There was electricity in the air when New York Regional Director John Ralosky welcomed the class of 2008 to their Graduation and Recovery Celebration on Thursday November 6, at Congregation Rodeph Shalom on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
The annual ceremony marked the completion of treatment and aftercare by men and women from Phoenix House’s New York City and upstate facilities.
“I am here to give you a message of hope – and truth – that addiction is a disease that can be treated…and that living a full and rewarding life in recovery happens every day. Much of recovery,” she said, “is about living in the NOW, without forgetting the lessons learned in the past.”
Congratulating the graduates, Phoenix House President and CEO Howard P. Meitiner said “What Phoenix House is built on, what makes Phoenix House work is your determination and your courage. Recovery takes perseverance and fortitude and the strength to seize the future from the past.”
Colleen Connena, who spoke for the class, talked about her previous attempts at sobriety including detox seven times and two 28-day programs – none were successful for her. Phoenix House, on the other hand, taught her to “trust and depend on people, my peers, something I never did before. Phoenix House has helped me to take responsibility for my life and has taught me to love and respect myself again.”
George Williams, who also spoke for the class, talked about his growing up, addiction, rehab, relapse and now his second, successful attempt at recovery. He recalled, “At Induction a smart lady told me to ‘chart my own course, find my own way’. And that’s what everyone here at this graduation has done. I am in some way, like some of you and in others, like all of you. We have each found our own way.”
The 2008 Alumni of the Year award went to Morty Sklar (Class of 1969) who brought poetry to Phoenix House at the beginning and has helped to keep it alive ever since.
Phoenix House founder Mitchell S. Rosenthal, M.D., compared the graduates’ journey to the recent historic presidential election when he said “we can rightly glory in what has been achieved yet recognize the challenges we face – the challenges that you face in recovery and the challenges that face a country in troubling times.”
Nearly 400 friends, family, well-wishers, honored guests and Phoenix House alumni were on hand to cheer on the one hundred and four graduates. Music was provided by the Michael Jazz Trio. Following the ceremony, a multi-cultural drumming group, Bolo Bolo Blaweh led the graduates and invited guests from the sanctuary to enjoy refreshments prepared by the Culinary Academy Team from the Phoenix Career Academy.