Recollections from Tom Parrish, longtime member

When I first joined Alliance House in the fall of ’88 there were only a few members. With Margaret Currin at the helm, we met in the bay where fire trucks used to be parked, struggling to define what the Clubhouse was all about, and to establish a set of Members’ Rights.


One right that was declared early on was the Right of Return. We said, “Once a member, always a member”. It’s important to know that there is a place to return to, especially when there appears to be nowhere else to go.


We expected that as we rebuilt our self-esteem, developing work skills and completing educational goals, with the intent of becoming productive members of society, our personal evolution would inevitably lead toward greater independence. We anticipated that we would become less reliant upon the social support of the Clubhouse. For most of us, it was a challenge. Sometimes we stumbled, but with determination, and a little help from our friends, we persevered.


We refused to be seen as patients or clients of the psychiatric establishment. We rejected that stigma. And we rejected the politically correct term of the day, “consumers of mental health services”. That’s a particularly demeaning epithet.


Thirty years have passed since the original members huddled in the firehouse bay. The building is hardly recognizable. Its walls no longer echo. Underfoot there’s carpet, not cold concrete, and the faint aroma of diesel exhaust is gone. So are the original flagpole and the giant chestnut tree. Has anyone ever counted the growth rings in that old stump?


Gone too, are Clubhouse’s founders. Some have moved on to new lives and a few are no longer living. In their place is a new generation, many of whom were not yet born when Alliance House was begun in 1988.


I stopped by a couple of months ago just to see what I could see of a place that I remember fondly. As expected, the Clubhouse has evolved. That’s progress. And it’s a good thing.

Keep on keepin’ on!

Tom Parrish

Member No. 004

By |2018-01-25T18:20:58+00:00January 25th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Recollections from Tom Parrish, longtime member

Dave Harper My Story: volume 2.

Volume 2:


Since I was in the choir, I learned that the school’s upcoming yearly play was “West Side Story”. I tried out, and what do you know, I made it. I played “Doc”, the malt shop owner. That was an amazing year.

About three weeks before summer break, I decided I had had enough abuse and ridicule from my step mother, and longed for the love and acceptance I had found with my mother and her side of the family. I decided to run away from home in K.C., and walked to my mother in Springfield, Missouri, a 400mile trip. I left after my dad went to work at 11:30 P.M. I walked and hitched rides, and walked through my mother’s door at about 7:30 P.M. Needless to say, my mother was a little shocked to see me. I will never forget when my mother brought me back to K.C.

We met my father at the I.H.O.P. in Overland Park, to “exchange me.” When my dad walked in, he sat down at the table, took a breath, looked at me, and said, “Well, it’s obvious, he wants to live with you.” The only snag was I had to stay in K.C. for three weeks to finish out the school year, but that was fine by me. I needed time to pack my life. Then, as if by magic, the day suddenly arrived.

The first day of summer. My dad woke me up that morning, which was very unusual, since they (dad and step mom) rarely ever woke me, as I was pretty much on my own, as far as waking up and getting myself ready for school. The other unusual thing that morning was his tone of his voice. It almost seemed remorseful, or sad. He drove me to the bus station, downtown, and we waited for the bus to arrive. The entire time, I could feel the tension, and sadness, emanating from my father, even at 14, I could identify his sadness. Only at that moment, could I feel my father’s love for me. That was one of only a couple times we touched, he hugged me, and told me he loved me, a phrase I have only heard him express three times in my life. He put me on the bus, and I was off to begin a new chapter in my life. All this sadness and remorseful emotion my dad was emitting was very strange to me, since, up until then, I had NEVER seen this side of him. Up until then, I thought emotions were only for T.V. and movies. I always thought there was something wrong with me, since I was a very emotional child.

This would be the first time I was faced with very real truth, that “wherever you go, there you are”. Meaning, no matter where you run, you always take you with you. Just because you change your location, doesn’t mean you move away from your own self-hatred. It took me until just recently to learn that you can change everything; Jobs, friends, locations, etc. but you can’t change how you feel about yourself.

I also learned something even more powerful, and that is, respect is earned from everyone, including yourself. You have to do things to make yourself like yourself; Finish the things you start, always do the very best you are able, in everything you attempt, treat, and speak to others the way you want to be treated, and when you work, always work to impress the boss, like he’s standing right behind you.

When I came to Springfield, I was so excited, new school, new people, new environment. I thought things would be different, I thought I was leaving all my problems, but, as I would soon learn, my problems moved with me. My isolation and depression came onto me like a raging bull. Strange, new school, strange, new kids. I was not prepared for such a culture change, it was a massive shock, and it never occurred to me to tell someone. I couldn’t find the crowd I fit with, and instinctively went back to what was familiar… Isolation. Despite my mother’s constant attempts to make me go, I just didn’t have the ability. My depression, and my growing fear of life, and success, caused me to give up school, and I isolated for several years.

When I turned 17, I tested for my GED, and enrolled, in Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, Missouri, again with the hopes of change, of a “T.V.” life, where the “happily ever after,” filled my head. Only to find that I took me with me AGAIN. I constantly isolated, only going to my psych classes. By the end of the school year, the administration had expressed their disinterest in seeing me return for future semesters. This closed the chapter in my life of scholastic affairs.

I need to digress, When I was 13, I became a born again Christian. That, in and of itself, was significant enough, but in the hands of an extremist such as myself, I suddenly became a Bible carrying, sermon quoting, Jesus thumping maniac. No one was safe, I suddenly had the unstoppable urge to tell everyone about the, “Cleansing blood of Jesus.” Whether you wanted to hear it or not. The only problem with all that Bible thumping, was that it was just another attempt to run from my own self-hatred. I thought that, “accepting Jesus”, would make me feel like a good person, only to find that, not even Jesus could exempt me from me. While I was in my “Jesus” phase, I went to church like it was going out of style. Every time the doors were open, I was there.

One night, while sitting in the choir loft, I noticed this beautiful woman in the congregation. Long straight, black hair, slender, very outgoing, an angel, sent from heaven to deliver me from this “horrible” life I was living, (Or so I felt). I have to admit she taught me a huge amount in the years I spent with her, both good and bad. At 19, I left Bolivar, school, and Missouri, to try a life in the Rockies.

I moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, to help her and her husband start a church, only to find them in the midst of a failing marriage. I helped keep the house clean, and the kids tended to. I turned 21 in G.J. and dove head first into a full time drinking career. After growing tired of running from myself in Colorado, I ran back to Springfield, to add cocaine and meth to my accolades on my resume of substance abuse career.

It was about this point of my life that I met my future ex-wife, Heather. She and I had ten years together, off and on. We had two of the absolute coolest kids to ever walk the face of the earth. (By the way, if you have kids, and don’t feel like they are the absolute coolest kids to ever walk the face of the earth, then you brought the wrong kids home from the hospital). I have no idea why Heather stayed with me for so long, or why she didn’t beat me to death in my sleep. She stuck with me through a huge amount of verbal abuse, not to mention the drug, and alcohol abuse. Not to mention the total emotional instability, numerous evictions, and countless lost jobs. I really admire her for that. She and I had gone to the same high school together, even knew of each other, but never met. Not until I turned 19, and tried out for a community “Christian” play house, called, “Stained Glass Theater”. They were having auditions for their next play, “The Idle of Sacred Oaks”. I asked her for a date, and the rest is history.

We got married, shot out two kids, and after 10 years, got divorced. I was 30 years old, the worst year of my life. In one month, I got divorced, lost free visitation with my kids, (supervised visitation was probably the smartest idea for me at the time, as I was extremely unstable at the time), lost another job, and found my mother dead on the coach. All in the same month. I had to tell all my relatives that the cornerstone of our family had died.

With all that, I began to listen to the little voices in my head, I call my committee. They were telling me that I didn’t matter one iota to anyone, and that all I brought to people was heartache and misery. One night after a party that me and my roommate had thrown I was very depressed, and had developed a plan to end my life. After everyone had gone, and my room-mate fell asleep, I pulled his car into the garage, locked the front and back doors, left the car on, and waited to die.

What happened next is hazy at best, but the paramedics said that I was found upside down, dangling out the window, my foot having been caught in the seat belt. From what I can gather, I thought that this type of suicide wasn’t working, or it was taking too long, and I lost patience. Either way, I suppose. Instead of just opening the door, I tried to climb out the window. When my head got higher than the roof of the car, where the fumes were thicker, I passed out. I was found hanging upside down, next to the car door, and doctors said that since I was in that position, all the blood rushed to my head, keeping me alive.

According to the nurses, my doctor, and family, I was brain dead for five days. My ex-sister in law told me that the hospital staff had informed them that I was posturing, when your toes point inward. They said that this was a sign of brain damage. The doctor told my family that even if I regained consciousness, I would be in need of constant supervision and care. I would need to be bathed, dressed, fed, and possibly even changed. Despite the doctor’s insistence, my brother refused to allow them to turn off the respirator. For five days, I was kept alive by machines, and for five days, my brother was either working, in the hospital chapel praying, or at my side. I was told that he only went home to shower, and maybe sleep a little. On the fifth day, while my brother kneeled in the chapel, praying, a nurse was tending to me, and doing her morning rounds, while my ex sister-in law, and ex-wife were in the room helping out however they could and, as if I had been awake the whole time, I opened my eyes and sat straight up in bed. Naturally, all three girls were taken completely by surprise. I tried to speak, but since the tracheotomy tube was still in I couldn’t, so the nurse removed it, and tried to get me to speak, to see how extensive my brain damage actually was. I was told that, at first, I refused to speak, only when my brother came into the room did I actually speak. When he came into the room, the nurse asked me if I knew him, that’s when I smiled, and said, “That’s Betty!”. Despite the nurse and doctor’s confusion my family laughed a sigh of relief. That was an old nickname I use to call him several years before.


Stay tuned for part 3…

By |2018-01-10T20:44:34+00:00January 10th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Dave Harper My Story: volume 2.

Role of Member-Leaders in the Clubhouse By Dunc Macdonald

In my niche article, I discussed taking time to do Clubhouse work between my TEs and going to school.   What I was doing was becoming a member-leader which I thought would make me happy.   This task was accomplished by gaining a more in-depth knowledge of the Clubhouse Model.   This process started well before I went to school and continues to this day.

Before I go any further, I must explain a little bit about myself.  I have a mild case of Cerebral Palsy which created a speech impediment and hand-eye coordination issues.   I also have a habit of talking too fast.  I continually work on these challenges.

From the first day I joined Alliance House, I jumped right into the work-ordered day.  The work-ordered day simulates a normal scheduled work day.    My first task was working on billing where I helped my friend, Kent, track members’ hours in the Clubhouse.  I also worked with a staff member, Sue, on the Clubhouse’s statistics where I realized that I still had an interest in working around numbers.   One day while doing these tasks, our Executive Director, Jon Paulding, asked me into his office and had me help him reconcile the Clubhouse’s checkbook by making sure that we weren’t overspending on services, confirming that the account numbers and the amounts were accurate.  This is something that I took ownership of.  This friendship resulted in Jon asking me to co-lead a meeting and I realized that doing this was so fun for me that I kept on leading meetings more and more.     I ended up reconciling the checkbook with all the following directors and helped with meetings as well.  As well, I wanted to learn more about the Clubhouse Model so I started attending Culture Trainings where in-depth discussions were held around how and why Clubhouse works so well.  These discussions led to my realization that the real reason behind the Clubhouse work is to turn every members’ talents into a contribution to the Clubhouse and/or a job in the workforce.  Some members like to sit and watch or just socialize.

By late 2007, I was bored with what I was doing at the Clubhouse and needed a change but didn’t know what until I took a short course around advocating for yourself.  This class helped me to figure out what I needed to take care of my needs for a change.  I didn’t know how to do this until my brother graduated from college.  I realized then it was time for me to go to college, so I came home and started getting ready to go to school in the Accounting Clerk Program at Salt Lake Community College in February 2008. I didn’t realize how much of a challenge I had gotten into but I figured “in for a penny, in for a pound.”   My first two classes were excellent examples of this.  One was a Ten-Key course which was a special type of calculator and the other was keyboarding.   My hand-eye coordination issues made these classes difficult but I muddled through.   I had some really fun classes as well like Excel and PowerPoint.    I also made new friends that helped me with some of my classes and helped me to grow and realize that it takes all kinds of people to make the world work.  I had a good friend in her mid-sixties who was taking a different course. I finished my course in February 2010.

With my new knowledge, I found more interesting projects to help the Clubhouse with.  I started by convincing our director that we needed to upgrade our computers from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2007.  I also started tutoring members in Math, History and Computers.  My new favorite task became working with the development director with recording and tracking the Clubhouse’s donations.   All of this was good, but I needed something to get me away from the Clubhouse.   In July 2011 Bill Rice started a new business and needed a bookkeeper.  He offered that position to me and it gave me an opportunity to utilize my accounting skills. This also gave me a break from the Clubhouse and added to my financial resources.  I could quench my thirst for something besides the Clubhouse.   I learned more about QuickBooks, Excel and emailing etiquette.

I am now using these skills in a new capacity. This knowledge combined with my ability around teaching others what I already know and completed the member-leader equation for me.

By |2018-01-05T18:35:47+00:00January 5th, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Role of Member-Leaders in the Clubhouse By Dunc Macdonald