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Employee Spolight: Nancy Renick, Assistant Director of Men's Addiction Recovery Services

Nancy Renick sees drugs everywhere. At least, according to her teenage daughters.

“They think I’m pretty hardcore,” Nancy says, laughing good-humoredly about her children’s criticism of her cautious nature.

“But I also see what the end result is when teenagers say it’s no big deal. Every client I work with started using when they were twelve, thirteen or younger. It is a big deal.”

As Volunteers of America’s Assistant Director of Men’s Addiction Recovery Services, Nancy is well-informed about the crisis of addiction in her community, which makes the recent expansion of our addiction recovery services even more important to her.

The expansion of VOA Recovery means the availability of more treatment for the Halfway Back Program, the largest of the four services Nancy oversees. The Halfway Back Program provides residential alcohol and drug treatment to men recovering from addiction and exiting a correctional facility. Clients participate in individual and group counseling, life skills training, GED education and employment readiness assessment and training.

With the new expansion, the Halfway Back program will include more opportunities for group therapy using the Matrix curriculum, which encourages development of relapse prevention skills like identifying triggers and understanding cravings. The curriculum aims to look at the whole person: how physical health affects mental health. Therapists in our programs use a trauma-informed model for treatment to address the underlying issues that lead to an individual misusing drugs and alcohol initially.

VOA’s addiction recovery services are also expanding to include more services for the entire family. For the men’s programs, this means making therapy available to the spouses and loved ones of the men in treatment.

When helping a family member who is battling addiction. “the family can fall into particular patterns that are not always healthy for all involved. So the goal is to help the person struggling with addiction reintegrate into a family – because their role will be different now,” Nancy explains.

Recovery aims to help individuals return as a fully functioning member of their family. Often, families are not accustomed to their family member playing this part.

“It can cause friction,” Nancy says. “The families often expect less than positive behaviors from their loved ones, and that’s not healthy either, because we hope [graduates] return as revitalized new men and women who are ready to be moms and dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, in a much more positive way than they have before.”

Increased therapy opportunities will help families overcome obstacles to healthy relationships.

The expansion of Intensive Outpatient (IOP) Services at the Shelby Street Clinical Campus for men also seeks to strengthen families. IOP services allow clients to continue working while seeking addiction recovery treatment, providing them with the opportunity to continue to support their families.

“It’s really easy when you see someone on the streets not to realize that’s somebody’s brother, that’s somebody’s son, somebody’s dad who is dealing with a really difficult problem, a difficult disease,” says Nancy.

“I think that’s the misperception: unless we have contact with somebody who wrestles with addiction, we see them as different from ourselves, and they are really not. People who live with addiction are ultimately just people.”

Despite teasing their protective mother, both of Nancy’s daughters have expressed interest in pursuing careers as social workers. Nancy’s joking response: “One of you needs to be a cardiologist so you can buy me a house.”

Her family members are not the only people influenced by Nancy’s passion. Darren Turner, a Clinical Therapist on Nancy’s Men’s Addiction Recovery Services team, has been similarly motivated.

“I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by caring and competent professionals at VOA and I watch them work steadily each day to help clients make incremental progress and to begin to believe a different life is possible,” says Darren. “My colleagues are also unremittingly supportive of one another and are, I believe, the greatest strength of our agency.”

Nancy says she tells her staff that while they may not see great changes in the short time that they work with their clients, they are giving them the tools to be successful to return to their families as healthy human beings.

“For me, that’s what keeps me going, because I know that we do make a difference in people’s lives.”

To learn more about Volunteers of America’s addiction recovery services, visit voamid.org/addiction.