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Recovery Unplugged: What Gratitude Really Looks Like

by Jill Gleeson

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday November 28, 2020

Jonah Brooks
Jonah Brooks  (Source:Recovery Unplugged)

There's an old saying in recovery: Gratitude is the Attitude. It speaks to the idea that thankfulness helps addicts stay clean by cultivating happiness. More a state of mind than a reaction based on circumstance, gratitude is a way of thinking that can be practiced, applied and enjoyed. EDGE spoke to three people who feel immensely grateful this holiday season, thanks to Recovery Unplugged, a nationally recognized addiction treatment center.

Jonah Brooks, Recovering Addict — One Year Sober

"My life is more beautiful than I ever thought possible."

When Jonah Brooks hit bottom, his life was literally left in pieces. He doesn't remember what exactly he did but knows he had ingested a potentially lethal combination of crack, Xanax and alcohol. In a frenzy, Brooks had ripped his house apart. Somebody called the police and he was taken to a psych ward, then eventually landed at Recovery Unplugged's Fort Lauderdale location.

Brooks, who will be 22 next month, has more than a year clean and is holding onto sobriety with ferocious gratitude. "There's a split second when I wake up in the morning when I forget that I'm not waking up dope sick," Brooks says. "And then I look around, and I realize I'm in a house that I rent with my best friend who I met at RU, we're all clean, there's food in the fridge, I can shower, I have a job, I have a girlfriend, everything about my life is going so well, and it's just more beautiful than I ever thought possible."

According to Brooks, who began using at 15, his addiction issues stem from being transgender. When he made it into Recovery Unplugged, he'd only been on testosterone for a few weeks. But the rehab's staff treated him with a dignity he'll never forget—and for which he'll always be thankful.

"They didn't have a problem putting me with the men; they always made sure I felt safe and comfortable, never made me feel weird, never treated me different from any other dude," Brooks says. "And even though I wasn't as passable at that point and my voice was still pretty high, they always made it a point to use my pronouns, and just be respectful about it. I can't stress enough how much I would recommend RU to any queer person. I would recommend it to anyone who's struggling with their sexuality, identity, anything like that. Because it's the safest place I could imagine being."

Jennifer Brooks, Parent

"It's seeing the small things to be grateful for that keep you going."

For Jennifer Brooks, Jonah's mother, gratitude can be found in moments big and small. There was the time, for example, she stood on a stage during Family Weekend at Recovery Unplugged. She was asked to pick a song to share and chose "Blackbird" by The Beatles, in part because of the lyrics:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

Take these broken wings and learn to fly

All your life

You were only waiting for this moment to arise

While Jennifer had meant the song to show Jonah what she wished for him—the chance to start a new life—her son says the music helped him understand how much his addiction has affected his family. For the first time in his life, he realized how much he'd hurt them. To this day, according to Jonah, he still listens to "Blackbird."

But this new comprehension between mother and son isn't all that Jennifer is thankful for, not by a long shot. "It's seeing the small things to be grateful for that keep you going," she says. "I spoke to Jonah a few minutes ago, and he said, 'Oh, Mom, I have to work a double at the catering place.' And I said, 'You know what, you're going to feel so good about yourself when you're done working that double shift, that you're in a place now where you can go and work hard.' And that's what I'm grateful for—that my kid can go out and work and be proud of himself and feel like he's part of society again. So, I have a lot of gratitude."

Recovery Unplugged provides hope, healing and peace of mind to those affected by alcohol and drug addiction using the power of music.
Recovery Unplugged provides hope, healing and peace of mind to those affected by alcohol and drug addiction using the power of music.  (Source: Recovery Unplugged)

Madeline Young, Recovery Unplugged staff
"It's really important for us to be affirming of LGBTQ people in such an open way."

Madeline Young, an administrative assistant at Recovery Unplugged's Nashville facility for about six months, finds herself grateful for much in her new job this Thanksgiving season. A member of the LGBTQ community, she says she hasn't worked in many environments that make her feel as comfortable and accepted as Recovery Unplugged does.

"I don't experience tokenism here at all, where I have at previous places I've worked," says Young. We are very affirming—staff and clients alike—have rainbow flags, trans flags, bisexual flags hanging up here in open support of the LGBTQ community. It's really important for us to be affirming of LGBTQ people in such an open way. In doing that, I feel we can make people feel more secure and at home, in a safe place."

Young, who received her bachelor's degree in music and spent four years in the United States Marine Band, is also thankful for the music—the core of Recovery Unplugged's treatment modality. From the moment prospective clients call into the center's help line and are asked to name the artists they listen to, to the time they check out with an MP3 player of their favorite recovery songs, music is the cornerstone of what Recovery Unplugged does.

"We have board-certified music therapists who work here and run groups," Young says. "Clients are encouraged to participate in a way that integrates their musical taste and identity with their treatment and what they are going through. And we have guest performers come in on Tuesdays and Fridays to share their stories and perform. From what I've seen, people here really take the music aspect of it to heart.

Are you or someone you love struggling with drugs or alcohol? Recovery Unplugged offers LGBTQ-welcoming substance abuse treatment. Visit or call 855-909-8818.

Jill Gleeson is a travel and adventure journalist based in the Appalachians of Central Pennsylvania. Find her on Facebook and Twitter at @gopinkboots.