A Letter from Killian

Dear Recovery Café Network family,

There is an old adage that may be applicable to the work of each Recovery Café in our network: “Everything is a mess in the middle.”

When we are just getting started there is lots of energy and excitement. There are many unknowns, for sure. But once we’ve committed to launching a Recovery Café every day feels like an adventure. Every day we are on the brink of something new. It’s like being on a treasure hunt.  We are searching for partners, volunteers, grants, space and members. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe describes well the magic that occurs after one has fully committed.

“All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision to commit, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no one could have dreamed would come their way.”

In that beginning stage we live with a sense of awe over all that is being given and all that is coming together. Then there is the opening of our new Café and a broader celebration.  Although we’re exhausted, we bask in the glow.

A few months, a year or even more after the opening we move into the post-honeymoon phase. That is the phase in which, having implemented all the pieces as best as we knew how, there are unexpected failures.   Maybe membership is still low. Maybe an expected grant goes to another non-profit. Maybe we are still in a cramped, borrowed space.  Maybe a key, well-trained staff person moves away or takes a different job. That’s the “mess in the middle.” Every new venture experiences its own unique “mess in the middle.”

During such times, we need to stay grounded in the truth of our work—that we all need a community of belonging if we are to heal and become all we were created to become—and let go of our attachment to results.   Our focus must be on faithfulness to the vision of creating healing community, not on perfection. Parker Palmer reminds us that, “wholeness doesn’t mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”

During the “mess in the middle,” stay close to your Network family through check-in calls and trainings. Have coffee often with the members of your Café to connect to their stories. Take intentional time as a staff team to share stories that ground you in your Café’s deepest vision and help each other hold the “mess” together.

Let your hearts break over and over again by the suffering of those still trapped by isolation and loneliness. Take heart in the truth that this “messy” phase is not unique to your Café.

We can embrace the current “mess” and brokenness in ourselves and in our Cafés, trusting that it is all part of this journey we are making together.

With profound love and gratitude for each of you,

Killian

Cohort 5

By David Uhl

Have you ever had a flight canceled when you really needed to be somewhere or the logistical details of a trip just not work out? That is what happened to two organizations that were supposed to join us in April for the Cohort 5 launch.

Brighter, Behavioral, Choices Inc., NFP in Chicago, IL and Recovery Café Lafayette (in Lafayette, IN) had unexpected problems prevent them from joining their fellow cohort members Indianapolis, IN; Kitsap, WA; and Lexington, KY.

To keep their momentum going, RCN held a special Cohort Launch to welcome them and begin walking alongside them in implementing the Recovery Café model in their communities. In Seattle on July 10-11, there was even a video call where they were able to meet the rest of Cohort 5 virtually and learn together about community asset mapping.

We are excited for them both to join RCN and continue RCN’s growth in the Midwest.

 

 

 

A Reflection from RC Longmont: Members Will Find You

By Lisa Searchinger

‘Carol’ heard about Recovery Café Longmont from her therapist and called with a few questions. Her concern addressed, she arrived ten minutes later to check us out. Near the end of our brief tour, she burst into tears of gratitude and promised to return for the 12-Step Yoga class, set to begin later the same day. Soon she was back in yoga clothes, her husband and adult daughter alongside. After enjoying the class, Carol and her family shared their journey with addiction and mental health, and their enthusiasm in finding a supportive community. My heart swelled and any concerns I had about our low attendance melted away. Killian assured me that it would take time to build our membership. “Commitment is not an easy concept for people who have been traumatized,” she advised. “Be patient, Members will find you.”

With patience, Carol found us, as have dozens more. Since opening our doors at the end of May, our Member and volunteer base has expanded every day, growing from a small team to a blossoming community. In addition to Yoga, our School for Recovery now offers Contemplative Crocheting, Mindful Movement, Relapse Prevention, and more.

Longmont joined the Recovery Café Network as an Emerging Member in October, 2018. Our work began with a two-day training in Seattle along with teams from Port Townsend, WA and Lowell, MA. Thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor, we were able to hit the ground running with a small paid staff of two. Starting any business is challenging, but a nonprofit requires additional layers of oversight. Some challenges I anticipated, some were a surprise. Still, I knew that being part of the Network would expedite the start-up phase due to the robust shared library of templates and documents, in addition to tireless guidance and support. The promise to ‘walk alongside us’ is an understatement–there were days when I am sure I tried their patience with endless emails, always to be met with kind and thorough responses. We are deeply grateful for the support of the Network, and the strength that comes with communal effort.

Establishing articles of incorporation, creating bylaws, forming a board of directors, and hiring an attorney are some of the formative steps required before applying for 501(c)(3) status from the IRS. Our application submitted in December was 34 pages long. Immediately following our submission, the government shut down for six weeks. Thankfully, CENTRALongmont Presbyterian Church offered to serve as fiscal agent while our nonprofit status was pending. The church has carried the vision of a Recovery Café in Longmont since day one, and continues to be our champion. When we were unsuccessful in securing a reasonable space to rent, the church welcomed us to start out in the basement. A generous capacity-building grant from the Network enabled us to improve and beautify the space, which became our contribution to the church in exchange for operating rent-free while we establish our model, roughly a 2-3 year period. Much of the magic was accomplished by church volunteers and donations from the community, and the joy that our uplifted space offers to those it welcomes is shared by all who helped it transform.

Essential first steps of developing our Café included crafting mission, vision and values statements, creating a logo, building a website, launching social media platforms, and identifying sources of revenue. I quickly learned that most foundations will not fund start-ups, and we would need to rely on individual donors for initial support. Fortunately, research uncovered two foundations in Denver willing to consider newly formed organizations, and we were recently granted $50,000 in support of our programs – a huge sigh of relief!

Within the past month, we’ve also received 501(c)(3) approval from the IRS, further expanded our board of directors, and welcomed close to 100 guests for our formal grand opening in June. With more than 40 active partnerships and growing, community support is exceptional. We are inspired, grounded, and motivated by the communal support Recovery Café Longmont receives. And every week, more new Members find us, just as Killian promised.

A Reflection from Killian

 

In the Gospel of Thomas — an ancient, sacred writing that didn’t make the cut into the Bible–Jesus says,

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Recently, as I’ve worked with this powerful teaching in my own life, it occurred to me that the process of “bringing forth what is within you” is at the heart of what happens in our Recovery Circles.

Recovery Café was founded on the assumption that there is within each of us a place of Divine Love. It was founded on the understanding that when we suffer one trauma after another after another we can lose touch with that place of the Divine in ourselves. We can begin to identify with the inner wounds caused by our trauma and the behaviors that emerge from those wounds instead of taking our identity from that place of Divine love at the core of our being.

Part of what happens in Recovery Circles is that we are able to “bring forth,” week after week, the inner wounds of our lifetime and the behaviors, or ways of being in the world, that emerge from those wounds – like fear, anger, shame, blame and self-loathing. As we bring these things forth they are met with unconditional love and they begin to lose some of their power over us. We begin to heal from the inside out.   We start to see how the wounds and behaviors have limited us, but that they are not us.

As we see that the wounds and behaviors are not us, we are able to claim at deeper and deeper levels our true identity—which is love. Our deepest, truest self is love.   In short, as we bring the inner wounds and harmful habits forth for healing we also bring forth the love that is at the core of our being. The process of “bringing forth” both our wounds and the love underneath our wounds “saves” us, one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time.

If we do not “bring forth,” – or bring to conscious awareness–the wounds of our past and the harmful habits related to those wounds, they can destroy us.

When we “bring forth” – or bring to conscious awareness – in the context of healing community, we not only prevent the trauma and harmful behaviors from destroying us, we prevent the trauma and harmful behaviors from destroying our children and our childrens’ children. Richard Rohr reminds us, “What does not get transformed gets transmitted.”

Jennifer, a member of Recovery Café Seattle, suffered sexual trauma throughout her childhood. She numbed the pain of her childhood through drugs and alcohol for much of her adult life.

Now, because of Jennifer’s life in recovery, her commitment to “bringing forth,” she is a force for good in the lives of her eight grandchildren. She is not allowing the wounds from her past to destroy her and, by breaking the cycle of abuse, she is not allowing the wounds of her past to destroy her grandchildren.

The call to do our inner, healing work is not just for our own sake, or for the sake of those whose lives are touched by ours. We also do our inner, healing work for the sake of those who come after us and those who come after them and their larger communities. We do this work for the sake of countless individuals we will never even meet.

Thank you for holding safe spaces where all can “bring forth what is within.”  In so doing you are creating a more loving and just world for future generations.

Killian Noe

Member Highlight: Rachel Driggs

Rachel Driggs cares about you. As a person in recovery, a nurse, an incredibly giving and charitable individual, and perhaps most of all as a survivor, Rachel puts other people as a priority. “[In Recovery] we don’t let anybody go. We always offer help.”

Rachel first came to recovery from a medical ailment that impeded her ability to work. “I could not work. I could not support myself anymore. And I moved back home with my Dad. And I started to drink, a lot. I hated not having my life the way it was…I had this anger in me.” She decided that a life with other people was more important than a life bent upon destruction. “It’s taken a lot to let that anger go, to let the drinking go. Now I look forward to going to dialysis, because I know how much it helps. I look forward to my 12 step group. I really look forward to spending time at the Recovery Café because everyone here is absolutely beautiful.”

Rachel first came to Recovery Café Spokane from the event Hands Across the Falls, an event put on every year by the folks at RCS and Community Minded Enterprises where the recovery community comes together for a day of visibility and solidarity. “I was in treatment at a facility, and I made a really good friend there. And she was being discharged just before the Hands Across The Falls event was going on. And she really wanted to go…[There] I met Georgia Butler and Kathy Thamm for the first time…so I became a member right after the Hands Across the Falls.”

Rachel, a stalwart supporter and mainstay of the Recovery Café, finds the people to be the thing that keeps her coming back. She also finds what resonates most with her aside from the beautiful people she has come to know are the guiding principles the Café network is founded upon. “But what really attracted me to the Recovery Café was the guiding principles. I love those principles so much…no matter how someone has lived their life or not lived their life here, it’s not judged, and it’s just a beautiful place to be.”

Since coming to the Café, Rachel has learned key aspects about herself. “It’s okay to have weaknesses. I was raised to be a perfectionist. Here it’s okay to not be perfect and not be judged. I’ve learned it’s okay to relax.”

Rachel is a centerpiece to the Recovery Café of Spokane and has been a member continuously since 2017.

San Jose, Everett and Spokane Graduate to Full Membership

By David Uhl

Since joining the first cohort in June 2016, the Recovery Cafés in San Jose, Everett, and Spokane have been working hard to implement the Recovery Café model in their communities. For both San Jose and Everett that journey began before the Recovery Café Network (RCN) was formerly launched. For Spokane, they visited Recovery Café Seattle several times before RCN was created and were quick to join the first cohort.

We are excited to announce that hard works had paid off and each of these three Cafés graduated to Full Membership! After each Café completed their self-study on how they were living out the RCN Core Commitments, this winter we visited each Café as part of our evaluation process. We were blown away by their space, their team, and their embodiment of the Recovery Café model’s essence. We found ourselves affirming their efforts and celebrating their hard work. At the end of the process, we wrote up a report that they could share with their board full of affirmation and areas of growth. We have been humbled to have walked alongside them since June 2016 and look forward to walking alongside them for years to come.

“We are proud of each of these Recovery Cafés for their commitment to responding to the need in their communities by offering a place of support and transformation. Our hope is that these healing communities of belonging will become the norm in the way we respond to addiction and other mental health conditions in our country,” stated Killian Noe, Recovery Café Seattle’s Founding Director.

 

“Full membership in the Recovery Café Network realizes our dream of becoming a healing space for people on the margins, people who are yearning for being wanted and needed in community.  Full membership means for us that when we tell people you don’t have to be alone, we have a structure and a staff to communicate that message, to hold people as they heal and grow, with intention and the backing of an organization that thoroughly and reflectively developed the Recovery Café model.  We’re excited to be a part of a Network that will continue to learn together, and mentor Emerging Members of the Network.”

Now that San Jose, Everett and Spokane are Full Members, they living out the RCN Core Commitments in new ways. Building upon what they learned as Emerging Members, we are asking them to share their wisdom in new ways. Over the next year you will notice Full Members playing a larger role in the life of RCN in ways big and small. They may present at a training, host a RCN event, or share their expertise in ways we haven’t thought of yet.

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