New Community Service Groups
Clients at GIOP New Brunswick are Giving Back

The staff and clients at Guardian’s Intensive Outpatient program in New Brunswick, New Jersey have launched a new effort to give back to the local community through monthly themed service projects. The projects will benefit purpose-driven businesses and local non-profit organizations.

“One of the major principles of living in recovery is to be of service to others, so these projects are a wonderful way to do that,” said Christina “Tina” Wittkop, a therapist at Guardian IOP in New Brunswick who has been leading the charge on the community service projects.

Community service projects are now being conducted as part of the regular treatment schedule one day a week. The program started in the month of August to honor International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held on August 31 each year that aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths.

In August, GIOP clients created goodie bags with inspirational quotes and letters called “Bags of Hope” which were distributed on the bedside tables of individuals undergoing drug or alcohol detox at Princeton Detox and Recovery Center in Princeton, New Jersey. Clients made stress balls and journals to go in the bags, then added candy and personal messages.

“We got such a good response that we decided to do another project,” said Witkop.

The second project has benefited Elijah’s Promise, a local non-profit organization that feeds the homeless in New Brunswick. Last week clients created snack bags filled with granola bars, water, fruit cups and other snacks homeless individuals could have between meals at Elijah’s Promise. This week clients are creating hygiene kits in hand-decorated boxes with inspirational notes.

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Clients and staff have also been collecting donations for another non-profit called Coming Home. Elijah’s Promise works with Coming Home to help homeless individuals move into their first apartments. Coming home provides basic home essentials such as cleaning supplies, silverware, plates and blankets.

“The clients have done so well collecting donations. Literally our entire front reception office is filled,” said Witkop. “I thought originally maybe we would make about five baskets, but I have to go out to buy more baskets because they donated so much stuff.”

Importance of Service in Recovery

Donations came in from multiple places. The staff at Princeton Detox and Recovery Center joined in collecting goods. One client from GIOP’s day group sought the help of his 12-Step home group, which also donated items. And GIOP alumni from the last three graduating GIOP groups have gotten involved.

“We’re really like a family here,” said Witkop. “The clients have a real sense of community.”

In September, community projects will honor National Recovery Month, which is a national observance held every September to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery possible.

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The Role of Service in Recovery

One of the key principles of recovery is to be of service to others. Why? The principle originated in Alcoholics Anonymous, which is a recovery program built on the foundation of one alcoholic helping another alcoholic. The 12th Step of AA essentially boils down to living a principled life and helping others. Of course, the first 11 Steps are designed to transform an individual into the type of person who can, and wants to be, of service to others. The 12-Steps guide an individual, step-by-step, through actions that help them grow into more loving, selfless, happy individuals free from the bondage of addiction.

Many individuals who struggle with drug or alcohol dependence become very isolated and consumed by their addictions. They often come into recovery weighted down by resentment, anger, fear, self-loathing and shame. Service to others can be one tool to help combat these negative emotions. Being of service helps individuals get outside of themselves and put their energy toward positive purposes. In doing so, individuals gain a sense of meaning, develop self-esteem, build self-confidence and feel good about themselves. At Guardian IOP, we teach out clients to engage in service to others.

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What is Guardian’s IOP Program?

Guardian’s intensive outpatient program is an addiction treatment program which allows clients to go to work, attend school and live at home or in sober living while also attending treatment several days a week. Treatment groups meet for about 3-5 hours, 3-5 days a week. Clients participate in a full schedule of individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, life skills workshops, yoga, guided meditation, relapse prevention training and community service projects.

IOP is a more flexible form of addiction treatment than other forms because it allows clients to be engaged in their day-to-day lives while also receiving intensive therapy and connecting with a strong peer recovery community. IOP is a great option for individuals who are transitioning out of a higher level of care such as a residential inpatient treatment program or medical detox. It can, however, also be a standalone treatment option for certain individuals who either can’t, or don’t need to, participate in a higher level of care.

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