Alumni Newsletter June 2015
Welcome to Origins Behavioral Healthcare’s first Alumni Newsletter. Those of us in Alumni Services across all of OBH’s campuses are so glad that we will be able to contribute to this quarterly bulletin. Our hope is to give the entire Origins family a piece of where we are, what we are doing and what our alumni can look forward to over the next few months.
As many of you know, OBH has now expanded to include three campuses across both Texas and Florida. As our family grows, we hope to help our alumni, their families and Origins’ circle of friends keep in contact with our staff, as well as one another. This includes offering events that are open to all. Next week, in celebration of Founder’s Day, the Hanley Foundation in West Palm Beach will host a celebration of the dawning of 12 Step fellowships. Chris Raymer, Vice President of Recovery Services at OBH, will be speaking to honor this historic anniversary. Information about this event can be found on Origins’ website.
In this newsletter, you will find an initial blast of information about our upcoming reunions in both Texas and Florida. Myers Raymer, Alumni Relations at Origins Recovery Center in South Padre Island, has written a piece on our fellowship’s history, and will continue to offer this section in our upcoming newsletters.More than anything, we want you to be involved! Please send us your articles, anniversaries and testimonials so that we can include them in our quarterly issues. At the end of the day, please consider this note as an invitation to our own digital “space” where our combined experience and knowledge can be shared.
We look forward to seeing each of you at Reunion!
Corporate Director of Alumni Services, Origins Behavioral HealthCare
I just finished reading an amazing story about a series of events leading up to the founding of the 12 Step program. Talk about a program of action! Rowland Hazard, Cebra Graves, and Shep Cornell all got together and went to see Cebra’s uncle, the judge who was presiding over Ebby Thacher’s drunk case. Through their efforts, Ebby was turned over to Rowland and his friends – and we all know the rest of that story: Rowland’s effort to go get Ebby led to Ebby sobering up, and then Ebby went to see his drinking buddy, Bill Wilson. Wilson would go on to become one of the founding fathers of the original 12 Step fellowship. Pretty cool.
When I first sobered up in 1988, the idea of looking at our history was the furthest thing from my mind. History? Yuck! It would take many years for me to “catch fire” and become interested in the men and women who made it possible for this incredible message to be carried to me. Actually, it was not until a bleak time in my own history when I would reach for something to kindle my interest. (In my early days, I spent lots of time in meetings but little else; I was sooo bored!) While sitting at a conference where I was to speak later in the day, I happened to end up in a room with an archivist who was doing a talk on the history of the fellowship. I was trapped and had to stay— but what an amazing transformation I went through! I heard dozens of things I had never heard before and, for reasons that would not be clear for years, it changed the way I looked at my recovery and my role in the fellowship.
So, what did I learn? Well, the most profound thing was the realization that the early men and women were, from the very start, taught that this program and its lifesaving principles are to be hared – and shared with some intensity. (I had been taught that it was all about ME. “I” was the most important person in the room until I decided I wasn’t. What a hoot!) The history folks told me that as soon as I was sober, I needed to take action to help others. They told me that selfless action would transform me into a man I didn’t even know. Rowland to Ebby, Ebby to Bill, Bill to Dr. Bob, etc… Our history is full of stories of folks who went great distances in both mileage and time to carry our message. Let those of us who are new be clear that this didn’t mean that we sit in meetings and wait for the next new guy. Our founding fathers took the action to go find these folks.
Our AA history has taught me that love followed by real action wins the day. It was true then and it’s true today!!!
In my life prior to sobriety, hope was not a big topic of conversation. I think the only thing I ever really hoped for was not to run out of beer. Therefore, when I entered treatment at Hanley Center and the staff spoke about hope, I really didn’t relate. My alcoholism had progressed to the state where I could not live with or without alcohol. I felt like I had no way out. For some reason, I reached out for help and I was blessed to have friends take me to Hanley. This is where my journey of hope began. It wasn’t easy, because though I knew I was an alcoholic, I believed the solution would not work for me. I had been to AA before and I had seen the Steps—and I saw the solution involved God. I felt that any solution which involved God would not work for me because I was agnostic. I was hopeless and I had never even tried to work the program.
After a few days at Hanley, my head cleared up and I felt I didn’t need to be here. I went to the RA, asked for my stuff and attempted to leave. That RA was a young woman in recovery. She sat me down and shared her story with me. She told me how her life used to be and how it had changed by working the program. For some reason, I believed her. It was after my talk with her that I decided I was going to do the work. I know today that my Higher Power was present during that conversation. I know today that she had given me hope. That one talk changed my life.
Another memorable experience with the word ‘hope’ came when a staff member at Hanley Center asked me to meditate on a spiritual word. Even though I was a month into treatment, I could not for the life of me think of a spiritual word. She suggested the word ‘hope’, and I used the word to meditate that day and every single day for the first year of my recovery. My day started with hope. My recovery started with hope.
I have continued to meditate throughout my recovery. The word has changed as I have changed, but I have never forgotten where I came from. A word as simple as ‘hope’ has helped me to connect with a Power greater than myself. It has given me relief from the impending doom I felt each and every day; it has given me more than I could have ever dreamed of. My hope today is to carry the message to those that are still suffering. I want them to know that I have recovered from a hopeless condition through working the 12 Steps. My hope is to be like that RA who gave me hope when there was only despair.
Second chances– yes, I’ve had a hundred of them. I know now that we are all given second chances or ‘windows of grace’. It was on November 26th, 2005, after having reached a state of hopelessness from a 30-year alcohol and drug addiction, that I walked through a ‘window’ which changed my life forever.
I had lived the majority of my life out of touch with reality and only thinking of myself. I had distanced myself from loved ones and the world in general, but I knew no other way. My vain attempts to change my situation on my own were futile. So, while ‘windows’
continued to present themselves to me, I only saw them as unwanted distractions and quickly shut them. After desperation turned into hopelessness and I was living with the thought of suicide as the only way out, a ‘window’ opened once again that November day. I had no more ideas or alternatives and I stepped through the ‘window of grace’ and began a journey that has radically changed my life.
By the grace of God and the 12 Step program which were introduced to me through a wonderful treatment program, I’ve become “part of life at last.” I finally have a real purpose in life, which is to help others with my experience, strength and hope. Living a life with purpose, excitement and enthusiasm is a far cry from just existing through ‘groundhog days’. I’m still amazed at how drastically different everything is in my life today, including my thinking, my actions and my awareness to the world we live in.
My hope and prayer for each and every drug addict is that the next time such a ‘window of grace’ opens, they are willing to step through it into a world and a life they cannot even begin to believe.
Tharin Smith… A very grateful alcoholic.