A sober girl in a brewery town

When I moved back to Roanoke after 12 years, the Blue Ridge Mountains moved right back into my heart. It was like we’d never been apart.

There is little I love more than my town. Just like the other loves of my life—my three stinky boys (a husband and two sons), the four beating and two still hearts of my siblings, a strong cup of coffee, and a sweaty run—Roanoke isn’t perfect and proves its imperfections every day.

I love it still. My personal, professional, social and recreational life wraps around my interest in making this town as good as possible by giving it my best.

The years I spent away were also years spent away from my own best self. Coming back to Roanoke was the first step in a slow journey of getting back to me. To the me who runs the trails in this town. Who rubs elbows with people passionate and driven enough to make a difference in this world. Who believes in the shared heartbeat of humanity.

Part of that journey included giving up alcohol for good.

So, when the biggest news out of Roanoke in years was that a brewery from Oregon chose my love as its new home—I felt a little left out.

How could I celebrate the news with my friends and neighbors? It’s a place I will likely never visit. Gear I will never wear. Beer I will never taste.

And Deschutes isn’t the only brewery to come to Roanoke or beer-related news to ripple through our community. 2016 was pretty much the year of the beer.

If you don’t know how big of a deal this is in Roanoke, then I’ll give you an example.

Tomorrow, July 15, is the second annual Deschutes Street Pub in Roanoke.

Today, in my regular Friday yoga/Pilates class, the instructor started class by asking who was going to the Street Pub. Hmmmmm…

The furor of Deschutes choosing Roanoke for its East Coast home reached absolutely astonishing heights.

For the days following the announcement in March 2016, messages of Deschutes coming to Roanoke were literally everywhere.

Runners, bikers, non-profit friends, parents, grandparents—everyone it seemed—was over the moon psyched to celebrate alcohol and what it means for our economy, our community, our sense of self.

And I was over here, like, nope.

Being five years sober and realizing how much more real and awake life feels, I have a difficult time encouraging an entire town to get intoxicated on the idea that our future is better for adding more beer.

But, I’m not a total downer.

I’ll be there at the Street Pub representing Family Service with our partner organization United Way of Roanoke Valley. Last year, I shared booth space with SARA (Sexual Assault Response Awareness).

The saving grace of being a sober girl in a brewery town is that at least the most popular brewery to move to Roanoke believes in giving back to its community.

Family Service doesn’t receive funds from the Street Pub, but Deschutes gave $81,000 back to Roanoke after the 2016 Street Pub.

This year our partner organization Bradley Free Clinic, which operates The Hope Initiative to intervene on behalf of addicts to help them turn over their drugs and get into treatment, is one of the organizations to benefit from the event.

I continue to be excited about Deschutes in Roanoke because I hope it encourages other companies to realize the importance of giving back to our community. I hope it attracts more companies that prioritize people and their lives and needs.

Creating jobs and bringing tourists and creating a fun community will never relieve the need for helpers. By investing in our home, by giving to those who struggle, by believing everyone deserves a chance to heal—we make hope a basic human right.  

Hope, not hops.

Or, at least Hops and Hope.

The health benefits of counseling for older adults

“Ann” is 70 years old and recently came to Family Service seeking treatment for depression.

She said it all started with the death of her son 10 years ago. She became the primary caregiver for his children after his death, and ignored the signs and symptoms of her own depression. 

Three months ago, her husband passed away and Ann realized her depression had never really gone away and was now intensifying.  She was also suffering panic attacks, in which she felt anxious and afraid of dying. She was no longer engaged with friends or family and reported not wanting to get out of bed, loss of appetite, and feelings of worthlessness.

Ann said she had “lost her own identity in caregiving” and now felt that she had “lost my role… my purpose in life.”

Ann’s situation highlights the disabling affects associated with depression in the elderly population, and emphasizes the need for treatment of this highly prevalent, but treatable disorder.

Depression is the most common cause of emotional suffering in older adults. It is NOT a part of normal aging.

With counseling, Ann was able to experience a reduction in stress, depression and anxiety. She was able to formulate coping and self-care strategies, enhance communication skills resulting in healthier relationships and experience improved both physical and emotional health!!

Cathy Thompson is the Director of Older Adult Services

The Story of a Star City Survivor

"Last December right before Christmas, I had a plan to end my life. 

I was still forcing a smile, so no one knew anything was wrong.

I wasn’t going to tell them. 

I was simply going to do it, and leave an apology note for my kids."

The brave woman, who will remain anonymous for her  protection, used the resources provided in collaboration with Family Service and TAP Domestic Violence Services (TAP DVS), to restart her life after years of emotional and psychological abuse.

"From the outside looking in, abuse isn’t always easy to recognize. It doesn’t always show up in the form of black eyes and broken bones. Sometimes, it shows up in the form of a smiling face and a woman trying way too hard to convince myself, and the rest of the world, that everything is ok."

TAP DVS, Salvation Army Turning Point and Family Service of Roanoke Valley partnered to provide multiple support groups for survivors of domestic violence.

Star City Survivors  supported 18 women through three closed groups and over 40 through open groups held at the shelter. The trauma-informed services helped women recover from the deep emotional wounds caused by domestic violence.

The group began in Spring 2016 and concluded in January 2017. Star City Survivors was made possible thanks to the support of the The Earl D. and Carrie Leigh Doran Fund of the Foundation for Roanoke Valley,

"I stayed in my marriage, because I remembered the man I fell in love with, and refused to believe that this, was truly who he had become."

She spent 15 years in the marriage, with emotional abuse escalating to a dangerous point. While she attempted to change the locks on the house they co-owned, her husband attacked her. She had enough and promptly pressed charges. The resulting court battle ate up her mental and financial resources, when she finally, desperately, googled domestic violence assistance in Roanoke. She found TAP DVS.

As soon as she contacted them, she was given access to counseling services, as well as case management and court advocacy. Even when court verdicts did not go the way she wanted them to, the fact that she had an advocate by her side and a group of people who supported her was reassuring. 

That support came from the Star City Survivors. A TAP employee provided childcare while the client was in group, making it easier for her to attend.

"There was something about sitting in a room filled with women who had stories so different, but exactly the same as mine that was validating.

For years, I questioned whether or not what I was going through was considered abuse. I allowed my husband to convince me that I was crazy, and emotionally unstable, and that I was the one with the problem; who needed the help. It was freeing, and healing. I stopped blaming myself for all of the things that he had done, and I started seeing things for what they truly were.

I had never been punched, or kicked, or left with any major physical scars, but I had, in fact, been a victim of abuse."

Since her last court date, the client has obtained a full time job that will provide benefits for her and children. Her wages have significantly increased and she has not needed anymore financial assistance.   In addition she has gone back to school, sought additional, higher education and is set to soon graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Counseling.

Her story is only one of many that was made possible

by Star City Survivors.