We Hold the Space

Dana Bainbridge, Cofounder of Recovery Café San Jose & Pastor of Urban Sanctuary Church

[Dana has been dear to all of us in the Recovery Café (RC) community since she reached out to the Seattle Café over ten years ago. She and her faith community, in 2014, founded Recovery Café San Jose, the first RC outside Seattle. As interest in the RC Model grew, she joined us as the Recovery Café Network’s first Catalyst. In that role, Dana helped other communities across the country discern if they too felt a call to establish a RC in their hometown. Dana recently resigned from her Catalyst role. She continues to serve on the board of RC San Jose. For a link to a beautiful piece she wrote two years ago about the genesis of RC San Jose, see below. (Pictured above are some of the peer recovery support leaders in RC San Jose.)]

Dana Bainbridge, on the left, and Recovery Café Cofounder Killian Noe  

It was a simple phone call I remember clearly ten years later. Our core team in San Jose was starting our Recovery Café; we aspired to be like Recovery Café Seattle. We had so little, except our hearts and friends to guide us. The Recovery Café Network had not yet been born, but the seeds of it were there in the way our friends in Seattle offered to accompany us. Our Emerging Member process included a few visits to Seattle and a monthly phone call in which we asked questions about what we needed to know. 

At the end of one of those calls, a bit overwhelmed about all that needed to be done, I asked Killian, “What’s the most important thing you do in the Recovery Café?” Without missing a beat, she said, We hold the space.” 

For the past ten years I have deepened my understanding of what “holding the space” means. In Recovery Circles, meetings, and long conversations over coffee I have experienced the truth of that collective effort. We hold the space with respect, compassion, forgiveness, all while encouraging growth. When we step into immensely challenging situations, we take a deep breath. We seek to expand our capacity to love by drawing from a well of love greater than each of us. We find a way to forgive ourselves and each other for the times we fall short of holding the space in that way. 

That has been my recovery journey and will continue to be. 

A group of teachers from RC San Jose’s School for Recovery.

Ten years ago, I could not have imagined there would be 58 Recovery Cafés and that our Seattle friends would have built such a beautiful structure to hold the space across the continent. 

I am so grateful for all the people I have met over the years who have shown up with the intention to bring the guiding principles to whatever it is we are doing. They are there whether we name them or not. They are there because we have come to believe this is the most important thing we do and in doing so we become not an organization, but a community. 

That is why when any one of us moves on we feel we will always be part of the Recovery Café community and it will be part of us. We are just holding the space in all the ways that matter, wherever we go.

As Dana wrote, she will always be part of this community and we are grateful beyond the telling for how much she has been part of, and contributed to, the Recovery Café Network and our lives over these past ten years. As the Cofounder of the first Recovery Café outside Seattle, we cannot say enough about how well Dana understood the “essence” of the RC Model; she “got it.”

Dana wrote a beautiful piece describing how Recovery Café San Jose came to be: “From Church Soup Kitchen to Healing Community.” We encourage you to read it here.