Creating New Memories Through Sober Engagement

Thanks to a $96,000 grant from the NYC Council, the Veterans Programs in New York City have another year of educational and recreational events, groups, and services to offer clients.

The award was sponsored by the Council’s Manhattan and Queens Delegations, in addition to the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus.

Called the Veteran Sober Engagement Program, a group of activities introduces veterans to pro-social interests and hobbies. The goal of the program is to promote wellness and reinforce the vets’ connection to each other and the community at large. Former Program Director Beverly Houston is managing the program, with some new activities currently being planned.

Veterans Pride Group

As Ms. Houston explains, all clients feel differently about their experience in the military. Some have been dishonorably discharged and are struggling to embrace their past with the armed forces. Others have proudly served their country (from the Gulf to Afghanistan Wars) – or have had more than one tour of duty – and feel an overwhelming sense of pride from that time.

Because of the programs’ military-focused culture, staff understood the need to give the men a forum where they could discuss their military experience. “Some felt that their service didn’t mean anything while others felt meaning with their service,” explained Ms. Houston. Although the men may have differing attitudes, they often connected on one aspect: the reason they joined.

At each Veterans Pride Group session, the vets talk freely about their military past and what their service meant to them. In time, they realized that many of the issues that led to their addictions began before enlistment.

Veterans Speaker Series

A program that stopped for a few years because of the pandemic is re-emerging. The Veterans Speaker Series offers a 10-week curriculum in which military vets in recovery present a topic of interest. The presentations can range from their personal experience with the Veterans Programs to a how-to on positive affirmations and self-love. In March, during Women’s History Month, Ms. Houston plans to invite female vets to come speak about their perspective as women in the military.

IMG 0637Family Day Picnic

The vets have a beloved annual summertime tradition called the Family Day Picnic. At the event, clients, their family members, and staff enjoy a day of sunshine, barbecue, and games at the Riverbank State Park in Harlem. The outing provides an opportunity for clients to spend time with their loved ones in an informal setting, promoting peace of mind for both them and their families.

Military Academy Trips

In 2022, the three programs first visited the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The educational and historical tour was followed by a luncheon at MacArthur’s Riverview Restaurant, located in The Thayer Hotel at West Point. This year the group is adding an overnight trip to visit and tour the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.


Pilgrimage to Washington, DC

Each year, the Veterans Programs takes a therapeutic pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. The trip is an important and unique clinical event for the veteran clients. Another overnight trip, all three of the programs visit significant war memorials and monuments together. Popular stops are the Arlington Cemetery, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The visit is often an emotional journey as the men and women sort through their personal feelings about their service. The annual pilgrimage was first organized by former Program Director Ed Thompson, who inspired the creation of the Veterans Programs.

Tour of Philadelphia

A new outing is currently being planned for March. The men will visit the Birthplace of America – Philadelphia. The bus trip will include visits to the Liberty Bell as well as a tasting tour of the City of Brotherly Love’s most famous creation – the Philly Cheese Steak sandwich. Ms. Houston plans to stop at both Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks, where the men can decide for themselves which has the best Philly Cheese Steak.


If you have a service or experience you would like to offer, email your idea and contact information to Assistant VP of Residential Treatment Deidre Rice-Reese.