“I’ve completed treatment. But what’s next?”
The refrain that Lorie Obernauer, PhD, heard constantly from anxious patients she worked with as the coordinator for alumni at the Center for Dependency, Addiction & Rehabilitation (CeDAR) at the University of Colorado Hospital ignited some creative thinking in her. She knew firsthand that recovery was about building a life—well more than just discarding a chemical.
In an effort specifically to help women on this journey, Obernauer and business partner Allison Harden have established Beyond Betty (www.beyondbetty.net), an active social and learning community in the Denver metropolitan area. A pivotal component of this undertaking invites participation from women who are in recovery from any number of life challenges, whether it’s addiction, grief, financial crisis or something else.
“My heart is in the addiction recovery field because of my own experience, but as I think about this, it comes to me time and again—we are all in the same boat,” says Obernauer, who also has led establishment of the group Treatment Professionals in Alumni Services (TPAS). Including women in addiction recovery with women overcoming other hurdles in life “takes the stigma away from addiction and makes this about another life challenge,” she says. “Addiction doesn’t become the big red mark on your forehead.”
Obernauer points out that the name Beyond Betty does not refer specifically to Betty Ford, but pays tribute to a number of “iconic Bettys” of fact and fiction who reflect women’s diverse strengths (from Mrs. Ford to Betty White to Betty Friedan to Betty Crocker). Obernauer emphasizes that Beyond Betty has no formal link to the most prominent Betty in the addiction field, that being the Betty Ford Center.
Beyond Betty will offer women who join under a monthly membership the opportunity to attend events and to engage in activities that they might hesitate to pursue alone. Activities are categorized under six “journeys”: Yearning for Learning; Enriching Experiences; Feeling Good, Looking Good; Managing Life’s Challenges; Personal and Spiritual Growth; and Leaving a Legacy (Obernauer describes the latter as her favorite journey, involving “wanting to do something that makes a difference”).
Activities in Beyond Betty will include twice-monthly Betty Chats (“the meeting after the meeting,” Obernauer calls them), cultural activities, classes, hikes, and other pursuits that interest the group. The organization will start in the Denver area, though Obernauer sees the possibility of eventually expanding the concept to Boulder and perhaps elsewhere.
She and Harden are targeting women ages 40 to 70, though they expect some younger women to want to be involved as well. “They recognize how much they can learn from women who are older,” Obernauer says.
The effort is starting small, with the website having been active for just a few weeks, but its aims are substantial. “Part of the challenge of this is building a community,” Obernauer says. “We have to take recovery into the community.”