September is National Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Month, and Sunday, a handful of treatment advocates got together for an hour to dish out a warm slice of fry bread on a rainy afternoon at the Glory Hole.
About 50 people stopped by the homeless shelter for a snack, slightly more than the usual Sunday crowd.
"People are happy, and we're just here, we're celebrating, that's all we're doing," said Susan Phipps, advocate and co-organizer. "We've got to learn how to have sober time. Recovery is not just telling your story at all the meetings, going to the groups and going to the hospital, but taking it out to the street. That's the reason why we came here, to be part of the national celebration."
National Recovery Month is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Cities all over the country are holding events in support of recovery. Visit www.recoverymonth.gov for more information.
"I believe in recovery, and I know there's hope for anyone who wants to recover," said Helen Watkins, Sunday's fry bread cook and an employee at REACH. "I know it's important to have someone come up and tell you, 'I believe in you.' We want everyone else to know that we care."
The Glory Hole usually serves Sunday brunch at 11:30 a.m., a snack at 3 p.m. and dinner at 6. Rarely does it have fry bread on the menu. The shelter has a sobriety requirement and used to have on-site Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, executive director Jetta Whittaker said.
"I think that was really valuable for people here, and I would really like to develop that relationship," Whittaker said. "A lot of our patrons do find those resources in the community, but sometimes they haven't had an opportunity to bathe or wash their clothes. They may not feel like they fit in. So having a group here on-site is wonderful."
Casey Lanz, 43, a former cement worker, was at Sunday's event. He was born and raised in Juneau and has been sober for almost four months. On Memorial Day, two days after coming off a binge, he suffered a massive heart attack. His heart stopped in Juneau, and he was flown to the Alaska Native Medical Hospital in Anchorage, where he spent more than a month getting a Pacemaker installed.
"I believe God brought me back to life for a reason," said Lanz, who lost three brothers to alcoholism. "I try to go out and tell my people what they're doing to their lives. We've lost too many people. I'd say about 60 of us are gone."
"Today, I feel good about myself and I'm staying sober each day," he said. "It's not an easy task being around the other people out there drinking, but I block myself off from that somehow, and each day keeps reminding me, I can't have any more alcohol."
Korry Keeker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.