By: Alumni Bob from Scottsdale
The surveys are in and the 2013 Alumni Retreat held from January 25 to January 27, 2013 is being called one of the best Alumni events in Meadows history! More than 75 people from around the country converged on the Franciscan Renewal Center in Paradise Valley, Arizona for three days to renew old friendships and attend some great lectures and workshops all while being immersed in The Meadows culture of acceptance, strength and hope.
Even though it rained throughout the event, nothing seemed to dampen the excitement or the experience. On the first evening, Wally P. demonstrated a rarely seen side of the 12 Step model in his ‘Back to Basics” lecture. Wally is known for his extensive research into how 12 Step programs began and although you may think this was just a boring talk about history… those who came would call it anything but that! Wally showed us how you could take someone through all the 12 Steps of Recovery in just a couple of hours. His unique blend of energy and humor kept everyone laughing.
On Saturday, The Meadows staff put on what could only be described as a Meadows Road Show which started with Dr. Shelly Uram’s presentation on “12 Steps, the Brain and You: A Case of Mistaken Identity and the Journey Home.” Dr. Uram explained that the journey home is reclaiming your true nature or reclaiming who you really are. She considers the 12 Steps a thorough method of going “home” because the Steps heal the “animal” brain in all of us. The brain stem is considered the “animal brain” because it is designed to keep us alive and procreate. Pain or discomfort are caused when it gets out of control or becomes unregulated. For those of you who were inpatients, you probably remember Dr. Uram’s presentations on how the brain stem, limbic brain and prefrontal cortex each respond to addiction.
The afternoon featured a series of break-out sessions designed to remind Alumni of the keys to their Meadows experience such as attachment and mindfulness, loneliness and addiction, self-care and self-regulation, and healthy esteem: building connection with self and others. Of course no Meadows event would be complete without a painting room so there was even a session on expressive painting! The rain continued Saturday night but it didn’t dampen the fun. The evening was filled with laughter thanks to two comics, Tony Vicich and Jim Vance who told very funny stories of their recovery while poking fun at members of the audience.
Perhaps the best was saved for last because on Sunday there were two information packed presentations by Dr. Jon Caldwell and John Bradshaw. Dr. Caldwell spoke on befriending our true nature. He described how we attach our identity to things that can go away like cars, jobs, friends and money. However, he says the truth is that to befriend our true nature, we have to create an intention to befriend it, love whatever it is, and then be that love.
Finally, there was John Bradshaw. In what most considered the key-note address, Mr. Bradshaw spoke on gratitude and the work he is doing for his latest book. Perhaps one of the most interesting messages he shared is that it is important for people with traumatic pain to grieve that pain and then move on. He says there is no reason to hold onto it. Yes, it is part of who we are, but it is not our defining quality as he learned many years ago when someone told him that “suffering is ordinary” and that all of us are called upon to do something utterly unique or out of the ordinary.
He then went on to talk about how important gratitude has become in his life and suggested that everyone in the audience create an inventory of gratitude that can be reviewed when times get rough.
Besides the lectures, there were 12 Step Meetings, Yoga, Meditation and Tai Chi classes. There was truly a taste of everything that helps set The Meadows Program apart from the rest. So if you didn’t make it to Arizona for this annual event, be sure to plan on attending next year because we promise it is only going to get better!