Hello there, the angel from my nightmares. Interesting way to start my first blog. Let me explain. While to many of you that is just the opening of a Blink-182 smash hit, to those of us in the trenches at Casa Colina it means a little more. It is an inside joke that has lasted quite a few communities. At any point in time, it would not be unusual to hear a chorus of men break out into song after a single person belts out the opening line. It’s one of the many things I love about the community at The House on the Hill. It also is a perfect segue into the topic of my first blog post.
Gratitude in Recovery
When I was approached with the idea of writing a blog my main fear was not knowing what to write about. I started to think, which is work for me, and my brain kept circling back to a singular word: gratitude. Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful, or the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. A common noun we use in recovery, gratitude is a broad topic and, although if you’ve met me you know I will talk until forced to stop, I did not want to write y’all a novel. So, I needed to narrow it down. Apologies to the BMOC, Chico, but I decided not to write an entire blog thanking him for the opportunity to be a part of this community. Instead, I wanted to focus on the amount of gratitude I have to be in this community. More specifically, the community we have as a staff.
I have worked for Casa Colina since August 1, 2018 as a Recovery Advocate. At that point I was eight months sober, and could only be trusted to work the overnight shift on the weekends. I stayed in that role until January of this year when I was able to move into a day shift position. In my time here, the staff has had very little turnover, and have added a few spectacular members to the family. Yes, I said family. That’s the culture we have here. We are a family.
The Casa Colina Family
When I think of family, I think of people who you can share laughs, struggles, and fears with, people that will hold you accountable and push you to grow, and people that love you for you. There are countless examples of that at Casa everyday. Whether it’s our incredible Chef, Pila, and Su Chef, B, making sure we have cake and sing for everyone’s birthday, or any of the RA’s sitting and talking with each other when they are off the clock and could be rushing out the door instead of taking the time to listen to their co-worker. It can be seen in the camaraderie at the card table, or in Kay taking time to ask us how we are doing and meaning it in the most genuine way. Sometimes it’s Sean, Dave, John, or Ivy listening and offering advice. You see it from Drew when he walks in with a smile on his face and tells you that you’re awesome. It’s Christmas time and our gift exchange was an excellent display of family. We didn’t just give gifts from the bins at Five Below or Academy. We tailored our gifts to truly bring joy to the person we were assigned.
Moreso, our families have become their families. Donnie and I are both expecting a child in the coming year (although my little bean might make an appearance before the clock on 2020 strikes zero) and we have received support in all sorts of ways. My favorite was B bringing an avocado onesie for my bean for no other reason than she thought it would make us happy. And it would look adorable. When my aunt died due to complications from COVID and my uncle passed earlier this year, the waves of support and prayer are unparalleled from anywhere I’ve ever worked. We were all heartbroken that we couldn’t attend John’s wedding due to COVID. The RA’s are never opposed to switching shifts to make holidays work, or if you need to switch to be there for your son’s football game, or just to have a night with your significant other. We understand the importance of including our actual families with our work family.
I could spend all day listing the examples of how we are a family, but there is more to be grateful for about being a member of this staff. The two biggest reasons can’t be found in many other professions and they coincide with each other. Nearly everyone that works at Casa Colina is in recovery, has someone in their family in recovery, or they have worked with recovering addicts for a significant period of time. If they haven’t, they have taken the time to understand those that are in recovery.
Being a Recovery Advocate
Anyone in recovery understands that this is not just a way to stop drinking or using drugs. It’s a way of life. A way of life that requires accountability. In other professions, the people you work with are there to complete a task. Completing the task does not reflect the way you live. The two don’t coincide. However, when working in the recovery industry it is different. The success of our task is directly related to our lifestyle. I can’t show someone how to live a life of sobriety if I am not living it myself. That goes for all of us, specifically the Recovery Advocates.
RAs, or Responsible Adults as coined by some of our clients, hold a special place in my heart. They understand completely how I want to live my life because they are striving for the same. I can’t tell you the number of conversations we have had with each other focused on applying the principles of the program of Alcoholic Anonymous into all of our affairs. Relationships, friendships, work-related issues, road rage, it has all been a topic of discussion, and it has all been focused on our growth. I don’t know another profession where your co-workers love you enough to care about your growth as a person. Not like this. It’s because of one simple concept: for us to drink is to die. We all live by the same creed. We know in order for any of us to be successful in life, we must put recovery first. And putting the bottle down is not recovery in its fullest form. It’s the way of life outlined for us in the first 164 pages of the Big Book. The way of life each of us want for each other as well as ourselves.
The Concept of Community
Circling back to that simple concept. It’s the other aspect of this staff community that is unlike any others. We love every client that comes through these doors. We want nothing more than to see everyone of them live a life that is happy, joyous, and free through sobriety. However, if you know anything about recovery then you know that is not the case for everyone. While we strive for a 100 percent success rate, that goal is one will fall short of no matter how much effort we put forth. Most of our clients spend at least 90 days with us in groups, working out, playing spades, grilling on Sundays while watching football. We grow into a relationship with our clients. It’s heartbreaking when someone doesn’t make it. There are very few professions that have to face this kind of adversary. This staff has been there for each other through every triumph and tragedy. We build each other up, give each other a shoulder to cry on, and provide unwavering support.
I guess in the end this was an entire (lengthy) blog showing gratitude to the man responsible for putting this family together. Chico has built this culture, not only with his own actions, but by the people he has placed in positions of leadership. Everything starts at the top. The way I show my gratitude is showing up to work and being the best I can be everyday, and showing the same love to my colleagues that they show me. When I started working at Casa, I was still growing in sobriety and trying to move on from the nightmare that was my life before sobriety. Now, everyday I get to be a part of something bigger than myself and a staff that is better than any staff I could’ve dreamed.