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The Life Together

“Human beings are bonding animals.” Well, that’s not very warm and fuzzy, is it? But it’s true. Research and anecdotal evidence continues to affirm this line of thinking – human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. In a recent Huffington post article, ( the author states, “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.” In the same article, professor Peter Cohen states “it’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe.” Cohen adds that we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether and instead call it ‘bonding.’ Though there are many theories, models, and practices related to helping those in substance abuse recovery, one thing seems certain – this relational piece seems to be quite critical indeed.

It should not surprise the people of God that this “one another-ing” component is essential to living a healthy life as sons and daughters of the King; we need each other. We heal as we confess and love and connect with one another. Truly, God’s unconditional love is expressed through community, and the “24/7 residential” piece of Safe Harbor world creates a pretty powerful pathway for healing and freedom from addiction.

Fortunately, at Safe Harbor, we love to do “life around the table.” This “family style” way of living, playing, serving, and growing together is beautiful to watch. Sharing the responsibilities and joys of cooking, cleaning, meal-planning, and even coupon clipping/budgeting/grocery shopping with a group of sisters and life coaches who love them is a miraculous and transformative experience for our women. We don’t ever want to underestimate the power of this component – there are life skills popping up all over the place, even over a simple life-giving conversation around the lunch table!

Oh boy, we’ve had many “moments” around that table. Some are hilarious, some are hard, and some are heavy. One day, I started a light-hearted conversation in an unusual way – I informed the women that I had something to confess to them. I intentionally made it sound like I was getting ready to say something really serious, and then I told them “I really do need to admit that even as a grown woman, I secretly enjoyed the movie ‘High School Musical.’ It took a few seconds, but then we started cracking up and sharing more silly stories about ourselves.

It’s so simple, and yet so profound – our women find out they love to cook, or they simply like to try new foods. They find out they can have communal conversations while serving one another and cleaning up after one another. They can wear a homemade apron that their mentor made just for them, and they can make amazing creole dishes with ingredients like KALE, for heaven’s sake! (see photo).

It continues to amaze me that some of the most healing components in the Safe Harbor program are the simplest – the “Bonhoeffer-ing” we do as we pursue “the life together.” (Yes, I made up the word ‘Bonhoeffer-ing” and you are welcome to use it any time it works for you!).

Do we need every component of this holistic program, all 6 Growth Areas, and wrap-around services? Absolutely – yes we do. But our focus for this issue – these Relational and Life Skill components – are so essential. These are times we simply “breathe it in” as our Founder and priceofcialis President, Dr. Joy Fagan, loves to say. Other times, it’s more direct – we offer classes on co-dependency, “Dating without Drama,” (for AFTER they leave our program! ha ha!), Peacemakers, Boundaries, and more! We want to infuse lives with the healthiest relationship tools in the universe. Some of this comes through a workbook and syllabus, and some of comes in a bowl.


Amy Willmann

Executive Director

Safe Harbor House

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