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!
Member No. 004