After 25 years as a credentialed alcohol-and-substance-abuse educator, traveling all over the Northeast from her home base in New Paltz to conduct workshops, Anne Elizabeth Quinn has “semi-retired.” She’s still traveling all over the Northeast to conduct workshops, but she says their focus has changed to more upbeat subject matter. She calls her busy current schedule “recreational working” and “continuously creating a life that I want to wake up to.” And she’s helping other people do the same.
Born in Gary, Indiana, Quinn has lived in New Paltz for about 45 years, raising two daughters, Kimberly and former New Paltz Times reporter Erin, and getting an MS in Education at SUNY. Going on to attain CASAC certification from the Rutgers University School for Alcohol Studies, she went to work with inpatients in the Veritas Villa rehab center in Kerhonkson. Many of them were employees of New York City agencies like the police and fire departments. “The cops called it ‘going to the farm,’” she recalls.
The contacts that she made there evolved into invitations to visit New York City to give presentations to human-resources staff at municipal departments, hospitals and health professionals’ associations, unions and large employers like Con Edison, teaching them how to recognize and deal with substance abuse problems among their employees. “That’s how I learned to speak to very big groups,” she says.
With her work primarily geared toward education rather than counseling, “I started to teach other counselors and therapists.” Eventually she found herself on the road more often than not; she estimates that she has taught somewhere between 750 and 1000 workshops in total.
Based on the classic twelve-step model developed by Alcoholics Anonymous, with its emphasis on codependency, Quinn’s work included the family networks of the addicted. “If one person gets sick, the whole family starts to circle the drain,” she observes, noting that alcoholism and drug addiction often lead to domestic violence, offspring getting in trouble, suicides in the family and so on.
While she was good at her work and took great satisfaction in it, the negativity eventually began to wear on her. “The addiction stuff was very problem-focused. It was heartbreaking, it was heavy.” She said. “I was always swimming in grief and sadness.”
As she drew nearer retirement age, got remarried to therapist Richard Sullivan, and welcomed eight grandchildren into her life, Quinn decided that she wanted to shift the focus of her consultancy work – “reverse the energy, the yin to the yang” – rather than stopping altogether. “To fully recover, it’s not about just stopping the substance. You’ve got to get hooked on feeling good – on things that lift your spirit.”
That emphasis on spirit was the central theme of the “continuous self-education” that Quinn had been doing in her spare time for decades, taking classes at alternative learning centers such as the Omega Institute with holistic healers including Deepak Chopra, Bernie Siegel, Louise Hay, John of God and Bruce Lipton. Her “recreational working” now melds her long interest in metaphysics with her professional toolbox. She offers her help to people who are ready to take the next step in their recovery – or who just “want to reinvent themselves, but they don’t know how.” It’s her new mission to act as that catalyst.
These days, Quinn conducts single workshops and series of classes, each with a specific theme and open both to men and women, as well as multi-day retreats for women only. She has been conducting women’s retreats twice a year at the Mohonk Mountain House for 16 years. The next one, scheduled for the weekend of April 1 to 3, is titled “The Art of Extreme Self-Care.”
The regimen includes yoga, meditation, spa time and healing talk, and is designed for women who find themselves “always running around giving yourself away, trying to get people to like you.” But, Quinn warns, “People tend to treat us the way we treat ourselves.”
Another such retreat, this time by the seaside, is coming up May 20 to 22 at the Bath Avenue House in Ocean Grove on the Jersey Shore. A writing-focused workshop is planned for Provincetown on Cape Cod in October. And in July, she’ll be conducting a retreat at a villa in Umbria, Italy, joined by artist Linda Richichi and medium Deborah Hanlon.
Hanlon runs the Center for Being, Knowing, Doing in Newburgh, where Quinn frequently gives classes and workshops. Coming up this Friday, March 18, “Through the Looking Glass: A Study in Metaphysics” is already sold out at the Newburgh site, but it will be repeated on Tuesday, March 29 at the Addictions Care Center of Albany. A series of two classes on “The Power of Decision” will be offered at the Center for Being, Knowing, Doing on Tuesday evenings, April 26 and May 1. “Decisive people are successful people,” Quinn declares.
Also coming up soon is a workshop very close to home, at the Upstairs on 9 Café at the New Paltz Golf Course. On Saturday, April 16 from 1 to 4:30 p.m., Quinn will lead an exercise called “Vision Boarding,” in which each participant makes a collage poster illustrating a particular theme aimed at “accessing the subconscious,” then spends time with the group “processing” the meaning of their creations. In a similar workshop that she did last year, with the theme of “What do you want next year to contain?” Quinn pasted up a travel promo clipping that said “Come to the heart of Italy.” It was before she consciously knew that she wanted to organize a retreat in Umbria, she says, but by envisioning the event she was creating the potential for it to happen.
While there’s no guarantee that such a seemingly miraculous coincidence will occur as a result of taking one of these workshops, doing something nice for yourself for a change might not be a bad idea. “The only place we ever change is within. Then we see our results without,” according to Quinn.
Her own decision to get out of the grief-and-sadness end of the pool has paid off in spades: “I have more energy than I ever had,” she says, her vibrant manner making the claim ring true. “I’m in love with what I’m doing.”