By Nolan Madden
For 29 years, Winslow native Bob Candelaria has championed the cause of promoting compassionate and positive community support in recovery from the struggle and stigma of substance abuse.
He began by addressing and overcoming his own addictions more than two decades ago, then opened the Winslow Guidance Associates center in 2010, and most recently extended the center’s model of recovery support services to the Holbrook community.
Candelaria relates that he established the Project Recovery center in Holbrook by hosting a series of weekly Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) support meetings for the city last year.
WGA currently offers individual, family and group counseling services, as well as DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs), intensive outpatient treatment, men’s and women’s domestic violence offenders group counseling, and parenthood education services at its West Second Street location.
The center’s Project Recovery facility in Holbrook was licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services in early June to provide outpatient services, substance abuse, intensive outpatient and DUI classes. “We’re repeating the same process that we’ve successfully developed here in Winslow for Holbrook,” he explained.
Candelaria said he views the community itself as a substance recovery support network, and he credits collaboration with local justice and law enforcement officials as a key component of his program’s success.
“In talking with some of the local judges, probation officers and public defenders, we identified that support services were needed. I think it’s a key piece. I think that we’re on the same side, so I think it’s really important for providers to take an approach of working with them,” he said.
Of his 29 years of working field experience, he notes that “one of the issues I saw (in some communities) was that collaboration and communication wasn’t happening, and it causes the client more problems when everybody is not on the same page.”
Candelaria said he feels the location of treatment centers can heavily impact recovery success. He related of his own recovery, “I got sober when I was 22. I went to treatment from Winslow to other places, such as Phoenix. With people of my age in the meetings I was doing great, but when I came back here… none of it. So it wasn’t that that particular treatment didn’t work; it worked for that environment. But that same environment doesn’t exist here. We’re in a different world up here.
“Being young, the other thing I saw was that I didn’t see other young people and I didn’t see faces that looked like my face when I walked into facilities,” he reflected. How do you know where I’m coming from if you aren’t from my same culture? If you’re from my same culture, you’ll understand my cultural beliefs, and you’ll also understand some of my cultural ways.
“My dream was to build a facility in northern Arizona with a staff of people from northern Arizona who are not just Native American, but also from other nationalities, so that when they come into our facility, they see somebody who looks like them. If you can’t see someone you can relate to doing it, then you can have no vision of how it’s going to look. Sometimes you don’t find people who work in recovery facilities who are actually from and are well established in the community.
“What sets us apart is that we’re able to take Native American practitioner concepts and connect them with the guiding principles of traditional 12-step substance addiction recovery practices and explain them so that they fit into the client’s culture,” he said.
Candelaria related as an example step 12 of the original Alcoholics Anonymous recovery method, which he generally summarized as the “Service” of a client having had a spiritual awakening and then modeling the message of the 12 principles to other alcoholics.
“When you look at traditional Navajo values, they are geared toward viewing men as warriors. Young (Navajo) guys today want to be warriors, and will express this (aggressively) by doing things like getting tattoos. But when you go back to traditional teachings and you look at the true nature of a warrior, fighting was the least of what a warrior did. Every great warrior’s number one role was that of a spiritual leader in their community,” Candelaria explained.
“If that warrior went down (in battle), his fellow warrior assumed the care of his family. So the whole warrior concept was intended to be in service to the people. There was nothing selfish involved.”
Candelaria said that his programs’ primary goal involves more than just supporting a recovering client in “getting clean,” and that life skills training is integrated as an integral part of the long-term process.
“The easy part is to get someone off drugs. Where they go from there, I think, is our responsibility. If you sell someone on a dream and they’re unable to live that dream, they’ll never trust you to sell them anything again. If you don’t have more than just not drinking as a part of getting sober, and there isn’t more to it like a career or making your family financially stable, then what is there to work toward?” he asked.
“We’re here to help in any way we can. We hope to have a long standing relationship and be here in Holbrook for a long time to come,” he said.
Project Recovery is located at 309 E. Hopi Drive in Holbrook. For program details or more information, contact the Winslow Guidance Associates administrative office at (928) 289-6789.