People of Valor

Center introduces recovery program for veterans and active military.

Thousands of men and women have served or are currently serving in the US military. For many, serving is a noble and satisfying experience. For some, service is a struggle that leaves physical or emotional scars that lead to alcohol or drug abuse.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Abbey updates the VALOR recovery programming.

For veterans and active duty military members battling substance abuse, there’s a new, safe place to recharge and recover. In December, Riverside Recovery of Tampa introduced VALOR, its residential substance abuse program dedicated to past and present members of the military. VALOR was designed using tactics from military training and lifestyle.
“I served in the United States Air Force for close to eleven years,” recounts Abbey Brown, chief operating officer at Riverside Recovery. “I worked as a therapist in the mental health field. I recognized then that there was a need for substance abuse services not only for active duty members but also for veterans coming out of the military and returning to civilian life.
“The VALOR program was built on the practices of active duty. It was created based on the culture of the military. It’s very structured, yet provides individualized care. It looks at the whole person and focuses on the four pillars of wellness: social, emotional, physical and spiritual. Our staff uses the best mental health practices identified by the military.”
The program is housed within Riverside Recovery’s inpatient building. VALOR residents interact with other substance abuse residents, but have their own program. They have a separate staff and schedule.
“VALOR residents partner with the other clients to go to meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous® and Narcotics Anonymous, at night,” confirms Abbey. “It is important for our VALOR clients to learn how to crosstalk with the civilian residents, but VALOR has its own programming every day.
“As part of that programming, we use cognitive behavioral therapy and accelerated resolution therapy to give residents tailored treatment in a very regulated environment. Residents in the VALOR program can stay at the center anywhere from thirty to ninety days, depending on their specific needs.”
Many people with substance abuse also suffer with mental health disorders. Staff members in the VALOR program are trained to address these conditions as well. To qualify for the program, however, a resident’s primary diagnosis must be substance abuse disorder.

To the Letter

Valor is defined as heroic courage in the face of great danger. Riverside Recovery takes that meaning further. As part of the new program, every letter in the word VALOR represents a phase in the process of battling substance abuse. V is for Vitality.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Veterans and active military gather at Riverside Recovery with VALOR.

“Part of achieving sobriety for the residents is becoming aware of their issues so they can surmount the obstacles that are in the way of living a healthy, vital life,” describes Abbey. “The staff starts by showing them the consequences of their use, not only physically, but also mentally and socially, as well as within their families.
“Once the residents become aware and gain some insight into those realities, they graduate to the second phase, which is Align. They align with the staff in our clinical approach because everything we do is clinically based and best-practice-driven.”
In therapy, residents then Learn how to rebuild relationships, how to get through the recovery period and how to live sober and clean. They are taught how to make the necessary changes to improve their life circumstances and put the past in the past.
“That brings us to O for Overcome the past,” reveals Abbey. “We work on overcoming any of the consequences from past events. If there is trauma or a mental health concern, we concentrate on that from a clinical standpoint. We will also assist the residents if they need the help of a case manager, especially if there are any ongoing issues.
“After all of these phases are completed, the residents develop Resiliency. This helps them remain strong in their recovery. It also helps them carry what they’ve learned beyond the program and Riverside Recovery to live healthy, clean and sober lives in the community.”
The last part of the VALOR program is a partnership with Veterans Alternative, a nonprofit program in Holiday that presents workshops and retreats for current and past members of the military. Veterans Alternative primarily focuses on sober living, returning to the community and being a successful member of society as a veteran.
“We bus the residents to Holiday to participate in workshops during the day and then bring them back to the center at night,” explains Abbey. “It’s a great opportunity for them to get out in the community and use the new skills they’ve learned at Riverside Recovery.”

Center for Wellness

During a resident’s time in the VALOR program, the Riverside Recovery staff directly tackles the resident’s substance abuse issues. The staff also addresses any other issues the resident may have while working toward improving overall physical and social wellness.
“Substance abuse may be deeply rooted in people’s histories, causing problems in their current lives, especially with their physical health and social interactions,” states Abbey. “Drugs and alcohol have a negative impact on the body, which can lead to injuries and disease. Being constantly drunk or high can ruin family occasions and destroy relationships.
“The VALOR program teaches residents to live sober lifestyles, which naturally resolves some of these social problems. Guided exercise and physical therapy are used to strengthen the residents’ bodies to support their physical health, as well as their journeys to sobriety. To assist them, a full-time trainer and a full-time physical therapist are on staff.”

“Part of achieving sobriety for the residents is becoming aware of their issues so they can surmount the obstacles that are in the way of living a healthy, vital life.” – Abbey

Abbey notes that an integral component of the VALOR program is giving back to the community. This is another opportunity for residents to spend time in the community and interact with civilians, further bolstering the social skills they learn at Riverside Recovery.
“Volunteering and doing things for others is a big part of being in the military,” she observes. “Within our program, the clients can identify what type of activity they want to do, and then we help them get involved and do it.”
The staff at Riverside Recovery use a range of techniques to teach residents how to stay sober and clean and how to integrate themselves into society. These techniques are used with VALOR residents as well.
“The techniques cover the scope of recovery services,” reports Abbey. “They include group and individual therapy, motivational interventions, mindfulness-based relapse prevention and twelve-step facilitation.
“As part of the treatment in the VALOR program at Riverside Recovery of Tampa, residents are shown that they can live happy, normal, healthy lives without the use of drugs and alcohol.”
The center offers amenities and activities to guide them in this discovery. Riverside Recovery has a half-court basketball court, an exercise room with weight and elliptical machines, and a swimming pool. Construction will start soon on a deck to be built overlooking the Hillsborough River. This will allow clients to enjoy scenic views, all while taking part in group activities.
“Veterans can enter the VALOR program through the Veterans Administration’s Veterans Choice Program,” notes Abbey. “Active duty members are enrolled through their bases. All are welcome to call the staff at Riverside Recovery, who will work with them through the admissions process.
“Whether active duty or veteran, all of the residents in this program are facing grave danger in drugs and alcohol with heroic courage. That makes them people of VALOR.”

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