Never Underestimate the Power of Gradual


Almost everyone I’ve ever met has lived a portion of life in the midst of a belief system that says he or she can finesse what’s necessary for themselves, if only they’re smart enough to think quick and take that punch. Timing is crucial, but if only I can jump on that big opportunity and pull the trigger, I’ll be set, done. No worries. I’m good.

That’s not how it worked out for me. Not that I didn’t have memorable and intense experiences, modest success in my vocation and avocation, and impressive social contacts. I started to live in a spiritually inefficient way. I spent several decades gradually laminating the layers of the thickening walls of my tiny dungeon of substance abuse and behavioral isolation. I was, in a word, disappointed in life, ignoring much of what anybody else could do for me or say about me. I felt cheated in life. I took the stuff so I didn’t have to care about me, or others. I quit. I ran my life like a predetermined wreck, enjoying the self-pity, thinking I was a loser, in bad faith and bad self image, believing the stigma of a street-stupid junkie was deserved but resenting it all the same.

In my mid-fifties, I finally had enough, admitted to friends that I needed help, and got it.  Eventually, I accepted the unique gift of recovery and acted as if I deserved something that huge. Never underestimate the power of the gradual to heal. I have never looked back.

That’s how I found The PILLARS. Through ongoing training and perseverance, I am allowed to, as we say here, “meet you where you’re at” when you walk in the door. As a Peer Advocate, I am actually qualified to meet you by virtue of my lived experience. Who could have imagined I would be of service by sharing what I have in common with others in recovery!? This grateful addict is able to have a purposeful conversation with someone he just met, listen actively to him or her, ask the right questions to discover where, exactly, his or her strengths lie, what’s been successful for the person in the past, and where we go from here, just for now. Holistic Recovery Support at The PILLARS is all about the freedom of self-directed recovery. Free! For the mind, body and spirit, the whole person and his or her family and community.

I believe the key to this ability is that my contribution is from the heart. I can’t be your counselor or treatment clinician; that’s somebody else’s lane, and I’m happy to refer a recoveree to our colleagues in the field who have the necessary skills for a friendly handoff. My task is a joyful one of cheerleader, active listener, lifestyle mentor, confidant, resource broker, advocate for pathways of wellness and recovery, and concerned friend and sounding board.

It’s also rewarding to share my experience with recoverees who express an interest in the twelve step program of my choice, when appropriate. My personal history more often than not has some similarity to that of the person now before me, making a commitment to his or her own wellness and recovery.

The PILLARS: Recovering people helping people in recovery

-Byron Stevens, Peer Recovery Coach at The PILLARS

Pregnant? Pass on the Pot

Many women understand the dangers of drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes while pregnant but are unaware that smoking marijuana while pregnant is also detrimental to the baby's health. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical compound found in cannabis, is able to cross the placenta and enter the baby’s system. Additionally, THC and other chemicals can pass through breast milk to the baby while mothers are breastfeeding. A baby exposed to THC may have issues like interference with fetal brain development, lower birth weights, higher risk of admission to the neonatal intensive care unit, and more. Additionally, an ACS case is immediately opened when a baby tests positive for THC. 

The PILLARS Chief Executive Officer, Felecia Pullen, rallying the team outside of the Ulysses. S. Grant Houses. 

The PILLARS Chief Executive Officer, Felecia Pullen, rallying the team outside of the Ulysses. S. Grant Houses. 

In partnership with Safe in Harlem, Harlem Hospital, the New York Police Department (NYPD), ThriveNYC, the Army National Guard Counter-Drug Task Force and the office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, The PILLARS began a campaign within Harlem NYCHA Developments to disseminate information to women on the topic so that they can be prepared to have a healthy pregnancy and in turn a healthy baby. The campaign began on Thursday March 29th at the Ulysses S. Grant Houses.

Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, with partners disseminating information at the Ulysses S. Grant Houses. 

Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, with partners disseminating information at the Ulysses S. Grant Houses. 

The PILLARS is offering a FREE eight-week program called "Love Yourself, Love Your Baby". This program will be offered to pregnant women who want to learn holistic ways to deal with stress. We believe we can't just ask them to put marijuana aside without helping them pick up something in its place that is healthy and sustainable. The program will begin on Thursday April 26th for eight consecutive weeks, and will include services like yoga, meditation, and acupressure.

Check out the following article in the Manhattan Times for more information:

-Miranda Cazin, BSW Intern at The PILLARS

In Brett's Honor

The PILLARS ribbon cutting ceremony

Brett should have been there.

Ann Bacek’s son Brett was a close friend of Felecia Pullen, who held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for her new facility and was joined by elected officials and community partners for the happy occasion.

But Bacek explained that her son died from substance abuse in December 2016.

After being clean for nearly 13 years, Brett suffered a relapse.

“I thought I was good, I thought he’d made it,” said Bacek. “It shows that the battle of addiction is ongoing. It never stops.”

She spoke at the opening of Pillars Recovery Center, a new space in Harlem providing free services for people recovering from substance abuse as well as their families – together with Felecia Pullen, its Chief Executive Officer, and Brett’s friend.

Harlem's PILLARS Recovery Center

City and State officials celebrated the opening of Harlem’s first center for substance abuse recovery Tuesday afternoon.

The new Pillars Recovery Center on 289 St. Nicholas Avenue near West 125th Street will help people maintain sobriety after drug addiction treatment through services such as support and educational groups and 12-step programs, officials said Tuesday.

The program was created by Harlem resident Felecia Pullen. The Fordham News reports that Pullen is a doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Social Service researching how addiction affects her Harlem neighborhood. She is the president of Let’s Talk SAFETY, Inc., a not-for-profit dedicated to substance abuse prevention for teens and youth. And she is the chief operating officer of The PILLARS, a recovery center in the heart of Harlem.

Manhattan's First Addiction Recovery Center Opens In Harlem

The new Pillars Recovery Center on 289 St. Nicholas Ave. near West 125th Street will help people maintain sobriety after drug addiction treatment through services such as support and educational groups and 12-step programs, officials said Tuesday.

"One you're through with treatment you need that support in the community," New York State Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said Tuesday. "Only places like this will support people in sobriety for a long time."

Governor Cuomo Announces Grand Opening

"Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the grand opening of the new $1.75 million Pillars Recovery Center in New York City. The center will increase access to free services for people in recovery from a substance use disorder and provide support to their families. With the opening of this center in Harlem, OASAS now has a recovery center in every borough of New York City."

I'm Seeking Job Elimination in 2017...

During my own addiction, I traveled down a dark, tumultuous and extreme winding road of despair. My designer-draped external shell was a mere smokescreen for my brittle-boned skeletal frame, which protected the directionless compass of my mind and ill-fated spirit. Despite all appearances, I was hopeless and rooted in fear and self-pity, my life was unmanageable, I was the queen of emotional manipulation, I abused others around me, I took numerous hostages, and I could care less of the wreckage which I left in my wake. After drugs and alcohol ceased to ease the pain, and to quiet the noises, suicide seemed the only way out. But, after several attempts to end my life, it became obvious that death was not the plan for me...but, why did I live?

That question crosses my mind everytime I lose someone to addiction. The answer is fraught with survivor's guilt; but, it is also grounded in gratitude. I lived so that I can tell my story of addiction, depression AND recovery. I lived so that the ultimate sacrifice, my life, did not have to be my way of giving back. I lived so that my journey in addiction would inform a new way of living. I lived so that I could, through a career in social work, substance abuse prevention and addiction recovery, help others to know the joys of a drug-free life too. I lived so that I could make amends for the pain I caused others. I lived so that I could change the way some view addiction. But, most importantly, I lived so that I could truly peace, in harmony with others, and in happiness.

Everyday, I work toward the eradication of substance abuse. Everyday, I actively participate in the vision and creation of a drug-free world. Everyday, I aim to teach others how I did that they can do it too. Everyday, I seek for my work to be focused in RECOVERY!

So, here's to being gainfully an addictions specialist in 2017!