Better Together

Staying strong with Alumni Relations

If you've ever participated in one of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's treatment programs, family programs or workshops, then you are one of hundreds of thousands of Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation alumni. And that makes you a member of a warm, supportive community that will cheer you on when you're on top of the world and do everything they can to help you get through the inevitable tough times.

As the new executive director of national alumni relations at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Nell Hurley's job is to get every alum connected to this vibrant community of support and fellowship.

"I just celebrated 18 years in recovery in December," says Nell. "So I have an acute awareness of the fact that treatment is just the very beginning—the tip of the iceberg—of a lifelong journey of recovery."

From clinical care to life in recovery

Returning to the daily routine after days, weeks or months in treatment is exciting—but the challenges of ongoing recovery can be daunting. Although family members and friends want to be supportive, they don't always know how. That's why Nell and her team make sure that wherever our alumni go, they have caring people to talk to who understand exactly what they are going through—because they’ve been through it too.

"We have chapters all over the country where alums get together on a regular basis for a Twelve Step meeting, a dinner, a workshop or just an opportunity for fellowship," says Nell. "We connect every alum, from every one of our locations and programs, to a community of people that feels familiar—people who have had the same treatment experience and use the same language."

"To meet and talk with people who have that shared experience as they start the recovery process is so important," says Nell. "Recovery is truly life changing, and it gives alumni a deep, unique bond."

Not just for newcomers

The opportunities to get together are just as important for people in long-term recovery as they are for those who are just beginning their new life in recovery.

Alums will invariably tell you that they are eager to give back—to be a source of hope to those in treatment and recovery—because it helps them sustain their own recovery. So we provide many meaningful service opportunities, including inviting alums to come to one of our campuses to share their stories with current patients, or to be a resource person for someone just out of treatment.

"It’s a win-win," says Nell. "It strengthens the recovery of the person who has been around for awhile—and it also makes a huge difference to the newcomer."

Many ways to plug into the network

Here are some of the resources and opportunities offered by alumni relations:

  • Chapter Meetings: We currently have 28 alumni chapters in cities and towns across the United States and Canada—and six more on the way in 2016—where alums can attend Twelve Step meetings. They all follow the same format, so anyone dropping in while traveling will be welcomed into a familiar routine. Family members and guests are invited too.
  • Alumni Contacts: Currently, three of our locations offer this program, connecting newly discharged patients with an alum in their local community. These volunteers are alumni who have at least six months of sobriety, are connected with the Twelve Step community, and are willing to meet with new alums for a cup of coffee, to take them to a meeting, or even to greet them at the airport when they return home from treatment. We are expanding this program to all 16 of our Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation locations in 2016.
  • Workshops, Anniversary Celebrations and Alumni Reunions: Every year, we organize a variety of events on our campuses across the country. Often they are weekend extravaganzas, with fun sober events such as barbecues, concerts, and ice cream socials.
  • On-Campus Volunteer Opportunities: All of our sites welcome alumni who want to come back and work with patients. "It's all about strengthening a person's recovery through meaningful ways to engage in recovery," says Nell. "It's about staying plugged in and connected."
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