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Sault Michigan recovery program provides Zoom meetings to help addicted find their way

Rainbow Recovery is going strong with about 25 participants a night
where we can go rainbow ron

Rainbow Recovery of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. has incorporated online Zoom meetings and YouTube lectures for those who do not wish to gather or make themselves known.  

Results from the 2020 U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), showed that 22.2 per cent or 61.6 million Americans over the age of 12 had engaged in binge drinking within the month prior to being surveyed. 

Among that month’s binge drinkers, 17.7 million people or 28.8 percent, along with 12.8 per cent of current alcohol users drank heavily the previous month as well. Results also indicated that 58.7 percent or 162.5 million people used tobacco, alcohol, or an illicit drug in the month prior to being surveyed. 

Over the course of the year, 21.4 per cent or 59.3 million people admitted to illicit drug use. That number included recreational marijuana users. 

During uncertain times of the pandemic and its corresponding hardships, some coping mechanisms might smell of rum or whisky. Meanwhile, substance abuse treatment options have remained in operation. 

Within the titles of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) and Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.), it is written that members are granted anonymity. Thereby, the interviewees mentioned in this article have been assigned aliases for purposes of confidentiality.   

Mike D. is the facilitator of Rainbow Recovery Group. 

Amid health issues, the 22-year sober alcoholic in recovery found himself with extra time to spare.  

“I had a lot of time on my hands and wanted to do something positive,” Mike D. said. 

“I went out to a Rainbow Recovery meeting in Pickford and thought we need this in the Sault. Other meetings might read Bible verses and talk about them. I found that to be boring to young people, so I made a YouTube video and continued making them.”

Approximately 200 meetings and videos later, Rainbow Recovery is going strong. 

“We have about 25 a night,” said Mike D. “We had around 40 people one night. I just changed the format. 

The facilitator sought to expand on self-improvement meetings, designed to cultivate a relationship with a higher power. 

By incorporating social media, videos and Zoom meetings, Mike D. has captured the attention of youthful crowds.

“Most young people don’t go to church,” Mike D. said. “We try to give them an understanding of a higher power. That power is something bigger than yourself; It could be a tree. We have atheists that attend. We welcome anyone. I have people from all different walks of life.”

From atheism to Catholicism and everything between, Rainbow Recovery seeks to help anyone willing to listen and contribute. 

“We cater to all denominations,” said Mike D. “We are inclusive, not exclusive. I had a group of Mormons stop the other day. I said, ‘If you want to help, here’s what you can do...’ We have younger people who need a higher power in their lives. If being Mormon works, we will take it. Our goal is to make people happier. We talk solutions.”

Participant, Gilly, once resided in the area but has since moved across the country. Thanks to Zoom and social media, the miles between have not deterred his involvement in Rainbow Recovery.  

“I moved to Florida two years ago from the Sault,” Mike D. said. “I attend Zoom meetings. I have an AA meeting here and Rainbow Recovery meeting up north. A lot of my friends are involved in Zoom meetings.”

It was Gilly who helped Mike D. bring Rainbow Recovery to Sault Ste. Marie from Marquette in 2002.

“It started at Lake Superior Christian Church by a man named Bruce B.,” said Gilly, who chooses to focus his rehabilitation on the teachings of Christ. “I use Christian values to enhance recovery. We were in Marquette for three years, and Mike D. asked me to bring it to the Sault.” 

Father Mike Chenier of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church has actively involved himself in Rainbow Recovery’s Zoom meetings. In YouTube video, Father Mike Chenier of St. Joseph's Catholic Church; Rainbow Recovery Zoom Meeting, Chenier delivered a sermon to the Rainbow Recovery fellowship.

“I'd like to give you the analogy of a tree,” Chenier said. “Think of the roots of this tree as the spiritual wounds we experience. A lot of times, we were wounded in these ways when we're very young.” 

Chenier explained “wounds,” to cause feelings of abandonment, fear, confusion, rejection, shame and/or hopelessness. Metaphorically, such emotions make up the tree’s roots. Its trunk holds the unspoken lies people live by, stemming from those old wounds.

“We come to believe things about ourselves that are not true,” said Chenier. “If you were wounded with shame and made to feel ashamed when you were young, you might believe the lie that you are a bad person.”

Chenier said such lies bear the fruit of maladaptive behaviours.

“Those lies cause us to act in certain ways, out of self-hatred or punishment,” he said. “I want to create a road map of your interior struggles to help you grow in self-knowledge.”

Thereby, faith can help users rid the harmful and flawed belief systems causing addiction as the pseudo truth behind its motivation is uncovered.

Not all participants listen to or view the father’s lectures, others take his word as gold.

Len is an AA participant who prefers Eastern religion over Protestant, Catholic or alternatives.

“My friend, Mike D., was deeply involved in recovery and I used to go to his meetings to support him,” Len said of his relationship to Rainbow Recovery. “There's a third step in the 12-Step AA program. It tells you to turn your life over to the care of God as you understand him. That was a big problem with me.”

Len felt as though his non-Christian views prohibited success in certain Christian based treatment groups. Independently evaluating his life and needs brought him closer to a truth he could live by.  

“There's a lot of prejudice if you’re something other than Christian,” said Len. “I went on a search and found that I was not able to accept a future through the words of a 2,000-year-old Jewish carpenter, whom I respect very much. I just can't believe the Bible. The Bible is a lot of nonsense, really.”

Len shared stories of his boyhood in England. 

“I was pushed off to Sunday School at four years old,” he said, referring to memories during and post-World War II. 

“When I was a little kid, they were dropping bombs all over the place,” said Len. “Bombs were going off and I remember going to school with my gas mask. I lived just outside of London but every time we would visit my aunt or something, you’d just see rubble and ruin.”

He remembered hiding in the school’s bomb raid shelter to stay safe. But he also remembered the biblical lessons taught to make sense of a seemingly senseless world.

“We read out of the Bible and discussed stuff going on,” Len said. “I just thought the whole thing was a total waste.”

One of those Bibles was a small blue New Testament Bible, gifted by Queen Elizabeth as a coronation gift to every schoolchild in England. 

The schoolboy eventually grew up and made his journey across the Atlantic to one day end up in Michigan’s UP In doing so, he veered away the church’s teachings to discover his own. 

“I read up intensively on the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and the Jewish Kabbalah,” Len said. “I read quite a bit about them all and saw lots of good things in each of them. I also saw lots of ridiculous things in a lot of them. None of them really seemed to work with me.”

Studying various religions from the four corners of the earth, it appeared there was no right answer to be found. One day, he pulled a book from the library and a small blurb of words grabbed his attention.

“It was one about statesman Winston Churchill,” said Len. “He was 21 years old serving in Africa and wrote a letter home to his mother.”

Len quoted the following passage: “One of these days, a cold bright light of science and reason will shine through the cathedral window. And we will be able to walk out into the fields and seek God for ourselves. All those of nature will be known, our past and their future assured. We will then be able to dispense all the religious toys that have so greatly assisted us to that point.”

Some years later, it would be Len’s brother-in-law who turned him on to Buddhism.

“I enjoyed Buddhism because it’s technically not a religion,” he said. “It taught me meditation. One day, when I was sitting there doing it, something shifted. I was saying the words I was supposed to be saying, but they didn’t sound like the right words. When finished, I talked to this Japanese lady.”

The lady recognized Len’s experience as being in the “gap.”

"She smiled and said, ‘Yep, you were in the gap,’” Len recalled. "I didn't know what the gap was. I don't get in the gap every time I meditate, but every once in a while I do. It's like you're 10 feet tall. It just feels beautiful.”

After 83 years of healing and searching, Len has learned how to control his thoughts by carrying the rewards offered through meditation into daily practice. 

"Somebody once told me that the average human mind has 60,000 thoughts a day but that's not a problem,” he said. "The problem is that 95 per cent of those thoughts are the same thoughts we had yesterday. That's the problem because we’re just going around and around, and we're not moving forward or doing anything. We're just chugging along, just chugging along.”

Meditation is nothing specific for Len, who tells people there is no need to sit cross legged with palms facing upward.

"Just find a comfortable chair to sit in and relax your body,” he instructed. “When in a nice, comfortable spot, just breathe. Breathe in and breathe out. That's all you think about. Just think about breathing in and out. It won’t be long before your thoughts turn off and goes someplace else.”

This is when maintaining control of the mind plays a crucial role in preventing negative thinking patterns.

“A person can be happy in almost any state,” he said. 

Len has successfully enjoyed 35 years of sobriety, Gilly has achieved nearly 40 years of sobriety, and Mike D. has been sober for 22 years. 

To locate Alcoholics Anonymous meetings near you, visit its website.

Rainbow Recovery Zoom meetings are held every Wednesday at 7 p.m. This Wednesday, Jan. 19, Father Mike Chenier will speak live on Zoom in '4 Steps to Fight Temptation.' Anyone interested is welcome to attend, using Zoom meeting ID: 811 4010 6468.

Additional information pertaining to rainbow recovery meetings can be found on the Facebook page