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RECOVERY ALL IN ONE PLACE!

 

At its best, a home provides a safe and supportive environment for its inhabitants. Providing safety and support to those who have fallen through the cracks in society because of alcohol and drug addiction is the mission of the Cottonwood non-profit Steps to Recovery Homes.

“Steps to Recovery Homes was started nine years ago,” said Damien Browning, 48, executive director of the organization. “My ex-wife, Anne Browning, and I started Steps to Recovery Homes with three credit cards. We are both in recovery and wanted to help others. We have had collaboration with lots of other agencies over the years.”

According to the non-profit’s website, “Recovery is a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.”

The organization was honored by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 17, when it received a Proclamation of Recognition of Awards of Excellence for their prestigious awards and their dedication to the health of all citizens of Yavapai County.

Currently, homes for recovery include a location for men, housing 13 residents, a women’s home, housing eight, and a transitional home, housing five.

Recovery homes welcome men and women who are willing to take action to address their substance use and other co-occurring disorders and to work hard to embrace the tools offered to gain and maintain long-term recovery.

Transitional homes provide a step down from the more structured living environment, offering a safe place for clients to live with more freedom as they reintegrate successfully back into society.

“Our age range is 18 and up,” Browning said. “Most are in between 35 to 50. We do have one who is 20.”

All of the homes are located within four miles of a long, large building on North Main Street in front of Riverfront Park on the route into Old Town Cottonwood. The non-profit purchased the 21,000-square-foot structure in March with a low-interest USDA loan.

“We’re going to make it a healing center,” explained Browning, who has lived in Cottonwood since 1992. “By the end of May, we had moved everything over there.”

“Our Director of Operations Anji Dickson has spearheaded the whole strategic plan and the vision to evolve Steps to Recovery Homes into a true Holistic Wellness Program,” he said. “She has taken us to a new level these last few years. The whole strategic plan was to consolidate all our operations under one roof. The money we’ve been paying out for rent in all the other places we had can now go to the community as an asset that will be there forever. This way, we get to own our facility, and the organization will have some sustainability. It’s really a good move.”

Highlighting the “good move” is having the space to establish an outpatient treatment center, the Konnect Treatment Center, which provides therapy services for clients in the recovery and transitional homes and in the surrounding community.

“In healing a broken individual, I think connection is the opposite of addiction,” Browning said. “Isolation and separation formulate addiction; we feel different and then we’re isolated in our minds. It’s good if you can get people to feel they have purpose, that they’re a piece of the puzzle.”

Services offered at Konnect include individual therapy, case management and group sessions for those in the program, including people who do not occupy the organization’s recovery or transitional homes.

“Now the treatment center can help people outside of our homes,” Browning said. “It gets the community more involved and helps more people in need.”

The opening of the outpatient center will also allow staff to maximize help for clients, “so they can go down to their core issues, like anger, shame, trauma, abandonment, neglect and low self-worth.”

In addition to the Konnect Center, a scaled-down Miracles Happen Resale Store was moved to the new site, as well as a warehouse storage unit that was relocated to the basement of the new building. Also to be  installed in the building is a COVID testing site. Fundraising efforts are underway to create administrative offices. Plans also call for a community center that will offer activities such as yoga and meditation.

“The last piece that will tie it all in is job development,” Browning said.

Browning has experienced addiction firsthand. Raised in Joshua Tree, California, he was a mason by trade until he was hurt on the job.

“Nineteen years of addiction – started out as alcohol, at the end, it was meth,” he said. “Incarcerated; I went to prison for five years. I lost everything. I got out in 2008 and put my life back together.”

Putting his life back together included getting his three children back, now ages 23, 19 and 18, as well as earning an associate’s degree in computer systems and applications and building a program of recovery that would help others heal in his community.

In June, Browning and Dickson traveled to Wisconsin to accept the Harold E. Hughes Award of Excellence for Exceptional Rural Program from the National Rural Alcohol and Drug Abuse Network (NRADAN, Inc.).

“Once you heal that addicted person, it has a ripple effect, with your children, with your parents,” Browning said. “I don’t know how you can figure the exact impact. With the right willingness and guidance, individuals stop self-destructing. They stop yelling at people, stop stealing, lying and hurting themselves and others. They start caring about how they come across to others and their communities. It makes our neighborhood healthy.” QCBN

By Betsey Bruner, QCBN

Steps to Recovery, a drug addiction reha­bilitation and recovery nonprofit, recently purchased the two-story commercial Rough Cut building and plans on moving its offices and operations to the site in the months to come.

Steps to Recovery Homes Founder and CEO Damien Browning was a “mason for 14 years and a drug addict” before forming the organization with his former wife, Ann.

“We were both in recovery,” he said. “Nine years ago, we started [the business] with three credit cards, to help people in addiction.”

Since then, the nonprofit grew to include three recovery homes — one for men, one for women and one transitional home.

Additionally Browning and his team, most of whom are graduates of the Steps program, have operated the Miracles Happen ReSale Store and furniture refurbishing project as well as an eBay store to help cover the costs of staffing.

“We were working so hard at just getting items and selling items and making [them] look nice, just to keep our staff so we could help the clients,” Browning said.

“The resale store wasn’t bringing in enough money to hire more staff, and it was so much work,” he said.

Eventually, the team got together to discuss solutions, and came up with a new strategic plan, which was a “paradigm shift” in terms of gener­ating more income and expanding services.

The strategic plan enabled the team to pursue multiple grants, acquire additional licensing, and as of two months ago, purchase the two-story Rough Cut multiplex located on North Main Street in Cottonwood, which Browning said is actually more afford­able than operating the nonprofit in separate locations.

The city of Cottonwood plans to move many of its offices to the southern Rough Cut building.

Browning explained that part of the strategic plan was to shift the focus from the store as the main source of revenue to pursuing grants through the company’s Intensive Outpatient Program.

The IOP is a treatment program used to address addictions, depression, eating disorders or other dependencies that do not require around-the-clock supervision.

The program will essen­tially be at the center of the multiplex, and clients can come to the office for therapy, career coun­seling and more.

The IOP “will enable us to not just help people already in our program, but actually give therapy to people outside of our program,” Browning said.

Beyond the IOP office, the resale store and furni­ture refurbishing program will reopen in an adja­cent space. Browning said there are also plans to convert the 6,000 square-foot upper loft into a mixed-use area, potentially including a biophilic space for prac­ticing yoga and medita­tion in addition to office spaces for his executive team.

There will also be a COVID-19 testing site located in the space.

Currently, Browning is looking for staff, including a clinical director, therapist and behavioral health technician.

Browning said that right now, he is “having a hard time” finding staff, but hopes that soon, the word will spread through the community and the company will be able to start seeing clients again.

“We just got our state license, and we hope to be up and running by June,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people and they say just to get a business really up and going, [it takes] five years — but really ten to 15 years to really sustain itself. So, its been nine years and I think we’re on our way.”

To learn more about Steps to Recovery Homes, visit stepstorecoveryhomes.org.

By Lo Frisby

On behalf of the National Rural Alcohol and Drug Abuse Network (NRADAN, Inc.) Board of Directors, I am thrilled to relay that the Steps to Recovery Homes has been selected as a 2022 recipient of the:

Harold E. Hughes Award of Excellence

for Exceptional Rural Program

More information about the award can be found here. We received multiple nominations for this program, and we wanted to share with you a very small portion of what Mary Huntley and Jon Schuderer submitted:

“Simply put: Damien and Anne Browning have put their entire lives on the line (finances, time, emotions, etc.) to create, offer and run a program which is profoundly improving the lives of the most hopeless and drug addicted citizens of our society. Never seen a sacrifice and a result like theirs.”

“Steps to Recovery Homes opened in 2013 and encourages residents to take a holistic approach to recovery and supports them with life skills classes throughout the week. STRH provides a safe and supportive atmosphere to help those in early recovery establish their new lives in sobriety….”

“STRH is not your regular treatment program. Damien and Anne truly have created an amazing thing there in Cottonwood, AZ….”

We invite a representative from the organization to Menomonie, Wisconsin, to receive the award in person during the annual National Rural Institute on Alcohol, Drugs, and Addictions. The Institute will be held June 26-30, 2022, with this specific award being given on the morning of Wednesday, June 29, or Thursday, June 30. Either is an option if one fits your schedule better than the other. We understand that the timing is short, and there is still a concern for many surrounding COVID and travel. However, if you can attend, we would be able to reimburse up to $500 to offset travel expenses.

If you could let us know if a representative might be able to attend in person or if we should plan on coordinating a virtual reception of the award, that would be appreciated. I will work on getting coordinated whichever best fits your needs.

Thank you for the work, efforts, and continual contributions. This award is well deserved.

Best Regards,

Tiffani Taggart

“Addiction is the opposite of connection,” said Damien Browning, a former addict and the executive director of Steps to Recovery.

It is one of his favorite mantras and the animating philosophy behind the Cottonwood-based addiction recovery and housing program. In Browning’s view, the problem is often less the drugs than the environmental factors that lead to a person using, and the way to help them overcome their demons is to help them find connections and meaning in a community.

So the pandemic and lockdowns of the spring 2020 meant a new challenge for the program. With some of the clients suffering from compromised immune systems, the sober living home locked down early, before official shutdown orders.The 14 residents of the home were stuck with just each other and unable to go out, also losing many of the counseling and job training features of the recovery program. The Miracles Happen resale store that provides much of the funding for the program as well as employment for many of the former addicts had to lay off most of its staff.“There was some depression. There was a lot of fear, not knowing what was going to happen, when it was going to end,“ said Anji Dickson, a manager at the store and former addict who went through the program herself. Dickson said that without the job that had given her life structure, the temptation to relapse was powerful. “For most addicts — I know for myself — idle hands are [the devil’s playthings] …. Being by myself all the time was tough.”But facing the challenge, the program also sought to find new solutions, to build new connections to fight addiction. Steps to Recovery partnered with the Northern Arizona Healthcare Foundation and Tribe Wellness in Sedona to provide their clients with telemedicine and remote counseling. But they also started holding their own 12-step meetings outside together in the yard. Browning bought sports and games equipment for the people at the home, as well as food to cook together and make meals inside for those who could not leave.“We were actually blessed by them being able to have a community, because a lot of people — especially our older population — haven’t had that,” Browning said. “It was actually a blessing for our clients because they were around people. They weren’t totally isolated in a situation where they weren’t around people. Since they were around each other anyways, we kind of kept it as a group.”“It was hard, but at the same time, it was easy, because of the support we had,” said Rafael Garcia, a recovered methamphetamine addict. Garcia, who had been in and out of prison for a total of 12 years of his life, joined the Steps to Recovery program shortly before the pandemic hit. “It wasn’t like we were just locked down and then they fed us to the wolves or kept us locked down. We found things to do as a group. Personally to me, I think the lock- down helped more in the recovery, because we were locked down with each other. We got to run our own meetings, and by running our own meetings, every- body got to share, and everybody got to know each other, rather than an open meeting, where they’re all quiet.”During the time when the store was closed, Miracles Happen continued to accumulate used furniture from estate sales and donations, without being able to sell as much. With the recovery clients stuck inside, Dickson and Browning saw an opportunity to improve their furniture resale operation in a way they had always dreamed of — by turning it into a full refurbishment operation.Rather than just selling old furniture, Steps to Recovery is now teaching its clients how to fully remake furniture based on the pieces that they receive. Shelves are added, legs are attached to replace broken ones, and sometimes entire pieces are cut up and put back together to fit a completely new shape and purpose. Former addicts have learned how to sand, paint, lacquer and carve to turn old pieces into brand new furniture with new aesthetics.“Each of them did what they enjoyed the most,” Dickson said. “When we come in here, we do not feel good about ourselves at all, because all we’ve done is screwed everything up. So to be able to go in and make something — it’s very symbolic when you think about it. We took stuff that was broken. All of us that came in here were broken. And now we’re fixing things and then we’re able to able to help support them.”The refurbishment project has transformed the resale store, which can now sell what is essentially brand new, high end furniture with unique visual style. For Garcia, who had always enjoyed art but has now risen to an assistant manager of the ware- house where he paints lavish designs on the side of new pieces of furniture, it has created a new purpose out of a time of difficult struggle.“To actually be able to do something like this, and someone liking it, makes you want to do it more. It gets you more creative on how to mix colors and how to make something, even build something out of nothing,” Garcia said. “Being in the program, being clean — I’ve got money in my pocket, I’ve got my own place, I’m able to budget. I’m never broke, I’m not sleeping on the streets. Just waking up and coming to work, it gives me a purpose to stay clean.”

Pass by the Clemenceau Plaza at the northwest corner of State Route 89A and S. Sixth Street in Cottonwood, and you might notice an uptick in activity.

Now in its fourth month in the historic plaza, Steps to Recovery Homes has fully opened its door to the community. Founders Damien and Anne Browning welcome applicants to its addiction recovery program and help train volunteers. At Miracles Happen, the nonprofit’s resale store two doors down, current and former participants in the recovery program sort, pick up, label and sell used items.

“Everybody who works for us has been through the program,” Damien Browning said, adding that the average stay in the program is under three months. “Accountability is huge with us …. We expect a lot of them, so some people come and then leave after a few days.”According to Browning, Steps to Recovery Homes has recently downgraded the size of its gender-specific homes to accommodate fewer guests, achieving a higher success rate through personal care and relationship building. The Brownings oversee two Cottonwood homes, one that houses eight men and another that houses five women.The resale store, however, marks a major upgrade for the nonprofit. Previously, the store sat in a less accessible spot near Old Town. Now, the operation encompasses three storefronts, offering increased visibility for Steps to Recovery Homes and allowing for the sale of more items. Additionally, an increase in items coming in allows the Brownings to provide clothing for those in recovery and donate to other charities.Reinvigorating the plaza through good business practices is also on the Brownings’ minds.“We’re trying to wake it up again, man,” Damien Browning said. “We’re trying to do high-end stuff for low prices for the community …. And it’s all donation based.”The underlying purpose remains recovery, Browning added. To that end, Steps to Recovery Homes now features a working governing board. Recently, it became a founding member of the Verde Valley Tax Credit Coalition to promote charitable tax donations. Over the summer, the organization hosted a mental health and addiction community awareness event, inviting local experts to talk on the issue.“A lot of people don’t understand addiction,” Browning said. “The stigma needs to be erased. It’s not something to be scared of …. And these people — they don’t need a handout, but a hand up.”According to Browning, Steps to Recovery Homes is focused on long-term solutions to addiction, which he claimed is on the rise throughout the Verde Valley. Affordable options for individuals with addictions are few and far between, he added, making it difficult to address the issue in a sustainable way.“We’re trying to raise the bar for recovery in the Verde Valley,” Browning said.To donate to Steps to Recovery Homes or volunteer your time, call 649-0077 or stop by the office located in Clemenceau Plaza.

Pass by the Clemenceau Plaza at the northwest corner of State Route 89A and S. Sixth Street in Cottonwood, and you might notice an uptick in activity.

Now in its fourth month in the historic plaza, Steps to Recovery Homes has fully opened its door to the community. Founders Damien and Anne Browning welcome applicants to its addiction recovery program and help train volunteers. At Miracles Happen, the nonprofit’s resale store two doors down, current and former participants in the recovery program sort, pick up, label and sell used items.

“Everybody who works for us has been through the program,” Damien Browning said, adding that the average stay in the program is under three months. “Accountability is huge with us …. We expect a lot of them, so some people come and then leave after a few days.”According to Browning, Steps to Recovery Homes has recently downgraded the size of its gender-specific homes to accommodate fewer guests, achieving a higher success rate through personal care and relationship building. The Brownings oversee two Cottonwood homes, one that houses eight men and another that houses five women.The resale store, however, marks a major upgrade for the nonprofit. Previously, the store sat in a less accessible spot near Old Town. Now, the operation encompasses three storefronts, offering increased visibility for Steps to Recovery Homes and allowing for the sale of more items. Additionally, an increase in items coming in allows the Brownings to provide clothing for those in recovery and donate to other charities.Reinvigorating the plaza through good business practices is also on the Brownings’ minds.“We’re trying to wake it up again, man,” Damien Browning said. “We’re trying to do high-end stuff for low prices for the community …. And it’s all donation based.”The underlying purpose remains recovery, Browning added. To that end, Steps to Recovery Homes now features a working governing board. Recently, it became a founding member of the Verde Valley Tax Credit Coalition to promote charitable tax donations. Over the summer, the organization hosted a mental health and addiction community awareness event, inviting local experts to talk on the issue.“A lot of people don’t understand addiction,” Browning said. “The stigma needs to be erased. It’s not something to be scared of …. And these people — they don’t need a handout, but a hand up.”According to Browning, Steps to Recovery Homes is focused on long-term solutions to addiction, which he claimed is on the rise throughout the Verde Valley. Affordable options for individuals with addictions are few and far between, he added, making it difficult to address the issue in a sustainable way.“We’re trying to raise the bar for recovery in the Verde Valley,” Browning said.To donate to Steps to Recovery Homes or volunteer your time, call 649-0077 or stop by the office located in Clemenceau Plaza.

Erase the Stigma, Steps to Recovery Homes’ second annual mental health and addiction awareness event, took place at the Cottonwood Recreation Center Saturday, June 24, attracting people from across the region.

The event, which was free and open to the public, featured 28 resource booths from advocacy, charity and health care-related organizations. Food, drinks and day passes to the rec center were handed out to attendees for free.

Steps to Recovery Homes co-founder Damien Browning estimated the turnout at approximately 175 people.“I think it went very well,” Browning said, adding that the event was intended to be a service to the community — a benefit for rural Arizona, which continues to struggle with addiction and mental illness, as well as the stigma attached to those who suffer from the conditions.“It was a win-win for everybody.”The event featured seven experts speaking on subjects including grief, trauma and community awareness.“Forty-two million people suffer from mental illness and 24 million suffer from addiction every day in this nation, and the stigma surrounding these illnesses keeps them living in the dark, suffering alone,” Browning said. “Solutions are available. However, first we need to give them the strength to reach out and resources to turn to.”The city of Cottonwood placed its resources behind the event, endorsing Browning’s efforts by waving the rec center’s usual rental and setup fees for the event. Founded by couple Damien and Anne Browning, Steps to Recovery Homes is in its fourth year of operation.The Brownings oversee two Cottonwood homes, one that houses eight men and another that houses five women. Last year, the operation packed up and moved to its office in Clemencau Plaza.At the Steps to Recovery Homes office, founders Damien and Anne Browning welcome applicants to its addiction recovery program and help train volunteers. At Miracles Happen, the nonprofit’s resale store two doors down, current and former participants in the recovery program sort, pick up, label and sell used items.“Steps to Recovery Homes witnesses the battle every single day and is hosting Erase the Stigma event in collaboration with many other organizations in Arizona who are committed to helping those who suffer with mental health problems and addiction,” Damien Browning said. “The more we, as a society, understand the unique challenges of mental health and addiction the more we can all help those that have these issues and the safer our communities will become.”In the wake of Erase the Stigma, Browning said he has received a number of requests from organizations across Northern Arizona to host similar events.“This is about helping our whole community,” Browning said, adding that he recently evaluated Steps to Recovery Homes’ yearly statistics and was pleased by the outcome. “Out of 245 people
that have come into our program, 48 percent are leading a better life … That’s making a core difference.”Browning invites parties interested in volunteer opportunities to stop by Steps to Recovery Homes at 516 State Route 89A, or contact Browning at (928) 592-2603.