The Stepping Stone team works hard to give patients the best care possible. That commitment to a successful recovery goes well beyond the initial residential rehab.
Stepping Stone offers extended care and support through its alumni program. The team of certified recovery coaches wants to make sure that all alumni of the treatment program have every opportunity to be successful and remain sober.
“Patients are engaged early on,” explains Alumni Coordinator Karen Zaccour. “After they are admitted to Stepping Stone, they initially have weekly 12-Step-based recovery coaching groups.
We deal with problem-solving and how to deal with triggers, develop coping skills, and explain the support network patients can rely on.”
After the group meetings, one-on-one opportunities are available for patients to work on a recovery plan and set goals that go beyond abstaining from drugs and alcohol.
“We’re building a relationship of trust right from the start, so when they are discharged from rehab treatment, there is already a connection and we don’t suddenly show up and say, ‘I’m with the alumni program, we will be in touch’,” says Zaccour.
A Philosophy of Continuing Care
“When patients are discharged, we initially stay in touch with a weekly phone call. If all goes well, we have a call once a month after a while to find out how people are doing,” says Zaccour. “They have our numbers, and we offer free recovery coaching for alumni. Many people use this service. They can also text us or get in touch via Facebook.”
Not long ago, Karen was working with a woman who was on monthly calls, but she changed it to twice a month because the alumna was going through a divorce. “It is not just about staying sober. She needed support, so we did some problem solving and now she has a sponsor to help her deal with that situation.”
Another woman had her child removed from her care and she was struggling with a lot of anxiety issues. Consequently, it was hard for her to attend court hearings, so Karen accompanied her to support her. Zaccour couldn’t provide legal assistance, but at least the woman had someone by her side as tried to handle a difficult situation.
It can be a wide-open job description for Karen, but she certainly loves her job.
In addition to one-on-one help, the alumni program offers support groups and special events. “Here in Jacksonville, we have a support group meeting once a month,” says Zaccour. “People can socialize, share success stories, or discuss challenges—and maybe share a pizza.”
Many patients would like to join a support group but live too far away. Some Stepping Stone alumni have migrated to South Florida to move into sober living facilities, so Stepping Stone Center launched a chapter group there and is considering establishing more in other areas.
“Five or six times a year, we have an alumni event in Jacksonville,” says Zaccour. “The next one will be St. Patrick’s Day in March.” In early sobriety, people often haven’t quite learned how to socialize sober, so a holiday associated with alcohol consumption can be challenging.
Stepping Stone’s third annual St. Patrick’s Day event will be a lot of fun for alumni, family, and friends—without the substance use. Some might learn for the first time that they can enjoy a day like this without drugs or alcohol.
“Everybody loves it,” says Karen. “We’re going to a local waterpark where we will have a costume contest, games, fun with waterslides, and team competitions. And there will be time to just hang out and talk.”
Other occasions have been the Super Bowl, the Fourth of July, and New Year’s Eve. “If we don’t host anything on a particular date, we can give people tips about what’s going on around town,” says Zaccour. “We have a lot of connections in the recovery community and can even recommend events in other states.”
Many of the suggestions come from the alumni; it is their program, after all. “The women recently wanted to do a nail spa, which turned out to be a lot of fun,” remembers Karen. “We had a camping trip and an open mic night where people read poetry, sang, or played instruments. One guy even juggled. We just want to make it fun for them!”