Program combats addiction with exercise
By Hillary Jackson –
Before the sun rises March 6, 24 beneficiaries of the Santa Monica Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) stand, circling the center’s parking lot. The men move through a series of stretches, jumping jacks, knee-ups and lunges.
“All right, I’m done,” a beneficiary jokes, eliciting laughs from those around the circle. He’s not done. In fact, the morning’s just starting. The men are warming up for the center’s inaugural run with Back on My Feet, a national organization that combats homelessness through the power of running.
Following the stretches, the group recites the serenity prayer along with a cheer: “Who are we? Back on My Feet. When do we stop? Never.”
With the Back on My Feet program, beneficiaries who have been at the ARC for 60 days can commit to running three days a week at 5:30 a.m. After 30 days of running, those with 90 percent attendance earn the opportunity to move into the second phase of the Back on My Feet program called Next Steps, which supplements ARC programming by providing coaching and life skills classes.
While the Santa Monica ARC is the first ARC in the West to form a Back on My Feet group, The Salvation Army in Dallas has two groups, one at its Carr P. Collins Social Service Center and another at its Adult Rehabilitation Center. The Santa Monica ARC joined Back on My Feet for a hike to the Hollywood sign in early January, and a small group of beneficiaries from handed out water to runners of the March 8 Los Angeles Marathon with the group.
“We’re very excited to be partnering with The Salvation Army to launch our third team here in Los Angeles, Team ARC,” said Jessica Barnette, Los Angeles Chapter Back on My Feet Program Director. Barnette, other staff from the L.A. Back on My Feet office and volunteers joined in on the inaugural run.
That morning, runners from the ARC ran/walked a one-mile loop that started and ended at the ARC. In the future, the distance will increase and the paths will vary. Back on My Feet provided shirts and appropriate running shoes to all of the participants.
Compared to other ARCs, the Santa Monica ARC is small at nearly 60 beds it keeps filled. Of that number, 24 beneficiaries chose to commit to running with the program. Lt. Timothy Pemberton, Administrator for Business, was surprised at the turnout.
“This is another component of holistic recovery,” he said.
Lt. Tanya Pemberton, Administrator for Program, walked and ran along with the men, as Timothy Pemberton was in a sling, recovering from rotator cuff surgery.
“It’s part of taking care of your mind, body and soul…and this is the body part,” Tanya Pemberton said. “A lot of our guys do go to the gym, and they do work out, and I think this is a natural part of healing that mind, body and soul. They have to be up early too, and then they just kind of wait around. And I think it was a natural fit.”
Pemberton finished the run, crossing through the spirit tunnel with Alejandro Guerrero, a beneficiary who first started using five years ago and has been “back and forth” with sobriety ever since. He’s been at the Santa Monica ARC for 90 days, and plans to continue through another three-month phase.
“It felt good to kind of have that energy that was going on. It’s just ours, in a sense,” he said. “The stars were out…now the whole time that I’m here is going to be even better.”