By Jordan Detweiler, CAC-I

Imagine a world in which each year you gave yourself a wonderful birthday gift–something important, a present you really wanted. It might be a trip to an exotic location, or an item of jewelry.

Even better, imagine it was the gift of life.

Annually, a former MARR client does that very thing.  To celebrate his or her recovery birthday, he or she returns to us for a Renewal Week. This gift is far more valuable than vacations or gems, yet costs the individual nothing.

Renewal Week is offered free-of-charge to those who have successfully completed our 90-day program and have maintained recovery for a minimum of six months. If a man or woman is not fully committed to recovery, or has, in fact, relapsed, this week is not appropriate. Instead, that individual needs to readmit to the program.

Participants are treated like every other client; they move into the residential unit, surrender keys, computers and cell phones. Men and women commit to no outside contact during his or her stay, which is typically a standard business week.

On Monday morning, the individual becomes part of the group. As such, they attend all the meetings, groups and activities. Essentially, they engage in the program just as they did during their first stay. Although the time together is short, the bond with other clients is honest and true.

Renewal Week was originally designed exclusively to help MARR graduates. But throughout the years it has become clear that equal, if not even greater benefit, is experienced by those currently in our program. Initially, these clients are genuinely dumbfounded as to why anyone would willingly return to the program. Why in the world would anyone leave their lives, jobs family and friends to spend time in treatment that they “didn’t need?” And there within lies the point:  they do need it.

Whether it is the importance of routine, accountability, daily mindfulness or attending 12-Step meetings, the week serves to reinforce all that was originally learned while in our care. Additionally, no matter how long a woman or man has sustained recovery, the experience of being in community with those who are truly struggling is riveting; it places in bold relief how far each one of them has come in their own individual journey.

And the benefits are in no way one-sided. Whereas the visiting client sees how far he or she has come, the current residents see just how far they can go. A man might see the strong, capable husband and father that he always wanted to be, but could never be due to alcoholism. A woman may discover that it is possible to be set free from her addiction to prescription medication, return to college and earn the degree that will lead to a better life. In other words, clients see first-hand that if they stay the course, remain committed to themselves and their ongoing sobriety, then real and lasting recovery is possible.

Renewal Week is profound on so many levels. Former clients take time to focus on the fundamentals of recovery; current clients capture a new vision of their future; even our staff, who work so hard every day, experience the joy of seeing people living lives of gratitude, growth and purpose.

It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.