Nearly every day, someone calls Cassie Kasowski's chemical dependency evaluation and treatment practice addiction treatment center in Moorhead and asks for her mom, Beth.
The practice is named "Beth's Place" in honor of Cassie's mom, who lost her battle with alcoholism in 2017, so the question is not unexpected. That also means that Cassie gets to talk about her mom nearly every day, which is a cathartic practice years in the making. Cassie admits she wouldn't have been able to do that shortly after losing her mother, but through her own work coming to terms with her mother's death, Cassie says she is now in a better place and has turned her sadness and pain into a profession where she helps other people overcome their addictions, even though her mother was never able to.
Lost battle and idea sparked
Growing up in East Grand Forks, Cassie never saw her mother drink. After her mom underwent gastric bypass surgery, she began to drink to battle early menopause symptoms and insomnia. She didn't realize that her surgery and recent weight loss made her more sensitive to the effects of alcohol; when Cassie's mom's late-night drinking turned into full-fledged alcoholism, she became one of the 20 percent of people who have had gastric bypass surgery and subsequently developed an alcohol abuse disorder, according to Ria Health.
Once Cassie's family realized what was happening, they enacted a plan to help her get treatment. Cassie spent more than three years in and out of rehabilitation centers with her mother, and as a counselor herself, she began to wonder if she could make a difference in the field of addiction treatment. She saw that other programs like Alcoholics Anonymous weren't working for her mother.
Sadly, Cassie's mother, Beth, lost her life to alcohol addiction on March 5, 2017. At the time, Cassie was 33 years old and had three young children ages 8, 6 and 4. As Cassie grappled with the enormity of her loss, she concluded that she wanted to open a private practice addiction treatment center. She went to her husband, Nick, and shared her idea.
Bracing herself for his reply, Cassie remembered that he looked at her and said: "Cassie Marie, you don't know how to fail so go and do it."
Opening the practice, healing along the way
Armed with her idea, her husband's confidence and the experiences she'd shared with her mom, Cassie aimed to provide treatment for patients that involved customized, person-centered care rather than a universally strict program with specific steps and milestones. She carefully cultivated her practice, designed a warm, welcoming space and then began to consider what she'd call her center.
After brainstorming and considering options, Cassie settled on the name Beth's Place. "She is my reason why, so why not?" Cassie said. The hummingbird logo, which was designed by Amanda McKinnon from MINT Brand Marketing, represents the struggle of addiction. "She used to watch hummingbirds with my babies all the time," she explained. "And it's chaotic on the inside but then it takes flight."
By 2018, Beth's Place opened as an outpatient addiction and mental health practice. Cassie, the organization's CEO as well as treatment director and clinical supervisor, shared that those first months tested her patience and her faith in the decision she'd made. "Slowly we started to get one patient, two patients, and it took a really long time," she remembered, noting how mentor and now great friend Leanne Lafrance helped her understand the state statutes and what it takes to run a successful treatment facility, based on Leanne's own experience. "Now looking back, I wasn't ready yet. It was for a reason. It was one of those God things . . . God was telling me I still had some healing to do."
By the time the anniversary of her mother's death happened, Cassie realized she had pushed herself to move forward and get back to work too soon; she needed to come to terms with the grief she was still feeling. “I needed to take care of myself before I could take care of anyone else, and I learned how important my community of girlfriends were to me,” Cassie said. “Leaning on them, especially my sister in law Racheal-Ann, was the only way to get better.
"A patient asked me recently if I had done things differently then with my mother if I had known everything we do now regarding therapy and treatment, and I said, 'No, because she's safe now'," Cassie shared. "For whatever reason, that's what she had to go through and I decided to do something with the pain of all of that. And I'm not a saint for that . . . gone is gone, but there are lessons in it. But it takes a second to see the lessons."
Growing business attracts accolades
As Beth's Place grew in Moorhead, Cassie saw an opportunity to help even more people overcome their addictions by opening another center in September, this time in her hometown of East Grand Forks. Deciding on a second location involved vetting several different communities and at the end of the assessment period, Cassie's heart was in East Grand Forks. "I love home. I'm super proud to be from here, and it has been so well-received," she said.
In addition, she plans to open a residential facility this year geared specifically toward women who have overcome their addiction and have children but need a safe place to stay. The home will be called the "I Love You House", another tribute to Cassie's mom. Just before Beth died, she sent Cassie a card from her treatment center and all it said inside was "I love you", Cassie shared. That message of love and acceptance resonated with Cassie in the aftermath of her mother's death, so the name made sense.
Throughout the past year, Cassie's story of transforming pain into a profession captivated audiences at a Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber Women Connect event as well as at the North Dakota Women's Business Center's Leading Ladies Luncheon. Beth's Place was also nominated as Emerging Business of the Year for The Chamber's annual ChamberChoice Awards, and Cassie herself was nominated for the 2021 YWCA Woman of the Year award in the health and wellness category.
At the event, Beth's Place was described as "a refuge, where those suffering with substance abuse can feel welcomed, loved and are treated fairly" and Cassie as "a powerful advocate for women's health" who combines "toughness and compassion" in the work she loves to do every day.
"Being in a room full of women of that degree and level was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," she explained. Cassie didn't know what category she was nominated in, so she thought when she didn't win in the business management and entrepreneurship category that she was no longer in the running. In fact, her grandmother got up to leave because she figured they didn't need to stay until the end, Cassie laughed.
Then Cassie won.
During her acceptance speech, she thanked her team for being "the true definition of service which is to give to people who can give nothing back to you". Then she asked her 10-year-old daughter Reece to stand up and look around the room. She told her and other young girls in the audience not to get lost in the glamour of the evening but rather the lessons and education represented by the women.
"Social media and our need to share our lives with the world has painted a facade that life is perfect, and it is not," Cassie said that night. "You will learn through your life experiences that your relationship with yourself and how you serve others and how you serve your higher power is the truest, most important relationship you will ever have. You will also learn that it is not much different than the person standing next to you. Nobody will give you ladies anything and quite frankly nobody owes you anything. Work hard. Do the next right thing and push each other to level up because you are only as strong as the woman next to you."
A lasting legacy
The death of her mother sparked a turning point in Cassie's life, not just professionally but personally. And while she loves her job and loves that her family members — husband Nick, sons Hudson (12) and Brody (8) and daughter Reecy (10) — have been involved with Beth's Place since its beginning, Cassie knows her mother's legacy is much simpler: she taught Cassie about love and the power of family.
"She didn't learn about self-love, but I have. You have to love yourself before you can love others," she said. "I really don't think of myself as any different. I just feel like we're all doing our part . . . I love humans and I love people, and I'm just living my truth and I love my work and I love my babies. I just feel so fortunate. After going through what I did with my mom, you just get a whole new perception of life and what really matters."
At the end of the day, what matters to Cassie is her family. "All I ever wanted to be was a mom," she said with tears in her eyes. "They are truly the loves of my life."
Cassie shared that one of the best pieces of advice her mother gave her was to "take the babies everywhere". As a female business owner, that’s a daunting task but Cassie’s kids are at the clinic every day and often handle important tasks like making coffee, taking out garbage, checking drug screens, etc. They’ve even sat in on bank meetings or waited for Cassie to be done in court. “It is possible, and I want women to know that,” she said.
Since losing her mother, Cassie has been more open and honest with her children, and she tries to spend as much time as she can with them. It's a challenge with her thriving business, but she works hard at being intentionally present. She and Nick have been married for more than 12 years, and despite being total opposites in terms of personality, they communicate really well, Cassie said. "He was raised by a therapist," she explained, laughing. "He's calm and relaxed and level headed where as I'm a pusher."
Cassie's drive and ambition to overcome her pain and make something good out of it is transforming the lives of those around her: her family, friends, co-workers, patients and more. But Cassie doesn't want any special recognition; she just wants everyone to extend grace and understanding to each other to make a kinder, more compassionate world. "We're all just trying to do the best we can," she said with a smile.