CAL 5: Settling In-Week 1

What it Takes to Change a Life (CAL)

Dr. Joseph White & the FFL Team

Settling In

Week 1 of the MentorWorks program is focused on settling in and getting established in a safe, sober environment with new roommates focused on sobriety and finding a job.  Week 1 of the Redwood Recovery program involves completing a substance abuse assessment, developing a treatment plan, and attending psychoeducation and counseling groups.  Settling in and adjusting to a new routine can be challenging as men make the transition from incarceration to freedom!  Prior to even being able to find employment, some clients need help getting an ID or a driver’s license.  Whatever the need, the first week is critical in “reentry” as individuals make and keep sobriety commitments, decide who they will associate with, and determine next steps forward.

Treatment Plans and Counseling

A first step in Redwood Recovery is to complete an assessment and treatment plan with a counselor.  The treatment plan involves basic, attainable recovery and reentry-oriented goals  developed with their therapist and approved by a treatment team.  Most plans begin with basic steps toward maintaining sobriety, identification of and commitment to participating in group classes, weekly counseling, case management, and other recovery-oriented activities.  Plans may include steps toward repairing ruptured relationships and developing healthy ones.  Each aspect of a treatment plan is tailored to a client’s needs with an emphasis on things they’ve identified as most important in their recovery journey.  Client input is critical in order to generate “buy-in” for accomplishing goals.  

A client who took his treatment plan and counseling sessions seriously reflected back on his experiences and said the Redwood Recovery program helped him develop a ‘playbook’ to deal with triggers and situations in the past that got him in trouble.  Mike G said

“I look at myself [. . .] and realize that a lot of the times when I was making poor decisions that led me back to drinking or using, it was because I was so emotionally driven and so when I do get upset; or when I do feel like, you know, using; or I feel like I don’t like what I feel right now, and I want to change this somehow, I pull out that Playbook.  And I step away from it and I look at it objectively.  I decide how come it is that I’m feeling like I’m feeling right now, what caused that?  What can I do to prevent that from happening in the future?  And then what do I need to do right now going forward you know to ensure my sobriety is maintained” (2022). 

Case Management

An important part of our reentry and recovery treatment program is providing regular case management (weekly or even daily, as needed) for each client to assist with treatment plan goals and other extenuating circumstances.  While therapy with trained substance abuse and mental health counselors helps clients process feelings, thoughts, challenges, and dilemmas or trauma from the past (Baker, 2020), case management focuses on current and future needs and connecting clients to relevant community services.  In speaking of her role as a case manager, Paige Dickinson said “I act as an aid for resources and connections that help clients reach their goals and overcome challenges they are confronted with in day-to-day life.  I research resources for the client’s needs and assist them in making and following through with goals they have set to get them from point A to point B.  This includes evaluating the steps a client needs to reach their goals.  As a case manager, I encourage honesty and make an effort to build relationships with clients so they feel comfortable communicating their concerns regarding  sobriety, work, situations within the sober living home, family relationships, etc.” (2022).

Healthy Relationships

As clients begin their recovery journey, an important step is to build healthy relationships.  One place this happens for MentorWorks and Redwood Recovery clients is in their new recovery community with class peers and housemates.  Many clients talk about developing important bonds and friendships through recovery that strengthens them along the way.  They feel supported and encouraged by each other as well as by their treatment team during tough times.  Some clients take steps to become  Certified Peer Support Specialists so they can give back to their recovery community and pay it forward.  

Renewing and strengthening family relationships is important but can’t be rushed, especially if serious harm has been experienced or perceived by family members.  One client shared his desire to get in touch with his daughter with whom he hadn’t spoken with for a long time.  It reminded him of why he was working to change.  Randall M came into the program thinking his family connections were lost forever.  He felt he had made so many mistakes that reconciliation was not possible.  After months of recovery and working a solid treatment program in Redwood Recovery, he mustered up the courage to reach out, make the call, and begin the healing process.  He spoke with his daughter for over two hours on the phone and is now in regular contact with her and his grandchildren who live in a foreign country.  They are even planning a trip to see him in the near future.  He also has unexpectedly reconnected with his parents and has been grateful to see that relationship begin anew (2022).

Our Garden of Life Foundation

During the first few weeks in the program, clients are at the Soil level.  They have made the difficult decision to begin their recovery journey.  They have taken one of the most difficult steps of connecting with and getting admitted to a recovery program.  They have chosen, at least for the moment (because that is all many can handle at that time), to stay in the program and make it work, no matter what.  Eventually they understand the need to begin the work of creating fertile soil that is prepped for planting a seed that can sprout into a productive plant.  Once the seed is planted, clients learn about the subsequent work required to help the seed grow.  Along the way clients learn to step back and analyze what the garden needs.  Sometimes the watering cycle or amount needs to be adjusted.  Sometimes weeds need to be pulled.  Sometimes an opportunity to add fertilizer or other growth-enhancing materials is indicated.  Whatever it is, a garden needs consistent tender loving care – nurturing seeds so they sprout and continue to grow.  As men in our program continue their recovery journey by transitioning into subsequent stages of recovery (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983), successful patterns of growth become evident as seeds become sprouts, the next level of growth!  In addition to learning and understanding the addiction and recovery process, clients begin making connections with healthy individuals who become a vital part of their recovery community – the prepped soil wherein good seeds sprout and grow.  

Our Invitation

It is easy to get caught up in the cycle of life and miss out on the amazing journey of growth each person experiences.  An important part of the life cycle is building healthy relationships and maintaining connection with them.  These relationships are like the fertile ground needed to support the types of growth and future we want for ourselves and others.  Good soil is required for good seeds to grow!  Interestingly, the opposite of addiction is not merely being sober.  True sobriety is experienced through working a good recovery program that involves developing solid connections with other people.  Consider this powerful TED talk by Johann Hari who teaches that the opposite of addiction is connection!

What are the most important relationships at this time in our lives?  Are there other potential relationships that could be nurtured in order to rise to a level of importance in our lives as well as theirs?  What can we do today to develop, nurture, and strengthen key relationships that become the fertile ground and life-sustaining connections they have the potential to become?  Contact the Foundation for Family Life with questions or needed support in reaching out to a loved one who may be struggling.  Please share our social media posts or a personal story of life-sustaining connection in the comments section below.

See Other Blogs in our “Change a Life” Series:


  • Baker, C. (2020, May 25). Case Management vs. Therapy: the Differences and Similarities | OPG. O’Connor Professional Group.
  • Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (1983). Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: Toward an integrative model of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51(3), 390-395.

CAL 4: Intake Day

What it Takes to Change a Life (CAL)

Dr. Joseph White & the FFL Team

Intake & Orientation

After someone has been accepted into the MentorWorks Program, the life-changing journey begins with a staff member picking them up from prison or jail, checking in with their probation or parole officer, and beginning the intake and orientation process.  As noted in previous blogs, much effort has gone into preparing for this day so that clients have a successful transition from incarceration.  Once at the MentorWorks offices, the client and staff go through the entire MentorWorks Healthy Transition Home Handbook (including house rules, program expectations, etc.) and sign the contract stating they will follow the rules.  They complete their individualized Success Plan and create their “My Sobriety Plan” (fill-in-the-blank essay based on their Success Plan) to guide their efforts.  Clients work through questions, learn about the program in detail, gain a sense of boundaries, get assigned to a home and room, and get connected with program staff.  The program supervisor schedules their intake assessment with a counselor to determine level of care and to assist with developing their treatment plan and individualized intensive outpatient program schedule.  Finally, they meet with a case manager to identify health, medical, and employment needs, as well as anything else they need assistance with (resources, etc.).

Many clients transitioning from incarceration have significant physical, dental, and mental health care needs.  Most have no way to pay for them and typically fall through the cracks because they don’t qualify for traditional medicaid and have no way to pay for these critical services.  They either do without or ultimately end up self-medicating.  Fortunately, the Utah legislature passed the Targeted Adult Medicaid (TAM) program to reduce the number of uninsured adults, provide an avenue for needed services, and minimize emergency room visits, among other things.  TAM serves individuals who are “chronically homeless, involved in the justice system through probation, parole, or court ordered treatment needing substance abuse or mental health treatment, [or] needing substance abuse treatment or mental health treatment” (2017).  Medical, dental, and treatment needs are covered by TAM at no cost to the individual.  If applicable, clients are enrolled in TAM at intake.  Clients also receive basic necessities like a fresh linen kit and access to food, clothing, shoes, etc.

Casey T (personal communication, January 31, 2022) needed medical treatment for chronic pain but wasn’t able to get it because he couldn’t afford insurance.  As such, he turned to street drugs to treat his pain and became addicted shortly thereafter.  When he began his recovery journey at MentorWorks and Redwood Recovery, TAM legislation had just passed and made it possible for him to get the life-saving medical care he needed, including medically-assisted treatment and eventual tapering off support.  He even was able to obtain an inhaler for his asthma.  

Building Independence

One of the first steps clients take in rebuilding their lives is finding employment.  Employment is important because it provides structure and independence.  “Those at the most risk for mental health challenges after job loss are those for whom unemployment is an immediate threat to survival.  People with fewer financial resources and those who perceive more financial strain from unemployment are less satisfied with their lives” (Pappas, 2020).  Finding employment can be difficult, especially with a criminal record.  However, case managers, staff, mentors, and program peers provide support and nearly all clients find adequate entry level work.  As they gain success in early recovery and develop good work habits, they often transition to better paying positions or better jobs.  

Growth & Progress Indicators

Establishing early, easily achieved indicators is helpful to set clients up for success.  Redwood Recovery and MentorWorks growth and progress indicators help clients identify and anticipate relevant, recovery-oriented steps that move them toward developing stronger recovery anchors.  The ultimate goal is to stay sober and live healthy lives.  Both programs work hand in hand to help clients achieve their goals.  The MentorWorks healthy transition homes invite clients to work through 7 “Riser Levels.”  RISE stands for Recovery in Sober Environments.  The Redwood Recovery Outpatient program invites clients to work through 7 “Progression Levels.”  While the levels are similar, there are distinct aspects related to healthy living and being a peer support (Risers) as compared to processing key aspects of recovery and changing mindsets (Progressions).  In addition to the incentive and energy associated with taking steps toward improving and being recognized for it, a benefit to the overlapping growth indicators is that it helps clients interact with peers in both sober living and outpatient settings who become important support systems and central to their recovery community.

MentorWorks Riser Level 1 is “Mentee.”  Sober-living clients create a sobriety plan, identify triggers, begin participation in their recovery program, and commit to regular drug testing.  They create their “My Sobriety Plan,” employment-seeking plan, and are willing to accept peer support.  One of the important facets of this phase is to create a list of unhealthy associates and remove them from their social media and contact lists.  Finally, clients consider spiritual activities related to gratitude, meditation, and/or connecting with a Higher Power.

Redwood Recovery’s Progression Level 1 is “Soil.”  In addition to aspects of Riser Level 1 (Mentee), clients in Soil complete an assessment and begin developing a treatment plan.  In addition to individual counseling and group sessions, this level involves connecting with recovery mentors.  These clients may not be ready to fully engage in groups but they begin attending and get acclimated.  They may be defensive, depressed, or exhibit anti-social attitudes but recognize the need for help.  They work to get medications balanced and search for a primary care provider (if needed).  Soil is all about developing the fertile ground where a seed (Progression Level 2) can grow.  Soil and Mentee are completed within the first few weeks of the program.

The Garden of Life

Before planting the first seed in our gardens, the ground had to be dug up and prepared.  Heavy machinery helped turn over the clay and soil to loosen it up.  Nutrient-rich topsoil and fertilizer were added to prepare the ground for seeds.  A drip system was installed to water the ground efficiently.  Once the garden area was prepared with fertile soil and a watering system, the process of planting began. 

Similarly in life, individuals must do the work of preparing themselves for change, making decisions to leave old habits, behaviors, people, places, and things behind that were the breeding ground for addiction to grow in their lives.  Doing the work to ensure fertile ground is vital to success in gardening and in life.  As clients begin the journey of recovery, they are invited to create a “Success Plan” that will produce fertile soil, provide sustaining water, and create an environment where a newly planted seed can grow.  It is a privilege to observe this beautiful change process as clients contemplate, prepare, and take action to begin their recovery journey (see Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983).

Our Invitation

There is much to do at intake and during the first week in the program.  There are rules to learn, people to meet, jobs to find, family members to contact, etc.  It can be overwhelming.  Gordon S (personal communication, January 17, 2022), a recent graduate, reflected back on his first day in the program, dealing with that initial overwhelming feeling and his overall experience in MentorWorks.  He said he felt completely supported through the entire process and knew that “at any time [he could] call anyone up and they [would be] supportive.”  Mentors and volunteers make a tremendous difference in their kindness and support as they connect with clients and offer encouragement.  Reach out to loved ones in recovery, share our social media posts, or share a real story of recovery and support in the comments section below.

See Other Blogs in our “Change a Life” Series:


  • Pappas, S. (2020, October 1). The toll of job loss. American Psychological Association.
  • Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (1983). Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: Toward an integrative model of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51(3), 390-395. 
  • Targeted Adult Medicaid Program. (2017, July 1). Utah Department of Health Medicaid.

CAL 3: Hope & The Letter

What it Takes to Change a Life (CAL)

Dr. Joseph White & the FFL Team

Incarceration vs. Freedom

Imagine for a moment what incarceration life is like…  It is intensely regimented.  From the moment one wakes up to when they go to sleep, they are told what activities are acceptable and when they are allowed to perform them (Vanglad).  Family contact (if one is lucky) will typically occur on the other side of a screen.  Some individuals may be allowed to have a prison “job” or further their education, but there is no vacation or going out for lunch.  Clark (2012) talked about the total security found in prison; They provide food, clothing, medical care and so on. The only thing lacking… is freedom.

There are a host of reasons someone ends up incarcerated, one of which often involves addiction. Many who become dependent on illegal substances or alcohol eventually find themselves in a dark world, with very little hope of getting out.  The ultimate costs of addiction are incalculable – loss of hope, loss of material possessions, loss of relationships with loved ones, loss of self-worth, etc.  One of MentorWorks’ key objectives is to reignite hope and empower belief in self to overcome life’s challenges.  

The Admittance Letter

Dr. White (2022) shared how several clients told their story of receiving their long-awaited MentorWorks admittance letter, going to their cell bed, and shedding tears of joy as they read about their acceptance into the program.  As they read the words “this can become the first step for the rest of your life,” the seeds of hope began sifting through their minds as they recognized they had a chance.  The letter informs them of the resources available to help them gain that chance and conveys the program staff’s hope and belief in their ability to succeed and recover. 

Hope is something they may be experiencing for the first time – hope that they can get their lives together and completely change the destructive path they have been on.  They gain hope in the program, knowing there are people willing to dedicate their time and effort to help them transition from incarceration to a better place – to a healthy, sober life.  They learn they are going to a safe place to begin their journey of recovery and change.  MentorWorks clients frequently express deep gratitude for the opportunity they have to get their lives together.

Pixabay, (accessed, February 16, 2022). Brown and Grey Hummingbird Hovering over Orange Fruit. Pexels

Heart-Wrenching Denials

Unfortunately, not all who apply are accepted.  Dr. White talks about the heart-wrenching process of having to turn some people away.  It has nothing to do with not wanting to help but rather with the program’s limited reach and capacity (2022).  MentorWorks is not equipped to serve sex offenders or serious violent offenders.  These individuals are sent a denial letter along with a list of programs and resources that may be able to assist them.

Error on the Side of Compassion

The goal of MentorWorks is to accept all who are willing to commit to working a rigorous reentry program and begin the serious journey of recovery from substance abuse.  Despite the available psychological assessment tools and the best efforts and insights of judges, public defenders, social workers, etc. there is no guarantee a person who says they want to change will follow through after release.  Although some clients have ulterior motives upon entry (e.g., use MentorWorks only as an approved address for release) others sincerely want to change.  They just don’t know how.  

MentorWorks’ approach is to take people at their word and give them the benefit of the doubt. Simply put, they error on the side of compassion.  They provide the tools necessary for successful transition and recovery, even if the individual may not be fully committed, or if they are still in “manipulation mode” when they apply.  Several clients have openly admitted they came to the program with no intention of remaining sober long-term.  Richard P finally got it and said “sobriety is a choice, man.  You use and you lose everything.  It’s all about your choice” (2022).  Once clients start working the program and begin seeing the benefits, their commitment levels often grow and they stick around long enough to figure out how to stay sober and out of jail.

Gardens & Growth

When desires are put into action, great success can follow.  As the saying goes “faith is like a little seed, when planted it will grow.”  However, challenges, doubt, and uncertainty are often part of the growth process.  But without hope, the first step will likely never be taken.  Without hope, the chances of achieving success are extremely limited.  The messages of hope are central to what occurs in any successful program and MentorWorks is no different.  Clients are constantly encouraged and supported in their efforts and desires to change.  They understand that the seeds of recovery they plant have the potential to grow into something good.  

A recent garden project was implemented at each of the MentorWorks homes.  Clients expressed a desire to plant peppers, zucchinis, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more.  They were excited about the idea of growing their own food, even though they knew it would take time and be hard work.  Some seeds did not sprout, despite the hope they would.  But many seeds have started breaking through the soil and the obvious varieties of plants have created excitement and pride in the men.  Just like a garden, there are ups and downs in recovery.  Things don’t always go as expected and planned.  And the timing of sprouts popping up and successes occurring can’t always be predicted with precision but hope is validated when they do!  

Men who come to the MentorWorks and Redwood Recovery programs may struggle to find the hope that they can change and may doubt their ability to succeed, especially when the first struggles after incarceration occur.  However, having a strong and supportive recovery community, along with a great team of counselors, group facilitators, and peer mentors can make all the difference.  Clients are never forced to stay and many move on if they are not ready to make life-changing commitments.  But those who remain experience incredible success and joy in their achievements as they sprout and grow into the men, spouses, fathers, grandfathers, sons, siblings, and uncles they have the capacity to become. 

Our Invitation

Recovery is a long term, ongoing process that starts with a single choice and continues because of hope.  It involves both small and big daily choices to remain sober and keep pushing for the light at the end of the tunnel.  Acceptance into a good treatment program can be vital to this process.  A good program can help previously incarcerated and addicted individuals become part of a viable recovery community, provide critical transitional and intensive outpatient treatment support, and set the stage for maintaining long-term sobriety and valued connections.  These resources support clients’ progress toward a healthy, sober, and joyful life.  When asked what recovery has meant to him, Michael D said “I’ve gained a hope that there’s a future out there for me, outside of my addiction and my addictive lifestyle” (2021).  Join us in this hopeful process by leaving a word of encouragement on our social media page and sharing your comments below.

See Other Blogs in our “Change a Life” Series:


CAL 2: Connecting with a Recovery Program

What It Takes to Change a Life (CAL)

Dr. Joseph White & the FFL Team

“I looked at myself and realized I was worth it”

For Jamie B, that was the thought that set his recovery in motion – “I’m gonna have to retrain myself because I’m a different person when I use, and I can’t be that person if I’m sober.  After you’ve been that person for a long time, there’s a lot of work involved” (2022).  At that moment he looked at himself and his life and realized he could be more.  It was the start of his journey.  It was the beginning of an internal desire to be sober, to be healthy, and to change.  So where does one go when he or she is ready to change?

Apply for Help

Applications for MentorWorks ( and Redwood Recovery ( are online and very simple to complete (click link or go to website).  MentorWorks Healthy Transition Homes (sober living) supports clients by offering a drug and alcohol free living environment, peer support groups, case management services, bus/transportation passes, and other resources designed to assist in building a healthy life.  Redwood Recovery intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment provides frequent drug testing and offers individual counseling as well as therapy and education groups (e.g., relapse prevention, process groups, life skills, long term recovery, family life, etc.).

MentorWorks and Redwood Recovery offer a good fit for many clients.  Many are referred by peers or family members, others are referred by their probation or parole officers, or may even be court-ordered.  Social media posts (see our Facebook and Instagram pages), community activities, and local marriage and family enrichment classes also help people find our services. 

Incarcerated individuals often send initial letters inquiring about our program (since they don’t have access to the internet in jail or prison) – in which case we mail them an application (we need full name, inmate number, and incarceration facility).  Family members are welcome to submit an application on behalf of their incarcerated loved one (they simply sign at the bottom under “Proxy”).  Part of the process involves obtaining a background check to determine fit with our program and direct follow-up correspondence with the individual seeking information.  

Finding True Recovery

Recovery is defined as “a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential” (SAMHSA, 2021).  Once a person decides they want to change, the challenge then becomes finding the tools, resources, and maybe even a program to help them accomplish their recovery goals.  There are a variety of program options and paths that may help individuals achieve lasting sobriety.  Our program works for those who are ready to change, who are willing to follow through and work a full program, who want a spiritual foundation (meaning connection, not necessarily religion), and who are willing to be held accountable in their recovery journey.  

“My recovery from drug addiction is the single greatest accomplishment of my life… but it takes work — hard, painful work.  But the help is there, in every town and career, drug/drink freed members of society from every single walk and talk of life to help and guide”  – Jamie Lee Curtis (Recovery, L, 2018).

Gardens & Growth

Just like recovery, gardens require significant work and yet provide beautiful results.  This summer we planted gardens at each of our healthy transition homes with the help of local volunteers.  “Watching something grow is good for morale.  It helps us believe in life” (Kaufmann).  We are excited for the morale and belief these gardens will generate as new clients transition into our homes straight from incarceration.  Join us in watching the miracle of growth in both gardens and men!

Our Invitation

The path to sobriety is difficult, but there is hope!  Programs like MentorWorks and Redwood Recovery have been developed specifically to create hope for those who need it most.  We invite you to become part of the “greatest success story” ever told, or as Jamie Lee Curtis put it, “the single greatest accomplishment” of your life or the life of your loved one.  Become part of a recovery journey that lasts a lifetime.  Become part of our recovery community by reaching out and contacting us.  Get the help you and your loved one needs now.  Share your story in the comments below. 

See Other Blogs in our “Change a Life” Series:


CAL 1: True Recovery: The First Step

Introduction to our “CAL” Blog Series

“What it Takes to Change a Life”

Dr. Joseph White & the FFL Team

What does it take for someone to change their life?

There may be crossroads in our life when it becomes clear that change is desperately needed – and taking those genuine, sincere first steps can be the hardest part of the change process.  The Foundation for Family Life’s mission is to empower individuals and families to improve their lives through quality programs and services.  We envision people experiencing hope, growth, and harmony and believe they can succeed and thrive, even through difficult challenges.

This is the first in a series of posts that highlight our mission and what it takes for clients to ultimately change their lives.  The Foundation for Family Life (FFL) has developed two programs specifically for those with substance abuse challenges transitioning from incarceration.  These programs are designed to equip those who want to change with the tools and resources necessary to make sustainable, lasting change.  We never push; we only invite.  In fact, clients often come back if they aren’t ready the first time around.

MentorWorks is our healthy transition home program (sober living) that serves as a welcoming safe haven during the critical first few hours, days, and months of release from incarceration.  It provides a warm bed, food, clothing, transportation, employment assistance, recovery-oriented peer support, and an important recovery community, among other things.  FFL’s Redwood Recovery provides an intensive outpatient substance abuse program that addresses a variety of relevant issues for those early in recovery and recently released from incarceration.  Our IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) helps clients get their mental health needs met, supports them in creating successful treatment plans and relapse prevention plans, and provides a host of professional support through therapists, case managers, structured group meetings, and certified peer support specialists. 

The overarching goal from the creation of these programs has been to provide the most effective tools, resources, and environments in which successful recovery can happen.  The fundamental components of this framework were derived from a spiritual perspective that lies at the core of our work and being: we are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and, as such, we all make mistakes and deserve second chances.  We do not promote a religious, sermonizing, proselytizing, lecturing, “God Squad” type of relationship with deity.  Rather, we simply acknowledge the divinity within each of us and allow that to guide our relationships and decision-making as a program.  

One of my favorite definitions of spirituality comes from Father Leo Booth who said, “Spirituality is that which enables the growth of positive and creative values in the human being… and points to the power and strength that exists in all of us” (1984, p. 141).  He talks about how spirituality unites everything towards healing!  For him, spirituality recalls the oneness of creation, promotes inclusion and acceptance of different cultures, and invokes a system of values inherent within us, like honesty, humility, humor, and hope.  The work we do at the Foundation for Family Life fully embraces Father Booth’s rich insights and perspective on this most fundamental principle of life itself.  As he said, “Spirituality is not to be discovered ‘out there’ but rather exists within the beauty of every individual.”  We agree and are honored to have the opportunity to work with individuals whom society has often thrown away and dismissed but who still have beauty within themselves.  In fact, recovery is like planting a garden – it requires effort, patience, and persistence, but overtime yields great rewards (watch for garden metaphors throughout this blog series).  The great paydays come not when they are released from incarceration, but when the emotional shackles start coming off, when the cloud of life’s beatdowns starts to fade, and the light begins to shine in their eyes!  It is unmistakable.  It is rich.  It is powerful.

Early in the MentorWorks program we conducted a one year follow-up with our small group of graduates.  We found only 17% recidivated (re-incarcerated) as compared to 72% recidivating from the Salt Lake County jail a year later.  We knew we were doing something right and have attributed it to our foundation of spirituality, service, accountability, and recovery support.  Call it what you will, but that is how we saw it then, and that approach still guides our work today.  

This “behind-the-scenes” look in our recovery work will shed light on the addiction recovery process.  We share what the process looks like from beginning to end – from progressing through phases of treatment to becoming a graduate and legacy member.  As part of telling our story, we will highlight a few successes and failures of individuals in our program – their efforts to get a job, build healthy relationships, perform service, etc. – and what their lives look like down the road. Our blog series will include the following content: Admittance and Intake, First Day, Adjusting to Life in Recovery, Progression Levels, Transition into Daily Life, Relapse and Relapse Prevention, Long Term Recovery and Success Plans, and Graduation and Success Stories.

Our Invitation

Our invitation is to join us in this blog series to better understand our recovery mission.  We highlight our recovery process designed to help those desperately seeking a new life.  Its purpose is to provide hope, peace, and insight for anyone trying to recover or help those in recovery.  There is comfort in knowing loved ones can find hope and move forward in healthy and successful ways.  Please feel free to share an experience or ask questions below.


For me (Dr. White), this work is personal.  I am a grateful, recovering alcoholic and high school dropout with two DUIs (the first-an accident that almost took mine and my brother’s life).  By the Grace of God I am now a husband, father, and grandfather.  My life is blessed beyond measure, but getting here wasn’t easy.  I had years of doing stupid things that led me in and out of jails until one incarceration experience in which God made it clear that my next stop was the “Big House” – prison.  For some reason my heart softened, and in “AA Speak,” I surrendered my life to a Higher Power.  It probably had to do with two scriptures my cellmate shared with me: Ephesians 6:10-18 and Proverbs 3:5-6.  They came at just the right time – when I was ready and able to ponder and fully embrace their principles.  It turns out I love to learn.  I discovered college and ultimately became a “GED with a PhD.”  After serving as a professor in the marriage and family studies field for a decade in South Dakota and Nebraska, I was recruited to work in the private sector with a company out of Utah doing research and evaluation for clients around the country.  When that gig dried up, I was divinely led to create the Foundation for Family Life.  I wanted to make sure it partly focused on giving back to those transitioning from incarceration and taking the necessary steps to change their lives.  Thus was born the MentorWorks and Redwood Recovery programs.  One final caveat that provides a little background into this professional path. . . .  During my master’s degree, I became interested in understanding the psychosocial development of inmates and studied that process for my thesis by interviewing new inmates at the Utah State Prison (see White & Jones, 1996).  Then, as I was working on my dissertation in my PhD program at Texas Tech, I was inspired to follow up on my thesis work by studying spirituality and psychosocial development among individuals following incarceration with sobriety ranging from a few days to 32 years.  One of my publications from that study has direct empirical influence on the spiritual foundation of which we speak – Indicators of spiritual development in recovery from alcohol and other drug problems (White, Wampler, & Fischer, 2001).  My personal journey to recovery directly influenced my professional interests and field of study.  It has been my privilege to work with many great people on both sides of this enormous societal challenge – those caught up in addiction and seeking recovery and those with a desire to serve.  I hope these blogs provide some insight for both.  Godspeed.

See Other Blogs in our “Change a Life” Series:


  • Booth, L. (1984). The Gauntlet of Spirituality. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 1(1), 139-141.
  • White, J. M., & Jones, R. J. (1996). Identity styles of male inmates. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 23(3), 490-504.
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