A workshop hosted by local nonprofit Recovery Café Longmont is using the simple yet effective tool of storytelling to inspire more empathy within the community.
“The Power of Storytelling” is a new limited series workshop at the café, which offers support to individuals in their recovery through substance abuse and mental health challenges.
Launched earlier this month, the free, public workshop was started by café volunteer Naomi Plate and peer support specialist Elyssa Hamilton.
Hamilton was inspired by café members’ stories of recovery and worked with Plate to create a “comfortable way” for people to discuss difficult things. As someone who struggled with addiction in the past, Hamilton said it’s freeing to have a place where she can share her own experiences from that time and relate to others’ as well.
“There’s not many places you can go to tell these memories,” Hamilton said. “Some of the questions bring up joy for people, and some of it is trauma. Every time we express that, it holds a little less power over our emotions.”
The workshop is broken into three stages: groups, formatting and presentation. The stages are designed for participants to spend several months refining and developing their stories before presenting them to a larger audience in September.
“It’s a chance for people to find empowerment in their story,” Hamilton said about the presentation sessions this fall. “For community members who aren’t familiar with people in recovery, they get to see everything that makes that person whole.”
The story groups emphasize listening and collaboration among the participants, inviting them to reflect on what they learn from each other. Both Hamilton and Plate said the handful of guests that joined the first session last week expressed vulnerability and honesty.
“It was really surprising how open they were,” Plate said. “It was very encouraging.”
At the second workshop Friday afternoon, a small group of participants sat together in the café to discuss moments in their lives that surprised them. The stories shared during the brief gathering touched on working through a divorce, living during World War II and overcoming addiction.
“It’s a way to get to know people more,” said Maggie Grinnell, one of Friday’s participants. “I think something people really need now is just to know that they’re seen and heard.”
The remaining story groups will be held June 15 and 22 from 2 to 3 p.m. and July 14 and 21 from 4 to 5 p.m. at the café, 402 Kimbark St. More information about the workshop can be found at recoverycafelongmont.org.