The Joy of Sponsorship

inpatient-drug-rehab-texasI was told that the key to happiness in sobriety was helping others. The way I understood that statement was this: As soon as I discharged from BRC Recovery I was going to get at least 8 men to sponsor and all of them were going to remain sober because of me.

I could not have been more wrong! I was sober for more than a year before another man asked me to take him through the 12 steps. At first I despaired over the fact that no one was approaching me to get some of what I had. I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. I went to my sponsor and he told me that God would put the right person in my path at the right time. I was just expected to show up.

So, that’s just what I did. I showed up to my home group every week. I chaired meetings at that home group, I made coffee and I greeted people at the door. When I was asked to join a panel at a treatment center for adolescents in south Austin, I said, “yes”. For more than a year on Tuesday nights I went to that treatment facility and carried a message of hope…one that had been given to me freely.

Sometime during that year my perspective on sponsorship began to change. I began to understand that a sponsor is not responsible for another man’s sobriety – that was up to the man and God. My responsibility was to take the man through the 12 steps, to the best of my ability, so that he could get connected to a Power greater than himself, and he, in turn, could help still others on the path to sobriety. At a time in my life when I thought I could not handle any more on my plate, that is when men began to ask me to take them through the 12 steps. My God certainly has a sense of humor.

The men I currently sponsor have varying lengths of sobriety from 18 months to 90 days. I enjoy working with each and every one of them, and they all teach me something new on a weekly basis. They keep me honest and they keep me in touch with my 1st step. When I pray for patience, one of them tries mine. When I pray for selflessness, one of them calls me during The Walking Dead. When I pray for an opportunity to help, one of them wants to meet on a planned “veg-out” day. And when I am full of self-pity and fear, they all call me that day with situations much worse than the one I am facing. That, in a nutshell, is the joy of sponsorship.

David_Joy-of-SponsorshipDavid Hutts
BRC Recovery

The Power of Surrender

Pic-1As I sat through a lecture at an addiction treatment conference last year, I listened to a respected professional in the field speak about empowerment. She stated that the primary goal of the treatment center at which she worked was to empower clients. I often hear this language used to describe part of the mission and vision of a recovery program. I spoke with one clinician who told me that empowerment and choice were two of the main principles that every treatment program should promote.

If by empowerment we are talking about helping clients to achieve their goals and reach their potential, then I am all in favor of it. I believe recovery is all about allowing a client to take an active role in the re-creation of their life. Often, however, empowerment seems to mean that we should allow the clients to do whatever they want. At many treatment centers, empowerment means that we should put the ball in the client’s court and allow them to make important decisions around treatment such as length of stay and aftercare plans. Based on my experience, I wholeheartedly disagree with this approach.

One of the first principles of the recovery process is admitting powerlessness. As the Big Book states on page 45, “Lack of power, that was our dilemma.” My first and perhaps most important goal for a client who enters our program is to help them fully realize this dilemma. A true, gut-level admission of powerlessness provides the fuel that propels a person through the rigorous and challenging recovery process that so many fail to earnestly follow.

Clients don’t end up at BRC Recovery because they have a history of making good decisions. Addicts are notorious for taking the path of least resistance,− the easy way out. A person in early recovery can be incredibly short-sighted. Their focus on short-term comfort often comes at the expense of what is their long-term best interest. If we allowed each client to decide their course in the program based on what they wanted, their chances of success would be greatly diminished.

Mark Houston once summed up recovery in one simple, yet profound sentence. “Recovery is about submitting to a will other than your own,” he said. We ask our clients to submit to the will of our program, the will of their sponsor, and ultimately the will of their Higher Power. Egotistical addicts often have a hard time with this submission. This process of surrender for most clients can be an arduous task. In a chronic relapser, failure to surrender is usually a primary factor in a person’s inability to stay sober despite numerous treatment attempts and a wealth of recovery knowledge.

To produce this surrender, it is important to remove the false sense of power from the client. Working with a chronically relapsing population that tends to be entitled and arrogant, it is often important to let the client know that they do not have power. They are not the expert, nor do not get to make the final decisions regarding their recovery. Our team of experts, consulting with the family, create the optimal plan for the client. Then, we unapologetically use leverage to get the client to follow the plan.

I have seen so many cases where a resistant client’s family was willing to hold their boundaries and success ensued. For the first time ever, the client realized that they were not going to get their way. They couldn’t run away from the pressure, they couldn’t hold their breath through another rehab, and they couldn’t manipulate to an easier, softer way. The client was forced into submitting to a will other than their own, and thus had their first experience with surrender.

At BRC Recovery, we do not negotiate with the disease of addiction. Our primary goal is to connect our residents to a Power greater than themselves, not to “empower” them by giving them a lot of choices. We allow our residents to have an experience with the paradoxical freedom that comes from surrender.

In early recovery, I had to learn that what I wanted really didn’t matter. I had been doing whatever I wanted for a long time, and the result was my life was a complete disaster. I was forced into doing things I didn’t want to do. My power was taken away. As a result, I learned to tap into a source of Power that has allowed me to pursue my goals and re-create my life. I hope every client at BRC can have an experience with loss of power sufficient to effect a fundamental change in their way of living and thinking such as I had. And I will keep fighting to make sure they don’t get their way.

Greg_The Power of SurrenderGreg Fabry
BRC Recovery

There is a Solution

There-is-a-SolutionGrowing up in a town right outside of Boston, MA, I always felt like I was shielded from the most dangerous elements of society and safe from harm. Warm summers, cool falls, snowy winters and crisp springs made New England one of the best places to live. Leaving home and heading to college at 18, I was about to embark on a journey that would eventually land me in Austin, TX at BRC Recovery.

“Did you see the paper this morning? Seven more deaths due to overdoses.” This question, followed by harsh news, became my reality during the past 2 years. My parents still living in New England, would daily check the obituary section in the local newspaper noting that the number of deaths due to heroin and other illicit drugs would continue to spike.

The problem has become especially severe in New England, where officials have called for a renewed effort to confront it. “Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont devoted his entire State of the State Message in January to what he called “a full-blown heroin crisis” in his state. Like the new White House effort, the governor called for a new, treatment based approach.” (Michael Shear, NY Times)

The heroin epidemic in New England has taken a toll on all communities: race, ethnicity, age and class aside. A little over 2 years ago, I myself was using heroin, playing the dangerous game of Russian roulette like so many others in New England. The disease of addiction has caused many in my home town area much trauma and many sleepless nights. When would this epidemic end?

The White House, on August 17, 2015 announced a program that could very well improve the government’s response to the heroin epidemic across New England. The focus of this program will be on treatment, rather than punishment of addicts. The Office of National Drug Control Policy said it would spend $2.5M to hire public safety and public health coordinators all throughout the New England area.

Four of my friends from high school have passed away due to overdoses. Receiving these phone calls has never been easy but because of this epidemic, they don’t surprise me anymore. Confronted with the disease of addiction myself, I went to BRC Recovery in 2013 in an attempt to overcome my hopeless state. BRC taught me discipline and the spiritual tools necessary to combat my disease. The staff challenged me daily and got me to fully surrender to the program of recovery.

As I sit here now, over 2 years sober and after having been invited to join the BRC staff as a Recovery Manager, I find that I have a real passion for recovery and a mission to carry the message to those who suffer from this disease. I desire to help families who have gone through tremendous lows watching their loved ones put themselves in harm’s way. Time and time again there is a solution. If confronted with the disease of addiction, don’t give up. With the help of our government and the premier program of BRC Recovery, many have and will continue to recover. I know this to be true because I have.

David_There is a SolutionGod Bless.

David Walsh
BRC Recovery

2015 BRC Alumni Reunion Recap

Alumni_Reunion_BRC-PhotoWe are grateful to all of our alumni, family, and friends that joined us on October 10, 2015 for an unforgettable evening, full of fun and fellowship, as we celebrated recovery together with our first ever alumni group photo. If you were one of the few that unfortunately missed this jubilee here’s a quick rundown of events…

Guests enjoyed mouthwatering Pappasito’s fajitas, create-your-own cupcakes by The Cupcake Bar, a mechanical bull, the infamous photobooth, a bouncy house, and face painting. Marsha Stone, CEO, gave her annual “State of the Union” address during the opening ceremony which included a slideshow presentation, and the meaning of our newly updated name, BRC Recovery.

2015-Alumni-of-the-Year---Ron-SAgain this year, the BRC team presented awards to alumni, celebrating their transformations and recalling their priceless moments while at BRC. This year’s award winners are, drumroll please…

  • The Most Annoying Resident Award: Robbie Y.
  • The Age of Miracles Award: Krysta R.
  • The Partner in Recovery Award: Randy H.
  • The Therapeutic Crisis Award: Carla V.
  • The Most Memorable Admission Award: James B.
  • The “We Do Not Negotiate with the Disease” Award: Jeff S.
  • Alumni of the Year: Ron S.

Katie P. was the Speaker, sharing her experience, strength, and hope with everyone in attendance. And as the night came to a close, we all left with hearts full of gratitude and love for each other and the sacred ground found only at BRC – our home.

Finding Stillness

BRC-Men's-House-with-Rainbow“The mind is a marvelous mechanism,” to quote a friend Bill W. It can be a useful tool or a nagging liability, depending on the degree of inner stillness I am experiencing. Through the spiritual path outlined by the 12 Steps, I have learned that in order for me to be able to trust and use my mind effectively, there are certain actions that have to be taken and attitudes adopted.

Once I have cleaned house (meaning taken the necessary actions to be freed of the destructive power of resentment, fear, and made amends) I get the opportunity to work with a blank canvas. Through some basic practices of prayer and meditation, I can begin to discipline my mind, with guidance and direction of a Higher Power. Stillness, I have learned, is the voice of God. The mental chatter that occupies my thought life on any given day rarely serves a purpose other than to separate me from God and disconnect me from others. I often find myself completely consumed by the chatter in my mind (usually by the time I’m in the shower in the morning,) and then in a moment of clarity and awareness, I realize that my inner space has been disturbed. It happens on a daily basis and most of the time it motivates me to take some action. This is why a daily meditation practice is so vital my recovery and happiness.

By getting quiet in the morning, finding stillness by focusing on breathing, and by framing my thoughts on positive intention, my internal condition begins to become fertile ground for fresh inspiration, determination, and awareness. By taking these fruits into my day, I find that I am more clear on my purpose and live a richer life.

Matt_Finding StillnessMatt Battle
BRC Recovery

It’s Hard to Hate Up Close

BRC Recovery - Unite to Face AddictionMy name is Marsha Stone, and I am a person in long term recovery. I am gratefully sober and serene today, but this was not always the case. For years I was in and out of rehabilitation facilities, desperately trying to arrest my illness, all the while, hurting friends and families alike with the collateral damage associated with alcoholism.

There are so many misconceptions in this country and throughout the world about what addiction means, and further about what recovery means. Many see alcoholism and addiction as an illness of the weak willed, a moral failing of some sort, and at worse a blatant disregard for self and others.

I remember as a child hearing my precious grandmother describing her two alcoholic brothers. She would talk about how much she loved them, of their quick wit, handsome appearance and then sigh and say, “The way they are…it’s such a shame they don’t want to quit…They don’t have to drink, they are just too selfish and weak to stop. They’re throwing their lives away.”

In fact those two uncles both died early deaths from the disease of alcoholism. In those days treatment was scarce, and stigma and ignorance were rampant. People hid the truth about themselves and their family members struggling with addictive disorders out of shame and of fear of public scorn. I ask you- has much changed?

If you line up ten out of ten people and ask them whether an alcoholic chooses to drink, or an addict chooses to use, most of them would answer yes. It seems obvious doesn’t it? No one is putting the glass to your lips or the substance into your body. It’s a voluntary act, clearly it seems. Or is it? Clear as mud….

I have wondered before if I would be among the judgmental and misinformed had I not found myself in a position to be suffering from an illness I did not understand, and desperate for a solution, any solution, in order to avert continued misery, and ultimately death. My guess is I would have assumed alcoholism and addiction were a choice, and proceeded to judge accordingly. Thankfully that was not to be my experience.

Not only has my struggle with alcoholism informed me about the truth of its origins and its solution, it has also opened up a huge world that I never even knew existed. On October 4, I will travel to Washington, D.C. and hear my husband speak about his recovery, joined by friends and strangers alike as we Unite to Face Addiction. This momentous and historic occasion will mark the first time in our nation’s history where people are joining together to face and speak of addiction, to break the silence and the stigma.

United we will stand. I can’t imagine what this event will be like, what it will feel like. I like to imagine that we are doing this for ourselves, and for future generations. But I also love the idea of our alcoholic ancestors, including my uncles, looking on with pleasure and pride. We have something they never did – truth and understanding, and the ability to openly put faces and stories to recovery. Oh yes, we understand, and it’s hard to hate up close. #TYG


Marsha Stone, CEO
BRC Recovery


Marsha Stone, CEO
BRC Recovery

Gloucester Police Department is Making a Difference

Chief Leonard Campanello- BRC Recovery

Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello

Earlier this year, BRC proudly joined the Gloucester Police Department’s ANGEL Initiative. The ANGEL Initiative was designed to reduce the number of overdoses in Massachusetts by providing a person suffering from the disease of addiction an opportunity to turn over their remaining drug supply and paraphernalia without the threat of being arrested.

“Gloucester Police Department highly values its relationship with BRC Recovery which we have found as an exceptional program from intake to long term treatment. We look forward to continuing our partnership with this premier program to help as many people as possible with this disease”, states Chief Campanello.

The Gloucester Police Department’s efforts to help people suffering from the disease of addiction don’t stop with the ANGEL Initiative. Last week, the police department reached out on social media, urging people to contact the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies to “politely ask them what they are doing to address the opioid epidemic in the United States.” And then later posted that Pfizer, a pharmaceutical corporation headquartered in New York City with research headquarters in Connecticut, called the department to set up a meeting.

BRC Recovery is honored to partner and support the Gloucester Police Department, as well as other professionals and treatment providers nationwide, as they boldly continue to hold healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies accountable for blatantly over prescribing patients – contributing to the current opioid crisis in America.

For more information about the Gloucester Police Department, and to see how you can join them in making a difference towards raising awareness on drug addiction, find them on Facebook.

Marsha_Blog_Gloucester Police Dept

Marsha Stone, CEO
BRC Recovery

Anniversaries and Old T-Shirts

T-shirt-blog-photo- BRC

Marsha Stone celebrating her 1-year anniversary at BRC (formerly MHR)

I was cleaning out my closet the other day and my eyes rested on all the work shirts I have. Short sleeves, long sleeves, button downs, hoodies, even tie dyes- all with Mark Houston Recovery or Benchmark Recovery Center monogrammed smartly on them. When I look at those shirts I am reminded of years of hard work, love and sacrifice. Tears of joy and tears of sorrow have been cried in those shirts.

August 2009 I was pulling into the HEB on Hwy 620 in Round Rock. I received a text from Mark Houston inquiring whether I was interested in a job. He was thinking of opening a women’s center that would mirror the men’s center he had established. At first hesitant, and then intrigued and excited, I accepted and started working on September 13, 2009, six years to the day as I pen this blog.

So much has happened since then. Sadly, Mark suddenly passed away; Wayne Kinsey (thankfully) bought the company, the name was changed. So many faces, staff, residents and their families alike, coming on and off the property at 11503 Parsons Road. So many memories…

And so much growth! We added a national monitoring program, and then two apartment buildings for sober living, a dynamic and active alumni program, and most recently a clinical center.

The-Shirts-Are-In- BRCAnd now it’s time for more! As of September 28, Benchmark Recovery Center will be simply known as BRC Recovery. We are so much more than one recovery center. A visitor remarked recently, “You all aren’t just a treatment center, you’re more like a recovery movement! The energy here is palpable!” It is absolutely true that we, as a team and as a community are enthusiastic about recovery!

So a simpler name with a larger vision. It works! I like it! And I love a good paradox, recovery is full of them. Surrender to win is one of my favorites! (Sorry, inside joke- shout out to Casey Dobson, Paige Amstutz and Pat Swan and all my good friends practicing law in the great states of Texas and California!)

But what to do with all those old shirts? Fall is here, maybe a celebratory bonfire with the BRC Family is in order. I will never regret, not even one day I wore those shirts. Lessons learned in those shirts made me who I am today, a grateful, and much wiser, six year employee of this company. A vibrant, alive, ever growing and changing family company full of love and acceptance, imperfection and forgiveness, and most importantly an undying enthusiasm for God, our residents, recovery, one another and the future.

After all, everyone has to clean out their closet sometime. I’m so grateful for the strength and willingness to do so. After all, God is in charge, and change is good! #BRCRecoveryMovement

Marsha_Anniversaries & Old T-shirts-BRC

Marsha Stone, CEO
BRC Recovery