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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Celebrating miracles at Jonesville UMC

    February 22, 2023 / By Shannon Hodson / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    We last covered Jonesville United Methodist Church’s Stigma Takes Away Hope and Life (STAHL) ministry and its Alcoholism and Addiction Family Recovery Resource Center a year ago and since then, the committee has become larger and impressively active.

    STAHL works to create an awareness of drug and alcohol addiction and to provide support to family members and those in recovery.

    STAHL founder, Phyllis Mullaney, said, “As they say, ‘the horse is out of the barn.’ STAHL is developing a wonderful reputation. We are well networked with a lot of providers.”

    Phyllis has also grown the STAHL board as well. For example, Migs Woodside, founder of the Children of Alcoholics Foundation, is on the STAHL board; she recently donated $1,000 to the STAHL ministry.

    STAHL hosts amazing events that showcase the miracle of recovery. This is one way they connect with the recovery community.

    On Thursday Feb. 9 at 7 p.m., Jonesville UMC hosted “Celebrating Miracles: A Recovery Speakers Night.” At this well-attended event, Lee-Ann, a child of an alcoholic, spoke about the family devastation that occurs when living with or loving someone who has the deadly disease of a substance use disorder. Dr. Bill Brender spoke about the disease of alcohol or other drug abuse, how addiction impacted his life, and how he now supports the recovery community.

    STAHL Treasurer, P.J. Furnari introduced Lee Ann; she said, “When we think about recovery, so often we think about the person with the diagnoses, but we don’t always think about the family that is impacted by that person. Tonight, we have Lee-Ann with us, and she is going to share with us her story to demonstrate how it is so important to protect the family and how it is important for family members touched by this disease to also be in recovery.”

    Lee-Ann is a high school teacher. She grew up with a violent, abusive, alcoholic father.

    She reflected, “I think I survived and am relatively intact. I believe it’s a miracle that that happened. I do believe that miracles come from God, and the will of God through people.”

    As an adult, she recognized that she was detached from childhood memories and filled her time with work and volunteering to attempt to solve her problems. She was a mother of three daughters and was married to an alcoholic husband. She became exhausted.

    And then one Sunday when her husband came home from a fraternity reunion, it occurred to her to go to an Al-Anon meeting, something that she thought was “not for her” for the longest time.

    Now divorced from her alcoholic husband, Lee-Ann is a 10-year member of Al-Anon, which has helped her overcome anger, resentment, and a life  she described as “truly, truly out of control.”

    At Al-Anon, Lee-Ann learned, “I didn’t cause it; I can’t control it, but you can learn to cope with it.”

    To Lee-Ann, Al-Anon meetings are places of acceptance. She didn’t speak at one for the first two years she attended and was finally comfortable to speak “her truth.” 

    Dr. Bill’s journey through alcoholism and drug addiction was a long road. He was the middle child of three boys in a dysfunctional family. His parents criticized him regularly and expected him to succeed at everything. Although he had no ambition as a child, he went on to attend Union College.

    In 1969, he and his brothers attended Woodstock where they were introduced to pot and alcohol. They used drugs to stay awake.

    Even though he would have preferred to study art, Dr. Bill was admitted to medical school. Eventually, he decided to specialize in plastic surgery, which combined medicine and art. He was able to replace limbs when others thought it would be impossible.

    He continued to drink alcohol and do drugs. Dr. Bill became arrogant with no spirituality and was egotistical because of his skills.

    But through Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and the help of his sponsor, he began to understand that he was not “the center of the universe.”

    He said, “I learned a lot about letting go of my ego…I was able to forgive my parents. I was able to forgive all the people that hurt me. I was able to get rid of a lot of the resentment that hurt me. I was able to get rid of a lot of the resentments that were interfering with my relationships to other people.”

    Dr. Bill emphasized, “Fellowship with other human beings is probably the most important thing you can do to stay in recovery.”

    After developing multiple autoimmune conditions, Dr. Bill decided to leave his plastic surgery practice.

    Dr. Bill said, “I didn’t know what to do with myself when I left the practice. I’m surprised I didn’t go back to drinking and drugging, but instead, I found this little place next to my house called, ‘The Quarry.’” People told me how it used to be a party hangout, but I turned this place into what I call a spiritual retreat—got rid of all the garbage and got rid of the tires and appliances that were thrown into the wetlands and I opened the Quarry House Retreat up to recovery meetings and even despite the pandemic, I have been able to keep this building going for 12 years with a meeting every single day.”

    Dr. Bill ended his talk by emphasizing, “It takes a community to recover!”

    Click here for a poem Dr. Bill shared about recovery called, Miracles Happen.

    Pastor Al Johnson of Pine Grove United Methodist Church is also on the STAHL Board. Phyllis gave him the title, Spiritual Guardian.

    Pastor Al attended the event and said, “Two people, new to the area, a mother and son, came to the event because they saw it advertised on Facebook. They needed help with recovery and family support. A STAHL team member connected with them at the fellowship gathering after the event, and provided them with community resources which STAHL readily has in its resource center at Jonesville UMC.“

    These two new people will be starting their recovery journey because of STAHL, a ministry that fulfills the Upper New York Conference vision of “living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and being God’s love with our neighbors in all places.”

    Click here to watch the video of the event.

    To learn more about the STAHL ministry, contact Phyllis at (757) 646-1879 or


    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."