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Alumni meetings dive deep into recovery experience

Oxford Treatment Center residents and alumni listen as Amy Woodward, CADC, speaks at Oxford Treatment Center’s May Alumni meeting which focused on parenting in recovery.

Topical programs focus on a specific life skill each month

 It’s the first Friday of the month and more than 15 people have gathered for Oxford Treatment Center’s Alumni meeting. The topic: Being a parent when you’re in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.

The meeting begins with a reflection on each participant’s relationship with their children. The stories are hard, but the group listens intently and each member thanks another for sharing.

For Ashley*, this spring marks the first time she has been clean and able to see her children in years. She cries as she discusses the future of her relationship with her children. “I do have hope today,” she says, “whereas I did not before.”

If love was enough, none of us would be here.

Throughout the conversation is a common theme: “I love my children with all my heart. So why could I not stop using drugs for them?”

“If love was enough, none of us would be here,” said Amy Woodward, CADC, a clinical consultant and co-director of Oxford Treatment Center’s programming for alumni. In facilitating the May meeting, she affirmed to the group the nature of drug and alcohol addiction as a disease.

“If love alone could give us the power to stop using, there would be no such thing as addiction,” she said. “The love we have for our families can propel us take the first step to get help. But it’s very difficult as a parent to realize you may have to step away from your family for a while, to get a strong start in recovery and become the healthy parent you want to be.”

Supporting people as they navigate the many challenges of early recovery has been the goal as Oxford Treatment Center redesigned its programs for alumni this winter. Rather than offering generalized support, monthly alumni meetings are now focused around a theme.

Monthly Alumni meetings at Oxford Treatment Center now focus on practical themes for life in recovery. For 2019, meeting topics have included money management (March), health and fitness (April) and parenting in recovery (May). The June Alumni meeting will focus on how to have fun while in recovery.

Brian Whisenant, director of community relations and a co-director of alumni programs, said the shift has made meetings more beneficial for alumni and kept more people involved.

“We want people who attend these meetings to be able to leave with something that can improve their everyday life,” Whisenant said. “We’ve already had talks on money management and health and fitness. Even topics such as how to have fun in recovery invite lots of sharing and practical takeaways.”

In focusing on health and fitness during the month of April, Whisenant brought in a caterer to make a healthy meal and show participants how to do that on a limited budget. That gathering also focused on exercise and the importance of going to a doctor in addition to maintaining mental health.

“I look at the needs of the recovery community, and then we find ways to address them through this programming,” Whisenant said. “I also look at what would’ve helped me in early recovery and bring those discussions to these alumni meetings.”

Even topics like parenting can prove engaging for a broader group than one might think. At the May meeting, John* shared that he does not have children — but that, in recovery, he can now imagine a future with a family.

“I could not even think about having anyone else around me before,” he said. “But now, I hope to have a wife, to have kids one day.”

Ben*, who is continuing in outpatient treatment while living at Oxford Treatment Center’s Resolutions campus, spent most of the meeting listening quietly before revealing how much the discussion had impacted him.

“I want to share with everyone I just found out that I am going to be a dad,” he told the group, which responded with cheers. “You all have given me hope. I know that part of making myself into a better dad is to be here, building my recovery.”

Next month’s topic will be on having fun in recovery and will be held at Oxford Treatment Center’s Resolutions campus on June 7. To learn about upcoming events, follow Oxford Treatment Center on social media.