Christine McMackin’s recovery helps others recover from their addictions
Just over 11 years ago, Christine McMackin began her journey in recovery from addiction, a debilitating condition that affects thousands locally and millions nationally.
She not only remembers this day, but also celebrates it with her peers at Recovery Café, a place where recovering addicts can take refuge and connect with people who have shared similar journeys of recovery.
As someone who has experienced addiction, along with the fear and hopelessness that often accompany this condition, Christine has a unique ability to help those who, like her, strive to recover from addiction.
“I know how it feels when you’ve lost everything,” she said. “You wake up one morning and just hope to God that you would die because your life is so miserable. I see that on a daily basis from the people that come in here and I want to help them get what I have.”
After working as a recovery support specialist for several years, she now is manager of the Recovery Café.
“A funny thing happens to people in recovery,” Christine said. “We get clean, start doing the next right thing and all these great things start happening in our lives. Then we start accomplishing more.”
Working with Recovery Café’s parent organization, Community-Minded Enterprises, she aims to not only expand its capacity to support individuals in recovery, but also grow its community of recovering addicts.
She relies on the support of Recovery Café staff members, including Eric Hood, Meghan Bundrant, Dorothy Poppe and Mike McMurtrie, who have lived experience with addiction.
They aim to make Recovery Café a welcoming and inclusive space in Spokane for anyone who struggles with addiction, no matter what race or gender they identify with or what their sexual preferences are. Because they each have lived similar experiences, they can all empathize with everyone that comes into the door.
“When they walk in that door,” Christine said, “they don’t have to feel like they are lost or that nobody cares about them. Because when they walk in that door, they are cared about.”
Recovery Café’s mission is to permanently interrupt the cycle of addiction and intergenerational poverty that long-term substance abuse sustains.
“Many times people leave treatment and they’ve gained some tools from those places,” she said, “but then they’re out in society and it’s hard to navigate the systems, where to go and who to talk to. That’s what we provide for them. We give them a safe place to come figure out how to navigate those resources with people who are also in recovery.”
By creating a safe, inclusive space where people can come, year after year, Recovery Café aims to not only support people mentally and emotionally, but also physically by offering free lunches Tuesdays to Fridays. Before each lunch, members have five minutes of silence, taking refuge from the noise of the city and the noise that they carry with them.
Through peer-to-peer mentoring, recovery coaching, and the School of Recovery, the Café both equips and empowers individuals to maintain their long-term mental health and recovery, while also connecting them to a growing community of recovering addicts they can lean on for support.
“Peer support is about being with a person who has been through it and know how it feels,” Christine said. Taking refuge among peers helps people learn to live in a community again.
“We teach some of those basic things about how to be kind to somebody,” she said, “how to have a conversation, how to trust and have accountability. We encourage people to earn a GED, apply for a driver’s license and find a job.”
Since Recovery Café opened at 214 N. Cedar St. in February 2017, its membership has steadily grown to 115 people with new individuals joining the community each week. Many are homeless, living in poverty, experiencing discrimination, or dealing with trauma, anxiety and depression, among other nuanced obstacles that lie between them and their recovery.
One member, Gloria Kohn, believes that Recovery Café saved her life.
“After being fired from jobs over the past 25 years because of my addiction,” she said, “Staff showed me how to do my resumé, explained the 12-Step program and saved my life. Because of helping me with my resumé, I was able to become a certified nursing assistant. So, I’m on the registry for the State of Washington.”
Mike and Dorothy run the State Opioid Response (SOR) program at Recovery Café, supporting those who are recovering from addiction to opioids. They have helped thousands of people locally throughout their careers.
“I can go home almost every day,” Mike said, “and say I made a difference today.”
To serve Native Americans in their recovery journey, Dorothy established partnerships with the American Indian Community Center and The Native Project.
“More than 79 percent of Native Americans now live in urban centers,” she said. “Our area experiences higher than average rates of alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues.”
Recovery Café welcomes 23 Native Americans as members and continues to deepen its engagement with Native American people in the greater Spokane area.
Along with other staff members, Dorothy and Mike join members of Recovery Café for lunch, lead Recovery Circles and participate in all the classes and activities at the Café. Every Tuesday, for instance, Recovery Café offers classes on topics that range from coping with grief to health and wellness and job skills training.
These classes, which are part of a program called the School of Recovery, equip members with skills and knowledge they can share with family and friends to support their long-term recovery.
Along with many other members, Gloria comes to the Café every day.
“If I ever feel in a shady way,” she said, “I know that I can come to Recovery Café where I can talk to somebody so my day will be brightened. I know somebody will be there. They’re supportive, loving and understanding.”
Recovery Café also offers more formal training to its members to equip them with skills and knowledge to both maintain their recovery and to support peers who are just beginning their journey.
Like other Café members, Gloria gained training as a certified peer counselor and became a recovery coach.
This training gives her and others the ability to lead Recovery Circles. These weekly groups offer members the opportunity to check in with their peers, share what they are dealing with, and help each other identify and assess the changing needs of those in the circle.
To expand the Café’s capacity to serve people in Spokane, they plan to create a Telephone Recovery Support program. This will further equip members with knowledge of community resources and employment information they can share with community members seeking recovery.
With new members joining each week and with new staff, the building housing Recovery Café is too small for its growth.
With a larger building in a more accessible location, Christine believes membership would double or triple.
Because addiction intersects with so many aspects of life, including poverty and intergenerational addiction, Recovery Café has the potential to make significant impact on the community, she said.
Recovery Café is open Tuesdays to Fridays.
For information, call 960-8529 or email email@example.com.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, November, 2019