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Circle of Life Breakfast 2018 | Tania Bhattacharyya, Foundation Executive Director

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Good morning. As the Executive Director of the Foundation, I get to be a storyteller. I found NDFW when I was getting a Psychology Degree at UC Irvine, almost a decade ago. I was on our peaceful campus, sitting in a rocking chair, waiting to be called in for a job interview. I knew the woman sitting next to me from school, because we had the same major and a lot of the same classes. I thought for sure she was my competition for the position. She thought for sure I was there to check in to rehab. We laughed together, and cried together, as she shared her stories with me. She told me that her life had become unmanageable, but she was learning how to live in a different way, with the help of New Directions.

Since then, I’ve had the true joy of witnessing hundreds of incredible transformation stories. Seeing that first smile on a woman’s face, after years of darkness. As we heard Lyn say, this all started with a Founding story, when Pamela Wilder stood before the Junior League and asked for their help in creating a space where women could get well with dignity and grace. And although the League at first said it was far too much for them, our Founders persisted.

I wonder, if in their wildest dreams, they had envisioned a story like New Directions has seen over the last forty years. It’s a story about breaking down the barriers of our past, when women suffered in silence and shame because of their substance use disorder and mental health diagnoses, because addiction was considered a moral failing, rather than a medical issue.

Today, we get to break the generational cycle of addiction. Women from all over the country come to us, because of how rare it is, still, to find a program where a family can heal from addiction, together. These families reach into the distance, where the California sun can illuminate the words they could not find. Words like – “peace, safety, sobriety, “I am enough”. They live with their arms wide open. I see dozens in this room, who rewrote their stories, and became the amazing nurses, attorneys, therapists, mothers, sisters, and wives they were always meant to be. They became a part of the Orange County community. They show up in love and service to ask, “How can I be helpful?”

The children I have seen born or who lived at New Directions over the last decade, are growing up. Their future is still unwritten. But, their foundation is strong, because they have a Sober Mom. They have dozens of Aunties that make up their Mom’s sober community. They learned, early on in their stories, that their circumstances did not define them. They learned they didn’t cause their Families’ addiction, they can’t cure it, and they can’t control it. But they learn how to share their feelings. How to ask for help, and take care of “me”, and celebrate all the things they love about their family, even though they’ve been hurt by addiction.

In any good story, there are obstacles, and villains. Our story is no different. It becomes increasingly difficult to work with some insurance companies, as they train their case managers to deny care. Many of you in this room also work in the recovery field, and understand the deep frustration of being denied insurance reimbursement for a patient even though they are at brink of death, despite the Mental Health Parity Act which requires insurers to provide the same benefits for substance use treatment as they do for medical/surgical care.

Many of you have read the exposés in the Orange County Register as they continue to shine a light on the bad players that engage in body brokering and other illegal activities, on this already at-risk population of men and women. Sadly, many families in crisis shy away from accessing care at all because of these awful stories. And of course, the worst villain of all, the cunning, baffling, and powerful disease of addiction itself, that ravages 23 million people in our country and counting.

Today, by being here, we choose not to worry about the villains but instead, celebrate the heroes. Because Good Always Triumphs Over Evil. Every single one of the three hundred people in this room, who suited up and showed up early, on a Monday morning, to show your support for recovery is a hero. Those that have given their Time, Talent, and Treasure selflessly; Heroes like Carole Pickup and her daughter Devon, Lyn, Allison, and the entire Wilder family, Faith Strong, Ruth Stafford, Dan and Allison, Howard Bland, Becky Flood, and many more who ensured that the first forty chapters of New Directions for Women’s history was a story of heroes triumphing over the evil disease of addiction.

These heroes are oftentimes unsung. Those that enter the recovery field generally don’t do so for fame, glory, or riches. We do it to save lives. And today, we get to celebrate those people that are joining the ranks of the Amethyst Society, which we developed in 2011 to honor volunteers, employees, and donors who have given of themselves to New Directions for Women consistently over at least five years. What I would like to do is to ask each person to come up and receive their acknowledgement, and then we will fully acknowledge the group as a whole.

I’d like to honor Sara Smith, who has 5 years of service with New Directions. She is our Clinical Coordinator, and the true definition of a team player. From jumping in to drive a patient to a doctor’s appointment, to lovingly creating the Just For Today clinical schedule, she makes sure that very woman gets what they need to they can have a life beyond their wildest expectation.

I’d also like to honor Billye Shinto-Littman, who has 5 years of service as our Administrative Associate, and was a volunteer at Repeat Boutique even before that. She is the first friendly voice you hear when you call us, and that makes all the difference when someone in crisis decided it’s time to pick up that thousand pound phone and ask for help.

I’d like to honor Justa Guzman, who has 10 years of service as a Care Coordinator. She is many things, and one of those things, is a Grandmother. She showers our women with love, just as a Grandmother does, even when they arrive here, and can’t love themselves yet.

I’d like to honor Sharifa Haidari, who also has 10 years of service, and is a Lead Care Coordinator. Sharifa always put the care of our patients first, and goes above and beyond to take care of our families in her caring, gentle, quiet way.

Finally, I’d like to honor Victoria Herbert, who has responded to the many calls for help we receive, for 10 years. She does Intake and Admissions, and I’m guessing that she has seen quite a few of us in this room at our lowest, most caterpillary points, and loved us along our journey until we became the butterflies we were always meant to be.

Now, for our volunteers, who are paid in smiles and hugs, and that amazing feeling you get when you know you are helping another human being.

I’d like to bring up Carolyn Carr, who has been volunteering for 5 years. She is one of those rare unicorns that enjoys working on Excel spreadsheets, and making binders. We love having Carolyn volunteer with us.

I’d like to honor Don Wilson, who has been volunteering as a Board Member for the last 5 years, after he received the gifts of family recovery at New Directions.

Lastly I’d like to induct 4 individuals or organizations into the Amethyst Society who have given of their treasure to sustain our Foundation. They are on their way to five years of consecutive giving at $5,000 or more.

We’d like to thank Ascension Treatment Center, and bring up Parvaneh and Patrick Carter. It’s amazing to have other treatment centers support us in our mutual mission to transform lives.

The Allergan Foundation, who unfortunately couldn’t be with us today, but has consistently given us grant funds to continue our work.

Barbara Regosin, who gives of her talents by making jewelry with our patients, and shows them they are absolutely capable of creating beautiful, wearable art. She also gives of her treasure, consistently each year.

And finally, Christin Foreman Ellis, whose mother Meredith was on our Board of Directors for many years, and was truly the life of any party. Christin is carrying on her legacy of philanthropy, and generosity of spirit, truly helping us sustain over the decades.

Because of the strength of our Founders, the foundation they provided, and the passion that we all carry on in their behalf, I know that together, we will write our next chapter.

This Breakfast is the one fundraising event in our entire year. We always have it in March, the last month of our fiscal year, so we can replenish the Pamela Wilder Scholarship Fund, after having applied these partial scholarships so women could stay in treatment for long enough to truly have the miracle of recovery occur. We provide about half a million dollars for partial scholarships, each year.

Over 200 women entered our program over the last year, to write their new chapters. 20 little ones healed alongside their mothers, and 8 babies were born to moms, in the process of re-writing their stories. Over 90% of our patients received some type of partial scholarship.

So what’s next? As it is for all of us, the rest is still unwritten. But for the last month, we have been working alongside our new Executive Director Sue. She is one of those heroes that will ensure our future is Bright, as well. I am so happy to introduce her to you, so she can share a little more about herself and her journey, too.

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