Author: Justin Mckibben
Remember the movie Forrest Gump? If not, I am so very sorry. Spoiler alert: it’s about a southern gentleman (Tom Hanks) who tells the incredible story of his amazing life to total strangers while waiting on a bench. He taught the world that life was like a box of chocolates, and that going for a run once in a while will change your life.
While on that bench, Forrest shares a lot of himself, and it has a pretty deep impact on some of the random folks he sits next to. Not to mention all the people watching the film who were moved by the experiences and emotions he shares.
Well this whole idea of making friends on a bench and soothing the soul by opening up to the strangers you sit with has taken new life in a place very, very far from the little park in Georgia that Forrest found himself in. The ‘Friendship Bench’ program in Zimbabwe is changing lives for those struggling with mental illness. A recent study proves that even just sitting on a bench and talking to a new friend can improve your mental health symptoms.
The Beauty of the ‘Friendship Bench’
The program is carried out by Zimbabwean lay health workers, who give brief but effective psychological treatment to the public. Instead of a big medical office, you find them conducting their problem solving therapy sessions on simple wooden seats. These health workers, or community “Grandmothers” carry out this practice with a personal touch in several major cities in Zimbabwe. The benches themselves are located on the grounds of health clinics.
The lay health workers are trained to listen and support patients living with common mental disorders such as:
The beauty is in the simplicity of the system, and the fact that it is showing to be so influential for countries where access to modern mental health treatment is limited or even nonexistent.
Studying this Solution
The study of the ‘Friendship Bench’ was published in JAMA. As a randomized controlled trial funded by the Government of Canada through Grand Challenges Canada, multiple sources contributed to the trials, including:
- The University of Zimbabwe
- The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
- King’s College London
After a six month period, following six weekly sessions of “problem solving therapy” on a ‘Friendship Bench’ with a health worker, data showed a significant difference. The severity of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts was noticeably reduced. This is based on locally validated questionnaires:
- The Shona Symptom Questionnaire (SSQ)
- Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD)
The Big Results of the ‘Friendship Bench’
According to the research:
- 50% of patients who received standard care still had symptoms of depression– Compared to only 14% who participated in the Friendship Bench (based on PHQ)
- 48% of patients who received standard care still had symptoms of anxiety- Compared to only 12% who received Friendship Bench care(based on the GAD)
- 12% of patients who received standard care still had suicidal thoughts- Compared to 2% who used the Friendship Bench program(based on SSQ)
The Friendship Bench intervention was also shown to be well suited to improve health outcomes among highly vulnerable individuals. Out of all the ‘Friendship Bench’ program participants:
- 86% were women
- Over 40% were HIV positive
- 70% had experienced domestic violence or physical illness
With CDN being granted $1 million in funding from Grand Challenges Canada earlier this year, the ‘Friendship Bench’ program has since been expanded to 72 clinics in the cities of Harare, Gweru and Chitungwiza (total population 1.8 million). The plan is for this growing movement to keep expanding. In 2017, the team plans to focus on extending the model to other vulnerable populations, including youth and refugees.
The Need for New Methods
Forgive me if my math and comparison is a little off, but I tried to put all this in perspective.
Zimbabwe has a population of 15 million. 25% of the primary care patients suffer from depression, anxiety or other common mental disorders. In a country with 15 million, there are only 10 psychiatrists and 15 clinical psychologists!
In comparison, (hypothetically) if even only 1/4 of the population of Zimbabwe suffers from a mental health disorder… That is still 3,930,000 people. Even if you could split them up between 25 mental health professionals evenly, it’s still 157,200 patients per person!
26.2% of adults over 18 in America suffer from mental health disorders. That’s 57.7 million people out of 318.9 million people (population as of 2014). If the United States had such a cripple mental health care system, it would be catastrophic.
At the end of the day, holistic treatment is all about healing mind, body and spirit through innovative and effective strategies. The value of sitting down with another human being and getting the support and therapeutic connection we need is paramount. Therapy can come in all shapes and sizes, and developing a unique and personalized treatment program can make all the difference. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Photo of original Goodbye Letter
Introduction Author: Justin Mckibben
Our Palm Partners Alumni are very diverse and incredible people. They come from all over the country looking for a way out of the suffering addiction and substance abuse has brought them. Every one of them has a story that is unique and emotionally powerful. So many talented and passionate individuals find themselves fighting for their lives after drugs and alcohol have taken so much from them. We are proud to be a part of their stories and help them write new chapters that inspire compassion and hope.
Today a Palm Partners Alumni presented me with a letter. In this letter addressed to his drug of choice, crystal meth, he shares how his addiction progressed and how it impacted the most intimate aspects of his life. This goodbye letter to crystal meth is deep in its simplicity, and adamant in its message.
Here is Jose Ricardo Seole’s goodbye letter. There are minor grammar and spelling revisions, but the message remains clear and true to Jose’s truth.
Deargusting Crystal Meth,
I’m writing this letter for you to acknowledge what you have done with my life the past 6 years.
This is my mission to show you how your power of destruction attributes made my life unmanageable and miserable.
At first you introduce yourself as my best friend and companion, the cure for all my problems, until I realized that you are nothing but a deceiver.
Life in a strike and you trapped me inside of a prison cell, surround me with your lies and manipulation, taking my life from granted.
Because of you, my 16 year relationship of marriage became unbearable.
I isolate myself from my family, friends and people that care for me.
I missed all the important dates, from my marriage anniversary to family member’s and friend’s birthdays.
You took away all the spontaneous smiles that perhaps could make a difference in people’s lives
Because you exchanged my hero’s patterns for holograph images of ghosts.
You took away all the magic moments that were written on the stars for me, promised by God.
Out of this daze, all the good moments we had together were nothing but my state of mind telling me to stay inside of a comfortable zone.
The deep scar you left on me will be always there to remember the pain you caused me…
You did to me…
Let me say this loud and clear;
I’m burying all your lies, your manipulations and your power of seduction 10 feet underground so you can no longer hurt me. In fact, I just left your funeral.
– Jose Ricardo Seole
We are exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to share this. We wish all the best of luck and progress to Jose in his new life. Our Palm Partners Alumni continue to grow and share amazing experiences, and these experiences touch our hearts deeply. We thank Jose for his very personal and introspective words, and for allowing us to be part of the process that brought some of this passion forward.
Jose expressed his feelings and emotionally commitment to his recovery. We hope this will show others that it can mean so much to speak up about the pain of addiction. The more we can share this reality, the more we can share messages of victory.
We know there are many Palm Partners alumni out there with talents, stories and experiences to share. Palm Partners encourages you to contact us and be part of the message that may help countless others. You never know how many lives you can touch, and how many people could make the choice that saves their life because of something that you choose to share. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
Imagine winning a $50,000 jackpot only to be told you cannot keep the money…
Well, that scenario just happened.
In Illinois, $50,000 lottery winner Tykisha Lofton will no longer be able to cash in her winnings. The state forfeited her jackpot because they determined the lottery ticket was bought with drug money. Illinois strictly bans winners from collecting lottery earnings if the ticket was purchased using money earned illegally.
A Sudden Change of Heart
At first, a judge ruled Lofton would be allowed to claim her winnings. The judge felt honoring the forfeiture clause would have been too harsh. However, the government of Illinois overruled that decision and ultimately the state will keep the winnings instead.
If Lofton had cashed in her ticket, she would have received a lump-sum payment worth more than $35,000. Unfortunately for her, she will not be taking home a dime.
Conflicting Stories: Who Bought the Ticket?
Authorities became suspicious when the stories behind who had bought the lottery ticket were constantly changing. Initially, Lofton told authorities she bought the lottery ticket with babysitting money.
However, in 2014, police raided the home she lived in with boyfriend Terrance Norwood. Norwood was sentenced last October on charges of drug dealing, drug possession, and armed violence. Lofton was present when the raid took place, but she insisted she was unaware her boyfriend dealt drugs.
The stories between the couple continued to conflict. Norwood said he had purchased the lottery ticket hoping it would be a way out of buying and selling drugs. Lofton then told authorities her boyfriend bought the ticket, but she was the one who scratched off the winning numbers. She also continued to state she bought the tickets with babysitting money. Authorities soon realized the stories were not adding up and were likely fabricated.
The case made it to a Macon County judge who ruled the ticket was probably bought with drug money; however, the judge decided to reward the lottery earnings anyway. The judge felt using the forfeiture laws to take the sum away from the couple would be too harsh.
State Courts Overrule County Decision
When the state appeals court found out about the ruling, they overruled the decision.
“Because of the direct link between the lottery winnings and the funds used to purchase the original ticket, the winnings can reasonably be considered ‘proceeds traceable’ to Norwood’s illegal drug sales,” wrote the appeals court.
Ultimately the state appeals court felt it would not send a good message to let Lofton and her boyfriend continue to gain from winning earned from the selling of drugs.
Other Crazy Drug-Related Lottery Stories
This is far from the first time lottery winnings and drugs have been mixed. In 2015, Ronnie Music Jr., 44, won a $3 million Georgia Lottery jackpot but didn’t give up his day job of trafficking meth. Instead, he invested the money into his meth business. Music Jr. pleaded guilty in July to federal drug trafficking and firearms charges. He is yet to be sentenced but could face up to 10 years behind bars.
Furthermore, a 2002 British lottery winner, told The Sun in 2013 that he blew all of his £9.7 million ($14.4 million USD at the time) jackpot winnings on cocaine, prostitutes, and a lavish lifestyle. The man was Michael Caroll, and he now makes about $300 a week in a cookie factory. Despite his change in earnings, he admits he lives a much happier life these days. He stated he would have been “dead in six months” if he would have continued the lifestyle of drinking and drug taking.
All of these crazy lottery stories confirm that problems do not always disappear with money. In fact, they often become worse. Addiction and mental health affect all walks of life, and an increasing paycheck does not make the problem go away. You have to make the decision to change. We are here to help you on that journey. We have the tools to guide you to a healthy sober life. Do not wait. Call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
People are strange when you’re a stranger. Being in recovery it can seem like we are a little extra strange to some, or not strange enough for others. So of course finding a roommate while in recovery can be a daunting task. For some people it is already difficult finding someone you can stand to live with. With a lot of people, searching through room-for-rent ads on Craigslist makes them just as anxious as trying to find a roommate in their halfway house.
Some of us just get lucky, and some of us definitely don’t. Of course with people who have a track record of bad behavior it isn’t easy to instantly establish trust. But now a new website is helping connect sober people with a desire to live in a house build on sobriety. All over America recovering addicts and alcoholics have a recovery roommate website to link up with new living arrangements, specifically for clean living.
A new recovery roommate website is called MySoberRoommate.com. It just launched online this past June and it already changing how sober people everywhere find roommates. MySoberRoommate.com was created by addiction therapist Jesse Sandler, LCSW, who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy. His partner, Dr. Emily Churg, was also a key contributor to its development. Sandler is based in Los Angeles, and in an interview he said he was inspired to create a website that overcomes addiction recovery stigma. There are sober social media apps, but this is another place where likeminded people in recovery can connect.
So how does this recovery roommate website actually work?
Well, via their page users (who no longer use) can search and connect with sober roommates. It serves both sides, so if you’re looking for a place to move or if you want to rent a room in your own place. So far, the website has already attracted nearly 1,000 members in just two months. And professionals in the recovery field are already seeing it gain traction among clients.
Filling the Space
Now that we touched on the ‘how’ we get to the ‘why’ of it. One aspect of the work Sandler does with his clients includes helping with the transition from inpatient rehab to a halfway house, then to their own place. When asked about the site Sandler said,
“I would sit with my clients in my office and we’d go on the Internet, and there was nothing out there like this. I was shocked to see that.”
The challenge with assisting with the transition from halfway house to a home is finding a roommate dedicated to sobriety. Sandler acknowledged that for many people, when they attend treatment they aren’t even in their home state anymore. Being out of town and on your own can make it difficult to connect with the local recovery community. So to add to that the intimacy of living with another person, finding a recovering roommate in the area can be very difficult.
“One of the most important components in maintaining sobriety is your living environment. When people in recovery move out of rehab or sober living facilities, the worst thing they can do is go back to the toxic living environments they were in before they got clean,”
Sandler told WestsideToday.com when discussing the importance of the recovery roommate website,
“The second worst thing is to live with people who are actively using. And the third is to live alone, which breeds isolation.”
He concluded, as many have before, that one of the best ways to improve the chances of staying sober is to surround yourself with people who are committed to recovery.
Moving In and Moving On
So far it appears the response to the recovery roommate website has been very good. Sandler stated,
“Several of my colleagues have reached out and told me that their clients used MySoberRoommate.com to successfully find a roommate,”
“We have received emails from several members telling us that they had a positive experience using the site.”
The MySoberRoommate team is currently trying to compile a catalog of stories about the “best bad experiences with a non-sober roommate” for an upcoming YouTube series. They are also planning to release the short video reenactments for these testimonials in the next few months. So moving on from just helping people connect, the minds behind this recovery roommate website are also trying to create creative and informative features online to help break the stigma and shed some light on how people in recovery really live.
The question becomes, who would use a recovery roommate website to find their next place? If you’re new in recovery, or been around a while and just ready to start fresh, would you use an option like this to find someone to live with?
When you find the right people to live with they can end up becoming some of your biggest supports in recovery. However, you also have to remember that not everyone in recovery will stay clean. Try to stick with people who are doing the right thing, especially at home. Establishing a strong foundation in sobriety is very important to building a future in sobriety. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call us toll-free. We want to help. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
A toxic relationship can have a negative toll on your life, especially in recovery. Most of us want to find a partner we can share a connection with; however, settling for less is not the answer. While some relationship struggles are a common part of any relationship, there are some things that can hinder even the most promising connection from being able to grow. In these situations, it might be time to re-evaluate whether the relationship you have is worth holding on to.
A recent article explored signs that partners need to evaluate before they consider staying or letting go of a relationship. A summarized version of the article will help you understand the dynamics of your relationships worth working on and the areas that are a major red flag.
4 Signs to Evaluate Your Relationship
One Person is Doing ALL the Work
Relationships take compromise which means it takes two people to make it work. If you are putting more effort than your partner to the relationship, the relationship will falter. Your relationship will not work until both people are on board. Relationships are very difficult to keep going, and both partners must be fully invested to make it work. No matter how much effort you are putting in, your partnership will not last unless your significant other is working equally hard. You both need to be giving your all. The tremendous amount of compromise, forgiveness, and affection that a healthy partnership requires is too much for one person to bear alone. If you are in a one-sided relationship, it might be time to leave and find somebody who is willing to share the weight and treat you with fairness and respect.
Your Life Plans Are Opposite
You want to travel the world while your partner wants to settle down and have children. You want to roam the streets of the city while your partner wants to live on a farm. Partners not headed to the same destination eventually end up on rocky terms. One will have to compromise their dreams for the other person. The other partner will have the bear the guilt of being with someone who sacrificed everything for them. This deep resentment can interfere in the love that two partners have created together. Unfortunately, this is a very complicated problem to have and required deep evaluating. Remember, your health and recovery are a priority and ultimately, you must choose the lifestyle that sets you up for the most success. To find a relation that works, be true to your soul and seek out a partner whose life path matches your own.
When Times Get Hard, You Separate
Learning to lean on your partner during the challenging times of the relationship can be hard. However, if you only stay together during the good times, that is a huge red flag. There are more struggles waiting for you down the road, and these are major predictors of what is to come. If you find you or your partner distance during a challenge rather than come together, you may need help learning how to come together. Ultimately, pushing each other away will weaken your bond and breed insecurities.
You Do Not Accept Each Other’s Authentic Self
One of the best parts of a committed relationship is knowing your partner loves you despite your flaw. While you both should work on strengthening your flaws, you should feel safe around your partners. If you can not lean on your partner for support, or if your partner makes you feel self-conscious and guilty when it comes to your flaws, that can damage the trust in a relationship. When it comes to recovery, there are areas you are going to continue to be working on, a partner who chips away at your flaws will lower your self-esteem. If you feel you are constantly trying to appear perfect to your partner, it could be time to evaluate the relationship. A relationship that does not allow you to be your true authentic self is a relationship not worth having.
Letting go of a relationship is a difficult and personal decision. However, breaking free of a destructive relationship can open you up to the possibility of a stronger one. Do not settle for less than you deserve. Recovery is about finding the tools to optimize your chance of success. A bad relationship will only hinder you in your journey. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.