fighting addiction with creative endeavors

DOVER - As the widespread drug epidemic continues to grow, places like the SOS Recovery Center in Dover offer a place for addicts to begin or continue their recovery through alternative support programs encouraging creative endeavors. Laina Reavis, the Capacity Building Specialist, took some time to sit down with us and explain more about her own recovery as well as some of the services that the center offers.

Laina’s recovery began in 2015. She woke up one day feeling miserable and realized she needed to get clean. When asked about the detoxification process, she chuckled.

“I didn’t go to a detox center like most people do. I detoxed myself, I don’t recommend it. it was a nightmare. I did that for a month and once my family saw that I was clean, my mom took me back in and said she would support me through it.”

Though Laina now helps others begin their recovery from addictions, initially she knew nothing about it. A family friend told her about the meetings, where she began her twelve step fellowship to recovery.

“I walked in and was like ‘Wow, these are my people.’ I heard all of these different stories from all these different walks of life, one person I used with, another I went to school with that I had no idea used, older people, blue collar workers, white collar workers, everybody.” After hearing so many people that had been getting their lives together and been getting better, she realized she too could stay clean.

She continued to go to meetings even after a relapse she kept working towards her recovery. About nine months after her relapse, a friend of hers from the fellowship told her about SOS. She signed up to go through training to become a Recovery Coach and help others through their journey. After her first session, she was hooked.

“It was the first time that I had a purpose in life other than focusing on my recovery.” She then volunteered in the Registrar’s Office at SOS for six months full-time. When the opportunity came for SOS to open a center in Dover, Laina applied for the job and got it.

SOS offers a variety of services such as twelve step fellowships like Laina is using for her recovery, Smart Recovery is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy based, the system also offers Refugee Recovery, Family Addiction Coping (for those with loved ones dealing with an addiction), and many different group activities like bowling and football viewing parties. Volunteers themselves structure therapy programs for participants with the help of a staff member to facilitate. Some of these programs include yoga, art therapy, music therapy, women club cardio, and rock climbing.

At the beginning of August, Shane Morin contacted Laina about starting a writing therapy group at SOS. (There is a similar program being run by Mike Nelson, which is who contacted Shane to get the program started in Dover.) After going through the volunteer requirements, Shane contacted me as a co-facilitator to the group in case he was unable to attend. While Shane is not an addict himself, he got into writing as a way of relieving himself of issues that he had as a child of addicts. His father was a recovering addict and is still recovering, but Shane’s mom passed away due to addiction complications. He began writing after a personal tragedy struck and continued to use it as a way to cope with his mother’s death. Most of Shane’s writing focuses around alcoholism and the way addiction affects not only the addict but everyone around them.

The writing group, affectionately named “The Long Mile,” is running at SOS every Tuesday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. with varying topics and styles of writing discussed each week. Some subjects used thus far are relationships, personal identity, and what recovery means. There are usually examples given on the topic by more well-known poets and artists such as Emily Dickinson and even Bob Marley. Occasionally videos of spoken word poets are shown, such as that of Sabrina Benaim and Neil Hilborn. Members of the group are encouraged to either follow the topic of the day or to free write as they please.

Corey Denyou is a regular member of the Long Mile, who explained how the group and writing has really been helping his recovery.

“Writing allows me to keep myself above my demons. We all have our own paths and problems but all we can do is make the choice to be greater than we were yesterday, or don’t. Life is all choice but writing and art in general can help anyone who wants to rise up from their addiction.”

Though he doesn’t always vocally participate, he has attened almost all of the writing group sessions thus far and he is always in the background absorbing the atmosphere. The group encourages participation of any kind.

Crystalline Vernll is a member of the Long Mile. Occasionally her young son can be seen offering pillows to the other writers around the meetings in his own way of helping their recovery. Crystalline uses writing not only as a means of recovery but also to center her thoughts to move forward.

Writing has been very therapeutic for me, especially with my recovery. When I feel out of control, it helps organize my thoughts, figure things out, and solve my anxieties. It is a freeing feeling to put everything in my head down on paper and I always feel happier afterward.” She has been using the writing group to expand her scope of journaling to poetry and other forms.

Though it is a writing group, the main focus of the program is to assist with recovery. Sometimes as volunteers, we don’t have all of the answers for the questions members are asking.

Having Laina present during the program has been helpful when new members are coming in and asking for advice on the recovery services that SOS offers. Having the recovery center open has been a pivotal point to many in the community as they have a safe place to talk about their addiction and work through their recovery while knowing they’re not alone.

There are three different SOS Recovery Centers in the area: Dover, Durham, and Rochester. Though they have a few employees, the centers functions successfully through volunteers. SOS offers internships - class credit can be arranged for students. Laina encourages those interested in research, outreach, marketing, and more to contact the recovery center’s Dover location to see how they can get involved.

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