point where we’re able to share that within our career and our personal life, it’s not only fulfilling, but I just think it serves a higher purpose. So thank you for letting me share.

Don:
Thank you for sharing, and thank you for sharing your most recent trial and tribulation and loss, and sharing the hope that you got through it clean and remained in recovery and continue to recover. And that on top of COVID and everything else that’s going on, there is a beacon of hope and light for anybody, no matter what you’re going through. Whether it’s COVID itself, a loss of a loved one, a severe mental health issue or a significant trauma, you can get through it and you don’t have to use alcohol or drugs. The help is available. So thank you, Megan, for sharing.

Thank everybody for sharing. I think we’ve come pretty much to the end of our webinar here. One thing I do want to leave everybody with is some hope — there’s well around 50 years of recovery right here on the screen. You’ve heard different stories; everyone’s story is different, but the mission is the same, right? It’s to get another day. To get another day of freedom, to get another day of hope, and most importantly, reach out to help somebody. Heather, I think, had shared a little bit about it — that the only way we have what we have is by giving it away. And Eric talked about sponsorship and Shannon talked about her experience with sobriety and helping her family. Megan talked about her commitment and her service to the fellowship and to her recovery, and that’s the moral of it. What we do every day revolves around our primary purpose. And, you know, me too — the feelings that I felt in active addiction, the feelings I feel today are very similar to what you guys are all going through today, and just know that there’s hope, right?

You guys all kind of touched on the disease concept that this is a mental health condition when we’re talking about substance use disorder and getting that verbiage right. That we suffer from a substance use disorder, right? It’s long-lasting, it’s chronic, right up there with cancer, diabetes, hypertension. We’ve got to treat it every day, all day, and how you treat that — you guys talked about the multiple pathways. It could be a 12-step fellowship. It could be previous recovery, SMART recovery, prayer and meditation, right? Everybody’s recovery story is not the same per se because we all have different belief systems and may believe in different pathways. What I heard today was a lot of the 12-step fellowship, which is the most proven way to a successful recovery is working and living a 12-step program, which I firmly believe as well.

Most importantly, if you’re watching this webinar, just know that we at The Recovery Village with Advanced Recovery Systems are available all day, anytime during the day. You can reach us at 888-REHAB-NOW or you can visit our website at therecoveryvillage.com, and we’ll step up to the plate. We’ll help you and your family connect the dots, and most importantly, just be someone to talk to to support you. So, thank you for your time, and that’s all we have. Thanks for sharing.

Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

Objectives and Summary:

In this community education webinar, moderator Donald Rogers, CADC, CPRS, helps members of the Advanced Recovery Systems family share their personal stories with addiction and discuss the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their long-term recovery and day-to-day lives.

 

 

Presentation Materials:

Moderator: Donald Rogers, CADC, CPRS. As a member of the Community Outreach Team at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, Don is dedicated to helping clients, families and organizations find quality treatment options. Before joining Advanced Recovery Systems in 2020, Don served as an Addiction Recovery Specialist in the Northern New Jersey region.

Panelists: As a member of the Community Outreach Team at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, Erick Giunta is dedicated to helping clients, families and organizations find quality treatment options. Before joining Advanced Recovery Systems in 2020, Erick Giunta spent five years working in his community in similar roles, helping those struggling with substance use disorder and mental health find the resources they need. He is excited for the opportunity to impact his community and this demographic further by being able to represent an exceptional resource in his community.

Heather Ann Adams brings a wealth of Business Development experience to her role at The Recovery Village Palm Beach, where she hopes to work together with her team to employ innovative strategies and ideas for recovery. Her greatest strength is the ability to connect with others. In her 18 years working in the medical industry, Heather has built an impressive book of business — she knows what it takes to engage with the local community and spread the word about ARS services. Outside of work, Heather is a board member of Women Empowering Women and holds an Occupational Associate’s Degree in Cardiovascular Therapy.

Megan Powell has a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Leadership & Management from Capital University. Megan hopes to use this experience to excel in her role as a liaison between The Recovery Village and the local community, helping patients to get the personalized help they need.

Shannon Beemer is a Community Outreach Coordinator at The Recovery Village Palmer Lake, located in Palmer Lake, Colorado. In her role, Shannon provides support and assistance to patients taking their very first steps into recovery. She works to build relationships in the local community that will provide a link between those seeking recovery and addiction treatment providers who can help them.

Welcome to the Community Education Series, hosted by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems.

Don:
Alright — welcome everybody to the Advanced Recovery Systems, Recovery Village recovery webinar. We’ve got a panel here. My name is Don Rogers; I’m the community outreach director of The Recovery Village located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and we have some guests today. Everybody here is going to share a little bit about their personal recovery, and we’ll go down and tailor some questions to fit their story and just kind of hear their experience, strength and hope.

We think it’s important to shed some light on the fact that people are in recovery every day fighting the fight, trying to make a difference and, most importantly, highlighting the process of recovery joining this COVID pandemic, which has affected millions of people worldwide. So without further ado, what I’d like to do is just kind of go around — if you could just briefly introduce yourself, take a few seconds to provide a little introduction, and then we can hear a little bit about your recovery story. Does anybody feel the need to participate first? Anybody want to share?

Panelists:
Sure, yeah. I’m Eric Giunta; I’m a community outreach coordinator at The Recovery Village of Cherry Hill. I’m in long-term recovery for nine years, and I’m excited to be on this panel — thank you.

Thanks Eric. I’m Heather Ann; I’m a grateful recovering addict. I’m a senior outreach coordinator for The Recovery Village of Baptist Health in South Florida, and I just celebrated 16 years on May 1.

Thank you, Heather. I’m Megan Powell; I’m the community outreach coordinator for Columbus, Ohio. I’ve been in long-term recovery for a little over five years, and my role is basically to get people linked up with treatment options.

I’m Shannon Beamer. I am a community outreach coordinator for The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake. I’m also piloting the alumni program at our facility as well, which I absolutely love. I’m also in long-term recovery; I’ve been sober from alcohol and drugs for seven years.

Don:
Thank you Shannon. I’d be remiss if I didn’t share as well. My name is Don; I’m in personal long-term recovery. What that means is I haven’t had a drink or drug in over 11 years, and I’m truly grateful to be able to participate in my recovery every day and with y’all today. So, I guess what we’ll do is we’ll kind of move into an open discussion conversation. We do have some questions, but we love to just hear — considering we are limited on time — if you have three to five minutes to share. You know, your recovery story, how you’re kind of moving through your recovery during his COVID pandemic, working in the field but for Advanced Recovery Systems and The Recovery Villages.

It’s great to see how we’ve got a presence from all — most — of our locations nationwide. Just kind of goes to show you the bandwidth and the outreach efforts that we have as a system, so that’s great too. So yeah, why don’t we start with Eric — if we can, you’d like to share a couple of minutes, your recovery story, how you’re getting through it, what are you doing to strengthen your recovery? Talk about resilience. Let’s talk about some goals, what you’re working towards in your personal recovery, if you’ve had any trials, tribulations or stuff you may be struggling with — share the hope.

Eric:
Absolutely, thanks Donald. My story is probably much like everyone else’s; for whatever reason in my youth, I started to experiment. It was definitely socially acceptable in my family and definitely gravitated towards that atmosphere in high school. And things progressively got worse — so bad to the point that I couldn’t see my life continuing to do what I was doing and I couldn’t see my life without continuing to do what I was doing, and so I’d really kind of hit this point of rock bottom. I don’t have to sit here and tell you about all the family turmoil or the legal trouble, or any of the other things that come along with addiction and alcoholism — the hopelessness, the despair. I can just tell you that it got so bad that for once in my life, I was willing to do something about it. And my episode, my story, started. My recovery story started much like a lot of people that I help, and I found good access to good treatment and, somewhere along that journey, started to hear things that really started to resonate.

I started to feel like I wasn’t alone. I started to feel like I wasn’t malfunctioned or defective. I started to realize that I had the disease of addiction and that there was treatment for that. And that, of course, started with having to be cleared of substances through a detox process, but then also learning that there was 12-step fellowship and different things that I could get involved with when I left treatment. And quite honestly, that’s just what I did. I kind of attacked the recovery process like my life depended on it. I truly believe that my life did depend on it, and I did everything that was suggested to me and I started to get relief. You know, a big part of my story early on and still today is sponsorship and 12-step meetings, and what that’s taught me is to stay open-minded and continue to look for growth opportunities. Part of everything that I did early on is part of what I try to integrate into my life today. Those things provided me with such relief from my alcoholism and my addiction from a physical, mental and spiritual perspective that I try to stay true to those fundamentals today.

So when COVID — a pandemic— hit, it was definitely alarming. It was definitely something that I had never experienced before and that my father and my grandfather had never experienced before, and so — certainly an adjustment period. But I realized that I had an option, just like the option that I had when I hit rock bottom with my substance abuse. And that was — I could either do something about it and decide to look at it from a positive perspective, or I could crumble and fall like many times in the past. And I just took the opportunity to really try to see the positives of it and stick to the fundamentals. I have maintained sponsorship and regular contact with a sponsor, I’ve maintained regular attendance of meetings through Zoom, which has been an enormous tool for me, not just in my recovery but professionally. My ability to do what I’ve always done and the guys that I sponsor have been a big part of this. We’ve done step work, we stayed in regular communication, we’ve even gotten together; we’ve taken a lot of precautions with social distancing and protecting — you know, face masks and stuff like that.

Like I said, I just try to stay really fundamental to where I began this process. I’ve done a lot of things for self-care, which has been very important, maintaining a regular schedule. I wake up in the morning, I get right to work. Of course, I shower and I shave and I do all the things that I need to do to feel good, and I pray, and then I make sure that I work a full day and that I’m very productive. And then I work out and I have dinner with the family and I just try to maintain some sort of normalcy and, quite honestly, I’ve grown quite a bit professionally because I have to now think outside of the box. I’m used to working in the field, running around, meeting different people, making those connections, sometimes even meeting with patients that need a little bit of extra care, and that’s not been possible. So, email and fax and Zoom have been huge, huge resources for me, and these are things I wasn’t used to doing and have now become habit. So in a time where I could have used all of this as an excuse to not work or to kind of meet a status quo in some way, I’ve turned it into a positive and decided to grow professionally and personally.

Don:
Yeah — thanks for sharing. Yeah. I love what you shared about self-care, making the adjustment, really turning this obstacle into an opportunity to grow and to better yourself, further recovery, pivoting to technology for the support, and most importantly, getting through it sober, staying plugged into the fellowship, which is huge. So, great — thank you. I’m just going to kind of go around the map here on the screen. Heather Ann, would you like to share a little bit?

Heather:
Sure. So thank you, Eric, for giving me some more tools. My name’s Heather Ann Adams, and like I said before, I’m a grateful recovering addict. Through this quarantine — my clean date is May 1, 2004 — I had a celebration which didn’t get to really be celebrated because of the quarantine, at least with my people. But I’m truly grateful to have the time that I have. You know, my story is no different than anybody else’s. I’m a survivor of abuse. I come from a family that has alcoholism and drug addiction that runs rampant. I was the oldest of teenage parents, and so I always wanted to grow up fast at a young age. So all of my using started at a very young age. I have four children — my older two went through a lot of the horrors with me, which is not something I’m proud of, but it’s part of my story.

And so I, you know, I surrendered. I’d had a lot of bottoms on my journey that most people would’ve probably thought, “Gosh, I have a problem,” and mine I just kept digging, so my bottoms just kept getting worse and worse. I really was like a bottom-of-the-barrel user. I was homeless at the end and I didn’t have any resources, so I didn’t get to do treatment. I was able to go to a state-funded detox, and the 12 steps, the fellowships, are what really saved my life. I call it the knucklehead version of getting clean because I was grabbing at the chairs for like the first 30 days, but the love of the fellowship that I attend is really what breathes life back into me and the relationship that I have with God. I am too a big believer in sponsorship and a support group; that was instilled in me early on, and that is something that I’ve maintained. I’ve kept a home group throughout my journey, and I do a lot of service. I’m involved in our area convention and I’m the vice chair, and I’ve just always done service because they told me that I couldn’t keep what I have unless I give it away, and a grateful addict will never use. I say that along my journey, because I’ve maintained and stayed a participant in my recovery, I’ve been in training for this quarantine and I wasn’t aware of it until it happened.

I came into this field to work; I worked in the medical field for a lot of years because I had went through a divorce. My ex-husband, after being in sobriety for seven years, decided to use, and so I got a divorce because I love myself more. Something, again, my recovery has taught me. But in that, I was able to switch careers and come into the treatment world, and I was able to have the ability of knowing what it was like to be the addict but also know what it was like for the families, because I had experienced that. That was something I felt that was really helpful for me when working with people and trying to get them help: knowing both aspects. Through the quarantine, because I’ve always maintained my recovery on a regular basis, I was like Eric. Just — structure’s very important for me. I’m really a social butterfly, and I felt like initially when I got put at home, that it was a butterfly that got put into a box, and my perspective was awful. And because I suffered, but because of my recovery, I’ve been taught to be in solution — not problem.

So I was able to snap out of that relatively quickly, but I would say relatively quickly — it was about a week it took me to like adjust to the new “what is.” But I’ve maintained my structure, so the same thing; I get up, I take a shower, I wake up early, allow myself like two hours to have some prayer and meditation. I get dressed like I’m going to work because it makes me feel better and it puts me in that mode. I’ve been creating throughout my journey and tapping into my inner child. My whole backyard I turned into a tropical oasis, so Home Depot loves me because I spent lots of money every weekend going there, but that was my new office because the house was making me feel claustrophobic. I switched to zoom meetings as well, for my personal recovery and for work. I love them — a lot of people don’t like them, but I love them cause I get to see you guys.

I’m a feeler and I’m a hugger, so that’s been eliminated. My outlets are the beach and live music dancing; those were all taken from me. So I’ve had to really reinvent myself throughout this journey. I’ve had to face my shadows, which I believe everybody probably has in some way, shape or form through all of this — whatever that looks like for you. It’s been multiple things for me, but there’s been a lot of growth that has taken place. I make a gratitude list every single morning, all the things I was taught early in recovery or what I’m utilizing now, the spiritual principles that I’ve worked through, the steps — I’m putting those bitches to work hard. Perseverance, vigilance, hope, faith, willingness — not just in my recovery, but in my job too. Like I’m pulling that all in, and I have weekly meltdowns where I cry; that’s just the truth because sometimes it gets really, really hard, and I allow myself just to feel when I need to do that too. So, I think that’s pretty much all I have. Thank you.

Don:
Thank you, thanks for sharing. Talk about the compelling force that keeps us clean, right? Second step, coming to believe — yeah, I certainly had heard that in your message there. And I love how you shared what brought you to the process of addiction and recovery. Because we all know what brought us to our first meeting or what brought you to that point of defeat and surrender, but we often wonder what brought us to getting high, drinking, using, you know — what was the trauma? What happened? And when I talk to people in recovery that are active in the recovery, they don’t know the answer to that question. Like what brought them to their drug of choice, another drink of choice and what brought them to eviction? The underlying issues is where it’s at, you know? Thanks for sharing, Heather — phenomenal message there. We appreciate you. Next on my screen is Shannon. If you could please take a few minutes as well, that’d be great.

Shannon:
Yeah. So I’m Shannon, and like I said, I am a person in long-term recovery. I haven’t had a drink or used a drug for seven years, and I didn’t think that that was possible. I had tried to get sober before this last time that I got sober, and I don’t think that my story, like everybody else, is different than anybody else. I have this huge hole in me that I was trying to fill with drugs, alcohol, men, clothes, possessions, and it would only work for a little bit and then it wouldn’t and I was miserable again. I was constantly trying to fill that hole, and the day that I got sober, I was sitting in jail in downtown Denver and I was crying out to God and was like — I can’t live like this anymore, and I don’t know what to do or how to move forward. For the first time in my life, I listened, and God told me that I was going to go to rehab and if I didn’t stay sober, I was going to die. So that’s always been something — like when I get in a really hard time, that pops into my head. It’s like, “This is my last chance to live, and if I go down that rabbit hole again, I’m not going to make it out,” and I’ve just held on to that.

But I got to go to treatment; I was lucky. And then I went to sober living after that, and I stayed in sober living for nine months. Then, I started working in the field. I knew I wanted to be able to help out an alcoholic or an addict like people had helped me out, and that was really a huge driving force for me. I also have a daughter that I had given custody up when I was using. I just knew I was either gonna die or end up in jail, and I didn’t want my parents to have a hard time getting custody of her ‘cause her dad was never in the picture, and so I have her back in my life. I have custody of her; I’m a mom again. I also have a new baby. So, family is a big part of my recovery — being able to participate in my family and being able to be a daughter and a mom, and I have a fiance, so being able to be a good significant other.

Just like Heather and Eric said, I dove into a program of recovery. I did everything they told me to do. Got a sponsor, did service work and just tried to be a good example of what a person in recovery looks like, ‘cause I think that there’s still this huge stigma. I mean, ‘cause most of us have like sorted paths, we weren’t the best examples of participating in society. So, just trying to give back in that way. And when COVID hit, I had like this trauma response to it — this “why me, why is this happening?” I’m a survivor of abuse as well, and I think that going through that also helped me to like push through this quicker. I knew that I had those feelings in the beginning and I was like, “I need to get to acceptance as quickly as I possibly can.” And there’s no right way to figure that out or go down that path, and it’s messy. Like, there’s still days where I always cry in the shower. That’s like my safe space, you know? But, I mean, there’s still days where I cry just because like this whole thing is traumatic.

There’s people who have lost their lives because they either relapsed or they continued to up their using and drinking during this time, and that is unsettling to me. I feel like sometimes I feel that pain of theirs, and that’s what gets me into this not-okay spot. But knowing that I still need to be that good example of what a person in recovery looks like is really something that helps me out every single day. And yeah, having a routine has been amazing, and talking about how I feel — like it’s okay to not feel okay, and you need to find somebody to talk to about that — and that’s been my saving grace to be able to call somebody and just be like, “Hey, like I’m not okay today.” You know? Like, it feels like the world’s crashing today and it’s because like, I couldn’t find a shoe or, you know, these little things that add up to something huge. So yeah. I think getting to a spot of acceptance and being able to talk about what’s going on with me and keeping in normal activities, like talking with my sponsor and meetings and trying to be of service, has been really, really important in this time.

Don:
So powerful, thanks for sharing. Yeah, I mean you talk about jail, you talk about custody, you talk about that degradation, the demoralization that occurs with addiction and the horrors of all that. The message that trumps all is your sobriety, right? You know, being a family woman again and having your kids in your life and a job. Looking at you now, sitting in a beautiful home, talking about your recovery — that’s the hope, you know, so thank you for sharing. We appreciate you; thank you for your message. And I’d like to introduce our last speaker. Megan, would you like to share? Thank you.

Megan:
Again, my name’s Megan; I’m from Ohio. Yeah, I really appreciate everyone sharing their story because I get to cross paths with people where I’m like, “Yes, I feel exactly the same way.” When I was little, probably around the age of eight, was when I first identified I had something wrong with my sleep, and I had very intense anxiety. But my family just saw the physical part of that — the stomach aches, headaches, other things that might not be drawn back to the fact that it was stemming from severe anxiety. As a child, that felt very unsafe. I remember also I had a lot of self-worth issues at a young age.

I remember the first time this kid named Anthony called me chunky, and I kinda was chunky — I guess like the equivalent to wearing husky pants is a guy. I don’t know, so I was like, “I’m going to chase him down and I’m going to beat the crap out of them,” but I was a little hefty so I couldn’t keep up. I can laugh about that now, but back then, I had a lot of questions about life. I had questions about my sexuality; I had questions about why I was here, what my purpose was — probably a little bit at a higher level, which caused me a lot of pain. It kind of increased and then it came to a head when I was about, I don’t know, in my third year of college. Life seemed to be going okay, but I felt like I wasn’t living my life. I was living a life that I thought should be lived by someone like me that looked like me. I just didn’t feel authentic, and I remember trying my drug of choice. I tried it, and the only way I know how to describe it is if I was driving on a highway and it’s pouring down rain, and I go under a bridge and there’s that relief for that moment. I thought, “Aha, I found it. I found what’s going to kind of solve all my problems.”

My anxiety went away, my questions about sexuality were put aside, I was excelling in every part of my life and I could put aside pretty much everything. Eventually, it wasn’t sustainable. I just couldn’t hold that lifestyle, and I was becoming empty to my core. What I thought at the time was a moral dilemma within myself — shame and guilt — was, in reality, the disease of addiction. The way I felt towards the end was that using was equated to breathing. If someone was keeping me from taking a breath of air and holding me underwater, I would do absolutely anything, even step on someone’s face to get what I needed to breathe — AKA, survive. And that’s a scary place to be. I mean, my whole brain chemistry changed, and then it came to a head where I was like, “This isn’t going to work anymore, and it’s not sustainable.” But asking for help is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do, but it’s what saved me.

I still struggle with asking for help even now. It’s been a little over five years since I’ve used drugs or alcohol, and I really started building a life that was mine, that was authentic, and that I could be me. I was able to come out to my parents, I was able to connect with people and be exactly who I was — I didn’t have to be anybody else. I was able to make mistakes and I was able to go through pain but deal with it in a healthy way, and that felt really good. It was very hard, I think in the beginning, because it was so different for me. I’m used to kind of pushing now how I felt, and even without drugs, my life — it could be chaos. I could go to the store, I could be ordering stuff on Amazon, I could be dating all these people — like, it could get a little rowdy, and I didn’t even need drugs to be part of the equation. So, I had like-minded people in my life, I continue to go to therapy; you need to go to support groups. And there’s so many 12-step, Buddhist meditation — I really connected with people at a deep level where I’m like, “Life is good; it’s not perfect.” So when COVID happened, the isolation scared me because of my mental health on top of my history of using. I will say I didn’t have a desire to use. I really didn’t; that wasn’t really an option for me. However, I kinda got sucked into some depression and, unfortunately, a month before the stay-at-home order, my brother who was also a struggling addict for the majority of his adult life and struggled with mental health passed away.

I remember getting the phone call in February, and I didn’t want to use at that moment. I’ll tell you — that’s the positive, but at the same time, it crushed my world. What was interesting is that we went through his belongings after his accident, and what was in his right back pocket was from a 12-step meeting and it was the first step: surrender powerlessness. And in this COVID, and in this death of a family member, in a divorce, in a breakup, in cancer, catastrophe, I am powerless. But I do have control over me and my actions, and at that point, I decided that I’m going to call somebody. I’m going to talk to them, how uncomfortable it is, and I’m going to get the help that I need and I continue to do so to build off that. And I think the ability for us to be at this point where we’re able to share that within our career and our personal life, it’s not only fulfilling, but I just think it serves a higher purpose. So thank you for letting me share.

Don:
Thank you for sharing, and thank you for sharing your most recent trial and tribulation and loss, and sharing the hope that you got through it clean and remained in recovery and continue to recover. And that on top of COVID and everything else that’s going on, there is a beacon of hope and light for anybody, no matter what you’re going through. Whether it’s COVID itself, a loss of a loved one, a severe mental health issue or a significant trauma, you can get through it and you don’t have to use alcohol or drugs. The help is available. So thank you, Megan, for sharing.

Thank everybody for sharing. I think we’ve come pretty much to the end of our webinar here. One thing I do want to leave everybody with is some hope — there’s well around 50 years of recovery right here on the screen. You’ve heard different stories; everyone’s story is different, but the mission is the same, right? It’s to get another day. To get another day of freedom, to get another day of hope, and most importantly, reach out to help somebody. Heather, I think, had shared a little bit about it — that the only way we have what we have is by giving it away. And Eric talked about sponsorship and Shannon talked about her experience with sobriety and helping her family. Megan talked about her commitment and her service to the fellowship and to her recovery, and that’s the moral of it. What we do every day revolves around our primary purpose. And, you know, me too — the feelings that I felt in active addiction, the feelings I feel today are very similar to what you guys are all going through today, and just know that there’s hope, right?

You guys all kind of touched on the disease concept that this is a mental health condition when we’re talking about substance use disorder and getting that verbiage right. That we suffer from a substance use disorder, right? It’s long-lasting, it’s chronic, right up there with cancer, diabetes, hypertension. We’ve got to treat it every day, all day, and how you treat that — you guys talked about the multiple pathways. It could be a 12-step fellowship. It could be previous recovery, SMART recovery, prayer and meditation, right? Everybody’s recovery story is not the same per se because we all have different belief systems and may believe in different pathways. What I heard today was a lot of the 12-step fellowship, which is the most proven way to a successful recovery is working and living a 12-step program, which I firmly believe as well.

Most importantly, if you’re watching this webinar, just know that we at The Recovery Village with Advanced Recovery Systems are available all day, anytime during the day. You can reach us at 888-REHAB-NOW or you can visit our website at therecoveryvillage.com, and we’ll step up to the plate. We’ll help you and your family connect the dots, and most importantly, just be someone to talk to to support you. So, thank you for your time, and that’s all we have. Thanks for sharing.

Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

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