Plucky organization offers help to people beginning life again

By Peggy Spear on June 19, 2017

Tom Aswad for websiteSarah Martin* can now see her children.

That may not seem like a big deal for most people, but for Martin, it’s a major achievement. After stints in jail and an addiction rehab program, there were times when Martin thought she would never see her family again.

But that all changed, thanks to a small but spunky grassroots organization called Support4Recovery, a local organization that helps recovering alcoholics and addicts get back on their feet after leaving rehab.

“I was stressed out,” Martin said. “I was five days away from graduating from my program — clean and sober — and I had nowhere to go. Support4Recovery changed all that.”
The group provided the resources to help Martin find the sober living community she now lives at in Pittsburg. They gave her money to get on her feet and begin looking for work. And the Sober Living Environment allows her to see her family.

“Support4Recovery changed my life,” she says.

Small but strong

It all started around Founder and President Tom Aswad’s dining room table, back in 2007. He and two other friends, all with many years of recovery, wanted to help others who may not have been as fortunate as them.

“When I got sober back in the early ‘90s I was lucky,” Aswad says. I had a ‘high bottom,’ which means I didn’t lose my job or my family. I had something to go back to. Many people leaving rehabs don’t have the same luck I had, and we want to help them.”

The group’s work has not gone unnoticed, and recently the Clayton Business and Community Association awarded Support4Recovery a $10,000 grant, half of which will go toward helping Diablo Valley Ranch graduates get a head start after leaving “the ranch.”

“We are so grateful for the grant,” says Aswad, who said that half the grant will help at least three DVR graduates move into sober living homes in Concord and surrounding areas and get a leg up on job searches and being reunited with their families. The other half of the grant will be directed toward similar services in East County, he says.

The mission of Support4Recovery is to assess the needs of the recovering community, develop action plans to support, educate and empower the community and promote successful long-term recovery.

Its focus is on “celebrating the recovery movement,” Aswad says, and breaking down the stigma and discrimination by creating a unified voice for positive change.

From that first meeting at his dining room table came a strong effort to educate the community about addiction and alcoholism, and raise funds to help recovering alcoholics and addicts who need it.

A special emphasis of the organization is working with women in recovery like Martin, helping to reunite them with their children. “There is a greater percentage rate for long-term recovery if the alcoholic or addict has family support,” Aswad says.

The group has grown to the point that it even has a high profile board of directors, but it works on a limited budget. There is virtually no overhead — everyone is a volunteer. “We’ve been known to have bake sales and car washes to raise funds,” Aswad says. But small doesn’t mean powerless, as the group has helped many in recovery find safe living environments, and not go straight to a homeless shelter after they leave a rehab.

“The relapse rate is over 90 percent at a homeless shelter,” Aswad says. “We look for legitimate SLE’s that will enhance the individual’s chances for recovery. We provide money, job search resources, and even dental care if needed,” he said.

Well connected

The group also goes into San Quentin prison and helps run recovery groups there.

They get referrals from counselors in rehabilitation facilities, and makes sure that the individuals they are helping have a strong plan for continued recovery, be it a 12-step program or other sobriety resources.

Aswad is well connected to the recovery community and local rehabilitation facilities, and knows when people need help.

The group survives on small fundraising events such as sponsored bike rides and grants such as the CBCA’s, but Aswad notes that the CBCA’s is one of the largest they’ve received. They also get “in-kind” donations from such places as Kinder’s BBQ, John Muir Health and Phillips 76 stations. “We’re always bartering for help, and it works,” Aswad says. “We’ve built strong community partnerships that way.”

Support4Recovery Board Member Dominic Aliano, a Concord Planning Commissioner and member of Supervisor Karen Mitchoff’s staff, didn’t have much experience in the recovery world growing up. But when he met Aswad, “he sort of sucked me in to the movement,” Aliano says.

“We want people to recover, be successful in battling their addiction, and get a job so they can feel empowered.” he says.
He says that besides the help they give newly recovering alcoholics, the group gives grants to people wanting to become alcohol and drug counselors themselves.

But like Aswad, he says the biggest thing they do is find housing for people leaving recovery, and helps get families involved.

“It’s nice to see families reunited,” Aliano says.

For the CBCA, it was an easy decision to give the grant to help DVR graduates, says President Bob Steiner.

“In a way, it’s a payback for all of DVR’s help,” Steiner says. Many residents of DVR help out on Clayton’s community’s activities.

For more information or to donate to Support4Recovery, visit its website at  The 2017 Wheels 4 Recovery Ride is scheduled for Sept. 2.

*Not her real name

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