Alexandria Powell’s Happy New Year

Alexandria Powell’s Happy New Year!

This week, about 80 million Americans are just beginning self-improvement programs to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions.  Alexandria Powell is not among them. 

Twenty months ago, Alex began working the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  In this simple program, she found all the tools necessary to make her life extraordinary.  Today, Alex doesn’t fret about what she lacks.  She counts her blessings.  

Alex is having a happy new year.  “It’s good, because I am!” she smiles.  In fact, as we sat down with her for our interview, all Alex wanted to talk about are things for which she is grateful.  There are many, and she ticked them off for us, one by one.

Importantly, she has recovered.  This is huge for a twenty-something who used to be completely powerless over her addiction.

When Alex first arrived to CORE, in May 2021, she was a broken soul, despairing even of life.  “My addiction had me by a choke hold,” she remembers, “Even though I’m telling myself, you’re not going to do this anymore, I’m still doing it.”

Alex finally had bottomed out while living alone in a house without power or water.  Her cold surroundings matched perfectly with the emptiness she felt in her heart.  She had detached herself physically and emotionally from everyone and everything.  “I didn’t trust anybody,” she says, “I kept things puddle deep for years.  I didn’t get close to anyone, and I was that way until I came here to CORE.”

While her addiction wasn’t materially different from anybody else, it was plenty serious.  Alex was powerless, and she knew it.  To illustrate her dilemma for us, she related a story about overdosing, and doing more drugs immediately thereafter:

I was, like, minutes from death.  So, the police officer Narcaned me.  I came to in the ambulance.  From the hospital they took me to jail, where I’m sitting waiting to be booked.  And here’s the insanity of my addiction.  While I’m sitting in this area, I remember that I still have drugs on me.  I did them right there.  I’m at jail.  I just died.  And I’m doing more drugs.  That’s the insanity.  

Her mom paid for her admission into CORE.  Once here, Alex received lots of encouragement and began working her steps.  She mentioned several sources of inspiration during her early days.

One is our women’s coordinator in Springfield, Kim Stewart.  “She will always direct you back to God,” Alex says.  Another is her former house manager, Nicole Nelson, “who walked me through the Steps and was my Fifth Step partner.”  Still another source, who we didn’t anticipate but nevertheless are glad to hear about, are the fine people at the Timken Company, her place of employment.  “I’m pretty close knit with them,” Alex tells us, “They’ve been so supportive. They’re such good people!” 

A big, early challenge for Alex was trusting others, including God.  To do this she had to overcome fear.  Referencing the AA Big Book, Alex told us that fear touched about every aspect of her life.  It was an evil and corroding thread, and her existence was shot through with it.  Of her struggles, Alex remembers “I said to myself, okay, I’m going to try to do it a different way now.  I’m around good people, and it’s going to be okay.  I’m here to learn a new way to live.  My way wasn’t working, but maybe God’s will.”

As she worked the Steps, a remarkable change began to happen within her.  Alex’s character and attitude toward life began redeveloping “from the inside out” along new lines, and her obsession was lifted.  She felt like a divine hand placed her in a position of neutrality – safe and protected – with respect to drugs and alcohol.  

To Alex, the best evidence of her transformation is that, today, she confidently relies on God in all things:

I feel at peace now, whatever happens.  I won’t force things my way, because I know God’s got this.  I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m just okay with letting things happen now, because they will happen the way God wants them to be.  I don’t have to worry or stress about anything.  I tried that, did that, and I didn’t like how that felt, or how it turned out.  

Another thing Alex is especially thankful for is that recovery allows her to be a good daughter, sibling, and aunt, for her family.  “They’re excited to see me now.  It’s not like, oh there’s Alex, hide all your valuables,” she laughs, and adds “It’s the best feeling to see them and have a healthy relationship with them.  I don’t have to worry if this is the last time I see them.  I can appreciate my family now that I’m recovered.” 

Alex is also thankful that she can help make a difference in the lives of others.  When she first came to CORE, she arrived “with only the clothes on my back.” Although she didn’t have any money, Miss Kim took her shopping anyway, suggesting that she would pay it forward when she could.  Alex has never forgotten this, and recently something happened that’s allowed her to help others in a big way: she bought a new car!  “I’ve always been okay with just staying at home, but some people want to go out and do things,” she says, “so, it’s a cool way to help.  Like, if they’re struggling with money, they don’t have to get an Uber.”

Still another thing Alex is thankful for is CORE.  “I’m in a safe place, with friends,” she tells us, “this is a place where I can grow and find myself.  It’s a great place to be.”  Additionally, she considers everybody within the Springfield program to be a tight knit group.  Everybody is working the 12 Steps, and that makes CORE an oasis from everything else out there.  She adds, “So I’m big on positivity.  It’s contagious, you know?  With roommates, if I’m negative, it’s going to rub off on you.  So I try to keep it positive – always.”  

What are her plans for the future?  For now, Alex is content to mature in her recovery at CORE and enjoy spending time with her family and CORE friends.  She works hard at her job, and looks forward to advancing in her career, too.  We also heard that she’s taking on responsibilities within her CORE house as a chore coordinator, and she’s thinking about managing one of our houses someday.

We at CORE are so very pleased for Alex, and for her family!  Our hope and prayer is that she will continue to grow in her relationship with God and seek to do His will in all things (yes, driving and following the rules of the road included!)  God will provide a lifetime of recovery, and so much more, if we keep close to Him and perform His work well.

CORE Blesses Families In Need At Christmas

CORE Blesses Families In Need At Christmas

On December 8th, Cary McKee was at his office in CORE’s Branson Recovery Center when he received a telephone call.  The breathless voice at the other end sounded urgent, “We’ve got it all set up!  Cary, come and see; come look at it!

Nothing at CORE happens in a vacuum.  Cary was well aware that many of our CORE clients had been volunteering their time over at the Hollister School District.  They were making ready for an important Christmas Blessing event.  Since 2020, this event has been an annual effort to help people in need during the Christmas season.  The Hollister School District and CORE collaborate together to make this happen.

When Cary arrived to the school district, he had high hopes.  Moreover, “when I opened that door and crossed the threshold, I was blown away,” he told us.  What lay before Cary was the final product – the culmination of months of work by people connected to the school district and CORE, along with so many donations and contributions by area retailers and donors.

The previous events had been confined to a single classroom.  This year, the school district opened up an entire annex, the Tiger Pod, which was bursting with inventory.  Four classrooms, a central foyer, and main hallway were packed to the brim with housewares, toys, and so many items that families need and want.  As evidence of this abundance, we took some pictures.  The Reader should keep in mind, however, that our photos were taken after the event was in full swing, and choice areas already had been picked through!

By meeting the practical needs of children and families, the annual Christmas Blessing is ultimately intended to convey the gift of hope.  Inflation hit hard this year.  Families have had to tighten up their finances.  As Cary explained, “This may mean less for the children and nothing for parents.  Through our partnership with the Hollister School District, we’re able to enhance the holiday for the children, and for moms and dads, too.”  Over 250 students, their families, and others participated – completely free of charge. 

It’s an awesome event!  But someone may ask, how does an event of this magnitude even get started?  How did CORE, a recovery provider, become involved?  And what does the future hold?

CORE has had relationships with local retailers in Branson and Springfield for awhile now.  They have been doing their part to promote our mission of providing recovery services.  By 2019, however, it became apparent that their collective generosity could well benefit local families in need.  In fact, CORE was planning a community event to make these items available to the public when the pandemic hit.  The shutdowns, social distancing, and limitations on public spaces made this event impossible.  

Despite the pandemic, Cary was undeterred.  CORE still had a warehouse full of goods, and people were in real need.  Then came a lightbulb moment.  His children attended Hollister schools, and he remembered that the school district solicited applications from families for holiday assistance at Christmastime.  He called the superintendent of the school district, Dr. Brian Wilson.  Out of this initial call, the first Christmas Blessing room became reality in 2020, and again last year in 2021.  

Since last year’s Christmas Blessing event, CORE’s staff and clients have devoted countless hours to making 2022 the best yet.  As our Operations Manager, Gary Osborn, explained:

As soon as last year’s event was over, we immediately started collecting for this year.  We would go to about four or five different stores in Springfield and Branson every week, and we continued collecting donations every week for the next twelve months, right up to this year’s event.  It took a lot of days, with a lot of CORE volunteers, doing pick ups, and at our storage facility sorting, organizing, marking off bar codes, testing – that sort of thing, essentially going through what would be used at Christmas this year.

On the school district’s side, mobilization for this event began in earnest all the way back in October.  The school district’s holiday assistance program long predates its collaboration with CORE.  The program’s coordinator, Sandy Brown, MS Counselor, told us that it’s all about the children’s education, “When the kids get the help they need at home, they come to school better prepared to learn.”  

The school counselors took the lead on this project for the school district, which was a significant undertaking.  It involved coordination between the school district’s administrators, teachers, volunteers, donors, and families receiving assistance.  The counselors spent many late nights assuring that everything in the rooms was just right and the event would run smoothly.  Sandy even shared that, when families arrived, “the school district will have volunteers, people who shop with them and help them out.  This year is so overwhelming with so much and so many rooms.”

While the Christmas Blessing event promotes the school district’s goal of providing quality education, it also furthers CORE’s mission as a substance abuse recovery provider.  This project is one of many throughout the year created by CORE that affords clients with opportunities to express their gratitude through service.  “As addicts, we leaned on the government and on our communities,” Cary said.  “And now all of a sudden we become assets.  We’re taxpayers.  We start giving back through service.  Making amends to our communities means something to us today.”  

Cary also hopes that the Christmas Blessing event may help break down economic barriers and provide children “a spark of hope that allows them to look at life through a different colored lens.”

As soon as the event was underway, CORE’s principals began to turn their thoughts to the future.  As an example, Brandi Blom, who manages our ReStores, said “If we continue to have an overabundance, we may be able to push our outreach to others.  That would be awesome.”  Cary agreed, saying that he was so impressed by the outpouring of support for this endeavor, that “we’ll look to expand our Christmas Blessing donations to multiple other school districts and see if we can bless many more children and families in the process.”  

Cary expressed his thanks for Dr. Wilson and all of the Hollister School District’s administrators, staff, donors, and volunteers who participated in this event.  He also spoke warmly of CORE’s donors, staff, and clients.  He said that their generous support and tireless efforts made a real difference in the lives of many this Christmas season!

A Christmas Wish From CORE

A Christmas Wish From CORE

Some time ago, a baby was born in the little town of Bethlehem. His parents had arrived as travelers. There was no room for them at the inn, so the mother gave birth in a stable. The newborn was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

By outward appearances, the backdrop of this story suggests humble beginnings. But this was no ordinary child, and His birth did not go unnoticed. Both angels and a rising star proclaimed His coming. Emissaries from foreign lands arrived bearing gifts, and news of the events carried to the highest levels of government. For in this child lay the hope of all humanity. His life’s mission would be, quite simply, to save the world. He came as God’s servant, that we might have life and have it abundantly.

Christmas is a season of hope. We commemorate God becoming human in Jesus, fulfilling prophesies of old. He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows so that we might expect something better. We have been offered an unimaginably valuable gift, one that we didn’t work for and were powerless to achieve on our own. Jesus conquered death and redeemed us, that we might have life forever. God loves us that much, and that’s cause to celebrate!

At Christmas we show goodwill with cheer. There is laughter and joy, to be sure, but also kindness and compassion, gifts, and helping others. And what happens? We see faces light up, and a sense of warmth bubbles up inside of us. The Lord’s express command to act the Good Samaritan, it so happens, is no burden at all. In fact, we rather are filled with warmth, happiness and a sense of fulfillment. We are reminded of Lord’s words, that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Helping others is especially important for us who are recovered. When all of the medical and scientific measures failed, as so often happened, it was because our sickness had been spiritual all along. Once that malady was overcome, we invariably straightened out mentally and physically. By trusting God, cleaning house, and helping others, we found a new freedom and a new happiness. We who are recovered are well-advised to honor Christmas in our hearts, and to keep it all the year.

The Lord has said, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.” With this in mind, we at CORE have several holiday wishes to express.

To the still suffering addict and alcoholic:

We understand your suffering and sense of helplessness. We’ve lived it. If you feel abandoned and forgotten by others, it’s because they simply don’t know what to do. Don’t lose hope. God does have a plan for you. You can be reunited with family and friends, know true freedom and happiness, and live with meaning and purpose. Please call us. We’ll show you how it works.

To the donors and partners of CORE:

Your beautiful hearts have supported this ministry. You showed your faith through your assistance and gifts, and God has responded. He who multiplied the loaves and fishes has compounded your charity into many miraculous recoveries and good works for our surrounding communities. God’s love works powerfully through you. You’re simply the best. Thank you so much. Stand firm in the faith.

And to All, and Everyone:

May Your Christmas be Merry and Bright
with the Light of God’s Love

Dylan Butler: Surrendering to God’s Will

Dylan Butler: Surrendering to God’s Will

Ho ho ho! Meet CORE’s own Dylan Butler! In keeping with this festive season, we’ll ask the Reader to overlook his slight stature and raised ears, and see that Dylan looks very much like the rest of us. According to local lore, Dylan is reputed to be a valued holiday helper who works hard all year behind the scenes. As manager of our Falcon House, Dylan keeps watch over everybody and takes note if they are naughty or nice. And his sense of humor keeps us jolly as Christmas approaches!

Nevertheless, our grumpy Editorial Board has expressed concerns about featuring someone who bears resemblance to a certain Elf on a Shelf. We at CORE legally disclaim any similarity in appearance. Dylan’s story and all characters and incidents portrayed herein are real. No identification with persons or characters who are either injection-molded or otherwise constructed from manmade materials is intended or should be inferred.

Besides, we’re really fond of Dylan, who’s like a little brother. And don’t let his fresh-faced looks fool you. Although he’s our youngest house manager in recent memory, Dylan genuinely possesses wisdom and knowledge beyond his years. He loves God, is well-acquainted with Scripture, and knows the AA Big Book backwards and forwards. We’re really quite proud of him (even if we like to goof with him!)

Moreover, listening to his testimony, we see that his journey to recovery well illustrates the old proverb: furious activity is no substitute for understanding. His was full of activity, to be sure, but his breakthroughs came when he slowed down enough to think and get his bearings. His flashes of insight ultimately led him to make the right decisions and recover.

To start with, how bad did things get for Dylan? He was a would-be civil engineer who dropped out of college, twice, because he was unable to manage his own life. He experienced periods of homelessness, and his family feared not only for his personal safety, but also for his very life. Recalling one poignant event, Dylan with difficulty spoke about his relieved mother bursting into tears upon discovering that he was still alive. So, things were bad, and Dylan knew it. But deep inside, Dylan wanted a new life. He simply didn’t know how to accomplish it.

Like we said above, Dylan had some important insights along the way. To him, they were personal epiphanies that culminated in his decision to turn his will and life over to the care of God. The first is that he was powerless over alcohol and drugs, and the second is that he needed God’s help. The third and most important epiphany is that asking God to do what Dylan wanted was pure hubris. It put the cart before the horse and wouldn’t work. Dylan realized that his place was to submit to God’s will. Only then would God work through him to accomplish His purposes.

This crucial, missing ingredient came to Dylan during his last stint at rehab. By this time, he’d been to sober living three times, and he was on his fourth round of rehab. He’d been doing an outward appearance of the 12 Steps, too. In reality, Dylan was still living his own way – not God’s. While in rehab, Dylan was praying for a fellow friend and addict, asking God to help her find happiness by surrendering to Him. Whereupon, lightning struck:

In that moment, I didn’t hear it audibly or see the clouds open up, but I had the clearest, most profound thought. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was the most straight and crystal clear thought I’ve ever had. And that thought was “Is that not what I’ve been telling YOU this whole time?” It was God. Like He was telling me, I’m just going to give this one to you. I’m throwing you the bone; just take it.

His experience was so compelling that Dylan began to act upon it immediately. Today, Dylan works the Steps with renewed devotion, and he sees his surrender to God as the great turning point toward real recovery.

Additionally, while awaiting release from rehab, Dylan’s counselor offered some pointed advice, saying, “You’re going to Branson, Missouri, when you leave here. Check out their website. It’s called CORE.” Dylan acquiesced and arrived to CORE in June 2019. While already familiar with the AA recovery program, his initial impression of CORE was pleasant surprise. He told us, “I’d never seen the Cycle of Addiction before. It sold me whole-heartedly on what’s happening here.” He also identified several program features that aided his recovery:

CORE gave me the tools and the resources, and the time, I needed. There’s enough structure here to keep me out of trouble, but not so much so that I feel restrained or uncomfortable. There’s balance. And it’s not cookie cutter; I was handled according to my own character defects and personality traits. The community is probably the most important. The people you decide to do recovery with are some of the most important decisions you will make coming to CORE.

Dylan’s conduct in the one-year program was exemplary, in all respects. His personal map for recovery, he says, is still found in the 12 Steps:

I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs. I’m not worried about fighting those things anymore. I still fight real life problems every day, but I have a path to manage those. I still make mistakes, but the great thing is, that somehow I’ve tapped into a Higher Power, process, and way of living. However you want to call it, there’s a method for this in the Steps. I can sit down and ask, am I doing it, right now? [Whereupon, Dylan cites the relevant Steps, one by one] It’s a design for living that works.

The best part of recovery, he says, is that his family relationships have been restored. His mom, in particular, no longer sees him as a little boy. She talks to him as an adult and they share meaningful conversations together.

Upon commencing, Dylan decided to stay longer and help newcomers. He interviewed for our Second Mile benevolent group, and was accepted. He also received a new assignment – to become the assistant house manager at our Seahawk House on Lake Tanycomo. A year later, our program manager Kevin Hunt asked him to take over as house manager at another CORE facility, the Falcon House in Hollister. Both positions have afforded opportunities for learning and growth, but the best part of leading a CORE residence for Dylan is seeing newcomers open up to him and seek help. He also feels thrilled for everyone who commences the program.

We at CORE are so happy for Dylan, and also for his family. The final, 12th Step of the recovery program is to pay it forward. Dylan has been entrusted with a special duty, to be at the place where he is of maximum helpfulness to others. We are grateful and gladly accept all the help he offers within the CORE program. The life of one saved is worth more than their weight in gold. Frequent contact with newcomers and each other is the bright spot of our life – our passion and purpose.

Also, we’ll take up the matter of going back to college with Dylan after the holidays.