#GivingTuesday Is Almost Here!

#GivingTuesday Is Almost Here

November 30, 2021

Your Gift Will Help Families and Children In Need During The Christmas Season!

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.  It follows the widely celebrated Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and is a reminder to give back this holiday season.

Last year, your generosity helped CORE raise over $4,000 for the purchase of software that allows us to take our Annual Auction online.  With your help we are able to hold our major Spring Fundraiser Event and promote auctions at other times of the year.

This year we again are asking for your help to raise $4,000.  CORE has partnered with Hollister School District to provide toys and life necessities to needy families and children this Christmas season.

The toys and necessities are donations by Amazon.com that will arrive to CORE’s warehouse via tractor trailer.  CORE and Hollister School District staff will spend hundreds of hours sorting and organizing these items to make them available to people who need them.  While these items are generously donated, it is up to CORE to cover trucking and administrative costs, which may run up to $5,000 or more for a single truckload!

We’ll Even Match The First $1,000, So Your Donation Can Have Double The Impact!

Here’s How You Can Help Us:

Please consider how you can help us reach our goal this year.  Your contribution will make an impact on local families and children in need, whether you choose to donate or simply help spread the word.  Every little bit counts.

Thank you for your support!

Adam Yorty: Mission Accomplished

Adam Yorty: Mission Impossible Accomplished!

This month CORE is losing a valued member of our recovery team, Adam Yorty.  For nearly five years Adam has been an integral part of our organization while teaching CSR classes and serving as a house manager.  Adam also volunteers time to our Second Mile program.  Unfortunately, Adam has been called to return home to Florida because of family obligations.  He has a parent suffering from an auto-immune condition who has taken a turn for the worse.  We’re sad that he has to leave but wish him and his family well and pray for a return to good health!        

Readers may recognize “Chef Yorty” from his recent appearance on the cover of Discover Home & Style’s summer issue.  In only four short years Adam — unintimidated by celebrity-chef restaurants in and around Table Rock – has made the Pour House in Hollister more popular than them all.  He’s no stranger to celebrity status either.  One of his eateries was once inducted into the prestigious Fine Dining Hall of Fame while he was at the helm.  He’s rubbed plenty of shoulders with greats in the fashion industry too, having worked with Ralph Lauren, Karl Lagerfeld, and others.

For all of his successes, Adam had a weakness that dogged him for 35 years.  Every achievement in life and career was ultimately countered by John Barleycorn.  For decades he lived in a cycle of saying goodbye to alcohol, clawing his way back up the ladder of success, and then crashing and burning in the most spectacular binges imaginable.  There were lots of rehabs and detoxes along the way. Over and over, all of his achievements were wiped out by monumental drinking excesses.  Eventually he lost his wife and child, and parents, too. 

Five years ago, however, something happened.  He was talking on the telephone with his daughter, Emeline, who was coming of age and old enough to understand what’s what.  She realized he’d been drinking again, and she began to cry.  The incident left a deep and lasting impression on Adam.  Upon weighing his options, Adam decided that CORE “was the best bet.”  Although he had failed many times before, he didn’t want to drink again.  He was a man on a mission again, but this time without any ulterior motives. As he told us:

I did not set out this time to get a wife back, to get a daughter back, or to get anything back.  It was not my plan.  My plan was to do what is asked from the Big Book and see what would happen.  Although still a skeptic I said, I’m going to do this. I was being humble.

Adam began thoroughly working the Steps.  His 5th Step was done with our own Ray Francis and lasted eight hours.  The obsession lifted completely, at which point things indeed started to happen for Adam.  As examples, he began teaching CSR classes and running a CORE house.  A fortuitous turn of events also landed him in charge of the newly opened Pour House, which Adam made short work of turning into one of the most prominent restaurants in the tri-lakes area.   

Adam gives CORE due credit for his recovery, saying: 

CORE has been very important.  It gave me all the tools I needed and gave me hope.  CORE does not give up on people.  There’s care, compassion, and love here.  The Steps and my relationship with God are so important, but I don’t think I ever would have truly accepted them without CORE’s guidance.  It was the bridge that helped me understand.  

Most importantly, Adam got his daughter back in his life, along with his parents and brother and his family.  He’s friends again with his ex, too.  Having the people he cares about back in his life is what’s most important to Adam.  In fact, as our conversation flits from topic to topic, Adam brightens considerably while talking about Emeline, who now is a 22 year-old opera phenom wowing audiences as far away as New York.  Adam sees her every chance he gets, and they stay in frequent contact while she’s away at school.  We were curious exactly where in her bloodlines such talent originated.  We’ve seen some of her performances on YouTube and she’s amazing.  Adam just shrugged his shoulders and smiled.  There’s no singers in his or her mother’s family, but he’s plainly proud of her and excited about her future.  

We will miss Adam and wish him the very best in his endeavors.  He will carry the message of recovery wherever he goes.  We’ve had the privilege of having him with us for almost five years.  Now it is time for him to trudge the road of happy destiny with others.  May God bless him and keep him safe.

“I’m At CORE! Now What?”

“I’m At CORE! Now What?”

New clients are warmly welcomed at CORE.  This is a special place!  But like all new places, it takes time finding one’s bearings.  To help ease the transition, we gathered the inside scoop from CORE leaders who’ve successfully completed our one-year program.  We asked them questions that a newcomer might wonder upon arrival, to wit: “What’s the first thing I need to know?” and “What’s the most important thing to remember?” The responses, set forth below, cover things that every newcomer will want to know in order to get involved and succeed:

“At first things may seem big and imposing, as if you’ve been dropped off at a small campus.  So you’ll have this or that class to be at, or you’ve got a van to catch at this particular time.  The feeling lasts for about two weeks until you settle in. Things will calm down after that, so give yourself that time to get into your groove.  Also, stick with the winners.  You’re here for a reason.  Surround yourself with those people who are solid in their recovery, who are doing the deal and happy to do it, and you’ll succeed.”

– Cary McKee, Chief Executive Officer

“First and foremost, be at class, pay attention, and get with someone to work the Steps.  That’s where recovery happens.  If you won’t work the Steps, there’s no point of even being here.”

– Kevin Hunt, Program Manager

“This is a hand-up program, not a hand-out.  It requires work on your part.  It requires book work.  It requires you wanting a different outcome in your life.  That’s not done by somebody giving you something, but by you taking it and doing it.”

– Gary Osborn, Operations Manager

“Get with someone who is doing the deal — working the steps — and find out how you can work them too, because this program will change your life.”

– Tami McKinney, Human Resources

“Be honest, open-minded, and willing. Honest to everyone including yourself, and mostly yourself. Open-minded to receive instruction from the Big Book and the people who live it.  And willingness to do anything in the world to change your life.”

– Janet Weaver, Financial Manager

“Remember the day before yesterday, all of the reasons why you came here in the first place — always.”

– Bracy Sams, Site Manager, Springfield

“Work your Steps. We’ll hound you all the time about it, but freedom is on the other side of that. Practice living in the solution while you’re still in a safe environment.”

– Kim Stewart, Women’s Coordinator

“Stay humble and remember where you’ve come from.  Don’t lose sight of why you’re here.”

– Brandi Blom, ReStore Manager

“In running your own life, you didn’t do the best job. Turn the reigns over to someone who knows better: God.”

– Neil Finley, Transportation Manager

“Work the 12 Steps. Whatever else happens, work the Steps.”

– Marty Neal, Men’s Admissions Coordinator

“Keep God No. 1.  And lean on your wise counsel — your house manager, the girls who are working the program — and follow them.  Let them lead, guide, and direct you through the program.”

– Jen Brinkmann, Women’s Admissions Coordinator

“Your showing up and making it through these doors is an answered prayer. Stay humble, be grateful, give each day your best, and let God do the rest.”

– Matt Goehrig, Operations Assistant

“Remember why you’re here, your purpose for coming through the door.  Don’t ever forget it.”  

— Adam Guss, Transportation Manager

“Find God and do your steps. Without God, the steps are just steps. Go by the rules, too, and don’t cut corners, because it’s only a year.”

– Kelly Creson, Maintenance Manager

Nicole Nelson: The Messenger

Nicole Nelson: The Messenger

This month we talked to our own Nicole Nelson!  She commenced our program last May.  Recently she also was invited to become a member of our Second Mile benevolent group.   Having worked her steps, Nicole has discovered a new freedom and new happiness.  She further knows serenity and has found peace, but it was not always this way for her.  

She was abandoned by her parents as a newborn and grew up with an unshakeable sense of having been thrown away like garbage.  She asked herself the same questions such children normally do: why they didn’t love her, what she did wrong, and what was wrong with her.  Nicole grew up feeling disconnected, and she suffered a deep sense of being empty and alone.  Thus, at the age of only 23, she had already checked all of the boxes one might expect of a child who grows up parentless: living in poverty, with four children out of wedlock, and deep into alcohol and drugs.  

Tragedy begets tragedy.  In an aimless search for the missing piece from her soul, Nicole fell headlong into a very bad crowd.  Tragically, one of her children died when her drug dealer went on a rampage.  He and his crew invaded many houses, including Nicole’s, looking for missing drugs but found nothing.  A struggle with one of her captors ensued while she tried to escape with her children.  In the scuffle her one year-old, Cayden, fell to the floor and suffered fatal injuries.  The police arrived to find Nicole out of her mind with grief, having nearly beaten her assailant to death.

Her surviving children were removed to safe homes by protective services.  “The DFS said that I was an unfit parent, that I would never have my kids again.  I just gave up, thinking there’s no point, and started using.  I fell off on heroin really bad.”  She told us about several hospitalizations too:

They said that I went crazy after what happened with the kids.  I was stuck in torment for an entire year.  I couldn’t hold a job down, function, and was completely overwhelmed with grief.  When I would get clean for a couple of days, it all came back and I would go crazy again.  I didn’t want to feel anything.”

Finally, an old friend told Nicole about CORE.  She came to our Springfield program and, after an initial false start, returned and started working the 12 Steps.  She also began volunteering her time back to the program.  During our interview Nicole expressed her gratitude to CORE for sticking with her and helping save her life:

CORE gave me a home when I didn’t have a home.  They allowed me to work on myself and have mistakes, and they still accepted me.  I’m blessed.  It’s why I give back.  Everybody else gave up on me, but CORE never did.  Even when I messed up the first time they didn’t turn their backs on me.  They continued to help.  They saved my life and showed me the way out.

While working her steps Nicole processed some bitter resentments, against her assailant (who’s serving time in prison), herself, and God.  Two months ago, however, Nicole became ready to publicly show her commitment to God and was baptized!  Her morning routine now includes reading from her Bible and getting on her knees next to her bed to pray.  Likewise, at the end of each day, Nicole gives thanks to God.  “I really don’t ask him for anything,” she said, “like before, I would say please do this, or help me, but now my prayers are ‘thank you.’  I can’t be more grateful for Him showing me life out of the darkness that I was in.

Nicole has also discovered that she can be a powerful witness for God.  The Big Book says that our experience can benefit others “no matter how far down the scale we have fallen.”  She recently realized just that when she gave her testimony at Joplin’s Lafayette House.  Nicole later learned that one of the ladies in attendance had contacted CORE and specifically mentioned her testimony.  “I’ve done something so bad.  I didn’t appreciate how it might help others,” she said.  Energized by the experience, Nicole has committed to helping teach our CSR recovery classes.  She’s nervous but is preparing and feels up to the challenge.  

CORE is very happy and proud for Nicole and her progress with the program.  We wish her the very best in rekindling loving bonds with her children again.  We have every confidence that she will inspire and help clients with their recoveries.  Above all, we look forward to her being with us as long as she can in the future!

What It Means To Be Recovered

What It Means To Be Recovered

When we think of recovery generally, the idea of getting over an illness might come to mind, as may a return to health.  With respect to drugs and alcohol, similar thinking about recovery has prevailed until relatively recent times.  In fact, there is confusion today about what even constitutes recovery.  Some providers unfortunately are redefining recovery to include dependency on narcotic substances, or even planned intervals of intoxication.  The reasons for this unfortunate development are many but, as a result, the sufferer’s prospects for quality of life are inevitably compromised.  Clients and families are left wondering whether they can ever be made whole again, and for good reason.

At CORE we won’t water down recovery.  We advocate the 12 Steps.  Our clients do find recovery, and we expect the same results for everyone who works our program.  We are happy to tell potential clients about the quality of recovery that they can and should expect.

Recovery means nothing less than finding new life apart from drugs and alcohol.  An entire emotional rearrangement happens inside where old ideas, emotions, and attitudes are replaced with a new set of healthy conceptions and motives.  In recovery we become imbued with a profound sense of freedom, hope, and happiness.  We find release from care, boredom, and worry, and begin to live with meaning and purpose.  As the Big Book figuratively puts it, we find “much of heaven” and are propelled into a “fourth dimension of existence.”  The essential condition, of course, is that we work the program.  We must trust God and clean house in our lives.  Although our substance abuse problem is beyond human aid, with God’s help we can and do fix it.  

Once we recover, we also begin moving toward becoming the best version of ourselves.  We find (a) honesty, (b) abstinence, (c) a spiritual life, (d) emotional health, and (e) gratitude.  

Honesty

Working the 12 Steps demands rigorous honesty.  It extends to every aspect of life, but it begins by getting honest with ourselves.  We may have been rational and well-balanced with respect to other problems, but when it came to drugs and alcohol we were powerless.  Our personal experience amply proved this, certainly to our friends and families, and this admission to ourselves was crucial if we were to live at all.  Moreover, our inability to control our use essentially left our recovery to one alternative, complete abstinence.  

Abstinence

Recovery must include freedom from all drugs and alcohol.  In our illness we pined for these substances like lovesick adolescents.  It was a genuine obsession – we couldn’t imagine life without them.  This obsession is lifted through working the 12 Steps and committing to live a spiritual life.   Once recovered, we can safely go anywhere business calls or to social functions without any temptation to use.  The Big Book variously calls this process of release a “psychic change” or spiritual “awakening” or “experience.”  Regardless of nomenclature, it solves the drink and drug problem.  

Spiritual Life

We also commit to living by spiritual principles because we begin to understand that our problem runs deeper than simply alcohol and drugs.  Our selfishness, manifested in various ways, had defeated us in other aspects of life too.  We had to free ourselves of pride, self-pity, dishonesty, and self-seeking motives if our health was to be restored.  Accordingly, we relied (and continue to rely) upon God to remove from us all things that are objectionable.  We make progress here, not perfection, yet the results are nothing short of miraculous.  The release from our obsession thankfully happens, but obviously not on our own power.  We had a common experience with the original Big Book authors.  We realized “that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.”  This is a great mystery of the 12 Step program to outsiders.  To us who are recovered, however, it is a great fact, and nothing less.  

Emotional Health

Living by spiritual principles promotes emotional health.  We invariably find ourselves living in a new and wonderful world.  It may seem incredible that we are able to rise out of such misery and bad repute, but we live happily, respected, and feel useful once more.  More often than not we mend broken or damaged relationships with family, friends and employers.  We return to the stream of life and find productivity again.  We are able to dream of the future with hopes for tomorrow.  Indeed, we feel reborn.

Gratitude

A deep sense of gratitude emerges in our hearts, too.  “Love your neighbor as yourself” takes on genuine meaning.  For us it is a pointed call to carry a message of hope to suffering alcoholics and addicts.  It takes effort, of course, and may mean the loss of many a night’s sleep, or even interference with our personal lives and businesses.  We are happy to do it, knowing that a Good Samaritan once reached out and helped us.  Frequent contact with newcomers and our group also becomes a bright spot in our lives.

In sum, we think the foregoing better outlines recovery, where our attitude and outlook upon life changes, and we live with contentment and purpose apart from alcohol and drugs.  This isn’t an extravagant promise.  We see it every day.  It happens for everyone who works the 12 Steps.

Charlie Miller: Real Recovery Is No Fish Story!

Charlie Miller: Real Recovery Is No Fish Story!

Some think the oncorhynchus mykiss is the most fearful, finned creature known to man.  When small animals went missing along the shoreline leaving only gooey puffs of fur behind, the tri-lakes communities went into an uproar!  Chaos reigned at the townhall meeting until young CJ Miller raked his fingernails down a chalkboard to get the townsfolk’s attention.  He and his old man Charlie would find that lake monster once and for all, they exclaimed, and save summer vacation season too!  The night was black as coal when father and son set out on the foreboding waters.  The boat nearly swamped when CJ hooked it, and Charlie held tight onto CJ’s boots to keep him from going overboard.  Yet, in the end, in that age old battle between man and rainbow trout, this victory went to good guys Charlie and CJ!  Now – nobody actually knows who captured the triumphant moment on film.  Some say it was an overjoyed and grateful government official.  Others say it was Charlie’s supportive and good humored wife.  Whoever it was, the proof is right here:

A whale of a tale?  We honestly can say that Charlie did not make this story up.  We did.  But hey – we liked this picture of father and son reunited so much that we just had to add a matching back story.  Moreover, while that story may be extravagant, Charlie will tell you, and we at CORE wholeheartedly confirm: 

Real recovery is no fish story!  With God all things are possible!  In addition to recovering from a hopeless condition of mind and body, one can be reunited with family, find the true love of their life, and more!  The essential foundation is reliance upon God and the working of a few simple steps.  

To understand how Charlie arrived to CORE, we have to go back a number of years.  He was only 12 when his father passed away, and his mother ended up working long hours to provide for him and his two brothers.  In her absence the three boys went looking for fun.  By the time he got into high school, Charlie was smoking marijuana and drinking.  Then he discovered methamphetamines.  When he graduated in 2009, “it was off to the races.”   

During a five year run, Charlie “was boss of the log, had a good job, and was able to maintain it – life was still manageable.”  He had a fiancé, his son CJ, a home, his own truck, and was living the high life.  As so often happens with chronic meth use, the wheels eventually fell off.  Charlie’s sole concern became getting and using meth – up to twenty or more times a day.  That’s when things got bad: 

Bad gets when you rob and steal and do whatever you need to do in order to get that next fix.  That’s bad.  And when you can’t function normally without being high.  It’s either, one, you’re in bed or, two, you’re high.  That’s bad.”  

Charlie ended up losing everything: his fiancé, son, job, home, vehicles – everything.  He even was estranged from his own mother.

Now, it’s not that Charlie hadn’t tried to quit methamphetamines.  For years he’d been in and out of treatment centers all around the Missouri Bootheel.  “I really wanted to quit, but I didn’t know how,” he says.  In 2015 Charlie again landed in a 21-day treatment center in Stapleton, Missouri.  That’s when people from CORE showed up and did a presentation about the cycle of addiction and how to recover.  When Charlie saw that, he said to himself, “You know what?  I’m getting out of here.”  He loaded up in the CORE van and rode back with them to Branson.  “I came here with a trash bag of clothes and a carton of cigarettes – that’s it,” he says.  Happily for him, he didn’t need material possessions to recover.  His willingness to work the 12 Steps was more than sufficient. 

One of the biggest differences between CORE and inpatient treatment programs, Charlie says, is that at CORE one learns to actually live in recovery.  Treatment programs are institutionalized, highly regimented places.  Everything one does is scheduled, from the time one wakes up in the morning to finally going to bed at night.  By contrast, at CORE Charlie was able “to live my life and get recovery at the same time.”  He had to go out into the world every day and face real-life challenges.  He learned to live successfully by using the tools found in the Big Book. 

Charlie also credits having a great sponsor, Gary Osborn, our Operations Manager.  He describes Gary as “my sponsor and mentor, without a doubt the biggest influence on me getting where I am today.”  Gary had years of recovery experience and had seen it all.  Charlie remembers that, although Gary often “could tell me what would happen before it happened,” he didn’t always call Gary and admit that he was right (and then Charlie smiled and winked).

After completing our recovery program, Charlie continued with our Second Mile group.   In due time he also became a house manager.  Guys were coming to him for advice now, and he was expected to oversee them working the Steps. “I told myself, it wasn’t about me anymore. It was about the next guy coming in,” he says, “so I made sure that once a week we all ate together. We would go out and hang out together.  Not only was I their house manager, I was also their friend.”  He went on to run several houses.  Charlie remembers the guys in his houses being like family, a brotherhood.  

Charlie also began to address his financial responsibility for child support, which helped get him on the same page with CJ’s mother for visitation.  Instead of being at odds, they worked together to make sure Charlie could see his son again.  They’ve since rekindled the relationship, and Charlie spends every chance he gets with CJ.  He attends his son’s sporting events and sees him on weekends and during vacations.  CJ spends his summers with Charlie too.  Among other things, they go fishing together!

Setting financial goals and sticking with them also allowed Charlie to bring his mom to Branson to live.  He’s embarked on a new career too, and bought a home and car.  The latter are important because, in August 2020, Charlie married his lovely wife Shea.  

Shea and Charlie first met while he was still a CORE client, but it wasn’t until a couple years later that he saw her again and asked her out.  They began dating exclusively but put off talk about making the relationship permanent because of Charlie’s responsibilities as a house manager.  She supported his commitment to CORE every day they were together, Charlie remembers, throughout the entire journey.  And married life?  “It’s great,” Charlie says, “I’ve got the best wife in the world.”  We at CORE have to agree with this last observation about her being the best wife, especially when husband and step-son come home parading a squishy fish around like they’ve just caught Moby Dick.  A wife who can greet them with equanimity and good humor under these circumstances is alright in our book!

Charlie gives credit to CORE for helping him to recover, saying, “CORE saved my life, it’s the number one reason who I am today.”  More than anybody, however, he credits God.  When he first got to CORE and began working the Steps, Charlie realized that he had resentments against God.  They’d been there since he was a child, when his dad died.  His need for recovery forced him to put matters into a different perspective.  “If you read the AA book and do what it says, it will lead you to God,” says Charlie, “you start to spot His blessings, the miracles.”  He felt as if a weight were lifted from his shoulders while working the Steps, after which God has continually showed his goodness.  Everyday Charlie strives to be better or learn something new.  He also tries to go out of his way each day to help somebody without expecting anything in return.  In gratitude to his Maker, Charlie wants to do this, “being able to be God’s blessing to somebody else!

Super Friends: CORE Joins the National Sober Living Association

Super Friends: CORE Joins the National Sober Living Association

Citing the advantages of strong alliances, CEO Cary McKee recently announced our new membership in the National Sober Living Association!  In the past CORE has freely associated with local agencies and organizations to promote our goals and values.  Cary sees our NSLA membership as a way to promote sobriety and recovery nationally, in contrast to recent trends of using narcotic medications to address addiction issues.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health currently implements a “Medication First” approach for all state-funded substance abuse treatment providers.  This is a type of medically assisted treatment (MAT).  Paradoxically, the medications used are addictive – they include controlled substances like Methadone and Suboxone.  The features of this approach, according to the Department-approved website, are:

1. Addicts receive replacement narcotics “as quickly as possible, prior to lengthy assessments or treatment planning sessions;”

2. Addicts are maintained on narcotics without “arbitrary tapering or time limits,” and maintenance is discontinued only if their condition “worsens”; and

3. Psychosocial services are “not required as a condition” for receiving narcotics! 

Cary told us that he recently attended a national conference where there was discussion about a proposal for requiring MAT for all “state clients,” i.e., clients under court supervision.  Such a proposal would force state clients to seek treatment from MAT-only providers, both state-funded and otherwise.  As a policy it ignores the critical differences between recovery from addiction and overdose prevention.  One cannot even be sober, let alone recover, while addicted to narcotics.

State clients are a relatively smaller but significant part of the population that CORE serves.  They deserve recovery too.  Applying a sweeping MAT policy to them raises the specter of having methadone addicts nodding off in our classes and residences.  That’s not CORE values.  We won’t encourage one addiction over another, or any addiction at all for that matter, and we cannot take clients who proverbially have swallowed the spider to catch the fly.  CORE’s clients recover physically as well as mentally and spiritually.  They go on to lead happy, fulfilling, and drug-free lives.  The 12 Step promises are beyond the reach of persons who make narcotic drugs their Higher Power.

Thus, it is this impending “push to pigeon-hole everybody into a MAT program” that prompted Cary to join forces with the NSLA.  As a national organization it can present a united front before state and federal agencies, the public, and media.  With friends and allies we can more effectively work to assure that recovery remains an alternative for all clients, and CORE is very much committed to this goal.    

NSLA’s Executive Director is Megan Frankl.  During Cary’s first conversation with her, he saw that the values of our two organizations closely align.  All NSLA members must abide by ethical standards, promote 12 Step abstinence, and have zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol – including prescription narcotics. “Right out of the gate, I knew that we were a fit,” Cary told us.  Other CORE staff members who talked to Megan had a similar reaction.  As an example, during a subsequent telephone interview, Megan told us that, “The greatest honor of my life is that I have a front row seat to see miraculous recoveries.”  We share her sentiments wholeheartedly and feel an immediate sense of kinship with her, the kind that comes from our common experience of working the 12 Steps.  Megan also told us that her passion for the NSLA is both professional and personal.  “Sober living saved my life,” she said, “I lived in one years ago.  I would not be alive and happy today had it not been what I learned in that home.”  

The NSLA is fairly recent to the national stage.  Beginning as a regional association of sober living homes, in 2018 it branched out into a network that advocates nationwide for quality sober living.  In only three years, it has emerged to become a national force, with over 50 members located in 14 states across the country.  The NSLA’s bottom line, Megan said, “is saving lives, because we work with a vulnerable population.  That’s why the NSLA exists, to protect the individual searching so desperately for a safe place to learn how to recover.”  Organizations gain membership through an application process that also includes a quality assurance review, inspections, and trainings conducted by NSLA board members.  

We at CORE are excited to be a member of an organization that shares our confidence in and enthusiasm for 12 Step recovery.  Our hope is that CORE can play a key role in the NSLA and help it expand to all 50 states.  Sober living homes and recovery programs are stronger together than we are alone.  Together our message is more than simply a moral pitch for abstinence.  We can make a pragmatic case for recovery, and for complete freedom from drugs and alcohol!

The Right Stuff: Ray Francis

The Right Stuff: Ray Francis

On a chilly spring evening last year, Ray Francis again rested in his own bed, all comfy and warm.  Our brother and friend was gravely ill.  For decades he had tirelessly devoted himself to leading addicts to recovery through God.  Along the way Ray became a veritable human institution at CORE.  On that night he was visibly fading.  The initial cancer diagnosis hadn’t phased him, but that was months ago.  In the last few days he’d taken a turn for the worse.  Only moments earlier his wife Judy thanked the hospice nurses and CORE people for their help and bid them goodbye.  She walked through their quiet home to his room and peered through the doorway.  “Hi Baby, how are you doing?” she asked softly.  They’d been together for his entire sober life, over 38 years.  Ray simply smiled and relaxed back into his bed.  He was fearless as always.  She went to him and sat holding his hand until he fell asleep.  Her son Michael arrived to help keep watch.  And so it happened – Ray Francis, with his beloved wife and stepson at his side, passed in the early morning hours of April 14, 2020.

Knowing the man, his faith in God, and his legacy, we at CORE might imagine the next words Ray heard were something like: Well done, my good and faithful servant!  Come share in the joy of your Lord!

It’s hard to explain to somebody not familiar with recovery the lasting bonds that form during the life and death battle against addiction.  Ray means so much to so many.  Over a year later his presence still lives on in hearts and minds at CORE.  For we who had the privilege of knowing Ray, he’s much more than simply an old-timer with decades of recovery.  He was our brother, friend, advisor, and colleague.  His impact is felt at all levels of our organization even today.  

It was Ray who showed our CEO Cary McKee, then a twenty-something client in rehab, the way to recover from a hopeless condition of mind and body:  

I was 28-years old [before] somebody finally showed me the cycle of addiction.  Ray went through the cycle with me in that treatment center – I could tell you where I was sitting if I walked in there today.  And I saw it.  Then he walked me through the steps and showed me what I needed to do.  That was a good moment for me.  So that’s obviously the first thing I think of with Ray, who showed me the way out. He showed me who and what I truly am apart from God.  

As CORE’s intake coordinator, Ray acted as the de facto face of our program.  He was the one who clients first talked to on the phone, met with upon first arrival, and saw during their first orientation class.  Because of his office location, he also was the first staff member who clients saw upon entering our Branson recovery center.  Clients stopped by daily to say hello and chat, ask questions about the 12 Steps, and seek advice about personal matters.  “He always had time to work with an alcoholic or an addict – always,” Program Manager Kevin Hunt tells us, “it didn’t matter if his work was piled up higher than he was.  He always had time.”

Ray’s participation in 5th Steps is legendary.  It’s the step where we admit “to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”  In southwest Missouri, that human being was often Ray; he helped thousands with it.  Anybody who’s been around here for awhile remembers his familiar Fifth Step in Session sign hanging on classroom doors.  People sought him out, first, because of his reputation for trustworthiness.  “They knew they’d never have to worry about hearing their 5th Step stuff out and about,” Kevin recalls, “a lot of people worked the steps with Ray.”  They found Ray even when they weren’t in our program, from places as far away as St. Louis.  Second, they asked for Ray because he’d really been there.  He lived fast and furious too before turning his will and life over to the care of God.  Nothing surprised Ray.  He was kind, understanding, and he loved you with all his heart.  

Loving you meant that Ray could be direct, too.  He had a sharp mind and knew his stuff.  Operations Manager Gary Osborne tells us, “If you wanted the answer, he was the person to go to.  If you wanted the easier, softer, gentler way, don’t go to see Ray.  Because you weren’t getting that.”  Ray was honest but never condescending.  He spoke to people where they are and never diminished them.  He was Gary’s sponsor for sixteen years.  Ray didn’t have a mean bone in his body, either.  If somebody disappointed or hurt him, he never had a bad word to say.  Above all, he worked the Steps.  “I always want to be able to conduct myself that way,” Gary says, “to hold myself to Ray’s standards.”

Ray had an ineffable ability to live in the moment so that people who approached him felt important.  Every moment with him seemed self-contained.  He was passionate about conveying the 12 Step message.  Our accountant Janet Weaver, for example, vividly remembers her conversations with Ray before she ever became a client.  It was sixteen years ago, and CORE had only three houses.  “They were all mens houses,” she recalls, “but I heard they might turn one of them into a women’s house, so I started calling them every day and talked to Ray.”  He kept their conversations focused on Janet’s recovery.  Over the course of two weeks, Ray took Janet through the first three Steps and also had her writing on her 4th Step – all while on the telephone.  Even better, Ray helped make CORE into a fully co-ed program and invited Janet to be our first female client.  Today, CORE has seven residential facilities for women.  We have women managing our houses, counseling clients, leading prayer, and teaching recovery classes, too.  

Above all, those of us who know Ray remember his devotion to God and prayer.  He created Monday Morning Prayer for our recovery centers, as an example, a fact recently brought to our attention by HR Manager Tami McKinney.  Tami remembers him as a man of God whose unshakeable faith led him to always put the needs of others before himself.  “He was ready at the drop of a hat to help, to stop and help anyone,” she says, “he was always ‘others first.’”  In discussions about spiritual matters, he had relevant scriptures to offer and would recommend specific books and articles for further study.  He was a consummate advocate for committing ourselves to a spiritual life and letting God demonstrate through us what He can do.

Like so many of us, the way in which Ray came to be involved in CORE may seem fortuitous, at first blush.  He goes way back, all the way to the beginning. Twenty-six years ago he and Judy arrived from the State of Washington to attend her son’s college graduation.  Whereupon, a young missionary preacher, Tim Schuer, came knocking at the door about starting a “cell church.”  Tim had been brought from Australia to America to do God’s work and was sponsored by four Christian families in Branson.  Judy remembers that Ray and Tim became friends immediately, and Ray very much wanted to stay and be involved in the fledgling ministry:

So Tim became a mentor to Ray in the faith.  We went to Tim’s house church for awhile.  Then Tim wanted to do more outreach, so the Lord took it to ministering to alcoholics and addicts.  That’s when Ray really caught fire.

This is Judy’s way of saying that God works in mysterious ways.  In fact, Ray and Judy were the first members of Tim’s cell church.  It’s worth wondering what would have happened, or not happened, had Tim not knocked on their door when he did.  Jan Blase, who was among the four Christian families in Branson mentioned above, who still later became CORE’s Director of Development, helped Ray write a grant proposal for our first recovery house.  CORE wasn’t the sprawling program that it is today.  Those were simpler times – the entire program fit into one office in a church basement.  Ray was blessed to see his passion and efforts grow into two CORE recovery centers, nineteen residential facilities, and two ReStores, all serving hundreds of people annually from Taney, Stone and Greene Counties, and beyond.  He also watched thousands of clients find God and recovery, some of whom eventually went on to be counted among CORE’s senior staff members. 

We think God put Ray in the right place at the right time.  He had the right stuff.  Through his words and personal example, Ray Francis stirred our hearts and minds.  Some of us owe our lives to him.  He wasn’t about public praise, however.  He didn’t love the world or the things of this world.  To him, these were superficial things.  The things Ray was about, and taught us, were deep and enduring.  By showing what a few simple steps and unswerving reliance upon God can do, he left us better knowing him. He made the world a better place.  “He dedicated his whole being, his whole life, to recovery services, to the addict and to the alcoholic,” Cary tells us.  In devoting himself to this service, he also helped to build CORE.  Judy tells us “His legacy is all of you.  He had faith that the people in CORE will pass it on to others, that they can become your legacy too.”

Humility And Recovery

Humility and Recovery

At CORE we think of humility as a noble virtue.  In one sense, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”1  It’s a principal value in many ethical systems.   Great thinkers from all ages have taught that it’s in our best interest to forget our self-interest.  Our highest example of humility, moreover, is the Lord himself, who came to this earth to do God’s will2 and to serve rather than be served.3  The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous also finds value in humility, which is often called the “foundation principle” for each of the 12 Steps. 

In contrast to those who believe that humility is worth having, there are others who think that we have too much of it.4  It’s not just the business types who think this.  Some among the self-help recovery crowd are jumping on the hubris bandwagon too.  There seems to be no limit on what these people are willing to say in order to make sales.  The pride mongers can be found among individuals who market so-called “harm reduction” methods as if they were recovery programs.  What they say is of interest to us, because CORE is a recovery program.  

As an example, one of these persons tells his readers that “the more I learn—the more I hear and the more I see—the more arrogant I become.”  His conceit supposedly keeps him sober.  He’s so proud of his abstinence that he looks down on everyone who does drink, even those who are not alcoholics.  Not only does he hope readers like this quality about him, “in fact, I hope you’re jealous,” he says.  More than that, he hopes readers will become interested in the abstinence program that he developed.  To pique their interest, he invites them to take a self-survey about alcohol.  Taking the survey entitles them to a free gift, a 40 page pdf-book about the alleged shame caused not only by alcoholism but also by sobriety.  Readers are then invited to enroll in the program, and this is where cash is exchanged.

He tells them that similar programs cost $1,000 or more, but he asks for only a $25 per month recurring donation, which “can be cancelled at any time.”  Moreover, if one donates an additional $40 to help battle the stigma associated with alcohol, he sends them a signed copy of his published book.  It sells for $9.99 on Amazon and was released two years ago.  There are ten glowing reviews on the Amazon website, all posted within six days of the book’s release.  One reviewer, who allegedly struggled “for years,” claims that this book was the “missing piece” that helped her find “permanent sobriety.”  Her review is altogether startling because it was posted the same day that the book was released.  The other reviews are similarly puzzling.

With all due respect to this person, and others who are trying to market and sell human pride, cavalierly urging people to model abstinence based on self-confidence seems like a losing proposition.  People who are still wrapped up in themselves are unlikely to enjoy meaningful recovery.  Arrogance is more often a reaction to low self-esteem.  It may also indicate dry drunk syndrome, in which the sufferer lives under continual stress because they are full of unaddressed resentments and anger.  This is a perilous approach to sobriety that we can’t recommend to anybody. 

Humility is part of every real recovery program because addiction is the result of a self-centered ego.  It is a natural and foreseeable consequence when someone with an attitude of entitlement decides to self-medicate.  As addicts we saw ourselves not on this earth to serve our fellows but rather to have our own desires served and all of our wants and needs met.  We were “like an actor who wants to run the whole show . . . forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in our own way.”5  We thought that the world owed us.  When the show didn’t come off as we expected, we became angry, indignant, and self-pitying, and we felt deserving of relief.  Confronted with hurtful, stressful, or emotional situations, we claimed the privilege of feeling better immediately through alcohol and drugs.  This chronic practice of self-medicating and rationalizing our behavior resulted in alcoholism and addiction.  The 12 Steps address this crippling self-centeredness through a program of ego deflation. 

To help lay readers better appreciate how humility relates to this process, please consider the following summary of the 12 Steps:

I couldn’t control my drugs and alcohol anymore, and my life was a mess.  God had a better plan for me, so I submitted myself to it.  I thought of my personal faults and everybody I’ve harmed, and I admitted these to God and to another person.  I was ready to have God remove these shortcomings, too, and humbly asked Him to do this.  Moreover, I became willing to fix things with the people I’d harmed.  I went to them and made amends.  Since then, I’m ever watchful for my own faults and admit it when I’m wrong.  I also maintain contact with God and pray to Him for the wisdom and power to live according to His will.  This has become my plan for life, and I’m particularly mindful of helping others in distress as I once was.

This essentially is all 12 Steps.  It’s a simple program.  Some might quibble about details, but this sufficiently summarizes them for our discussion of humility, which is really about our orientation toward ourselves, our fellows, and God.  

12 Step humility initially requires us to honestly assess our personal situations, become willing to admit faults, and to open ourselves to new possibilities.  “To thine own self be true.”6  We invariably accept certain truths about ourselves that are common to all addicts, inter alia, that we are powerless over drugs and alcohol, cannot manage our own lives, have harmed others, and suffer character defects. The object is not to make us to think badly about ourselves, but rather to conduct an honest self-appraisal and begin change.  This is indispensable if we are to “discard the old life — the one that did not work — for a new life that can and does work under any conditions whatever.”7

Owning up to others about errors and limitations is humbling too.  We can’t claim a privileged role in this world anymore.  “No man is an island.”8  We especially acknowledge those we’ve hurt, all of whom deserved better, and devote time and effort to repair the harm.  In making amends to another: we acknowledge our wrong without making excuses or blaming others, show contrition, state our awareness of the harm we caused, and always right the wrong wherever possible.  Showing that we hear and value those we’ve hurt helps rebuild broken relationships.  The exercise also instills a sensitivity to and appreciation for everyone around us.  We stop thinking so much about ourselves and begin to focus on the needs of others. 

Finally, 12 Step humility also means having a right understanding before God.  There is an order to reality and our place in the world, and trying to make up our own rules didn’t work.  Running on our own power, we failed.  “We had to have God’s help.”9  Thus, we accepted Him as our director, and as agents we committed ourselves to doing His will.  “Thy will (not mine) be done,”10 is the rule, not the exception.  God is with us when we come to Him with a humble spirit.  He shows us the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness, and love.  Living the spiritual life reveals meaning and purpose in our daily activities.  It instills strength and courage to persevere.    

In sum, humility may not seem to be an obvious quality for recovery, but we doubt that anyone can maintain sobriety without cultivating it.  One can learn humility the easy way, or the hard way.  Refusing to admit that we are powerless, to acknowledge our failures to others, or to rely on God, are the very kinds of brash self-assurance that lead to misadventure in the next drink or drug.  We’ve seen this repeated so many times that we accept it as axiomatic. 

There is also a paradoxical quality to humility, because as seekers we never discover it within ourselves.  The fact that we must forever trudge the “road of happy destiny,”11 however, does not deter us.  We are content to place our faith in God and live by spiritual principles.  With the strength of humility comes the gift of serenity.  It allows us to flourish and to navigate even the most difficult waves of life.

A Conversation With Mykaella Ross!

A Conversation with Mykaella Ross!

As the saying goes, “Don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk!”  For this newsletter we wanted to find somebody local who walks the path of sobriety with passion.  We couldn’t just climb Top of the Rock and scan the horizon, so we asked around CORE – where all the recovered people are!  Thankfully, we were in luck.  Everybody told us the same thing: find Mykaella Ross!  We caught up with her at CORE’s recovery center in Branson and talked about addiction and recovery.

Mykaella is a very different person from the young woman who came to us three years ago.  She is a person of faith who lets her hopes, not hurts, guide her life’s path.  She currently serves as manager of our JJ House and mentors younger clients in CORE’s EDGE program.  The ladies of our program also tell us that she inspires them to grow and learn, and several of them have become house managers too.  Mykaella also knows how to get things done.  She’s an achiever who studies every aspect of a problem brought to her and tackles it with enthusiasm. That’s the way she approaches everything.  We’re grateful that Mykaella has stayed with CORE since commencing our program, and we look forward to having her here for as long as we can.       

It’s hard to believe it, but three years ago Mykaella counted herself among the most downhearted people on earth.  She was enslaved to methamphetamines and crashing in a homeless shelter for women.  She was unemployed, had lost everything, and was completely alienated from her family.  What went wrong for Mykaella?  How had things come to that?  

We have to back up a few years and see Mykaella as a teenager.  Popular and surrounded by boys, she was a precocious 4.0 student who also played high school sports.  Although she was only fifteen years old, Mykaella had adult-sized, intractable problems that she was afraid to share with anybody else.  For one, there was a rape.  Then came an unexpected pregnancy which was medically terminated.  It was all too big for her to handle, and she learned to escape by using alcohol to blot out her trauma, as well as her fears and resentments.  Marijuana and prescription pain pills came along soon enough.  The wheels really fell off when she discovered meth, and her drug-fueled odyssey ran on for nine long years.

She became a textbook addict who not only was powerless against drugs but whose life also was unmanageable.  Mykaella described for us in fair detail the self-centered excesses and insanity of her addiction.  She was living in a dog-eat-dog world where the law was never far behind (she spent her sixteenth, eighteenth and twenty-first birthdays locked up).  Countless times she made solemn promises to get clean and sober, “but they didn’t last.”  Something always came up that was too painful to deal with.  Her typical day consisted of the following:

Smoking reefer, doing meth, selling it, any way possible. I was smoking meth throughout the day. If I go to work, I’m going to bring it to work and smoke it in the bathroom or put it in my coffee and drink it. I always thought of myself as this undercover tweaker. Like, I could put my face on, clothes, and go to work, but I’d be spun out of my mind.

If we could encapsulate her addiction experience into one short story, it has to be her last couple of days living in mayhem.  Mykaella was staying at a trap house near Joplin and had given away all her meth because of yet another firm resolution she made.  Such resolutions happened a lot but, being powerless, she felt the obsession return soon enough.  In desperation Mykaella smoked the only thing she could find, meth taken from a bloody syringe.  “I remember taking the hit and just crying,” she recalls, “I didn’t want to do it, but I did.”  She then fled to a woman’s homeless shelter in Joplin.  Antics ensued:  

Even there, I still had to get one more. So I drive up to Carthage to meet up with some random dude and I smoke a doobie. Prior to this, I’d been up for nine days. On my way back I fall asleep at the wheel. I totaled my car, and it was a miracle that I didn’t kill myself or anyone else that day. 

But I called [the car dealership] and told them the power steering went out. They said, call your insurance.  Mind you, I’m that girl who just gets the insurance card and doesn’t continue to pay it. So they bring out the tow truck and I call the Joplin police department and say, I just want you to know, the power steering just went out on this car on main street. You don’t have to worry about it. I hitchhike back to this homeless shelter. It was just insane.

At the homeless shelter Mykaella became hysterical and also started seeing and hearing things, “I’m distraught, scaring the women in the shelter. They were like, please don’t get mad, but you need more help than this place can give you.”  She broke down crying because she knew they were right.  From the homeless shelter Mykaella went straight to rehab.  

Now, she’d been to rehab before, but this time something was different.  Mykaella and her group were visited by three women from CORE:

They came there and gave their testimony. I remember them being so relatable. I never could understand why I always started, you know, why I couldn’t stop starting. They talked about the obsession and the allergy. They really broke down the cycle of addiction.  I’m like, that’s me; that’s my life! After they finished giving their testimony, I remember crying and asking how I could get into their program.”

Mykaella made it to CORE, too.  On the day of our interview, she expressed thanks for the generosity of those who made her trip here possible. Though she was not a member, two Joplin churches helped pay for her enrollment: Calvary Baptist and St. Mary’s Catholic.  Mykaella’s mother and a friend also provided support.

God works miracles at CORE, and once here Mykaella did her part by putting in the study and work.  She started taking her Big Book everywhere she went, including the Center and her job.  She studied it during breaks and while she was waiting for transportation.  She also began working on her Fourth Step, which took several weeks to complete:

That‘s where I started, writing all my resentments, then my fears. I thought those were hard. But then I had to write about my conduct and how I harmed people.  That was the real hard part.  It took several weeks, actually, while I worked on it. But I said, if this is what’s going to work, then I’m going to put my all into it. If I can dedicate my life to dope for ten years, I can do that for my recovery now. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but I can do that.

Mykaella spent three days sharing the content of this paperwork with her Fifth Step partner. 

Then the miracle happened.  From being this hard person who callously used others to feed her addiction, Mykaella learned how to love herself and, in time, others around her.  She recovered.  Mykaella has completely put in the rearview mirror a lifestyle that was so damaged that normies can scarcely imagine it.  She also learned how to communicate with others and wasted no time in carrying the message of hope to newcomers, i.e., there is a way out!  Shortly before her commencement, Kevin Hunt and Sam Krause asked her to stay on at CORE and help run a house.  Thus, during the last two years, Mykaella has taken turns managing our Vaughan, Quail, and JJ houses.  

Happily, relationships with family have been renewed too.  Her mom came and spoke at her commencement.  Further, by making “living amends” to other family members, Mykaella has been restored to them as well.  She cites her younger siblings as an example, saying “It’s cool today because my little brother and sister call me.  They call just to see how I’m doing or to talk about something.  That didn’t happen before.”

On top of all of this, Mykaella has an awesome new career at Capital Vacations working alongside of Erica Hunt, wife of our own Kevin Hunt! 

In addition to the positives of sobriety, Mykaella has faced genuine challenges too.  Only last April, her dad tragically passed away.  In the past, such misfortune would have led to another binge.  This time, however, Mykaella turned to God:

When he died, I felt all the guilt, the things that I did, they all came up again. I thought I’d been processing as things came along but, when something this traumatic happens, you have to step back and be cautious about what you’re going through, to feel those emotions. I don’t run from my emotions today. You know, it hurts so bad. I’d always run from that. But after my dad died, I actually walked through that fear of feeling the pain. It was all God, and I’m grateful for that.”

Speaking of CORE’s significance to her personally, Mykaella is adamant, saying “Recovered, I’m living. Using, I’m dying.  Today, I’m living!”  She still remembers when she first arrived here all those years ago.  She had no idea what to expect, only that “I knew I needed to be here.”  She didn’t like herself very much, either, but she was certain that “God can make you to be whoever He wants you to be.” As a result, Mykaella unreservedly turned her will and life over to His care.  Today she sees herself as a completely different person who has been renewed in mind and spirit.  She smiles, “I can look back and say, thank you God, for transforming me!”