On September 29, Farley alumni will come together for the annual reunion on The Farley Center campus in Williamsburg, Virginia. Over a hundred alumni are expected for a day filled with food, fun, music, games, presentations, and discussions. It’s an opportunity to reflect, reconnect, and relax with fellow members of the recovery community.
Wendy Marie Long is a member of the committee organizing the annual event. This is her second Farley reunion. She was able to participate last year when she was in treatment for an alcohol use disorder. Wendy was so impressed that she decided to help organize this year’s event.
“I met returning alumni who had been at Farley in 2016 and it was nice to see how well they were doing one year later,” says Wendy. “It’s very inspiring to hear from people who were in treatment one year or five years ago and to learn about their continuing recovery.” She remembers two people attending who had been at Farley in the early 90s and were celebrating their decades-long recovery.
Wendy received treatment in the professionals program. The Farley Center has a proud history of treating high-functioning professionals in a cohort-specific setting that facilitates the subsequent repair of damage from substance-related behaviors. “I’m sure, I wouldn’t have thrived in any other program,” says Wendy. “I’m sure, I wouldn’t have connected as easily with people in other programs. My life was very complicated.”
Reunion activities begin at 7:50am with a sunrise celebration and a prayer at the flagpole Saturday morning. Following welcoming remarks by Farley CEO Rich Failla, the winner of the 2018 William Farley Award will be honored. This annual award goes to individuals who exemplify the Farley Spirit, participate in recovery and alumni activities, and who made their mark in their professional career.
Following the Farley Award ceremony, alumni may choose to participate in one of three workshops that take up the rest of the morning. On offer are the Sponsorship panel, Recovery Top 10, and the Relapse Prevention panel.
“The Sponsorship panel will take a closer look at the roles of sponsor and sponsee in a 12-Step program,” explains Wendy. At Farley, the principles of the 12-Step approach to recovery are integrated throughout the patient's experience. The role of the sponsor is instrumental in 12-Step recovery. “We’ll have a sponsor and a sponsee from AA, and another pair from NA on the panel,” says Wendy. “We’ll go through the etiquette—the dos and don’ts—of the relationship with your sponsor, and how to get the most out of it. And of course, participants can share their own experience and ask questions.”
In Recovery Top 10, Farley alumni can share their recovery songs—music that made a difference for them in their battle with addiction. Or they can check out the selection Justin Mangold, Farley’s director of clinical services, has put together.
The third choice in the morning is the Relapse Prevention panel. It will discuss behavioral pitfalls like skipping meetings or putting off talking to your sponsor. “Neglecting the things you learned in treatment at Farley can be warning signs,” says Wendy. “Getting away from those sustaining routines can be dangerous. All of a sudden you’re back to where you were before. You end up in the ER, or are involved in a drunk driving incident.” Participating in a discussion at the reunion can be an opportunity to ward off that danger and reinforce coping skills.
The 90-minute lunch break will be a great opportunity to mingle. “We’re building in lots of social time, so people can meet and talk,” says Wendy. “There will be plenty of food and games, fun and music. Last year, the weather was perfect and people just lingered and talked and had a great time.”
In 12-Step Recovery Yoga, participants can try out some meditative yoga postures. “Last year, we exercised out on the lawn, which was really nice, because people could be outside in the Virginia sun,” remembers Wendy.
Safe Boundaries is another choice in the afternoon. Last year, Wendy took this workshop herself. “It was super helpful,” she remembers. “Sometimes, you have to separate yourself from people, places, and things. There are certain restaurants, I don’t like to go to. When we go out, my partner and I might say, ‘I don’t want to sit near the bar.’ Sometimes you have to set boundaries for people. In my group, people talked about disengaging from family members, partners, children, or religious groups.” Wendy is sure there will be plenty of time for questions. “Last year the boundaries panel went over by 20 minutes because there was such a good discussion.”
Addiction is really a family disease and Wendy emphasizes that family members are invited to the reunion as well. “We encourage them to to be part of this. When patients and their loved ones are separated for 28 days or even three months during treatment, the family is also in recovery,” says Wendy.
In the third afternoon workshop, people have a chance to discuss Life after Farley. After weeks of treatment, the transition back into life at home or into the workforce can be challenging. “We’ll be talking about the fears connected to that transition and other related scenarios. For example, we encourage people to take a few days off after discharge. Don’t finish treatment on Sunday and go back to work on Monday,” recommends Wendy. Some patients may need to join an intensive outpatient program following their residential treatment to make the transition easier. “If they return home to live alone, they should consider a sober living facility. I may be a better option for them to have other people around to aid with their recovery.”
There will be people at the Farley reunion who have lived through such scenarios and can share their experience. There will be plenty of time and opportunity in the afternoon to help other alumni, carry the message, and give back. This is what’s most important to Wendy. “As a Farley alumna I feel I have a responsibility to help the people who came after me with their recovery.”