12 Days of Holiday Hope – Rod Townes’ Recovery Journey

recovery journey Rod Townes in front of the Christmas tree

Rod Townes says, “I love my job because I get paid twice; I get paid financially and spiritually.”

At Sanford Behavioral Health, our work saves lives and brings hope to individuals and families all year round. During the holiday season, we strive to create an atmosphere of excitement and celebration for all our clients and team members. This year, we are showcasing recovery stories, treatment breakthroughs, and the beauty of diversity over 12 Days of Holiday Hope. Who better to kick off our festive article series than Roderick (Rod) Townes, a self-described “minister for recovery.”


12 Days of Holiday Hope #1 – Rod Townes’ Recovery Journey

SBH – Hi Rod! Let’s begin by asking what you do at Sanford Behavioral Health. What is your role here?

Rod Townes – My title is Client Engagement Specialist, but I really do a lot of talking about the culture at Sanford Behavioral Health – to our clients, but also to my colleagues. I’ve worked here for six years, and I love my job because I get paid twice; I get paid financially and spiritually. Working in a treatment facility has given me a sense of purpose. My primary focus is helping people—my goal – to save as many people as I can from the disease of addiction.


SBH – How do you interact with Sanford clients?

Rod Townes –  By giving group sessions at the Sanford Detox Center. I might also sit down with the substance use disorder (SUD) clients in the morning before group therapy. Let me give you an example – we had a client who was feeling a little hopeless. They were talking about the mess they had made of their life and restricted time with their children. I said, “You have not messed up your life! This is just a chapter. You are sober now, which means you have power over the disease of addiction.”


In other words, I engage with our clients and let them know recovery is possible. I conduct morning assessments, and I read and break down the literature in a way everyone can understand. God has given me the ability to articulate the literature (Narcotics Anonymous basic text) in a real-life context; I have read it so many times it has become a part of me. As a person in recovery, I also share what works for me. In the morning, I always stop at SUD Residential. Yesterday, four guys were sitting in the common area, and we basically had a meeting right then and there.


Evidence-based programming together with compassionate peer support – click the link for information about our programs.

SBH – Could you talk about your recovery journey? What is the key to long-term recovery?

Rod Townes – I enjoy talking about recovery because recovery has given me life. I don’t just exist in the world anymore. I actually live in it! I think the biggest key for me was when I became honest with myself. Cause’ for a long time, I told myself lies, and I believed them [laughs]. In 2007, I decided to start listening to my authentic self (something I had put off for 20 years). I got sober for myself. I think you have to be honest with yourself, ready and willing.


SBH – What about the pitfalls? Are there predictors of relapse?

Rod Townes – Relapse does happen, but everything I have read says relapse begins way before we pick up drugs or alcohol. You have to maintain your support system to keep addiction at bay. I go to meetings, utilize a sponsor, and study everything I can about addiction (because addiction has been studying me my whole life). I also have a loving and caring higher power of my own understanding.


I tell our clients to play the tape all the way through before they pick up again. And keep the pain of their active addiction in the forefront, not tucked away. If you forget the pain, you are subject to repeat addictive behavior.


SBH – What is the fun part of your job?

Rod Townes – I have been clean for 16 1/2 years, and I am still passionate about recovery! I get to come to work and share my excitement with our clients. I also get to do what I love without hiding my true self. Sanford founders Rae and David Green allow me to be myself. One of the best things about my job is that I get to be me.



SBH – What is the challenging part of your job?

Rod Townes – Documentation [laughs]. Documentation is my kryptonite. When it comes to our clients, the challenge happens when someone does not put any effort into recovery. They “know” everything and are not open to listening.


SBH – We have a feeling we know the answer, but what is your favorite journey?

[Laughs] The recovery journey, of course. The last 16 years of my life have been the best by far. I have had tragedy in my life; I lost a grandson and a son. I talk about that because I want people to know that no matter what life throws at you, it is not worth picking up over. I knew what I had to do. I needed to cry. I needed to go to a meeting and sit around people in an atmosphere of recovery. But there is no excuse for going back to drugs or alcohol.


SBH – What makes Sanford Behavioral Health unique?

Rod Townes – We care about our clients, and we set them up for success.


SBH – Do you have a motto?

Rod Townes – There was a man called Houston who used to say, “As recovering addicts, we get to live two lives in one lifetime.” I use that quote a lot because I lived on the dark side, and now I live in the light.


Comfort, friendship, and cleanliness for your recovery journey at Sanford West Behavioral Health Campus.


SBH – We are inspired! Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I love, love, love giving back to the clients what was freely given to me. The Narcotics Anonymous text says, “I can only keep what I have by giving it away.” I tell Sanford clients to keep the memory of addiction in the forefront and not tuck it away. As long as we remember the pain, we are unlikely to repeat the behavior.


I was telling the clients this morning that one of my best childhood friends (we grew up together and got high together over 20 years) became an ordained minister. I said to him, “We are both ministers.”  He asked, “How do you figure that?” I said, “Well, I minister to clients and help them save their lives. Then I send them to people like you to help save their souls.”


That is a beautiful place to stop. Happy holidays, Rod!

Stay tuned for 11 more articles in the Hopeful Holidays series. 


If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, eating disorders, or co-occurring mental health conditions, don’t wait to change your life – click the link below.


Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit www.sanfordbehavioralhealth.com.