The Family Education Weekend helped to change my thinking and opened up a whole new world of helping myself and reaching out to others for support. I wasn't going to go as I had so much on my schedule already that weekend including bringing my daughter to school. I am always doing for others and ever taking care of myself. I don't know what made me commit, something told me that I needed to do it. From that weekend I have exchanged phone numbers, gone to dinner to talk, and attended support groups with three families that live fairly close. I always knew I had the support of family and friends, but the support of others that can relate is so important.”
- A Grateful Mom
Rec & Lifestyle
From the Family
This past month, several clients from the Turnbridge Women’s Program took a trip up to Rhode Island for a day of horseback riding. The scenic trail took them for a leisurely ride through the hilltops and along the beach.
“It was awesome seeing all the clients have a great time on such a beautiful day,” said Support Staff member, Laura Mercado. “I love watching them get over their nerves and see that they can have fun sober. Being able to take trips like this is beyond words.”
The Women’s Program has plenty of fun and exciting events planned for the upcoming holidays and months to come. We’re well into fall foliage season and Trail of Terror is one of Connecticut’s biggest attractions this time of year and ski trips are just around the corner.
Shyanne Horner is the Turnbridge Unsung Hero for the month of October 2017.
Shyanne currently works as the Family and Medical Office Administrator at the Turnbridge Clinical Center.
“I have grown up around substance addiction and have become educated about recovery through personal experience as someone who’s 4 years into recovery from an eating disorder,” said Shyanne. “I thought I knew a lot about recovery before working at Turnbridge, but working with the clients has actually broadened my perspective more than my experience ever could have. There are constantly times where I relate to clients and where I feel happy to share what has helped me in times of difficulty. I am grateful to be in a community where I can see individual’s growth as well as my own.”
“I am absolutely ecstatic that I’ve been nominated for Unsung Hero,” said Shyanne. “Everyone who has gotten it before me has been a coworker that has inspired me to strive to do my best. I am happy to be a part of a team that helps so many people. I love to work where substance abuse, eating disorders, and mental health are discussed openly and not frowned upon. Working at Turnbridge has actually strengthened my relationships with family members and friends who struggle with addiction, as I’ve learned so much from staff and clients alike.”
Laura and Wayne, the parents of current Phase III client, Patrick W., described him as a high-functioning child.
Patrick was very bright and was a gifted athlete. He played varsity basketball and football, and was always very motivated to achieve his goals.
“Patrick spent a lot of his time hanging out with his teammates and didn’t seem to have to put forth much effort to do well in school,” said Laura. “Patrick’s brother and sister had to a put a lot more effort into school than him.”
“I would say around 11th grade there was a change in his school work,” said Laura. “We started to suspect something wasn’t right. He was then picked up by police with a bunch of his friends for drinking and had to complete community service. That was the first real red flag.”
“During August training for football in Patrick’s senior year, he broke his curfew and we started drug testing him once a week,” said Wayne. “It was always negative. We found out later he was falsifying drug tests when he was suspended from school and from football.”
After graduating from high school, Patrick went on to college at Pace University. “We gave him money for books and never saw the books,” said Wayne. “We never saw homework being done. When I caught him sneaking into the house, we realized how naive we were. We refused to sign him up for another semester and asked him to go into treatment.”
“He ended up going to a short-term inpatient rehab,” said Laura. “When he came home, we made him do 90 twelve step meetings in 90 days and he got some privileges back. But, eventually he started doing the same things again.”
“An Alumni of Turnbridge had recommended the program,” said Wayne. “He was my neighbor and I saw the change in him was profound.
“We gave him an ultimatum of going to Turnbridge or leaving our home and he chose to go up to Turnbridge,” said Laura.
“He was very hostile when he first got to Turnbridge,” said Wayne. “But, after 3 months, I was amazed about how well this was working and now I am one of the believers. Patrick is more outgoing, but also more cautious of what he says. When he was young, I had his life planned out because of his athletic ability. I’ve learned to let him create his own path and hear about his recovery plans for the future.”
“As a Mom it is difficult to not guide the conversation and force a path that you think is best,” said Laura “I’ve learned to let Turnbridge and the staff there take the lead. Taking the advice of the professionals was invaluable. We also started to help ourselves, and we didn’t think we needed help at first.”
“The monthly workshop is very helpful and we do a weekly support group at Families Anonymous,” said Laura.
“Diane Clark, the Family Outreach Specialist, has been amazing and her workshops were very educational,” Said Wayne. “I have seen a tremendous uptick in Patrick and everything that the team at Turnbridge is doing is working so well we want him to stay there for the next step to continue to become stronger.”
Relationships & Communication
Relationships, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary: the way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other.
Communication, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary: the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.
Humans are social beings. We need relationships. We need them in order to be healthy and feel connected to the world. Healthy, productive relationships require effective, productive communication. It is the quality, not the quantity of relationships that is of primary importance. Do we get our needs met in healthy ways in our relationships? Is there reciprocity in our personal relationships, ie a give and take that supports each individual’s integrity?
Relationships are built on communication. Healthy relationships require clear and productive communication. Communication is verbal and non-verbal. The most obvious example is verbal: what we say and the tone of voice, volume and cadence of our speech when we say it. Other types of communication are non-verbal. Body language: do we face the person who is speaking to us or to whom we are speaking? Is the focus on the other person’s face, or do we face another direction? Do we make eye contact, and if so, is it receptive eye contact or glaring? Do we nod our head, or shake it? Do we constantly fidget or shift our weight from one foot to the other? Do we tap or feet or our fingers? Is our stance open and relaxed or tense with our arms crossed? These are some of the more common nonverbal behaviors, and of course there are others. Non-verbal communication also often involves physical contact: a touch, a handshake, a hug, or physical violence uses multiple senses to receive and interpret it. Different cultures have different accepted styles of communication, and what means one thing in one culture means something significantly different in another.
Families and individuals within a culture are different in how they convey affection. My family is very physical: we touch each other's arm or shoulder, we give long hugs when we haven’t seen each other for a long time or to comfort. We hug a lot in general. We stand close to each other when we speak and when we make eye contact it is direct and generally constant. We talk on the phone or text/e-mail regularly. My partner’s family, on the other hand, gives very quick hugs, does not generally make much physical contact when they are together, and do not stand close when they speak. Greeting cards are exchanged on special occasions and there is a weekly phone chat with mom. This was a bit of an adjustment for me. But I realized that this family loves each other as much as we do in my family, they just are not demonstrative about it. But the atmosphere in their home is warm and welcoming, and they are there for each other in rough times. I often think that it must be overwhelming and perhaps uncomfortable for people who meet my family for the first time at a gathering if they do not come from a physically expressive family. Over the years I have learned to tell them ahead of time what to expect.
Yes, in my family we communicate love, affection and comfort very easily, verbally and nonverbally. But we struggle when it comes to expressing anger, hurt feelings and other unpleasant emotions. Historically, we tend to withdraw, avoid contact, or use sarcasm, which is actually a form of aggression. Most of us have worked over time to learn how to express these unpleasant feelings in healthier ways. We’re getting there. But it takes time, practice (the main key), and perseverence.
One of the most important things to learn to do when one receives a communication to which one’s immediate response is hurt or anger is to pause, breathe, and ask for clarification on what was meant. This is especially important when the anger or hurt one is experiencing is in response to written communication where we cannot use multiple senses to properly interpret it: eyes in order to read body language, and ears in order to hear tone, volume and cadence of speech. When one is sending an e-mail or text, communication is not tempered by the physical presence of the recipient. Thus, even a communication that is not expressed with any negative intent or unpleasant emotion behind it can unintentionally lack sensitivity or nuance. We should all keep this in mind when communicating through written word only.
Actions are communication as well. Other forms of communication lose credibility if a person’s actions contradict what they say. A prime example of this is people in active addiction. Their credibility typically has been seriously damaged by lies and manipulation, and their actions, such as broken promises, inability to stop using, and other behaviors which are part of the disease of addiction, destroy the credibility regardless of any communication they try. They may cry, beg for forgiveness, and promise they won’t use again. And often they are sincere. Because they are at the mercy of their addiction, however, and with no sobriety or tools of recovery to utilize, they continue the same addictive, destructive behaviors. So when they do finally get sober and into recovery, their actions become a primary means of communication for a time. Once people in their lives see consistent follow through in their actions, other forms of communication can slowly become trusted and utilized.
Using the word “I” is a very important technique. It acknowledges to both oneself and the other person that we are taking ownership of our internal reaction to what has been said, and it is far less likely to put the other person on the defensive, to feel attacked, accused. It allows one to ask the other person, or allows them to clarify, what they actually meant. Often times, the person did not mean to express what the recipient interpreted. And if they did, as is sometimes the case, there is still a greater opportunity for each person to explain the reasons behind their actions or words, and if not immediately resolve the conflict, at least lay the groundwork for it. Another tool for healthier communication as well as increasing ownership of our feelings and over time greater self-awareness and empowerment, is saying “When you do/say/act/ ______, I feel/think _______.”
These techniques feel awkward at first and require practice. And it is very important to know that these new changes in our speech may not be greeted positively by the other person. So try to explain the reasoning behind the change. If the reaction is skepticism or even ridicule, do not give up on the new techniques. Gradually, that other person will usually come around and begin to experience the benefit of the new approach. And aside from the other person’s response, remember: what we say has a very powerful impact on how we think, and over time these techniques clarify and strengthen our identity boundaries and empower us so that we feel less vulnerable and more open to healthy communication and healthier relationships. The words that we speak not only play a major role in our relationships, they reinforce our thought patterns, and our behavior. “Self talk” is based on this fact. Treatment models such as CBT and DBT make use of this fact as well.
In this fast-paced, fast-changing world, where we are becoming more aware of the differences in norms even among members of the same culture, and when at the same time technology is increasingly becoming a central means of interaction and we are less able to communicate in ways that involve multiple senses, the importance of pausing to check in with each other about the intent of our communications cannot be overstated.
Dan N., a current Turnbridge client in Phase III of the Men’s Program, was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona.
As a child, Dan and his family moved around a lot, living for a time in Maryland and eventually landing in Texas. Dan played several sports and had many hobbies including rock climbing and weight lifting, but moving around a lot made it difficult to build lasting relationships with a group of peers. “I was bullied a lot as a kid, which definitely took a toll,” said Dan. “I was very reserved from a young age and I learned very quickly to wall off my emotions and shut down.”
“When I moved to Texas, I went to a private school and I made friends,” said Dan. “I played soccer, football, baseball, and ran track. I did have academic potential but never applied myself. Going into high school, I had intended to hit the books hard, make the honor roll, and get into college. But, shortly after, I started smoking marijuana and everything went downhill. I just wasn’t able to manage everything and it was only me and a few other kids doing drugs, and because of how small the school was it didn’t look good to everyone else.”
“Once sophomore year rolled around I had completely lost the desire to do well in school,” said Dan. “Looking back, I was clearly restless, irritable and discontent. I was introduced to cocaine and pills around that time and my entire life became consumed by drugs.”
“I lost passions,” said Dan. “I loved rock climbing and tossed it away for drugs. I graduated high school, but my grades were poor so I went to community college. I started to think life was pointless and I was becoming very isolated. It was hard for me to establish relationships and keep them.”
“Eventually, it was just me alone getting high,” said Dan. “I would keep going until I ran out of money. At one point, I was hospitalized for a breathing issue related to my use, but I started drinking again the second I got out of the hospital. I couldn’t function. I was drinking at work and saying things to my family members that I would never say normally. I was out of my mind.”
“My parents said I had to go to rehab or live on my own,” said Dan. “I could barely hold a job as it was, so I decided to go to a short-term rehab in Texas. I learned a lot at that 30-day treatment program and decided that going back home wasn’t the best thing for me. I wasn’t ready. I chose to come to Turnbridge because of the EMT program in New Haven.”
“The Phases at Turnbridge are a good stepping stone,” said Dan. “You get freedom and responsibility slowly as you can handle it and you have a safety net to fall back on. You learn how to get a job, go to meetings in the sober community of New Haven, and go to school, which is what I am doing now. The therapists are awesome, staff is great, and the case managers know what you’re going through and can help you in whatever direction you’re heading.”
“My relationship with my family has progressively gotten better and better,” said Dan. “My parents hold me accountable with tough love, healthy support, and maintain healthy boundaries.”
“If I would to do it all over again I would tell myself just keep going because it does get better,” said Dan. “Everyone has good times and bad times but just remember good times will come again. Taking suggestions, listening and learning from mistakes, and remaining open-minded really helped me get to where I am today.”
Turnbridge Alumni, Maegan O., was born and raised in Massachusetts in a large family with two older siblings.
“When I was younger my mother was a very busy and successful woman who was always at work, and not home that much,” recalled Maegan. “I went to a co-ed Catholic High School and I had my first drink during my freshman year and I loved it. I distinctly remember a switch going off in my brain and I immediately wanted more. I did not want the feeling to go away.” “What I love about Turnbridge is the step down into real world life,” said Maegan. “They set you up for long term sobriety with a quality like no other.”
“I was very active in sports,” said Maegan. “But drugs and alcohol slowly deterred me from sports. I was a ‘weekend warrior’ and I could never wait for the weekend. It never came soon enough.”
“When I got my license and a car, it came with consequences,” said Maegan. “I started drinking during week days. Eventually, I was pulled over for drinking and driving and my parents came and picked up the mess. At the time, I thought it was just normal stuff. Looking back, it clearly was not normal for 17 year olds to do.”
“My parents never punished me,” said Maegan. “And my behavior continued. Drinking and driving, skipping school, getting into multiple car accidents, but we still just fixed the car and didn’t broadcast it. My siblings and I weren’t close, so they just kept their distance.”
“I graduated high school and was going to go to University of New Hampshire, but I decided to take a gap year and my use progressed during that year. I was using cocaine and benzos more often. But, it always ended up with alcohol.”
“During the end of my time using I wasn’t going out anymore and was spending all my time alone,” said Maegan. “I was very depressed and was sure everything was going to stay the same for a long, long time. I was at a breaking point and had a very short gap to find help and I chose to get help at Turnbridge. I asked my parents for help and at the time felt like I was weak. Looking back, it was a strong moment in my life.”
“I remember sitting with Kristina in admissions and it all happened so fast,” said Maegan. “The first month I slept a lot. But in Phase II, I started to get back into the normal functions of life. The clinical team helped immensely, sorting out medication and helping me with other things that were going on. I started to go to twelve step meetings, got a sponsor, and began working an active program, which is also a big part of my story.”
“I got a job and my car back in Phase 3 and continuously tried to do what my case manager asked me to do,” reflected Maegan. “I look back and I wanted to be here. I wanted help and it stuck. I wanted to change who I was to be a better person. The therapy work helped. I learned to reap the benefits of sobriety and learned to love myself.”
“I have been sober since July 2016,” said Maegan. “I work at Turnbridge now as a Support Staff member. I can help clients and relate to them. I live with a great group of women, most of them I went through Turnbridge with. I never got a negative vibe from my community and my network of girls just inspires me. The biggest part about the program was allowing myself to heal and to not stress out about the little things. Eventually that clicked and my motivation to do better slowly kept growing.”
18 MONTHS Brooke M.
13 Months Lauren C.
11 MONTHS Patrick W.
10 MONTHS Daniel O.
9 MONTHS Sam F.
8 MONTHS Daniel N.
7 MONTHS Dillon L.
6 MONTHS Sean L.