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A Spiritual Experience

A Spiritual Experience

My spiritual journey began 8 months before this photo was taken. I had reached a point in my life where drugs and alcohol had become the driving force behind my existence. I was lost and had no power over the decision to drink and use. It had been engrained into my very being that I was to live the rest of my life, intoxicated and miserable. What happened next was the most important moment in my life. I checked into Purple. I was a retread, that is, I had been through the Purple program once before. Humbled by my addiction and embarrassed that I had relapsed I came back with the expectation that I was less than everyone at the facility.  The moment I walked through the doors I was greeted with smiles and hugs. People were happy to see me. This was something I wasn’t used to, something new.  New experiences began to flood my day to day life. I began calling a sponsor every day.  Conversations with him and the guys in treatment gave me a new feeling of connection. I started building friendships. I started building goals. I started looking toward the future with a new feeling of hope. The promises were coming true.  I had no idea the journey God had in store for me. A few months after I had graduated I was invited to join something called Epic Trek.  I didn’t know much about this experience other than it was going to be an adventure. Over the course of my treatment I had learned to welcome adventure whenever it was thrown my way, so I decided to go on Epic trek.  On our trip we were to summit a mountain with an elevation above 14,000 feet.  I had never done anything this hard before.   The staff at purple began training me to endure such a feat.   We met in the woods once a week and ran trails for hours.  There is something spiritual about this, and like my experience in treatment it was a new experience to find spirituality in something like running. I hated running, but I grew to enjoy the fellowship and mental state a long trail run put me in.  I began to learn to run through the pain.  I learned that running is a form of moving meditation and gave me the ability to seek a higher power for strength when I felt I had nothing left to give.   This was a powerful experience for me.  These training sessions went on for two months.  The time had come to fly out to Colorado.  When we landed we, all gathered our things and set off for our lodge.  The next few days were spent acclimating to the elevation and jumping off cliffs to alleviate our anxieties about our summit.  One of the days we spent on four wheelers in the Colorado wilderness.  The mountains, the trees, the trails, and my friends all reflected the great beauty that God had offered to me.  I found myself surrounded by God and final the day came to summit La Plata Peak.  My friend and I had decided to take the harder route, against the wishes of staff.  We had trained hard and knew that we could make it.  That’s the funny thing about spiritual growth; when you put in the work you have faith that can move mountains, literally. The ascent began at 3:30 am.  We set off into the woods and began climbing a massive boulder field. This took about 2 hours.  Once we were through the boulders we reached a grassy plain littered with wild flowers.  The sun began to rise and I began to feel the heat radiating onto my skin.  The next four hours were a treacherous climb along the spine of Ellingwood ridge.  Huge towers of rock jutted out towards the sky and going around them meant we would not summit in time so we climbed to the top and began the careful navigation, jumping from one rock to the next.  As I came near the summit I looked back at the ridge I had just climbed and something came over me.  It was like I was looking back on the past 8 months of my life.  From the beginning when I got sober to this exact moment right where I was standing.  I remembered working the steps with my sponsor and how hard it was to face the person I had become in my addiction.  I became overwhelmed with gratitude. I had built friendships stronger than ever before and I had learned to love myself, flaws and all.  I began to have trouble breathing and tears swelled my eyes. I looked at my friend and we both hugged each other. God taught me a lesson that day.  That with hard work, I can do anything.  

                

"YOU alone cannot; WE together can"

"YOU alone cannot; WE together can"

A FEW MOMENTS WITH BO:  

Addiction is a disease that thrives on isolation. Be it physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual (and typically it’s a combination of all of these forms) this isolation- if not interrupted- is crippling and ultimately lethal for an addict or alcoholic. One of, if not the most outstanding qualities of someone who has crossed the point of no return in addiction, is the inability to remain sober without some supportive network of people to aid in the ongoing recovery process. What we’ve seen work best at keeping addicted people sober is when recovering people form a tight knit community amongst themselves, interacting regularly, intensively, honestly and lovingly. Even if addicts aren’t perhaps sold on recovery or ambivalent about sobriety, they tend to improve and get better when surrounded by and connected to other active, sober individuals.

In fact, the main of reason I joined the staff at Purple, as a certified Addiction Counselor, a few months ago, is that I believe, at its best, Purple provides as good a recovery environment for young men as I have seen in my eight years in the addiction treatment world. Addiction and alcoholism are dire afflictions that tend to consume many lives. Some cases are too severe and all treatment efforts end up being unsuccessful, but as we have experienced up to this point the most effective medicine for this disease is what we practice and believe here in our work with the men of Purple. Isolation and loneliness can be supplanted by fellowship, brotherhood, and union. Furthermore a sense of belonging can replace the addict’s long-held belief that they were doomed to be misunderstood and alone. Unfortunately, not every case goes this way, but we see dramatic returns to health and vitality occurring on a regular basis.

So the suffering addict or alcoholic gets support, but what about the family members and loved ones who have been deeply afflicted by this ruinous and dark malady as well? They are typically no less isolated, lonely, confused, and hurt than the addicted person themselves, but what can be done to help in these situations? Again, what we have overwhelmingly found works best is a shift from isolation to connection. The good news is that the possibilities for family members of recovering folks to find support and community have grown in recent years, be it AlAnon, Families Anonymous, religious or faith-based support groups, on-line groups, etc. In the same way the drug- addicted person gets better when regularly connecting with peers, the same is also true for suffering family members. Families ravaged by years of attempting to deal with a growing forest fire of addiction are well aware of the many unique problems, fears, pains, and embarrassing situations these devastating issues can bring about. Nothing we’ve found imparts precious hope in these situations like listening and relating to other people’s similar struggles and solutions.

This is why I love what Donna, Adam, Brett and Joel do here at Purple with the family workshops and programs. If you have not attended one of these sessions, I would encourage you to give it a try. We find them to be very helpful and positive and would love to see you there!

Michael & Donna's Comprehensive Substance Abuse Assessments

Michael & Donna's Comprehensive Substance Abuse Assessments

When a family member is using drugs, it affects the entire family making it difficult to confront the drug user. In our assessment process Donna Gunter meets with family members to assess the their readiness to change. Michael Whatley will simultaneously meet with the drug user, assessing their substance use, his/her readiness to change, and obtain a biopsychosocial. Then, everyone will meet together and an appropriate treatment recommendation will be made for the family.

Michael managed the adolescent addiction program at Ridgeview Institute from 2012-2017 where he assessed psychiatric/addicted patients and made appropriate treatment recommendations. He has tuned his ability to help people feel comfortable/trust him with their difficulties in life by being warm, authentic and transparent. Working at Ridgeview Institute He gained a vast knowledge of treatment resources for addicted patients making me confident in helping families find appropriate referrals.

Donna Gunter was educated at The University of Georgia and began a teaching career in the late 70's. When confronted by her own sons's substance abuse problem in the early 2000's she began her personal journey of helping other families. Her final years as a Gwinnett County educator were spent in the counseling office at Brookwood High School. For the last decade she has been committed to helping families find solutions to their child's substance abuse problem. 

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Family and 12 Step Recovery

Family and 12 Step Recovery

One of the biggest challenges to family recovery is the belief that everything will be okay if they can just "fix" the addict. After all, "he's the one who needs help, not me!" In 12 step recovery, the first step involves a willingness to admit powerlessness and unmanageability. Most family members understand that the addict must accept that the major problems in his life come from the result of getting high and drinking. They also understand that he will not change until his addiction is addressed and treated. What they don’t always understand is that they need to work a program of recovery too. However, the bottom line is - recovery from addiction is a family affair. 

Addiction is called a family disease because it stresses the entire family unit to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, and the overall family dynamics. Addiction in the family strains relationships and people become anxious, mistrustful, tired and often times, left feeling hopeless. But, with help and support, family recovery has become a reality for millions!! 

So, why do YOU need a 12 Step recovery program? When you also are willing to surrender to the idea that continuing along the path you’ve been on will only result in more pain, recovery begins. Through recovery, the family member is able to change course and focus on his/her own happiness and peace of mind. Through the discovery of a Higher Power and an honest and thorough examination of patterns that have caused disruption, transformation begins. It isn’t a complicated process. It simply requires willingness, the courage to ask for help, and a commitment to the process. The reality is: We must ask the same of ourselves, as we do the addict.

Confident & proud

Confident & proud

I was recommended to Purple by staff at the psychiatric hospital. I was apprehensive at first, but I knew I wanted relief. What I found was that and so much more. I was introduced to a way of life that offered me peace, happiness and freedom. I met a group of men in states very similar to my own; all with open arms and a new found enthusiasm for life that was incredibly infectious.

Everyday blessing...

Everyday blessing...

I believe that if I give as much as I have taken in life, and more, then I am able to find happiness.  God speaks to me everyday through the alumni, clients, meetings, my fellowship, and my sponsor by them giving me suggestions to absorb and act on.   I'm truly blessed to have been able to get sober in purple.  I owe God and my fellows my life for such an awesome gift.

A new way

A new way

...The crazy part is that no one is making me do those things anymore, I actually want to. I have figured out that when I do those things everything else like work, money, relationships and self esteem just seem to fall into place. 

My second home

My second home

Today Purple is my second home. I always feel I am welcome to hang out with the clients. It is a blessing to say that I am sober and a Purple alumni. Today I am free from all chains and bindings of drugs and alcohol.