“The opposite of addiction is a connection,” is a motto for the Recovery Community Alliance, a network of over 50 community members to creatively address the strong need for connections by those in recovery and their loved ones through collaboration.
One of the core members of the RCA is the Lost and Found Recovery Center – an addiction recovery program of Trinity Lutheran Church in Moorhead. It began in 1987 due to the vision of Thea Gullings, who knew first-hand the effects of addiction on herself and her family. Gullings lost one son to addiction and another to be the victim of a drunk-driving accident. Gullings looked for support in the community and found it lacking. When she died, she left an endowment to start the program.
Lost and Found Recovery Center is staffed by professionals in addiction, drug counseling, and mental health. Services include family support, invitation to recovery for families, peer specialists, telephone support, recovery support groups, chemical use assessment, and an addiction library.
The center’s hours are Monday – Thursday from 10 am – 4 pm and Friday 10 am – 2 pm or by appointment. They are located at 111 7th Street S., in Moorhead.
The High Plains Reader caught up with Jann Johnson, the current Executive Director of Lost and Found Recovery Center and spoke with her about the center’s mission, vision, history, and future as well as their connection to RCA.
HPR: How did you get here, as Executive Director of Lost and Found?
Jann Johnson: I have been with the center for five years. This is actually my retirement job. I have a Masters in Counseling. I worked at a small private college in Indiana for fifteen years, and before that, I helped start a nonprofit daycare center for low-income families and homeless families. I grew up in this area, and when I retired to take care of my mom I came back and wanted something to do.
HPR: What do you do there?
Johnson: Well, in a small nonprofit, you do everything – from the bills to managing people to fundraising – all of that. I will do whatever is needed. And we have a great team. Sandy Hanson does our chemical dependency evaluations; she is an addictions counselor who has been around for thirty years and knows everyone.
Our main purpose is peer support and recovery. We are part of North Dakota’s Free Through Recovery Network which is a program embraced by Kathryn Helgaas Burgum. It is a partnership with North Dakota Behavioral Health and the Corrections Department. We work a lot with people on probation – people coming out of jail who need support such as housing, getting their license back, child custody, etc.
Our mission is to help them find recovery. The bad part is when people get out of jail without support, it is usually not more than a short time later that they are using again. Our goal is to help them to be able to overcome the obstacles. Anyone with a felony has lots of challenges. A lot of times they come out with nothing. We walk side by side with them.
We have six full-time peer support professions who have all been in recovery themselves and they have walked the walk and they help them through those challenges. We want to make it easier to be clean and sober and to get on the right path to what they need.
HPR: Is it a 12 step program?
Johnson: No, it is not a 12 step program. It is also not treatment – we do SMART Recovery which is a cognitive-based program designed to change a person’s thinking. A lot of the younger people in recovery are not as comfortable with the 12 step structure. They like the cognitive better. Our method is based on Emotional Intelligence. We try to teach them how to handle obstacles – and give them a different way of thinking (cognitive-based) — how to respond rather than react, how to understand peoples’ opinions. We try to teach them the value of themselves. We try to give them strength and provide hope.
We also make our space available for other community groups to use if it does not conflict with our schedule.
HPR: Are there other partnerships?
Johnson: A year ago we began a partnership with Grow Upstream and they do transformative empowerment classes. We do a class for men and women. We work with the Drug Courts in Fargo and some in Moorhead.
We are a program of Trinity Lutheran Church and we are also connected to FM Interfaith – we have blended our two libraries. We have a huge library with resources on addiction, self-help, and self-growth including DVDs. Sometimes the treatment centers come and borrow materials. It is a well-used library.
HPR: Tell us about the Recovery Community Alliance (RCA) of which you are a part.
Johnson: We were talking with other people in the recovery community and talked about how hard it is to get in for services. We talked about a one-stop-shop – where a lot of services are offered. So this alliance is a big project.
The RCA is based upon building support with a mission to build a recovery friendly community.
It is a grassroots effort focusing on social justice for people impacted by addiction and mental health concerns. We want to take away the stigma and to open doors. It is a paradigm shift to change people’s way of thinking about addiction and recovery. Ideally, we would have all of the people and organizations involved pulling together and talking to each other and sharing ideas – education, advocacy, treatment centers, shelters, and recovery organizations.
There are communities that do it. For example, Portugal does a good job of having a community embracing people in recovery. Austin, Texas, is another example. A big part of successful recovery is a connection to the community – we need to get away for the community to embrace and support people, free from stigma.
The RCA has a community meeting on the second Wednesday of the month. The next one is November 13th from 10 am – 12 pm at the Dakota Medical Foundation.
HPR: What more can the community do?
Johnson: We need to realize that the younger someone becomes addicted the more likely they are to remain addicted. If you start in grade and middle school it affects the brain as it develops and it shows up later. They will have a harder time processing and making decisions. Addiction affects neurons. This is why our method of cognitive therapy works; it retrains the brain – how you make decisions – that are the right decisions.
We also want to work towards a recovery friendly workplace. We also teach empowerment and emotional intelligence – this works in business, in recovery and it helps you everywhere.
HPR: What is rewarding about the job?
Johnson: What is rewarding? Seeing people’s lives changed. I know it sounds cliché. But it is rewarding to really make a difference – to see someone who started with nothing and a year later they are happy, have their kids back, a job, a house, and life is good. Sometimes it is hard and they struggle to get there, but if they want it badly enough, they can make it.
HPR: Anything you want to add?
Johnson: We are open to anyone. Our services are free except for the chemical dependency assessment.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Lost and Found Recovery Center
111 7th Street S., Moorhead, MN
Recovery Community Alliance (RCA)
Dakota Medical Foundation, 4141 28th Ave. S., Fargo, ND