Hey Sanford House – What’s Been Going on Over There?



As the Editor-In-Chief of Excursions Magazine and the keeper of Sanford House intelligence, I feel remiss. Just when we began to establish a reputation for fruitfulness, producing some of the most readable and informative blog articles in the recovery biz, it seems our creative pipeline has stalled. Where are the glossy photos of scenic excursions in “pure” Michigan? And the videos of our counselors? Where are the experiential articles by those in successful recovery? The pith of our clinicians, on topics key to state-of-the-art addiction treatment?


Where We’ve Been…

We understand if you think the Sanford House staff  members are all taking between-season vacations. Or that we are sitting around the offices deciding between the cream filled or nutty bonbons. But that is not the case. We are busy. Very busy, and I realize that’s not a justification for diverting our interests. As my teenaged son used to say (when he was in trouble), “It’s not an excuse. It’s a reason…”


What We’ve Been Doing…


Addiction Treatment – Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women

At Sanford House, we always keep our clients and our original treatment center for women top of mind. At our Cherry Street location, we continue to adapt our program to fit each client. We seek to find the inherent value and strength in each individual. And our clinicians focus on resolving the underlying issues that often cause substance use. We also incorporate wellness and robust excursions. When the house is full, our staff is fully occupied.



Restoration – Sanford House at John Street for Men

But, one of our founders is also a developer. And David and Rae Green are changing the Grand Rapids’ landscape, restoring historic homes to serve as addiction treatment centers. We are in the process of rehabilitating the 125-year-old Hazeltine mansion on John Street as a treatment center for men. Every surface is being touched to preserve and return the house to its original splendor. And there are a lot of surfaces to touch. We are restoring 88 windows; refurbishing woodwork; adding bathrooms; fixing the roof and the shake siding; and rebuilding the garden.


Alec Green, usually a pristine fellow, often arrives in our office looking like he demolishes ceilings for a living. Which, as the hands-on project manager for the restoration, he does. Alec is working with scores of craftsmen and artisans, experienced in the nuances of renovating iconic homes.



Building the fitness room…


The restoration is looking up!


The fruits of labor – the restored floors in the living room.


When the job is done, we will be able to welcome 20 men as residential clients, with several spacious group therapy rooms for non-residential clients. All in a naturally private location in the heart of Heritage Hill. We will open for business this summer 2017.




Incorporating Men – Gender Specific Treatment

At Sanford House, our addiction treatment programs are geared toward men and women separately. When we separate clients by gender, men work together with other men and women work with the help of other women. In that scenario, we believe our clients are better able to discuss sensitive and personal issues they might not feel comfortable sharing with the opposite gender.


Women and men develop, experience and recover from addiction differently. In that regard, issues such as communication, friendships, family responsibilities, trust and intimacy are all influenced by gender. We are well known for the excellence of our women’s facility. Bringing the same level of excellence to the upcoming men’s facility is foremost in our plans.


Sanford House

Addiction Treatment Centers

Website Updates –  Men in the Mix

Think Different. Remember that Apple slogan? It took plenty of money and a lot of smart people to come up with it… And we have lesser resources, but the same need for comprehensive marketing analysis. Some of the simplest changes to an organization’s logo, slogan or website cause ripples across the entire landscape of the company. It’s like a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico…


The ramifications of the addition of a men’s facility are felt across all our social media platforms. And every aspect of how we communicate our capabilities to the world. Our new website, in the draft design stage, will incorporate our ability to help men. And let’s face it – if we falter in our job to let you know we’re here and what we can do, we cannot help those in need.



Anatomy of Addiction

We have begun the research and writing of a series of articles on the “Anatomy of Addiction.” The topics range from “The Neurobiology of Addiction” to “Suppressing Relapse Triggers” and everything in between. The series will feature Sanford House clinicians, guest contributors and key advocates in long term recovery.





On the Road with Rae and Marilyn

It’s not all drudgery. Rae Green is continuing to be on the road with our CEU Credit Course on “Women and Addiction.” And Rae and I have been traveling Michigan to get the word out about Sanford House (in gorgeous settings like Port Huron we stop for selfies…). We have been meeting with therapists, interventionists, other treatment centers, sober housing advocates and all manner of addiction professionals. How do two women have so much to talk about in a car for six hours?


No Excuses – Only Reasons…

There are no excuses for relaxing our rigorous publishing schedule. And in fact, we will be back on schedule within a week. But the reason is a good one. Progress and growth may tax a small organization. But the fruits of our labor are worth the effort. Change is good. Including men in the Sanford House addiction treatment organization is a natural next step. And doing things well, with our  usual reach for excellence, takes time and forethought.




Marilyn Spiller is a writer, sober coach, recovery advocate, and student of the world. (She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Creative Writing). Seven years sober herself, she penned one of the first sobriety blogs, "Waking Up the Ghost" in 2013. The blog garnered an international following, allowing Marilyn to communicate with thousands of folks in all stages of recovery. Marilyn is Sanford's Director of Marketing and serves as Editor-In-Chief for the Sanford online magazine, "Excursions". She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction.