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Peer Recovery

I hope you enjoy this post … you can hear me review this post as well at the following link

About 3 years ago I was on a stage in Williamsburg, Virginia. Funny enough, the conference was being held inside of the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, a place I had often been with my own children. Now here I was speaking to hundreds of people about the relevance of Trauma in Adult Corrections. I think there is a connection there, hold on for that.

Things happen for a reason …

So I was nervous because I have always thought of myself as someone who knows kids and families, but what did I know about adults in the jail system? Secondly, I was terrified because why would a bunch of Sheriff’s and Correctional Officers listen to me? I have often been called the “hug a thug lady”. I think that means that I am ignorant enough to believe that if we hug enough “hardened criminals” they will just magically get better. There might be some truth in the hug part … but I strongly believe in consequences and I know that there is a lot of deep quick sand men and women must wade through to deal with their trauma and engage in their resilience and recovery. There is nothing easy about recovery …

What I believe most is that Recovery and Discipline are not mutually exclusive

… and that Resilience is possible in all places and Within all Walls. 

That was the day I met Sheriff Leonard. I couldn’t even get off stage. He was standing there at this state conference and he said “What will it take to bring you to the men and women in my jail … where do you live?”. My response was “Chesterfield Virginia” and he said, “You are not going to believe this … but I am the Sheriff of Chesterfield Virgina jail”.

Perhaps 2 weeks later I went to his office and 5 minutes later I was in the jail where he asked me to do an impromptu presentation to his men in the Substance Abuse Program known as HARP (Heroin Addiction Recovery Program). And then he asked them “You want her to come back?”, the men said yes … I have been coming back ever since.

Today …

Today I work with men and women weekly in the Substance Abuse Programs at the Chesterfield Jail.

  • I teach Trauma and Resilience Classes there (the same ones as in the Community)
  • I teach the full Dr. Brene Brown Rising Strong Curriculum (16 hours) and they practice these skills of resilience each week (some choose to take the class 3,4 and 5 times)
  • And as of 2017, as you can see in the picture below, I have worked with DBHDS in Virginia and with many dear colleagues around the state to assure that residents here can start the path in becoming Certified Peer Recovery Specialists. I sincerely believe that like knows like and that these brave people will help guide others into recovery



It is a gift to do this work and I learn from them every day. They are not now nor will ever be “inmates” to me. For the record … I passionately dislike that word. Of interest, the original translation of this word was “a person who dwells with others in the same house”. The word “in” means then “inside” and the word “mate” means “companion”. 

The persons I have met in Chesterfield Jail may be inside those walls … but they are dwelling with us in our same house, our country and our world. They are our neighbors, our siblings, our parents, our cousins, our co-workers, the person we sit next to in the restaurant and the movie theater.  They are my companions in figuring out the many paths of recovery. And I believe they are the individuals who will help us one by one challenge the disease of substance use and the Opioid Crisis specifically.

They are the reason for our “Doing Life” Curriculum (check it out under current events)

I hope you will support that work and check out our non-profit we created (Integrative Minds) to support Peer Recovery Work and Trauma Work specifically.

Final Thoughts … the connection

So where is that connection? So there I was three years ago in a place I choose to use to connect with my own children. A place where we get to interact and spend quality time laughing and enjoying each other. And now in that moment where I met Sheriff Leonard … I was investing in my kids future again.

Parents and ProSocial Adults are the number one protective factor for children.

If we do not invest in ALL adults … then how will we truly build Community Resilience?

If you doubt me … watch this short clip I love from Sheriff Woody’s Days in the Richmond Virginia Jail.

I have yet to watch this video and not cry.

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Community Resilience


Next Generation Health … a few thoughts

So I have had the good fortune to travel internationally this year to share the story of trauma and resilience. Above is a picture of me with 4 amazing young girls from a village I visited in Guatamala. Now I speak very little Spanish and they spoke very little English and yet over the period of an hour … we were really getting to know each other. I showed them pictures of my daughters and where we live. They were fascinated by the snow! They then took me to their home and showed me where they live (see below) and I was truly humbled.


Pretty different from me. Yet do you see those smiles above at the top? They are so authentic. While I was humbled by the poverty I watched role out before me. Humbled by things I take for granted, like clean water at my fingertips. I was also humbled by their community.

So often the parents and staff of Hope for Life would share with me their gratitude for me coming to their country and teaching them about Trauma and Resilience (see one of my classes below).


They talked to me about all they had learned and how grateful they were to get this information … “we must know a lot about trauma in the United States” (Have to admit a bit of my cynical side came out during those moments … some days I am not so sure).

Once I let go of my cynicism … What came to me is gratitude that we do have access to this science. We also have more and more of us becoming committed to sharing that knowledge and actually doing something with it to make the situation better for the next generation. Many of us are being vulnerable and using Dr. Brene Brown’s work to walk into new arenas and take risks with this knowledge to help our community. Yet what I also shared with them (with the help of AMAZING interpreters) is what they taught me, and they are two things I know I personally am struggling to build in my own life and in our country: Connected Community and Gratitude.

As I watched the mothers and fathers with ease move between each others homes, share everything they had with us, naturally help with childcare and community needs; I thought of my dear friend Danny Avula at the Richmond City Health District who gave this wonderful Ted Talk at RVA TedEx a while back (see below). Inter-dependence isn’t a dirty word.

I also thought about the day I came up with my tag line for the company “We ALL have a role in Community Resilience”. That is real integration … working together with a little humility and a lot of gratitude. That is a powerful combination and when it comes to ACEs, connection is what we need.

I believe we can learn from each other globally how to either enhance our community connections or re-build our community connections so that we can create next generation health.

And that is my thought for today …


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Reflections on Purpose

I am so excited you are here and joining us today.

Where we have been: 

As of this April 2018, Integration Solutions has been in business for 6 years. Hard for me to believe.

In the beginning I remember traveling once a month to a few libraries in the Tidewater Virginia area where I use to live. Often these events were free and I got so excited when 25 or more folks would show up to talk about trauma and how to help support children and families with trauma informed approaches. Today I travel all over the United States and even do international work (was in Guatamala in February of 2018). Wow … never thought I would say that.

Where we are going (or perhaps still are): 

Despite my sitting here in awe as I write this tonight thinking about the work, the people I have met, the youth and adults who have inspired me to keep going … I actually find that the purpose remains the same.

Can we get a few folks in a room to talk about trauma and most importantly resilience? (even when sometimes the room holds 500 to 2500 people these days)

Can we support people in better understanding themselves and those around them when adversity has happened early in life?

Can we help people talk to each other … like really connect with each other? People are the medicine for people …

Can we heal … and where we cannot heal, can we adapt and cope so that life moves on and we thrive … because I know I don’t just want to survive, I want to thrive! And I want that for others as well.

Where we are going: 

So here we are together in 2018 and I am excited that Integration Solutions can be one small part of building resiliency in people’s lives. As we move forward it was important to me to build a new and more interactive website where I can reach out and share my thoughts as you share yours.

You know the word “integration” comes from the Latin word “integer” which means “to make whole”.  That really is our goal here … I work each day to help integrate all the parts of me, my emotions, my thoughts, my actions. I work to integrate the darkness I have walked through and try to remember there has been light too (not one of my specialties). I believe that integrity means (as Dr. Brene Brown says …) to not just profess your values, but to live them. So I try … and it has made a difference for me.

My hope is through our work here at Integration Solutions, Inc. we can bring wholeness to our human service systems, to the workers that serve tirelessly in these systems, and to the adults, families and youth they serve.

Thank you for taking the time to read this first blog and for making Community Resilience a part of your work too.