The windows had been boarded shut. Like everyone else in the bottom-half of the state, the guys had spent hours in line at the local hardware store, fervently searching for functional scraps of plywood. The arrangements had been made – a safe house in the northernmost part of Georgia had been reserved and prepared. There was plenty of room for all of the patients and staff members. No, no one was worried about that. No one was worried about what would happen once they got to Georgia.
At this point in time, they were only worried about getting there.
It was Thursday afternoon (September 7th, 2017), and most of the local gas stations had been completely tapped out. Water was in short supply, and most of the ATMs had been emptied. Panicked friends kept one another abreast, sharing preparedness tips and supply-related updates on numerous social media platforms. Stress levels reached an accumulative high as everyone boarded up, stocked up, and hit the road.
Escaping Irma – Day 1
Of course, the Residential Managers at Next Chapter Treatment are proficient in diffusing high-stress situations, and successfully put the minds of the patients at ease as they set out on their journey west. They had been in the car for roughly 5 hours and had not yet made it to Orlando (Delray Beach is 187 miles from the city of Orlando, and the trip usually takes an average of 2.5 hours). The drive to Georgia ended up taking well over an entire day, and both the patients and the staff members only caught two hours of sleep at a rest stop on the way. Fortunately, many of the patients were able to doze in the car – the staff members, however, chugged coffee by the gallon as they drove through the wee hours of Friday morning.
Ryan Soave, the Next Chapter Program Director, went grocery shopping in Georgia before the patients and Residential Managers arrived. Hungry and exhausted, they prepared some food, got situated, and rested up before a long evening of movies and deep discussions.
Natural disasters are tragic and devastating – unfortunately, they are also inevitable… and completely out of our control. When circumstances such as these arise, we do what we can to turn them into opportunities – opportunities for personal growth, communal bonding, and deeper understanding.
We try to instill in our patients the idea that all of the external things that we have – our homes, our cars, that beautiful mahogany bedroom set that you spent 5 paychecks on – all of those things can be replaced. What cannot be replaced is the invaluable bond that is formed between human beings. What cannot be replaced is peace of mind; a solid sense of self-identity, freedom from all of the things that once held us back. While Hurricane Irma has the potential to be deeply distressing, so long as we are continuously working on ourselves and doing what we can to help others, everything else will fall back into place. It always does. Always, always.
A Bonding Experience
Now safe and sound in Georgia, we are planning out several fun bonding experiences for the days to come. So far, we are planning on zip lining and white water rafting. We believe in teaching our patients that recovery can be fun, and that forming healthy connections with other men can be extremely rewarding. Just as is the case with day-to-day life, we take potentially negative circumstances and transform them into opportunities for positive growth. And yes – the guys definitely have enough food to last a weekend. Thank you, Ryan.
Stay tuned for more updates on our ‘Escaping Irma’ adventure, and to all of our friends and family in Florida – you are in our thoughts and prayers!