Turning Point Connections
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You are a wonderful compliment to our feisty and fragile daughter.  She seems committed to her recovery, and that is largely because she is in this loving, long-term Turnbridge program.  We realize there is a lot more work to be done, but feel confident with the guidance she is getting, the support she has, and with her willingness to work hard she'll succeed...one day at a time.

Danielle, I just want to thank you so very much for the hard work you do to save the lives of these wonderful individuals.  You work long hours, dealing with issues in real time”, which is so important.  I love your hugs, I love your commitment, I love your edge, I love your humor.  Thank you so very much!”

- A grateful mother

This Issue

Family Mailbag

Rec & Lifestyle


Unsung Hero

Resident Profile

Clinician’s Corner

Alumni Life

Recreation and Lifestyle

Women's Ski Trip

It’s that time of the year again as the slopes are now open! This past month, several clients and staff from the Turnbridge Women’s Program loaded up the Suburbans and set out for a day-trip to Stratton Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont.

Skiing and snowboarding trips have always been a “fan favorite” at Turnbridge. Learning to participate in recreational activities such as this, and having a great time without using drugs and alcohol, is an imperative part of recovery for young adults and teens.

rec quote

“I haven’t skied in 6 years, so it was really fun,” Phase 1 resident Brooke I. said. “I had a moment of clarity out there and it was a great bonding experience.” On events like the ski-trip, friendships and bonds between clients and Turnbridge staff are strengthened.

“It was so great, I wish it could be every day,” Miranda D. of Phase 1 said.

“Life is actually worth living; things are actually fun sober,” Evelyn C. stated.

Unsung Hero
Unsung Hero Headshot

Chris H.

At the end of each year, all Turnbridge staff members are asked to cast their vote for the co-worker they feel is most deserving of the Turnbridge “Unsung Hero of the Year” award. As a result of his untiring dedication to Turnbridge and the client’s we serve, Chris Hrusa has been selected by his peers as 2016’s Unsung Hero of the Year.

Prior to his employment at Turnbridge, Chris worked in sales. He came to Turnbridge in pursuit of a meaningful vocation. He was originally hired as an overnight Support Staff member, then rose to the position of Shift Manager, and now occupies the role of Support Staff Manager. “I have never had a job as rewarding as the one I have today,” said Chris. “The best paycheck I could ever receive is watching these guys turn their lives around.”

As a Support Staff Manager, Chris oversees a team of support staff members while also maintaining a direct, personal connection with the clients of Turnbridge. “Customer service and making sure they are smiling is my main job,” he said. “All of these guys know that they can call me whenever if they are struggling,” said Chris. “If it’s 3:00am and they call, I will be there in 5 minutes. I have devoted my life to helping these guys get better.”

Regarding his award, Chris said, “I think everyone in this company is an unsung hero. It’s a family environment. We all work together to help these guys.”

“I love my job more than anything,” said Chris. “This is my family. I am beyond grateful for this company, and everyone involved.”

Events Calendar
From the Famliy

Originally from Massachusetts, Matt was a bright and loving child.

Chris & Laura, parents of senior Phase III resident, Matt A., are grateful to see their son embracing recovery and beginning to find peace after a long, painful battle with drug and alcohol addiction. “He always wanted to make people happy,” said Laura. The oldest of four, Matt enjoyed the company of his younger siblings and had great relationships with them.

During Matt’s freshman year of high school, his younger brother was diagnosed with cancer. “Matt was very close to him,” Laura said. After the diagnosis, Matt went into a severe depression. “He was very isolated, had episodes of self-harm, and didn’t want to see a professional,” she said. After a few years of suffering, Matt sought help and began seeing a psychiatrist.

“We didn’t notice any signs of drug use during high school but I am sure there was some,” Laura stated. Matt completed high school, and went on to attend college in Seattle, WA. “He was very good at hiding how he was feeling,” said Laura. While in college, Matt took himself off of his medications and began using heroin. “We had no idea,” said Laura. “He was actively using heroin and getting A’s in all of his classes for 3 years. It was much more severe than we knew. He could hold it together for periods of time.”

During a visit home for Christmas, Matt became very sick as a result of his chemical dependency. “He wanted to go back to Seattle early and he did,” said Laura. It was around this time where Matt began to experiment with meth.

Family photoMatt’s parents began to notice more and more symptoms, especially his weight loss. “He is a skinny kid as is, but began to look skeletal,” said Laura. She began to take frequent trips out to see Matt and check on him. “Each time I was out there, things appeared to be getting worse,” said Laura.

One of Matt’s friends texted Laura stating that Matt was having a mental breakdown. Matt’s father, Chris, flew out to see Matt and pulled him out of school. “He would not come home with me and declined treatment,” said Chris.

It was at this point where Matt made the decision to live on the streets, and not accept help. “We cut off all of his money and told him he could not come home,” Laura said. Matt held out for about a week, living homeless, but eventually would accept help. He enrolled at a treatment center in California.

“He kept saying he was going back to Seattle and he just needed to control it better, but we continued to refuse to pay for school,” Laura said. As a result of this firm boundary, Matt agreed to accept long-term treatment at Turnbridge. “Matt did so much of this on his own and we didn’t see most of the downfall,” Chris said. “We listened to the professionals and followed all of their instructions. They guided us every step of the way. They are the real heroes.”

“At first, he was very, very angry to be at Turnbridge,” Laura said. “During our first visit he asked to come home and we told him no, and he told us to not come back.” Matt would slowly begin to participate in the program. Despite his resentment, Matt was starting to see the benefits of recovery. “He wouldn’t talk to us, but we let the staff do their jobs,” Laura said.

“I would attend the family workshops and learned so much from them,” said Laura. “I couldn’t believe that Matt was going through all of this. The boundaries were very important and were totally willing to do whatever we were asked. It was such a relief knowing he was somewhere safe. It made the journey a lot easier.”

Matt’s progress was slow, but he began to see positive results as he continued to work on himself. “That wall between Matt and us has come down,” said Laura. “He talks to us now.” Matt found a group of friends at Turnbridge, and they all moved through the program together. “The Turnbridge experience has been very great and upscale,” said Laura. “The communication between case manager and us every week was amazing.”

A few months after progressing into Phase III of Turnbridge, Matt was offered a House Manager position and gratefully accepted. “He is growing and learning so much,” Laura said. “I would like to send my respects to Matt Barba and his family,” said Chris. “He assured us that our son was going to be all right and played a huge part in our journey. I will always remember our phone conversations.”

“We are very grateful,” Chris & Laura stated together.
Resident Profile Resident picture

Hope recalls growing up in a loving home.

She had a great childhood and excelled in school from a young age. An avid runner, Hope remembers she used to “always run marathons with my mom.” Hope had a full life, and many things came easy to her.

Hope began experimenting with alcohol for the first time when she was 15 years old and she “really liked it.” Despite being drawn to alcohol, Hope remained dedicated to school and stayed away from drinking for the remainder of high school and continued to achieve high marks. Hope went on to enroll at a prestigious college, where she “went from being the best at everything to being surrounded by people who were also the best at everything.” Hope’s drinking began to progress rapidly in college, and she also began experimenting with prescription stimulants. “I just thought everyone in college were binge drinkers,” said Hope. With the knowledge that she was genetically predisposed to addiction, Hope made a promise to herself to “stay away from the hard drugs.”

While at school, Hope experienced a traumatic event. She subsequently decided to take a medical leave from school, and was prescribed a benzodiazepine to help with her with anxiety. “I didn’t know how to process it and I lost it,” said Hope

After a year-long medical leave, Hope returned to school and pressed on with her education. Shortly prior to her graduation, Hope began dating a guy who would introduce her to opiates. “I started seeing him all of the time, and was doing opiates all of the time,” said Hope. Hope managed to graduate college, and moved back to Oregon with her boyfriend.

Hope got a job as a teacher at a private school. She continued using opiates, but was completely unaware that a physical dependency was developing. “It got to the point where I was addicted without knowing it,” said Hope. But despite her burgeoning addiction, Hope continued to tell herself that she would not use “harder” substances. “I told myself I would never turn to heroin, crack or meth,” said Hope. “Like somehow those were different.” However, as soon as prescription opiates became too difficult to find, Hope turned to the cheaper and more readily accessible street version of the drug: heroin.

Hope managed to hold her job as a teacher through the end of that school year. “I was teaching all day then running home as soon as I got off because I was so sick,” said Hope. Her addiction began to spiral rapidly. By the end of the school year, Hope was using heroin intravenously, and by the end of the summer she was homeless and began using meth. “Things got very, very bad, very quickly,” said Hope.

Resident quote

“My parents tried to help me, but I felt so awful about it so I decided if they didn’t see me or know, I would protect them,” said Hope. She was on the run, living on a boat, and her boyfriend had active warrants out for his arrest. After a private investigator was hired, the police were notified of the boyfriend’s warrants, and they were set up on a drug bust. “I was offered treatment or jail,” said Hope. “I didn’t want to go to treatment, but I really didn’t want to go to jail.” Hope accepted treatment and completed it successfully, but returned home immediately afterward. She picked up where she left off. “I went back to the boyfriend and back to using again,” said Hope. It was not long until Hope found herself back in treatment.

“I told my therapist that I wanted to get help and was sent to a wilderness program,” said Hope. “I was terrified at first, but by the time I left I loved it.” Hope thrived in the wilderness program and as her discharge was approaching, Hope realized that returning home was not in her best interest. Hope was referred to Turnbridge.

“I was so shy and terrified to talk to people at first,” Hope recalls of her first few days at Turnbridge. But, slowly and surely Hope began to come out of her shell and begin building a life for herself in Connecticut. She discovered that she really enjoyed 12-step meetings, and began developing a strong sense of spirituality. Hope has also gotten back into running and working out, which she considers to be a big part of her recovery. “I have made so many great friends here and I really am glad to be where I am,” said Hope.

As a Phase III client, Hope remains active in the New Haven recovery community and works at a local cafe. “I am much happier to be where I am today,” Hope said. “I really love everyone around here and I’m just taking it day by day.”

Clinician's Corner
Clinicians headshot

Clinician's Title

Benefits of Mindfulness Therapy in Treating Substance Abuse

There are many perks of practicing mindfulness in our everyday lives and as of the last couple of years mindfulness therapy has become more popular form of therapy. Mindfulness is being used to treat a number of disorders and issues in the therapy room and is becoming one of the go to resources to pull from in treating substance use disorders. An estimated 24 million Americans are affected by substance use and that number continues to grow. Substance use is another example of that too-human drive to move toward pleasure and away from pain.

Mindfulness involves cultivating moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness of feelings, surroundings and thoughts. It is said that we cultivate mindfulness, so helping people develop the tools to become aware of their desire to want only pleasurable things to help escape the uncomfortable things is a crucial part of this approach. When it comes to substance use this can be an important aspect of treatment because it is helping to bring clarity, awareness, compassion, and acceptance in the present moment.

Mindfulness can also help people with substance use learn to relate to discomfort differently. For example when an uncomfortable feeling like a craving or anxiety arises they are able to identify their discomfort, be present with it, and see it with compassion instead of automatically using to make the feeling go away. This ability to approach our experiences and discomfort with a compassionate lens gives us more freedom to choose how we respond to it rather than defaulting to unhealthy behaviors, creating a shift in the individual’s relationship to discomfort. When someone is feeling lonely, sad, bored or depressed - something that tends to trigger craving and then substance use. Mindfulness teaches people to notice that arising, and to relate to that differently.
So, there seems to be a change between the experience of emotional discomfort and having that almost automatically lead to substance use. According to Dr. Bowen, we’re seeing a reduction in craving, and also a reduction in the tendency to reach for something in order to feel better. Additionally, from what I see and experience, it’s helping people become really aware of what’s happening in their minds. Once they see that, they have a choice and they have some freedom. We’re trying to teach people to become experts on themselves so they can see these processes unfolding and how they lead to places they don’t want to go. Then, they see the places where they can intervene. How do we become aware of how we feel, and practice sitting with things that are uncomfortable - things we feel like we can’t tolerate? In fact, we can tolerate them. We just need to practice.

As a primary therapist at Turnbridge this has been my approach and outlook that I incorporate into the therapy room whether in individual sessions or group sessions. Helping others become more mindful by utilizing the resources within themselves through mindfulness therapy is something I not only value but practice.

Alumni Life Alumni picture

As a child, Zach was exceedingly bright and always got along with everyone.

Zach grew up in West Texas where, he recalls, “nobody would ever expect for me to become a drug addict, but it can happen to anybody.” “I wanted everyone to like me and blended in with every friend group,” said Zach. From an early age, Zach based his success off of what other people thought of him. “It didn’t matter how I felt, but how others thought of me.”

Zach’s first experience with alcohol came when he was 13 years old. “I even started occasionally drinking by myself when I was 13,” said Zach. Zach’s drinking progressed rapidly. He drank his way through high school, on the weekends and sometimes on weeknights, but he was still bringing home good grades. Zach’s experimentation extended to marijuana at the tail end of his high school career. Despite these ominous signs, he was accepted into a top university in the state of Texas. However, during Zach’s senior year of high school his father passed away, causing him a great deal of anguish. “I didn’t know what to do,” said Zach.

Zach battled through the depression he was feeling and went on to attend college. He pledged a fraternity upon arrival and throughout his freshman year of college he began trying a greater variety of illicit substances. “I experimented with just about everything,” said Zach. “I still only cared about what others thought of me, regardless of how bad I felt on the inside.”

Zach’s alcohol, cocaine, and benzodiazepine abuse progressed from a couple days a week, to every single day. “I was doing one of those three substances every day for the last 11 months of my use,” Zach said. “I was blacked out all the time, drinking and driving.” In November of 2014, Zach states he had a moment of clarity and “sent my mom a text and said I needed help.” It did not take long before Zach was admitted into a 30-day treatment center in Texas. Following his stay in the 30-day inpatient program, Zach agreed to come to Turnbridge. “I knew I needed a long period of time to straighten my life out,” said Zach.

Alumni quote

Upon arrival, Zach immediately started to make friends and dive into the program. “Something I always tell the guys in Phase I is to find your group of friends,” said Zach. “I wouldn’t have made it through without all of my boys. Also, one of the biggest things that helped me was making and following a schedule. I never followed a schedule in my life.”

Once he arrived in Phase III, with the assistance of his Case Manager, Zach got a job at a local coffee shop. Soon after, Zach was offered a House Manager position at Turnbridge. “It was the first time in my life I had real responsibility,” Zach said. “Turnbridge introduced me to a schedule and real responsibilities and being accountable. I learned how to take care of business and have real human responsibilities in Turnbridge, so I was good when I got out of the program.”

“I just finished my first semester back in school and got a 4.0,” said Zach. “I still have those same friends from Phase I & Phase II and they have played a vital role in my journey.”

“I stayed in New Haven after completing the Turnbridge program because I thought people here would hold me accountable, and they do,” said Zach. He recently moved into a house with a couple of his friends in the area. Zach will be attending another full-time semester in the spring, as well as working as a Turnbridge Support Staff member part-time.

Alumni pic

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