Step Denver Summer 2020 Newsletter

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INSIDE Life As We Know It: Recovery in the Days of Social Distancing Making Moves: From Homeless to Grad School

Sobriety vs. COVID-19: On the Front Lines

Your Words Giving Hope

Service Above Self

Life as We Know It Recovery in the Days of Social Distancing

While community is important for everyone, it is vital for those in recovery from the disease of addiction. I can tell you from personal experience that together, we can stay sober better than any one of us can alone. It's the reason the peer recovery community is at the center of who we are. It is also the reason our men are able to achieve the success they do and sustain their sobriety long-term. So, when a pandemic of this nature hits our society, an organization like Step Denver faces a unique set of challenges. Picture this: 60 men going out into the city every day, using public transportation, working in industries with significant human contact, attending recovery support meetings, and returning to cook, eat, shower, and sleep in shared living space. Prior to COVID-19 this was the norm at Step and has never been a concern. In fact, this dynamic has been of great benefit to men in our program. That was then, this is now. Now, Step Denver faced tough questions. How do we ensure our men have a safe place to live and reduce risks to their health? How do we continue to carry out our mission and maintain a sense of community without in-person interaction? The answers to those questions became clear very early under the incomparable devotion and guidance of Step’s Board of Directors and staff. Before the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Colorado, extensive precautionary health and safety measures were taken to reduce risk at our Larimer facility and sober living homes. By March 20th, all Larimer facility residents had been transitioned to smaller sober living environments in Denver, with our Recovery Support Managers (RSMs) providing guidance throughout their search. When resources were an obstacle, Step paid for deposits and expenditures to ensure every man was able to secure a safe sober residence. RSMs have continued peer coaching via telephone and Skype, checking in to connect and talk through new issues arising daily for our men. As is the case for so many in our country, they are facing struggles centered around employment, finances, and family. However, these men are also battling the disease of addiction, and we are here – as people who have been where they are - to guide them through it, together. Isolation is one of the primary symptoms of addiction and in the days of social distancing, it is a very real danger facing people in recovery. Step Denver is doing everything in our power to make sure no one goes through this crisis alone. But we know none of this is possible without you. Your acts of generosity have given us the freedom to do what is right every step of the way. And your continued support will allow us to be here in the future to respond to every courageous call for help. Thank you. Paul Scudo, Executive Director

"The opposite of addiction isn't sobriety. It is connection."

Virtual Coaching Photo Here

-Johann Hari

I am attending online 12-step meetings daily and I feel strong in my sobriety right now. I’m also really happy with my sponsor who also attended Step Denver in the past. - Jason The help and support of Step Denver in finding me a sober house to live in and connecting with my Recovery Support Manager during these crucial times is greatly helping me remain sober. The sense of love I have from StepDenver makes me feel that I am not alone in a time of loneliness and that I don't have to turn to my old habits to deal with new challenges. - Fuad Can't wait to come back to Step. I've learned that I can get something positive out of this whole situation. I've learned that I can stay sober in hard times. - Brandon

If you are able, help us weather the storm. Our men need us now more than ever.

“Step Denver offers hope and a path to a fulfilling life for desperate men. Step provides a unique environment, carefully balancing compassion and accountability for alcoholics on their recovery journey; leading to self respect and sobriety.” - Raoul

Why We Give

Raoul and Karen Clark of Denver

“Those struggling with addiction tend to lose hope and are unable to see that their lives can be different. Step Denver gives men hope, light and new skills for a new beginning. Bravo!" - Karen

Making Moves From Homeless to Grad School - Michael T.

The Early Years: Both of my parents were heavy drinkers. I kind of realized around 13, ‘I’d better be careful or I’m going to have an issue with this.’ I was aware of the potential, but still started to consume alcohol just for fun. I remember one Saturday hanging out with music friends, we did shots of gin. They’re sick and vomiting and I’m thinking, ‘what’s wrong with you guys?’ Then I was like, ‘what’s wrong with me?’ I was 13 or 14. Touring Musician: I spent years performing. Coffee shops and grocery stores are low on the list of venues. I used to joke with my band, ‘why don’t we play Whole Foods instead of bars? We’ll do shots of wheat-grass instead of shots of Jägermeister.’ They didn’t think that was very funny. I was on the road constantly for four years. I met someone, we bought land and built a house, and I would tour for 3-6 weeks at a time. When I stopped touring, the pattern of drinking every night continued and that’s when I realized I had a big problem. Family Life: I started working in public schools, but things fell apart when the state didn’t renew the funding for my contract and my wife got fired from her job. This all happened in one week and we had a two-year-old. We moved to Boulder, I became the income earner, was self-medicating for the stress, and we divorced. There were so many variables of life that became more complicated, not only because of the divorce but because of me drinking. Alcohol Takes Over: By 2015 I was drinking so much that I had to drink to not vomit in the morning. I became physically dependent very quickly; it was just awful. I’d go into work shaking, and when the boss would ask if I was ok I’d blame it on my diabetes then have a couple of drinks to make the shakes go away. At that time, I’m feeling like a failure and not doing what I need to for my son. The First Try: I had been trying to stop on my own for a while. One day I told my boss I have a problem, I have to go to rehab, whatever it takes. I can’t do this for one more second. I hadn't heard of Step at this point and was hopeless because rehabs cost a lot of money. I discovered that since I was a musician who had toured and recorded for so many years I qualified for a scholarship from the Grammys. After 28 days in a facility in TX, I thought I was healed. They dropped me off at the airport with a three hour wait and I went straight to the bar. I still felt like I had control and I wasn’t educated on the importance of repetition as far as sobriety, meetings, sponsorship, and support groups –having all of those pieces in place to stay sober. Consequences: I had tapped out all of my people and resources. They were done with me. I was driving for Uber, scrounging for jobs, and drinking heavily. In and out of the hospital 8 times for diabetic complications. Lost my home. None of it would have happened if I was sober. Blessing in Disguise: My son’s mom called to report me sleeping in my car intoxicated. As I was moving it out from under a streetlamp, they clocked me at 5 mph and I got a DUI. I was really upset but that’s the best thing to ever happen to me because it was the catalyst that got me to where I am now. Homelessness: I lived in my car for three months until it was repossessed during my hospital stay. Then I was “camping” for two months, I called it. There’s no place I could feel safe to lay down and shut my eyes because I thought I was going to get stabbed, robbed, or arrested. That was life until I got into Step. The Difference: I had fear of lost housing, but there was more a sense of gratitude. How can I show my appreciation? What can I do to give back? Seeing the evolution of people and developing bonds… you see the true colors of people who really want to get better, help each other stay sober, and just do better in life. I used everything I learned at Step and put together my team for success - all of the facets of life that work for my recovery. I put feelers out into the world instead of just using Step as my training wheels. Fatherhood: I’m sure from my actions there was a lot of mistrust, confusion, sadness, probably disgust. Things started to get better once I had a couple months of sobriety under my belt and he and his mom could see the difference. Making amends was huge for everybody, especially me. Taking responsibility even for things I had blocked out or hadn’t realized. Having a safe place for the kiddo to stay overnight has been huge. He’s so excited about everything. We spent over a week together recently because his mom now trusts me. We’ve been skiing together all the time; just doing the stuff that you do. Using It All to Help Others: I have always been interested in psychology and that coincides with my experiences, so I pursued it. I love school. The most daunting part was being an older student. I am graduating with a Bachelor of Science and Psychology Focused on Clinical Counseling, and I’ve been accepted into a program to obtain a Master of Science in Human Clinical Behavior Focused on Addiction. Recently at Step after a meeting, two guys came up to me and we talked about my experience. Both are now working on their GED. It feels good to be an example.

"Step Denver gave me the space, tools, safety, and knowledge to get and stay sober. They literally saved my life."

Your Words Giving Hope Notes from Donors on Display

"When I feel down or feel like I'm losing hope, I read a couple of letters on the wall, close my eyes, and thank God and the people that make Step Denver happen. Without you I would be dead on the streets." -Fuad "Your words and thoughts are a source of strength, and much appreciated!" -Jason S. "Y'all are amazing. I've never had the family support and the love you give fills that void." -Derrick H.

Service Above Self Step Residents Paying It Forward

Last Monday of the Month - The Burrito Project Prior to COVID-19, residents had started a monthly tradition volunteering at the Dairy Block for the Burrito Project. After making 500 burritos in 45 minutes they would head out to reach people who were suffering, in what was a full circle experience for many. Some of these men used to live on the very same streets where they were now handing out handmade, hot burritos to the homeless. Looking back to where you've been and paying it forward are essential in recovery - and in life.

November 16, 2019 - StepGiving Step residents took to the streets for our annual StepGiving day of service. This year students from Smokey Hill High joined our men, with gloves and trash bags in hand, to clean up the Ballpark Neighborhood. Walking many blocks together, they found drug paraphernalia and picked up countless empty liquor bottles. Our residents used the opportunity to share their experiences and the students courageously opened up too - learning from each other and leaving a lasting impression.

Taking a Turn for Good

COVID-19 Charitable Giving Incentive

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes a new above-theline deduction (universal or nonitemizer deduction) that applies to all taxpayers for total charitable contributions of up to $300. The incentive applies to contributions made in 2020. The bill also lifts the existing cap on annual contributions for those who itemize, raising it from 60 percent of adjusted gross income to 100 percent.

Step Alumnus Gives Back

John H. had a wrecked 2005 Toyota Prius. Remembering that Step's vehicle donation program helped give him the opportunity to recover, he donated the car to support other men currently working to overcome addiction.

For corporations, the bill raises the annual limit from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Step Denver allowed me to get my life back, and put me in this place in life where I could purchase a new car. I wanted to donate my old one because I am very grateful.

To Give Like John Call 303.296.9020 - Accepting Cars, Trucks, & Motorcycles This vehicle was sold at auction, with proceeds funding Peer Recovery Coaching for 4 men.

Sobriety vs. COVID-19 Written by OZ Pandemic. Crisis. Disease. These words infiltrate the media as many of us stay quarantined at home or as we navigate the world of shut-down businesses and social distancing. These big-scale views of coronavirus are pretty hard to escape, but even harder to escape are the small-scale struggles of living through this as an addict. Without this stay at home order, I was able to escape into the population and stay busy, in constant motion, distracted from the reality of my own inner chaos. Now, I only remember the days in which I would drink or drug to escape without having to physically leave my room. My mind is in constant battle between “I have to put my sobriety first to live fully” and “I’m noticing the things about myself I hate and I don’t know what to do about it so why the hell not.” I’m also still struggling to find a higher power that guides my wandering mind. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, yet I’ve made it far enough already. One day at a time, right? I am grateful to still be able to go to work and as a health advocate for the homeless population, I’m on the front lines. I can tell you my flashes of self-loathing vanish when I see someone with a positive case of the virus tell me they can’t breathe and that their chest, abdomen, and back hurt so much that walking isn’t a desirable option. Shortly after, however, the rollercoaster of gratitude, self-loathing, strength, and weakness continues. It doesn’t stop. I have to keep reminding myself that without these ups and downs there would only be a slow (but probably fast) decline into the empty life that addiction gave me. Sobriety isn’t easy, but sobriety during this time is difficult even more; I crave the connections I can make with fellow people in recovery and the hugs I can get at the end of the meetings. Everything is changing daily, and it’s changing quickly, but one thing I won’t allow to change is my sobriety date. It must be the only constant in the midst of all this chaos. The strategies and coping tools I’m using to keep my sobriety continuous are also changing daily, but it’s important to stay focused on the significance of this journey and the vibrant life of emotions and feelings that it brings to light. I am human, after all. The strength I’m developing through this is going to help keep me sober through other difficult times, and who am I but an ever-evolving creature? With all these changes happening, we must all take the old piece of advice to new heights. Recovering or not, there’s only one thing we can do now: take it one day at a time.

OZ sent this to his Recovery Support Manager at Step Denver, Sean Hoy, on April 5, 2020.

Step Denver I Summer Newsletter 2020 2029 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80205 I 303.295.7837 I

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