It’s no secret that the drug epidemic is continuing to rear its ugly head throughout Bucks County and across the country. As an outsider looking in, it’s easy to assume the worst about those battling addiction, that they chose this life and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Many diligently work to end their downward spiral, undergoing treatment in order to get sober. Still, the stigma associated with being an addict often sticks with them during and after recovery, despite efforts to reenter society as a “regular” person.
Over the past year, the YMCA of Bucks County has been brainstorming ways to help locals in recovery shed their unwanted “addict” identity and feel normal once again. Last month, the Warminster branch, located at 624 York Road, launched “Back to You” – a 12-week substance recovery program designed for individuals who are in recovery from substance use disorder.
Offered at no cost to those who quality, “Back to You” allows participants to work with personal trainers, learn how to use cardiovascular and strength equipment, and enjoy nutrition, yoga, meditation and other group exercises, all aimed at promoting self-healing.
According to Zane Moore, CEO of the YMCA of Bucks County, the organization has discussed for some time how it can serve as a positive force in the drug epidemic.
“Ultimately in sitting down, we realized that many people who come to the Y are looking for one of three things. They’re looking for a supportive environment, a supportive community and reclamation of their health, whether they’re a veteran or a teen dealing with issues,” Moore said. “People coming out of recovery from any substance abuse are really no different than anyone else that’s looking for a supportive environment. Once we really identified it that way, we realized that maybe we do have something to offer these people.”
“Back to You” was designed with the assistance of a community task force comprised of local organizations including The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, Bucks County Drug & Alcohol Commission, Doylestown Health, Aldie Counseling Center, and Bucks County Emergency Health Services, among others.
“As I began to research and put ideas down, I met with the committee monthly in the beginning to get their input, and then more often as we started to get close to preparing to launch,” said program coordinator Lisa Schwartzer. “The committee gave me input, helped me change things that needed to be changed and also really trained me on understanding recovery.”
The program recently graduated its first class, with the next session beginning on July 9. The group, which Schwartzer said is capped at 15, meets twice a week for an hour and a half each day. Times vary based on the availability of the majority. It’s open to those 18 years and older who are active in their treatment.
“It’s basically exercise-focused. We do a lot of work in the fitness center where we teach people cardiovascular equipment, then we teach them a head-to-toe strength training program. Once we get them a little underway in the fitness center, we begin to introduce some of our group exercise classes that we offer at the Y, but it’s a class that’s taught just to our groups,” Schwartzer said. “So they learn within a private setting. The hope is that they look at the exercise schedule and then go on and take the classes because they’re already comfortable.”
The Y provides a free family membership with the program along with babysitting services for children of participants. Upon successful completion of “Back to You,” individuals receive an additional free three-month family membership to continue their journey to health and wellness.
Schwartzer quoted one attendee from the inaugural session, who provided a shining testimonial on “Back to You.”
“Often in recovery, you’re labeled as an addict and sometimes that becomes their identity. She said, ‘I struggle with this a lot. Surprisingly, just becoming a regular at the Y has taken some of that away, and I feel like a regular, same-as-anyone-else human being again.’ I think that speaks for itself when you think about this program,” Schwartzer said. “You want to feel normal again.”
According to Schwartzer, this is where the name “Back to You” came from – these individuals want to get back to their old selves, or discover a new, improved version.
Once “Back to You” gains traction in Warminster, Schwartzer’s plan is to expand it to the branches in Newtown, Fairless Hills and Doylestown. Moore said several other YMCAs in Pennsylvania have already followed suit in piloting the program.
“Out of most of what we do here at the Y, this is something that I’m incredibly proud of,” Schwartzer said. “I feel like we’re impacting an epidemic and if we can just help one or two people, then we’ve done our job.” ••
For information on how to get involved with “Back to You,” contact Schwartzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com