Monday, December 6, 2010

Recharged and Recovery-Bound

Robert (right) and Counselor Josh Ellow

Piles of paper sat in disarray on Robert’s living room table, filled with calculations, sketches, and half-finished designs. It was a quarter past noon, and he was just waking up. How long had it been since the ideas stopped coming? Since he’d had full time work? Since this once-successful machinist and aspiring inventor found himself sitting at home, sleeping into the afternoon?

Life seemed to have come to a halt, as if the gears had stopped turning. At age 49, Robert’s drinking had cost him his job, his family’s trust, and his driver’s license. He’d served prison time for a felony charge. He was feeling depressed, helpless, and isolated in his house.

“I was left to probably the most dangerous space that I ever was in, the space between my ears,” he recalls. “A victim of my own thoughts.” But with help from some dedicated counselors and a supportive community of his peers, Robert found a way to get those gears turning again.

A probation officer was the first to point him in the right direction. She knew that for Robert to find work again, he first needed to treat his depression and quit drinking. She referred him to Alpha, one of the Treatment programs at Brandywine Counseling & Community Services.

Brandywine staff immediately went to work to stabilize Robert’s mental health and sobriety. He began talk therapy with counselor Daniel Norvell, worked on homework assignments, and gained an understanding of the stressors that led him to drink. He also saw Brad Why, the psychiatric nurse practitioner.

“I enjoy when I get to see Dr. Brad, ‘cause he’s so upbeat. The doctor staff here is very good, very professional.” Concerned about Robert’s drowsiness, Brad recommended a change in his medications. It made a huge difference. Robert found he could wake up early. He could now enjoy breakfast with his girlfriend before she set out for work at 6 AM. “I can get up, make a cup of coffee, sit there for half an hour, and clear my head, and I’m good to go!”

But the real difference-maker was group counseling. In particular, one group led by counselor Josh Ellow, called Recovery Bound. Held on Saturday mornings, the group runs for two hours, and is one of Brandywine’s most popular offerings.

Robert talks with Josh Ellow after group.
“I really like it,” Robert says of the Saturday group. “Man, [Josh] does one hell of a job. He’s so full of excitement, and so full of energy, he just brings the place alive. By the end of the week, I feel worn down, but I look forward to going there and getting my batteries recharged.”

Out of the energy of the Recovery Bound group has grown a strong peer support network. Robert quickly made friends and felt a sense of belonging. One week after missing group with an illness, he returned to hear, “We really missed you.” He began trading phone numbers and making social plans with fellow group members.

He meets one friend for lunch once a week. “He’s unemployed too. We ride the bus into Newark, have some lunch, hang out. We walk around Newark a little bit, and then sashay on back home on the bus!” Another buddy introduced Robert to Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and they began attending several a week. All this socializing serves an important purpose, which Robert is well aware of.

“Saturday Recovery Bound gets me out of the house. And if I get out once a week with a buddy, go get a sandwich at lunch, I’m out again! Then, I’m not isolating myself anymore. I’m not sitting around the house, feeling sorry for myself, thinking about drinking.”

The Recovery Bound group was building up Robert’s social circle, and elevating his mood. He even began to take on a leadership role in group discussions. “I participate in that class now all the time. If nobody’ll raise their hand to talk about something, I’ll try and get the ball rolling, so people don’t feel so shy about stepping up and speaking. They all look at me for that. Now, we’ve got probably 8 or 10 people participating all the time, which is great.”

And his success in treatment was carrying over to the rest of his life. The search for work continued to discourage him, but he no longer dealt with it by drinking. “Yesterday, I had a really rough day. I was walking all over, just feeling beat up by the end of the day. I could’ve used a drink, but I didn’t. Around 9:30 last night, I was out like a light.”

“It’s great getting up and looking in the mirror in the morning, and your eyes are white, they’re not bloodshot. You don’t have to worry about buying gum to cover your breath, or any of the thousands of things I used to do. It really feels great.”

Today Robert has 8 months sober. He’s on his way to rebuilding relations with his children. He also has a new relationship, often spending family time with his girlfriend and her daughter. They cheer on the kids at their sporting events, watch movies, and share holidays. At Oktoberfest, they won a goldfish. “He’s sitting on top of my little space heater. We call him ‘Flush.’ We didn’t expect him to live, but he’s carrying on, probably 3 weeks now!”

Likewise, his acceptance into the family is carrying Robert along. “It’s a second chance. It’s comforting. I want to continue on this path. My life’s changed for the better. Every day is a new beginning for me. It’s great to be sober. Every day is a beautiful day for me now.”

As he continues his search for work, many other activities are keeping that space between his ears occupied. He plans to get involved with his church and the 1212 recovery clubhouse. He hopes to travel to the Grand Canyon and Maui. And, he’s working on his inventions again. A number of his ideas have generated interest, and are being researched for possible patents.

“Even though I’m not working, I try not to let it get me down. I stay with my meetings, stay with Brandywine. To me, being at Brandywine feels like I’m walking hand in hand. I feel like somebody’s got my hand. They’ve got my back. Somebody’s gonna fight for me, help me see the right way to do things, and I really appreciate that.”

It’s all thanks to the feeling of community among staff and peers at Brandywine. The Alpha program graduated 385 clients this year with some or all of their goals completed. Robert is well on his way to joining them.

“You’re not treated as a number. You’re treated like a person. You’ve got a clean slate when you walk in here. You’re treated with respect, dignity, common courtesy. It just makes you feel like a real human being. Every time I come here, I see two or three people from Saturday group. It’s really a friendly atmosphere, it keeps me going.”

The pieces of his life fit into place again, and the energy is flowing. And if he should ever lose that energy again, Robert knows he can come to Brandywine for a recharge. That is the power of community.

The Alpha Program at Brandywine Counseling & Community Services is funded by and is part of the system of public services offered by Delaware Health and Social Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. For more information, please call 302-472-0381 or visit

1 comment:

professional counselors said...

Josh Ellow You done fantastic job.Really Impressive Counseling method you are using for Counseling.