It’s a warm September Saturday and there is a crowd gathered at Stepworks of Nicholasville. The crowd is loud and laughter fills the space. There is a vibe in the air that for the outsider could be mistaken as a party—but the insider knows this is a unique celebration.
At first sight, there is a glimpse of Aaron Smallwood, Facility Administrator. He is adorned in a football helmet and soaked from head to toe. It looks like he has engaged in a friendly game of water-balloon toss, but the reality is he sat patiently by as the women around him hurled water balloons at him like it was their job. One after another they giggle and throw shade at the man who has impacted them in profound ways.
“I’ve dropped truth bombs on you, now it’s your turn to drop water bombs on me. Give it all you got,” Aaron chuckles.
He welcomes them, the countless women who have walked through the doors of Stepworks and walked out into a new life: a life of sobriety and change. They gather around today’s lunch tables and share war stories over Sonny’s barbecue. They share their history of “drinking and drugging,” how it nearly killed them until they found Stepworks. As they chat with their fellow alumni, the ladies who know exactly what they’ve been through to get here, you can see it on their faces—for this moment in time, they feel loved, valued.
After lunch the crowd quiets down and Aaron introduces Shauna, one of the very first graduates of Stepworks of Nicholasville.
“Hi, I’m Shauna, and I’m an alcoholic.”
“Hi, Shauna,” the crowd responds in unison.
Shauna shares her story, how her addiction to alcohol nearly cost her her life.
“Drinking, drugs, it didn’t matter what it was as long as it changed the way I would feel.”
She walks them through her first few days at Stepworks and how sleep was the priority as she sobered up. In a moment of truth she admits there were days she hated it, wanted to leave. But, Shauna admits, Aaron encouraged her to stay. To do the work.
“The truth bombs Aaron dropped on me at Stepworks saved my life.”
Shauna finishes and the crowd responds, applauding a woman who has conquered the beast of addiction. There’s more work to do and she says she is showing up to do it. After Shauna it’s evident that the celebration is coming to an end. The games have been played, the food is nearly all gone, but there’s one last thing to do…
Aaron makes his way up the makeshift aisle, guitar in hand.
“OK, ladies, you know what to do. Every single one of you has sat in this building and ended our therapy with this one little song. What is it?”
“You say it best!” they all shout. And then they all settle down because their hearts are ready for what comes next. Some smile, some are teary eyed with gratitude, and Aaron begins to play—
The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There’s a truth in your eyes saying you’ll never leave me
A touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall
Now you say it best when you say nothing at all
Saturday was a good day. A day of sobriety and celebrating all those milestones our graduates have made. Thanks for coming home.
Emily Fox is the marketing director at Stepworks Recovery Centers.