Residents from two New Mexico reentry programs managed by GEO Reentry Services joined other community providers honoring National Recovery Month for a celebratory event at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Residents from New Mexico Men’s and Women’s Recovery Academies were accompanied by staff to share the common goal of recovery from substance abuse and to celebrate the joy of leading sober, positive and productive lives.
Approximately 1,500 individuals attended the special event hosted by the City of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, Molina Health Care, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Wings for Life, United Health Care, Serenity Mesa and the Duke City Recovery Tool Box, among others.
“We are very proud of our residents who represented the New Mexico Men’s and Women’s Recovery Academies with a powerful presentation of hope and recovery from addiction,” Russell Ouellett, treatment services supervisor for the New Mexico Recovery Academies, said. “Our residents did a fantastic job and were praised by many throughout the day.”
GEO Reentry provides residential reentry programming to individuals referred from the New Mexico Department of Corrections. Both individual locations function as modified therapeutic communities, and include a highly structured environment for residents. Although some residents expressed nervousness about performing in front of a crowd, Mr. Ouellett transformed the nervous energy into a successful treatment exercise in facing fears and negative self-talk. Both programs focus on education and therapy with individuals working together to change thinking and behaviors into a framework for building positive lives.
Mr. Ouellett is grateful to the support of other staff, including Ms. Renee Mollineda, program counselor for the Women’s Program, who helped residents choreograph a “zumba” dance routine. Male residents presented original poetry and lead musical performances with a recovery theme. The crowd was extremely receptive to the dancers, and the overall energy in the convention center increased with their performance. The men’s performance was named “Light in the Darkness,” as each performer read an original poem accompanied by another resident playing guitar. They told stories of their addiction and demonstrated through art the progression of addiction and the “disease concept,” while portraying that each statistic represents a human being. All the residents had the bonus of being able to speak with other community providers in attendance to learn about what services are available to them after release.
Mr. Ouellett asked the participants to write a short statement regarding their experience for the recovery celebration to further their learning by reflection on the event:
“As participants of the Albuquerque Celebrates Recovery, we were able, through creative expression, to a have a voice, a chance to have respect for ourselves again. It gave meaning to the struggles we’ve experienced and gave us a new understanding to how we gain strength through our mistakes and found the light through the dark by expressing ourselves to people in similar circumstances and to people in the field. We felt like we matter, that our stories matter and ultimately our future matters. It has helped in our recovery because we have a renewed outlook on our past and gained a humble focus toward a new beginning. We would love the opportunity to perform in future Albuquerque Celebrates Recovery, again in sobriety. Thank you for giving us a chance and believing in us.”