Approaching Addiction, Trauma, and Housing Insecurity, Spiritually

A reflection on the Recovery Café Network’s Guiding Principles
by Aaron Guldenschuh-Gatten, Associate Executive Director of Recovery Café Lexington and Kate’s Place

Recovery Café Lexington is a member of the Recovery Café Network. Our membership in this larger community of Cafés provides us with meaningful support and allows us to engage in our work through a very special framework, the Network’s six Guiding Principles. The Guiding Principles set Recovery Café Lexington, and all Recovery Cafés, apart from other Recovery Community Centers. While we are not unique in providing meaningful support to individuals living with substance use disorder, we are unique in our approach. The Guiding Principles are the foundation and the framework for how we approach and overcome barriers to healing and recovery.

Connecting with Divine Love in Ourselves and Others: As we begin our work, we search out the imprint of spiritual love that we believe resides at the core of every human being. We are loved and we are capable of giving and receiving love; we each deserve love, regardless of life circumstances. Through the community we build together, we are invited to draw from the wellspring of love at the center of our being, and we are invited to connect to that love in others. It is through the lens of love that we strive to see ourselves and others.

Show Respect: As we connect with the divine Love in ourselves and others, we are moved to respect that Love. We take a posture of respect for ourselves, other people, and for the community we create together.

Cultivate Compassion: Starting with these two foundational principles of love and respect, we cultivate compassion. Compassion is key in empowering the community to find healing and recovery. Compassion takes work. We are often self-focused and live in insecurities, fear, and shame, but when we draw on love we can cultivate the compassion that sets us free to heal and love ourselves and others, and to together find recovery.

ReNew Recovery Café (Daytona Beach, FL)
Recovery Café Lowell (Lowell, MA)
Hamilton County (Fishers, IN) Recovery Café’s recent opening

Practice Forgiveness: We have all made mistakes. The practice of forgiveness builds on the preceding principles of love, respect, and compassion. Forgiveness is powerful and healing. Breaking the bondage of the past through forgiveness frees all of us to embrace a new future and to begin our journey of recovery.

Encourage Growth: Freedom from the weight of our mistakes enables us to chart a new course. We encourage growth in ourselves and in others through community, at shared meals, in Recovery Circles, through learning, and in casual interactions. Each of us is capable of remarkable achievements when we are encouraged to grow in a healing and loving environment.

Give Back: As people who have been given the opportunity to grow and heal in community, we show our gratitude by giving back to and supporting the community that has enabled our recovery. Here in shared space (physical and spiritual) we give freely what is freely given to us: love.

Transforming Pain and Trauma into Healing and Hope: The Recovery Café Network’s Guiding Principles invite us to rigorously engage in the humanity of others. Everyone I meet deserves love, is worthy of respect, needs compassion, deserves to heal from mistakes, needs opportunities to learn and grow, and has something to contribute. I am astonished by the ways these principles have transformed pain and trauma into healing and hope. 

Recovery Café Chicago (IL)
New Day Recovery Café (Friday Harbor, WA)
The Point Café (Huntington, WV)

Aaron’s reflection on the Guiding Principles originally appeared in Phoenix Rising, Recovery Café Lexington’s quarterly. Thank you for reprinting your reflections with us here!

Aaron Guldenschuh-Gatten has been in recovery for six years. Raised in North Carolina, Aaron moved to Louisville to study theology and worked for 15 years in HIV prevention, case management, and care. An active member of The Temple Congregation, Aaron identifies as queer and has lived experience with justice involvement, substance use disorder, and mental health challenges.