Step 2 – Michael Kerr

Mike Kerr, Recovery Coach

Segue Program

Benchmark Recovery Center

Hello, everyone, my name is Mike Kerr.  I’m a recovery coach at the Segue program at Benchmark Recovery Center.  A little over three years ago, I walked into the doors of Benchmark, and I was in a place where I was willing to hear an answer.  I didn’t know what that answer was.  I didn’t know what the answer looked like, but I needed an answer. What happened while I was there was incredible, considering that I walked in very humbled, humiliated and willing to hear something different, do something different, wanted to think differently, wanted everything about my life to change.

I was confronted with an idea, an idea and concept that I had heard over the years.  I was raised to believe in God and was raised to seek God.  I just didn’t know how to do that, and at Benchmark Recovery Center I really got approached with the idea that I could have a relationship with this Power, that I could decide within myself what that Power looked like.

Over the years, a certain idea of what that power looked like was imposed upon me, and I never really was able to grasp or fully understand it, and while I was there, I really dived into that piece, and that Second Step is still ever-forming today.  That perception always changes, and it changes based on my experience with my struggles, and what this Power does for me by turning to it after I experienced with struggles, and what this Power can do for me in the good times as well.  And over the years, this concept of what God means to me has turned into the role of a teacher for the most part.

I like to think about it in the sense of if I want to learn what this teacher wants me to do, and how this teacher wants me to live my life, I have to first be willing to listen.  I have to be willing to take notes.  I have to be willing to go to class, walk in the doors and take the test and do it all over again the next day.

And this Power’s always there for me.  It’s always there for me to tap into, but at some points in time, I’m not always willing to listen.  It’s that listening piece that is so incredibly important, and while at Benchmark, that’s what I got in touch with is the listening.  I’ve always been the talker.  I’ve always been the guy who has all the answers, and being very connected to that first step, I realized I didn’t have the answers this time, and I was willing to take direction.

And over the years, over the past plus three years, I’ve gotten to a place in my recovery where the listening is very important, and not only listening but putting those intuitive thoughts that I get into action and continuously doing it on a consistent basis.  I found that if I want to be good at this thing, if I want to be good at practicing the principles that I’ve learned over the years, and the principles that are specifically centered around that Second Step, for me I have to be willing to practice them on a day to day basis, and in doing so, my life has become absolutely incredible.

Sometimes I Have to Pinch Myself

Austin Recovery How did I get here? A man like me is not supposed to get the redemption I have been granted.

I rolled into Benchmark Recovery Center in July of 2012 a broken man. I had crashed three cars that year and overdosed twice. I lived in San Antonio within a 10-mile radius of my mom, my sister, my niece and nephew, but none of them wanted anything to do with me. I was surprised I had made it to the age of 45. I thought I had nothing left to offer anyone.

How wrong I was! I learned how to be useful once again while I was at Benchmark. I did the work that was asked of me (begrudgingly many times) and I had a spiritual experience as a direct result of working the steps.

I return to work at Benchmark in April of 2013 as a resident care associate where I got to share my experience with current residents. I got to see them come in broken and defeated, just like I was and I got to see them become whole again if they did what was asked of them. After nearly a year I was asked to become a recovery manager and I got to work one-on-one with a caseload of my own.

In December of last year I was given the opportunity to head up the new Business Development team. At first I was terrified and concerned. I was used to getting to be on the front lines…of getting to see men recover in “real time.” What was I going to do? How was I going to get my “fix?”

God always has my back. It has been brought to my attention that I am still helping others find recovery; it’s just in a different way. I get to spread the word to other recovery centers about what Benchmark does best. I get to help them identify which of their residents may be a good fit for Benchmark.

I have now worked at Benchmark going on 2 years now. Before I got here I could not hold a job for 2 weeks, must less 2 years. I found a way to be the man I always wanted to be…to be the man my parents are proud of…the brother I knew I could be. All this began at Benchmark and I am forever grateful.

Someone pinch me…I’m still amazed at how content I am with how my life is today.

BRC #DreamTeamDavid Hutts
Business Development Manager
BRC Business Development Team

Step 11

Austin RecoveryI woke up this morning feeling rested after a night of good sleep. My routine is to wake early, fix my coffee, curl up on my couch, pray, meditate and bring my God into my day. This is my favorite time of the day. It is my time for me, alone. My time of pure peace!

Everything was going great until I sat down on the couch…panic set in! How is one person going to get everything done that needs to be done? Especially between the hours of 3:30 and 10pm; 3 schools to pick up from, 2 baseball games, 2 cheerleading workouts (tryouts tomorrow), homework, an appointment, dinner, 4 kids and 1 me. There was not one thing that could be eliminated…so I prayed for RAIN!!! What I forgot to do, because I took over, was to pray and meditate. I had not invited the God of my understanding into my day. My old sponsor’s voice quickly was in my head saying, “Do you want to stay in the problem or get in the solution.” I immediately began my prayer and meditation with intention.

Step 11 is so powerful. The only way to improve my conscious contact with my God is through prayer and meditation. I have to constantly ask God to direct my thinking, for an intuitive thought or decision, to not be selfish or dishonest. The more I focus on the 11th Step the easier my life and the lives of those around me become. It takes practice, effort and time. For the peace I receive it is well worth it! Today it is His will I wish to live by and not my own. Experience has taught me that my will never works out in my best interest.

My day was great, the stress and worry gone. Everything got done and everyone got were they were supposed to be. Thank you God for making my day just how you wanted it to be!

BRC #DreamTeamJoey Hixson
Business Development Specialist/Midwest Region
BRC Business Development Team

There Are No Mistakes

Caitlin-Stowell Austin RecoveryIn the fall of 2008 I believed in one thing: mistakes. My life was full of them. I was drinking in my closet at eight in the morning, lying to everyone, and eventually I was dropped off at a treatment center where I was convinced I did not belong. I was forced to live in a residence with alcoholics who I believed were nothing like me. There was no “grand plan” for someone like me; only mistakes.

Here I was, 21 years old, dropped off at a treatment center. I was petrified, angry, and unable to imagine a life of sobriety. To me, a life without alcohol was a colossal mistake. Through her own series of mistakes, I met Marsha Stone who just happened to be in the same facility in which I had ended up.

I thought I was different than the rest of these drunks in treatment, but I decided Marsha seemed “normal” enough. I could relate with her, and I slowly began to trust her. One morning I was expressing to Marsha my resistance to the idea of being completely sober. I did not want to let go of my ever-comforting and ever-destructive solution. I will never forget the look on Marsha’s face as she earnestly cautioned me: “Caitlin, You are going to die from this disease”. For the first time I believed her. In that moment, my delusion that I could manage and control my drinking was smashed. The idea that I was different, that everything was just a big misunderstanding, vanished with those few stern words. For the first time, I became willing to start doing things differently. These things seemed small at first, things like saying a prayer in the morning and at night, telling the truth, and meeting with a sponsor to work through the Twelve Steps.

These actions seemed trivial at the time, but looking back I know that they were the beginning of something beautiful. Each time I followed the simple instructions people like Marsha presented for me, I chipped away at the belief that I was a mistake, that my life was a mistake, and that nothing could fix the mess I made. It took guts to follow these simple instructions. It took guts to let go of my own solution, but I continued to do it, one step at a time.

Three years into my recovery I was given a speaker tape. I listened to a powerful message from the man on the tape. “How free do you want to be?” this man asked. The question begged an answer that invigorated me and inspired me to give away the gift of sobriety I had received. I called my old friend Marsha, who was now living in Texas, to share my excitement. I came to find that Marsha was working at Benchmark Recovery Center, the facility founded by the man on the tape, Mark Houston. What a coincidence, I thought to myself. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, right?

Fast forward to spring of last year, six years after what I believed to be the biggest mistake of my life. My friend Marsha called and asked if I would be interested in working for Benchmark Recovery Center. And that is the genius of it all. All of the “mistakes” that led me to a treatment center at twenty-one put me on a path to that phone call. The guts that it took to let go of my old life, to be willing to try something new brought me to that moment. There was something bigger going on the whole time whether I believed it or not.

I have been given the opportunity to work for a program in which I truly and wholeheartedly believe. Benchmark Recovery Center brings in people like me; people who believe only in mistakes, and offers them something better. My job is to spread the message that literally saved my life. Today I am able to share my “mistakes” with other addicts and families as I guide them toward a solution. The Big Book says that my “painful past may be of infinite value to families still struggling (p. 124). I spend each day reminding others and myself what this journey has taught me – there are no mistakes, only guts and genius.

BRC #DreamTeamCaitlin Stowell
Business Development Specialist/Southeast Region
BRC Business Development Team

I Know…

BRC Recovery AustinHow many times in a day might you hear these words spoken? They become instinctual at times. These two words are an answer to your statement, confirmation that I heard what you said or my closing argument to your helpful suggestions. But what do they truly say? There is a man who once challenged me to remove them from my vocabulary. He repeated them back to me every single time I uttered them. I would leave the conversations wondering what the big deal was when I would simple say…I know.

What I understand today is that they are reflection of my ego. At any given point my constantly rebuilding ego would like to exert itself to the center focus of my being. The hub of my thoughts, my emotions and more importantly my actions. It was a manner in which I lived most of my life. Every thought was in an effort to gain a position of power, every emotion was a reaction to the fear of not receiving it and every action was an attempt to protect it at all cost.

“Instead of regarding ourselves as intelligent agents, spearheads of God’s ever advancing Creation, we agnostics and atheists chose to believe that our human intelligence was the last word, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and he end of all. Rather vain of us, wasn’t it?” (Big Book pg. 49)

When I read these words my ego would like me to discern that this was my belief system prior to having a spiritual experience. But is that the truth? The feeling is that I long ago laid aside old belief systems that advised me to worship logic above all else. But the fact remains that I wrestle with current agnosticism. Are there not areas of my life this very day that I would like to handle while allowing the Power of God to handle the others? Absolutely. When I wonder what areas those may be I simply have to listen for the identifying words that come barreling from my ego…I know.

One of the most powerful third step promises that continues to come true in my life is that I am reborn. This rebirth happens to me first spiritually and quickly followed mentally and physically. In order for my spirit to be reborn something must die. What must die is the idea that…I know.

BRC #DreamTeamAudrey Chapman
Business Development Specialist/Western Region
BRC Business Development Team

The Why

Austin recovery centers

I wake up before dawn breaks every morning. My brain races with anticipation of returning emails, and scheduling events, and developing relationships. Calendars and phone calls and appointments, oh my. All of which is extremely new territory for a guy like me.

There was a long stretch of my life that I was just living merely to exist. This illness had taken me to a point of complete and utter despair. There was no way out. There was no hope. Then, through a miraculous chain of events, I was sent across the country to a place I had never heard of; a place that inspired me to get better, to be better, to find a purpose, and to do what I was made to do.

My life has gotten very very big since I first arrived at Benchmark Recovery Center. As a Benchmark alumnus it is easy for me to work for an organization that showed me how to recover. I couldn’t do it on my own. I still can’t. As the Northeast Business Development Specialist I get to travel into uncharted territory and spread the good news. As I walk this path that seems to be laid out before me, I begin to realize that this is not as easy as I anticipated. God always seems to give me just a little bit more than I can handle. I like to think of myself as a go-getter, a mover and a shaker, a highly motivated enthusiastic professional who’s ready for anything. God always finds a way to keep me right sized…

It is so easy for me to get wrapped up in the material world that I completely lose sight of ‘the why’. Why we do what we do. It’s easy to forget where I came from and exactly what my primary purpose is. I was provided a new life to provide others a new life and so that they may do the same.

We do something that very few others in this industry do. We challenge conventional ways. We live outside of the box. We keep it simple. We chop wood and carry water. We demonstrate discipline and consistency. We give hope to the hopeless and strength to the powerless.

Why do we do what we do? Why do I do what I do? The reason is simple.

There is someone up in this area who desperately needs me, needs us. There is a family out there waiting for me to come along with an answer. There are clinicians, and treatment centers and detoxes and professionals who need to know that we exist. They need to know that BRC is the place that makes miracles a reality.

I will end with this.. We all should have a ‘why’. If you don’t have one, create one. If you do have one, remember it, keep it close, and live by it. That’s all for now. I don’t want to be late for my appointment…

BRC #DreamTeamChris Thigpen
Business Development Specialist/Northeast Region
BRC Business Development Team

Comfort Food

12 step program

Two week checkup day… Time for the doctor to take off the bandages and make sure I was healing ok. Thumbs up, looking good! As I was shedding the lovely hospital gown for my own comfy Lululemon getup, the duty nurse came in to give me my take home orders. “Plenty of rest, no heavy lifting, blah blah, and remember,” she says, “comfort food has a lot of sodium.” What? Huh? What does that even mean???

 My mind began to wrestle around with her statement, and I haven’t been able to shake her voice, and that tsk tsk tone!! Homemade macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken fried everything; of course these things have a lot of salt. Everyone knows that!

 Why do things that taste and feel so good have to be … So BAD?!!! I mean, C’mon! I just had major surgery. I have been bedridden, in pain, not able to work- can’t I get a free pass for some “comfort”?

 My mind turned to my first Fourth Step Inventory. I mean my real first inventory, not the countless ones where I would kind of write a few things down to get a naggy sponsor off my back. I mean the one where I was committed to my third step decision and willing to launch into the fact finding and fact facing mission that is required. I gotta say, it felt bad. The truth was hard to look at, in black and white, the resentments and harms from a life lived on self, the defects of character acted out time and time again, the things that were blocking me from Power. Not pretty.

 But I did it, and have done it since, and even though the discipline never gets easy, knowing the freedom at the end of the entire 12 step process provides the motivation necessary to continue. So yes, I have experience with being willing to trade comfort for freedom. As the saying goes, no pain, no gain.

 So for now, hold the salt please. I’ll be better for it tomorrow.

 Marsha_Blog_Comfort-Food

Not Busy

alcohol recovery

Recently I read a blog article in the Huffington Post titled “Busy is a Sickness“. It described the self-created crisis of busy days and lives which most of us today are so familiar with. It went on to detail how this approach to life really is a soul sickness rampant in our society. Interesting concept and the timing is ironic, here’s why.

Ten days ago I had a surgery and because of that I have been home recovering… Ten.Whole.Days. Ten days of aches and pains, bed rest, daytime television, takeout dinners, Facebook and Instagram. Mercifully, the staff at BRC has called and emailed me with issues and questions from time to time. I have never been so grateful for an issue du jour. I think they just felt sorry for me and asked for input out of sheer pity, saints that they all are.

I said to my husband as he left for work this morning, “You sure do seem busier than normal these past few days.” To which he laughed and replied, “That’s just your perception, my schedule hasn’t changed.” Really?

I remember while I was growing up, walking into my house as I got off the school bus. My mom would be sitting there waiting for me, and more often than not she had popped popcorn (the real kind, not microwave) and poured us a Coke to share. We would sit there and have a snack and chat a little before I started my homework. Over this past week, I’ve found myself wondering what in the world did she do all day before I got home? I have come to the conclusion that in days gone by, people, like my mom, didn’t have to fill up every second of every day with scheduled activities just to reach the “ok” mark.

I have often heard in recovery that we have a God-sized hole in our souls that we filled with alcohol and drugs, and that in recovery we will find a “sufficient substitute”. This is absolutely my experience. But, with this latest experience of being still and being quiet, I find myself challenged. The challenge is to be ok with stillness, to be ok with life, to be ok with just this very moment, even as I sit here in my flannel pjs blogging about my latest experience with God and recovery.

I am most grateful for awareness, for the gently nudging from my Higher Power, and for the opportunity to continue to grow and evolve during this journey of life and recovery.

Be still and know. What a concept.

BRC Blog: Not Busy