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Robin Huebner reports: New Minn. recovery program has addicts helping addicts

MOORHEAD, Minn. - Up until last August, alcohol trumped virtually everything for the past seven years of Kerry Leno's life. "I was a 24-hour-a-day drinker," said Leno, 36, of rural Moorhead. The spiral began when Leno started going through a divorce.

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Kerry Leno talks about the work of reGROUP on Thursday, April 2, 2015, in Moorhead. The organization uses recovery coaches to work one-on-one with addicts who are just starting their recovery process. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

MOORHEAD, Minn. – Up until last August, alcohol trumped virtually everything for the past seven years of Kerry Leno’s life. “I was a 24-hour-a-day drinker,” said Leno, 36, of rural Moorhead. The spiral began when Leno started going through a divorce. She would drink when she got up in the morning and start in again after work. “Then I took a bartending job so I could drink while I worked,” Leno said. Drinking was the cause of her divorce, it caused her to see her children less often and even left her homeless for a while. But Leno has put her life back together and is helping others do the same as a peer advocate for the new reGROUP program in Moorhead. She's a trained volunteer who makes weekly phone calls to people in recovery to listen, lend support and steer them toward resources that can help them climb out of the deep, dark hole of addiction. “It gets me out of my own head and gets me to focus on someone else,” Leno said. Leno also plans to become a “recovery coach” for reGROUP, allowing her to meet face-to-face for more intensive work with addicts who want to get better. She said early feedback from clients is positive, and the work is also helping to keep her on track. “It’s beneficial for me too, just to listen to them,” Leno said. “It makes me remember where I was – not to forget.” Related content ‘Coming out’ The reGROUP program is being funded by a three-year, $540,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division. Located at 107 7th St. S. in Moorhead, it’s currently hosted by Lost and Found Ministry, a program of nearby Trinity Lutheran Church. However, the process has begun to make reGROUP its own non-profit. “This grant opportunity matched what was in our gut,” said Denise Peterson, executive director of reGROUP and Lost and Found Ministry. The program serves 25 northwestern Minnesota counties with peer recovery support, from Moorhead north to the Canadian border, east to Alexandria and Bemidji and south to Morris. It has about 30 clients in a database so far. Peer volunteers can be from anywhere, but it’s intended that clients be Minnesota residents. That doesn’t mean North Dakota residents will be turned away. “The people in St. Paul understand that we’re a border city,” said Peterson. More than a dozen people have been trained to make peer-to-peer phone calls and reGROUP employees are spreading the word to professionals in northwestern Minnesota. “It’s our goal for churches, law enforcement to feel comfortable referring people to us,” Peterson said. ReGROUP will also hold a 40-hour Recovery Coach academy in late April, where volunteers receive additional training about cultural considerations and ethics boundaries. Peterson hopes to have about five recovery coaches to start, with that number growing to about 50 over the entire 25-county area. Part of reGROUP’s vision statement is that addiction recovery be promoted and celebrated – as evidenced recently when about 30 people from reGROUP walked in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Fargo wearing t-shirts proclaiming “Recovery Works.” “It was almost like a ‘coming out’ for people,” said Beth Brandt, a licensed professional clinical counselor for reGROUP and Lost and Found Ministry. “It’s kind of a big deal around here because the prevailing notion is anonymity,” Brandt said. “If they feel ashamed and needing to hide this disease, nobody is getting better,” Peterson said. This time was different Being upfront about her lowest points in life is part of Kerry Leno’s healing process. When her marriage began to crumble, she started to hang out at bars and distance herself from her kids. “I became the weekend and summer mom,” Leno said. Soon, working got in the way of drinking, so she quit her job, pawned all of her belongings and became homeless – going from one friend’s couch to another. When she tried to quit drinking, the withdrawal made her very sick. “I would have seizures,” Leno said. One such episode landed her in the hospital. She says she awoke in a hospital bed with her then-fiancé, now husband, sobbing at her side. He told her he didn’t want to lose her to alcohol. “I had people who believed in me before I believed in myself,” Leno said. Through help from the 12 Step Recovery Program, she had stints of sobriety, but they didn’t last. “I couldn’t find my happiness even when I was sober,” Leno said. But this time around, something was different. “I don’t know what clicked, but it just did,” Leno said. She gives much of the credit to her service work at reGROUP. An office manager at a small engineering firm in downtown Fargo, Leno has three adult stepdaughters in addition to two teenage daughters and a pre-teen son, who live with their father and his wife. Leno says her kids, and she and her ex-husband, are better adjusted than ever. “They don’t have to worry about mom, and as parents, we’re happier now.” [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"1637463","attributes":{"alt":"Dave Wallis / The Forum ","class":"media-image","height":"747","title":"Dave Wallis / The Forum ","width":"1024"}}]] ‘Finally have peace’ In addition to peer advocacy, reGROUP is offering drama therapy and drumming sessions as a sort of self-help tool. There are social events scheduled as well, including potluck meals and bowling outings, which have an educational tie – for example, teaching people how to relate to others without a drink in hand. Yoga is available for a small fee and can be especially helpful to those with a history of anxiety, depression or both. Consider them tools in a toolbox for recovering addicts, and Leno says she doesn’t hesitate to use hers – including her 12-step sponsor, service work, exercise, family time, and daily meditation. “After 30 some odd years, I finally have peace in my life.” Readers can reach Robin Huebner at rhuebner@forumcomm.com. Huebner is also a 5:00 pm news anchor on WDAY-TV. Click here for more information about reGROUPMOORHEAD, Minn. – Up until last August, alcohol trumped virtually everything for the past seven years of Kerry Leno’s life. “I was a 24-hour-a-day drinker,” said Leno, 36, of rural Moorhead. The spiral began when Leno started going through a divorce. She would drink when she got up in the morning and start in again after work. “Then I took a bartending job so I could drink while I worked,” Leno said. Drinking was the cause of her divorce, it caused her to see her children less often and even left her homeless for a while. But Leno has put her life back together and is helping others do the same as a peer advocate for the new reGROUP program in Moorhead. She's a trained volunteer who makes weekly phone calls to people in recovery to listen, lend support and steer them toward resources that can help them climb out of the deep, dark hole of addiction. “It gets me out of my own head and gets me to focus on someone else,” Leno said. Leno also plans to become a “recovery coach” for reGROUP, allowing her to meet face-to-face for more intensive work with addicts who want to get better. She said early feedback from clients is positive, and the work is also helping to keep her on track. “It’s beneficial for me too, just to listen to them,” Leno said. “It makes me remember where I was – not to forget.” [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"1637462","attributes":{"alt":"Dave Wallis / The Forum ","class":"media-image","height":"673","title":"Dave Wallis / The Forum ","width":"1024"}}]] ‘Coming out’ The reGROUP program is being funded by a three-year, $540,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division. Located at 107 7th St. S. in Moorhead, it’s currently hosted by Lost and Found Ministry, a program of nearby Trinity Lutheran Church. However, the process has begun to make reGROUP its own non-profit. “This grant opportunity matched what was in our gut,” said Denise Peterson, executive director of reGROUP and Lost and Found Ministry. The program serves 25 northwestern Minnesota counties with peer recovery support, from Moorhead north to the Canadian border, east to Alexandria and Bemidji and south to Morris. It has about 30 clients in a database so far. Peer volunteers can be from anywhere, but it’s intended that clients be Minnesota residents. That doesn’t mean North Dakota residents will be turned away. “The people in St. Paul understand that we’re a border city,” said Peterson. More than a dozen people have been trained to make peer-to-peer phone calls and reGROUP employees are spreading the word to professionals in northwestern Minnesota. “It’s our goal for churches, law enforcement to feel comfortable referring people to us,” Peterson said. ReGROUP will also hold a 40-hour Recovery Coach academy in late April, where volunteers receive additional training about cultural considerations and ethics boundaries. Peterson hopes to have about five recovery coaches to start, with that number growing to about 50 over the entire 25-county area. Part of reGROUP’s vision statement is that addiction recovery be promoted and celebrated – as evidenced recently when about 30 people from reGROUP walked in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Fargo wearing t-shirts proclaiming “Recovery Works.” “It was almost like a ‘coming out’ for people,” said Beth Brandt, a licensed professional clinical counselor for reGROUP and Lost and Found Ministry. “It’s kind of a big deal around here because the prevailing notion is anonymity,” Brandt said. “If they feel ashamed and needing to hide this disease, nobody is getting better,” Peterson said. This time was different Being upfront about her lowest points in life is part of Kerry Leno’s healing process. When her marriage began to crumble, she started to hang out at bars and distance herself from her kids. “I became the weekend and summer mom,” Leno said. Soon, working got in the way of drinking, so she quit her job, pawned all of her belongings and became homeless – going from one friend’s couch to another. When she tried to quit drinking, the withdrawal made her very sick. “I would have seizures,” Leno said. One such episode landed her in the hospital. She says she awoke in a hospital bed with her then-fiancé, now husband, sobbing at her side. He told her he didn’t want to lose her to alcohol. “I had people who believed in me before I believed in myself,” Leno said. Through help from the 12 Step Recovery Program, she had stints of sobriety, but they didn’t last. “I couldn’t find my happiness even when I was sober,” Leno said. But this time around, something was different. “I don’t know what clicked, but it just did,” Leno said. She gives much of the credit to her service work at reGROUP. An office manager at a small engineering firm in downtown Fargo, Leno has three adult stepdaughters in addition to two teenage daughters and a pre-teen son, who live with their father and his wife. Leno says her kids, and she and her ex-husband, are better adjusted than ever. “They don’t have to worry about mom, and as parents, we’re happier now.” Related content ‘Finally have peace’ In addition to peer advocacy, reGROUP is offering drama therapy and drumming sessions as a sort of self-help tool. There are social events scheduled as well, including potluck meals and bowling outings, which have an educational tie – for example, teaching people how to relate to others without a drink in hand. Yoga is available for a small fee and can be especially helpful to those with a history of anxiety, depression or both. Consider them tools in a toolbox for recovering addicts, and Leno says she doesn’t hesitate to use hers – including her 12-step sponsor, service work, exercise, family time, and daily meditation. “After 30 some odd years, I finally have peace in my life.” Readers can reach Robin Huebner at rhuebner@forumcomm.com. Huebner is also a 5:00 pm news anchor on WDAY-TV. Click here for more information about reGROUPMOORHEAD, Minn. – Up until last August, alcohol trumped virtually everything for the past seven years of Kerry Leno’s life.“I was a 24-hour-a-day drinker,” said Leno, 36, of rural Moorhead.The spiral began when Leno started going through a divorce. She would drink when she got up in the morning and start in again after work.“Then I took a bartending job so I could drink while I worked,” Leno said.Drinking was the cause of her divorce, it caused her to see her children less often and even left her homeless for a while.But Leno has put her life back together and is helping others do the same as a peer advocate for the new reGROUP program in Moorhead.She's a trained volunteer who makes weekly phone calls to people in recovery to listen, lend support and steer them toward resources that can help them climb out of the deep, dark hole of addiction.“It gets me out of my own head and gets me to focus on someone else,” Leno said.Leno also plans to become a “recovery coach” for reGROUP, allowing her to meet face-to-face for more intensive work with addicts who want to get better.She said early feedback from clients is positive, and the work is also helping to keep her on track.“It’s beneficial for me too, just to listen to them,” Leno said. “It makes me remember where I was – not to forget.” Related content ‘Coming out’The reGROUP program is being funded by a three-year, $540,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division.Located at 107 7th St. S. in Moorhead, it’s currently hosted by Lost and Found Ministry, a program of nearby Trinity Lutheran Church.However, the process has begun to make reGROUP its own non-profit.“This grant opportunity matched what was in our gut,” said Denise Peterson, executive director of reGROUP and Lost and Found Ministry.The program serves 25 northwestern Minnesota counties with peer recovery support, from Moorhead north to the Canadian border, east to Alexandria and Bemidji and south to Morris. It has about 30 clients in a database so far.Peer volunteers can be from anywhere, but it’s intended that clients be Minnesota residents.That doesn’t mean North Dakota residents will be turned away.“The people in St. Paul understand that we’re a border city,” said Peterson.More than a dozen people have been trained to make peer-to-peer phone calls and reGROUP employees are spreading the word to professionals in northwestern Minnesota.“It’s our goal for churches, law enforcement to feel comfortable referring people to us,” Peterson said.ReGROUP will also hold a 40-hour Recovery Coach academy in late April, where volunteers receive additional training about cultural considerations and ethics boundaries.Peterson hopes to have about five recovery coaches to start, with that number growing to about 50 over the entire 25-county area.Part of reGROUP’s vision statement is that addiction recovery be promoted and celebrated – as evidenced recently when about 30 people from reGROUP walked in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Fargo wearing t-shirts proclaiming “Recovery Works.”“It was almost like a ‘coming out’ for people,” said Beth Brandt, a licensed professional clinical counselor for reGROUP and Lost and Found Ministry.“It’s kind of a big deal around here because the prevailing notion is anonymity,” Brandt said.“If they feel ashamed and needing to hide this disease, nobody is getting better,” Peterson said.This time was differentBeing upfront about her lowest points in life is part of Kerry Leno’s healing process. When her marriage began to crumble, she started to hang out at bars and distance herself from her kids.“I became the weekend and summer mom,” Leno said.Soon, working got in the way of drinking, so she quit her job, pawned all of her belongings and became homeless – going from one friend’s couch to another.When she tried to quit drinking, the withdrawal made her very sick.“I would have seizures,” Leno said.One such episode landed her in the hospital. She says she awoke in a hospital bed with her then-fiancé, now husband, sobbing at her side. He told her he didn’t want to lose her to alcohol.“I had people who believed in me before I believed in myself,” Leno said.Through help from the 12 Step Recovery Program, she had stints of sobriety, but they didn’t last.“I couldn’t find my happiness even when I was sober,” Leno said.But this time around, something was different.“I don’t know what clicked, but it just did,” Leno said.She gives much of the credit to her service work at reGROUP.An office manager at a small engineering firm in downtown Fargo, Leno has three adult stepdaughters in addition to two teenage daughters and a pre-teen son, who live with their father and his wife.Leno says her kids, and she and her ex-husband, are better adjusted than ever.“They don’t have to worry about mom, and as parents, we’re happier now.”[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"1637463","attributes":{"alt":"Dave Wallis / The Forum ","class":"media-image","height":"747","title":"Dave Wallis / The Forum ","width":"1024"}}]]‘Finally have peace’In addition to peer advocacy, reGROUP is offering drama therapy and drumming sessions as a sort of self-help tool.There are social events scheduled as well, including potluck meals and bowling outings, which have an educational tie – for example, teaching people how to relate to others without a drink in hand.Yoga is available for a small fee and can be especially helpful to those with a history of anxiety, depression or both.Consider them tools in a toolbox for recovering addicts, and Leno says she doesn’t hesitate to use hers – including her 12-step sponsor, service work, exercise, family time, and daily meditation.“After 30 some odd years, I finally have peace in my life.”Readers can reach Robin Huebner at rhuebner@forumcomm.com. Huebner is also a 5:00 pm news anchor on WDAY-TV. Click here for more information about reGROUPMOORHEAD, Minn. – Up until last August, alcohol trumped virtually everything for the past seven years of Kerry Leno’s life.“I was a 24-hour-a-day drinker,” said Leno, 36, of rural Moorhead.The spiral began when Leno started going through a divorce. She would drink when she got up in the morning and start in again after work.“Then I took a bartending job so I could drink while I worked,” Leno said.Drinking was the cause of her divorce, it caused her to see her children less often and even left her homeless for a while.But Leno has put her life back together and is helping others do the same as a peer advocate for the new reGROUP program in Moorhead.She's a trained volunteer who makes weekly phone calls to people in recovery to listen, lend support and steer them toward resources that can help them climb out of the deep, dark hole of addiction.“It gets me out of my own head and gets me to focus on someone else,” Leno said.Leno also plans to become a “recovery coach” for reGROUP, allowing her to meet face-to-face for more intensive work with addicts who want to get better.She said early feedback from clients is positive, and the work is also helping to keep her on track.“It’s beneficial for me too, just to listen to them,” Leno said. “It makes me remember where I was – not to forget.”[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"1637462","attributes":{"alt":"Dave Wallis / The Forum ","class":"media-image","height":"673","title":"Dave Wallis / The Forum ","width":"1024"}}]]‘Coming out’The reGROUP program is being funded by a three-year, $540,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division.Located at 107 7th St. S. in Moorhead, it’s currently hosted by Lost and Found Ministry, a program of nearby Trinity Lutheran Church.However, the process has begun to make reGROUP its own non-profit.“This grant opportunity matched what was in our gut,” said Denise Peterson, executive director of reGROUP and Lost and Found Ministry.The program serves 25 northwestern Minnesota counties with peer recovery support, from Moorhead north to the Canadian border, east to Alexandria and Bemidji and south to Morris. It has about 30 clients in a database so far.Peer volunteers can be from anywhere, but it’s intended that clients be Minnesota residents.That doesn’t mean North Dakota residents will be turned away.“The people in St. Paul understand that we’re a border city,” said Peterson.More than a dozen people have been trained to make peer-to-peer phone calls and reGROUP employees are spreading the word to professionals in northwestern Minnesota.“It’s our goal for churches, law enforcement to feel comfortable referring people to us,” Peterson said.ReGROUP will also hold a 40-hour Recovery Coach academy in late April, where volunteers receive additional training about cultural considerations and ethics boundaries.Peterson hopes to have about five recovery coaches to start, with that number growing to about 50 over the entire 25-county area.Part of reGROUP’s vision statement is that addiction recovery be promoted and celebrated – as evidenced recently when about 30 people from reGROUP walked in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Fargo wearing t-shirts proclaiming “Recovery Works.”“It was almost like a ‘coming out’ for people,” said Beth Brandt, a licensed professional clinical counselor for reGROUP and Lost and Found Ministry.“It’s kind of a big deal around here because the prevailing notion is anonymity,” Brandt said.“If they feel ashamed and needing to hide this disease, nobody is getting better,” Peterson said.This time was differentBeing upfront about her lowest points in life is part of Kerry Leno’s healing process. When her marriage began to crumble, she started to hang out at bars and distance herself from her kids.“I became the weekend and summer mom,” Leno said.Soon, working got in the way of drinking, so she quit her job, pawned all of her belongings and became homeless – going from one friend’s couch to another.When she tried to quit drinking, the withdrawal made her very sick.“I would have seizures,” Leno said.One such episode landed her in the hospital. She says she awoke in a hospital bed with her then-fiancé, now husband, sobbing at her side. He told her he didn’t want to lose her to alcohol.“I had people who believed in me before I believed in myself,” Leno said.Through help from the 12 Step Recovery Program, she had stints of sobriety, but they didn’t last.“I couldn’t find my happiness even when I was sober,” Leno said.But this time around, something was different.“I don’t know what clicked, but it just did,” Leno said.She gives much of the credit to her service work at reGROUP.An office manager at a small engineering firm in downtown Fargo, Leno has three adult stepdaughters in addition to two teenage daughters and a pre-teen son, who live with their father and his wife.Leno says her kids, and she and her ex-husband, are better adjusted than ever.“They don’t have to worry about mom, and as parents, we’re happier now.” Related content ‘Finally have peace’In addition to peer advocacy, reGROUP is offering drama therapy and drumming sessions as a sort of self-help tool.There are social events scheduled as well, including potluck meals and bowling outings, which have an educational tie – for example, teaching people how to relate to others without a drink in hand.Yoga is available for a small fee and can be especially helpful to those with a history of anxiety, depression or both.Consider them tools in a toolbox for recovering addicts, and Leno says she doesn’t hesitate to use hers – including her 12-step sponsor, service work, exercise, family time, and daily meditation.“After 30 some odd years, I finally have peace in my life.”Readers can reach Robin Huebner at rhuebner@forumcomm.com. Huebner is also a 5:00 pm news anchor on WDAY-TV. Click here for more information about reGROUP

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