Clients who begin their recovery in treatment gain many vital tools, but they also face a major transition period upon discharge. After several weeks of continuous supervision, they must learn to manage their own program of recovery without neglecting the responsibilities of everyday life. Between work, recovery, family and other obligations, many start to feel overwhelmed. A solid support network, however, will help them to navigate their new lifestyle with greater ease. That’s where our alumni program comes in.
Amethyst’s alumni program serves mainly to increase our clients’ chances of success by offering extended resources and support. Our affably enthusiastic Director of Alumni, Ally Ruge, runs groups during day/night treatment to explain these benefits to clients so that they understand the resources they will have at their disposal upon discharge. During these groups she explains such program features as our weekly aftercare meetings, regular alumni events and private Facebook group.
These program features, while certainly beneficial, only provide a surface-level understanding of our alumni program. We sat down with Ms. Ruge to discuss her work in greater detail, so that we may better elaborate on the many ways in which involvement with our alumni program can provide former clients with a deeply enriching recovery experience. As expected, her answers did not disappoint.
A Hands-On Alumni Director and Coordinator
Ms. Ruge does not simply oversee the alumni program, but actually works side-by-side with her assistant alumni coordinator Devon Nuel to plan events, manage the social media group, and telephone former clients to check up on their progress in recovery. According to Ms. Ruge, the opportunity to work with clients directly was actually what attracted her to the position in the first place.
“I originally started at Amethyst as an admissions coordinator, but I came from another facility where I was a group facilitator. So I came from having one-on-one client care all the time, and all of a sudden I’m booking flights and just talking to clients on the phone. And I just didn’t feel fulfilled, really. I missed client contact. I missed working one-on-one with people. And so I transferred to alumni.”
Present at every alumni program outing, Ms. Ruge works to ensure that everybody enjoys themselves and no one feels excluded. With dozens of active participants in our alumni program, this task would strike most people as somewhat daunting. Nevertheless, she wants our alumni to know that their happiness and well-being are top priority. For this very reason, she allows the alumni to participate in the planning stage for each month’s alumni event.
“That’s where a lot of our suggestions come from because we want to know what people find interesting, what they want to experience sober. That’s the main purpose of the events, is to show the alumni that you can have fun in sobriety. For me, I remember, I was like, ‘How am I supposed to have fun now? I don’t know how to have fun without drinking and doing drugs.’ And so that’s the main purpose. We have them vote on what they think would be exciting, and we leave it up to the alumni’s discretion. Within reason.”
Despite her hands-on presence, Ms. Ruge knows when to turn responsibilities over. One such example is our weekly aftercare meeting for former clients.
“That’s where we vote once a month on events. But mainly it’s run by clinicians, so I try to hand it over to the professionals. I am a certified recovery support specialist, but we have a master-level and a licensed therapist running that group, which we’ve found to be more beneficial for clients. Once you’ve been discharged from a full clinical treatment center, surrounded by therapists and professional help all the time, it’s nice to have that buffer into the real world. So we keep the doors open to our therapists and our clinical director.”
Not only do clients benefit from the professional help during these aftercare sessions, they also strengthen their bonds with one another. And while Ms. Ruge may leave this to the clinicians during the Wednesday meetings, she works doubly hard to facilitate the sense of community during our alumni events. In fact, she believes these events provide some of the strongest benefits of our alumni program.
Having Fun and Forging Friendships
Amethyst provides individualized care at an intimate facility. One of the more striking aspects of our alumni program is its sheer magnitude. Despite our intimate size and relatively young organization, our alumni community remains quite large. We asked Ms. Ruge how much effort she puts into maintaining the scope of the program. She humbly responded that it requires little effort on her part.
“I think that’s kind of what makes Amethyst different is that we’re a family. It’s been like that since day one, since they opened the doors. I came from a very corporate facility, so coming to Amethyst I noticed that it was so different. The owners from the highest level up truly care. So I think that’s what makes us interesting. And having a family, just that mom-and-pop feel, is what made people so interested in being a part of the alumni program. Once they left treatment, they still wanted to be a part of Amethyst. A part of that family. So it’s pretty much always been like that.”
Ms. Ruge loves seeing people connect with one another. More than anything, however, it all comes back to the mission of showing people that they can enjoy themselves in sobriety. At our aftercare meetings, things sometimes get serious, and clients form bonds through the mutual understanding of shared struggles. Our alumni events, however, provide a pain-free zone. This is how Ms. Ruge defines success as an Alumni Director. Not just by the quantity of people in attendance, but by the quality of the times they share together.
“A successful event to me is if everybody’s having fun. They’re laughing, they’re smiling, they’re not thinking about drinking or using. Because, again, that’s the goal. So I would say while attendance is definitely a plus, the main purpose is to have fun in sobriety.”
Of course, social events provide a challenge to some people. Many recovering addicts and alcoholics identify as introverts. And while there’s nothing wrong with this, it makes things difficult for those who wish to maintain a decently sized support network yet find social events draining. Rising to the challenge, Ms. Ruge sees this not as an obstacle but rather as an opportunity to engage in the type of one-on-one client interactions that drew her to our alumni program in the first place.
“I love the introverts. The people who try to isolate, or try not to get involved. Those are the people that I want to involve the most. Right? So we’ll have a group or something at an event, and I’ll notice people kind of doing their own thing, and that’s when we get to encourage them to get even more involved. To break out of that discomfort. And it’s a beautiful thing to actually see people come out of their shells and be a part of the family.
We talk about how the opposite of addiction is connection. Addiction is avoidance of life and everything there is. Set aside the prayer and meditation and spirituality and all this stuff, and recovery ultimately boils down to getting connected with other human beings. So that’s really the most awesome part is to see people who feel disconnected come to these events, and then they sort of morph and become a part of the connection around them.”
Ms. Ruge loves every opportunity to build the strength of our Amethyst family. Of course, clients will occasionally wish to look outside of our treatment community for support. Fortunately, our alumni program can help with that as well.
Branching Out to the Larger Community
Our alumni program recently purchased more than two dozen tickets to a concert hosted by the organization Rockers in Recovery. Anyone who wished to attend would gain access not only to incredible music, but also to the vast fellowship of our local recovery groups. While the main goal was to support Rockers in Recovery, the secondary goal was to expand the scope of our alumni program by encouraging our alumni to take part in an event attended largely by non-Amethyst men and women with varying lengths of sobriety.
“As of recently, we’ve focused more on volunteer events in the community. A few months ago, we did a community field day. We also try to do things outside of the community, like we have different state events that a lot of our outreach coordinators attend. So we definitely try to branch out into the community. Because recovery has to be outbound. Like with Rockers in Recovery, that was actually another facility’s event that we wanted to help support. A lot of people don’t want to support things outside of their own circle. We’re trying to break away from that.”
This does not diminish our sense of family. Amethyst remains a tight-knit community, and we take great pride in that. However, we do recognize that recovery necessitates a broader community than simply your peers from treatment. We want to help our clients discover what the wider recovery community has to offer. And for really important matters, when they absolutely need someone they can trust, our alumni program will still be there for them.
Helping Each Other in Our Times of Need
As previously stated above, our alumni program helps clients raise their chances of success by offering extended support. Sometimes, however, addiction takes a hold over someone that no amount of love can seem to overpower. People slip, and sometimes they fall hard. If that happens, our alumni program will be there to catch them, to help them regain their footing as they continue moving forward on their journey. And while there’s always an element of sadness to watching someone struggle, Ms. Ruge notes that it can also be quite rewarding to watch our community come together in support of those who need it.
“Unfortunately, relapse does tend to be part of recovery for some people. It doesn’t have to be. But we’re fighting very strong demons, and it happens. We are 100% a judgment-free zone. I’ve never seen anyone relapse and be ostracized from our community, it’s always very loving and supportive. That’s kind of Amethyst’s philosophy—to love people until they can love themselves. So if a relapse does occur, I usually suggest they reconnect, build more community support.
It’s actually a really beautiful thing. Because even in the rooms, I have seen people ostracized for a relapse, or judged, or looked down upon. That’s what I think is cool about Amethyst is that we tend not to do that. I have yet to see it in two years.”
Our alumni program supports former clients with more basic needs as well. Team Amethyst, our alumni Facebook group, provides support in numerous fashions. Sometimes people offer basic recovery support by sharing inspirational quotes or speeches. Others may reach out for help when in need of a new sponsor or rides to a meeting. Many people also use it to post local job listings.
“I’ll post something about this construction company hiring. And later I’ll have three guys message me saying, ‘Thank you, I start tomorrow.’ It’s really cool to see people help each other out and to see their lives kind of evolve.”
More than anything, however, Team Amethyst provides an extension of the support we see at our events and aftercare meetings. And whether someone needs a job, support after a relapse, or simply just a place to share about their recovery, this online extension of our alumni program can offer it.
“The biggest thing with Team Amethyst is that it’s a secret page. So only alumni are involved, friends and family can’t see it. Similar to aftercare, I think it creates a safe space for things you might be afraid to reach out for or put on your personal page. In treatment, people bond, and Team Amethyst helps them to stay in touch and stay accountable. And for people go who home after treatment, it’s a good way to stay connected with the people they met.”
The ability for those who leave Florida to stay in touch with our local alumni means a lot to many of our clients. Some experience real friendship for the first time in recovery. Leaving that can be difficult. But even those who cannot share our home in Florida will always share space in our hearts. Once you become a member of our alumni program, you’ll find that membership is everlasting.
Lifelong Membership in Our Alumni Program
Amethyst offers three levels of care—detox, residential, and day/night treatment. No matter whether you go through all three levels or just detox, we consider you alumni. Even those who graduate detox and attend PHP at other facilities will find that their time at Amethyst Recovery Center earns them equal access to the benefits of our alumni program.
Those who move on to other facilities, or who move out of state following treatment, are never forgotten. While they may not be able to make it to our weekly aftercare meetings or monthly events, we do our best to stay in contact. And we don’t just mean through Team Amethyst, either.
“We do monthly follow-up calls. We try to reach out to people, to offer extra support and to help keep them accountable. Just check in, see how it’s going, if they’re hitting their meetings or doing their steps. ‘What are you doing for your recovery?’ That’s typically the main question we ask.
What’s really interesting, and we’ve had this happen a couple of times, is that people who move back home and are staying sober will sometimes come back for vacation. We just had one of our alumni pop into aftercare, and she got to say how great things were going in New Jersey. With addiction and recovery, it doesn’t matter where you are—everywhere you go, you take yourself with you. So we love when people fly back and show that it can work anywhere as long as you put in the right action.”
Setting aside fun, friendship and support, this may be among the most profound gifts of our alumni program. Yes, we pride ourselves on community. And yes, we love to interact with our local alumni as frequently as possible. But those who leave, and come back with the sparkle of worldly success in their eyes? They provide inspiration to those who doubt that sobriety is possible. Their stories of experience, strength and hope can do wonders in keeping our alumni community strong. Whether here in Florida or on the other side of the country, every successful member of our alumni program touches our hearts and motivates us to keep working toward the greater good.
When you attend treatment at Amethyst, you gain so much more than a handful of recovery tools. You gain a community in the truest sense of the word. A fellowship that will never abandon you as long as you live.
For more information on our alumni program, or other features of our treatment program here at Amethyst, contact us today. We look forward to helping you in any way we can.