TAME and A Point of Splendor
Photography By Marianne Todd
Adele Williamson Graham remembers vividly the first day she left prison on work release, during the third year of a five year sentence for various felonies.
She had found a flower, and it was the first time in years she had seen one. She picked it, tucked it into her shirt pocket, snuck it through security and back to her cell. When she took it out of her pocket the flower was crushed and wilted, but once she put it in water it revived.
She looked at the flower, now standing upright. “I realized I could be whole again, too. My past was my past, but I could move forward,” she says.
Ten years after her release from prison, Graham opened a small business in Meridian to help alcohol and drug offenders complete court-certified rehabilitation programs. Her work expanded rapidly, growing to include a holistic counseling center and a health and wellness center. Together, TAME and A Point of Splendor offer a variety of services, including cutting edge therapies not widely available in Mississippi, like reiki healing and mindfulness meditation. Graham’s mission is to offer customized treatment to each client, often grounded in her own experiences struggling with addiction and anxiety.
“I spent years in prison, and I had committed serious crimes. I thought I was a hopeless and helpless case,” Graham says. “I was able to turn that around though, and make it through because of my recovery.”
She took a job working in the court system and could see an immediate need for addiction counseling. “There was a gap there, and people weren’t getting the help they needed. And, as part of the process of my recovery, I felt a need to help other people struggling with addiction,” Graham says. “When I looked at the curriculum that was available at that time, I found it to be somewhat shaming in nature, and those struggling with addiction are already drenched in guilt and shame. Adding more shame to that increases the likelihood that someone will re-offend.”
When she started teaching classes in 2012, TAME consisted of Graham, a security guard, and an answering machine. “I started looking at other therapists and practitioners and their work and thinking about how to integrate that into TAME,” she says. “I eventually realized that I wanted to make a holistic health and wellness center that served anyone wanting to optimize their physical and mental health, and that’s how TAME and A Point of Splendor were born.”
There are now eight facilitators, two office managers, a court monitor, and security personnel. Meridian city and Lauderdale county courts both send offenders to TAME. “The judges that I used to be so afraid of are now the ones that contact me and ask me for help,” Graham says.
Graham purchased a large property in Meridian with trees and a garden and a large open barn, all meant to encourage mental and physical well being. She also hired several new therapists to bring their work to the center, including Jenna Ward, a licensed massage therapist who does energy work and weekly mindfulness meditation classes.
“I can’t say enough good things about TAME,” Ward says. “People talk about it like it’s their oasis, with the woods around you and a garden in the back. That just creates a new path to heal.”
Part of what’s unique about TAME is a focus on nontraditional approaches to therapy and healing, utilizing the link between mental and physical well being. “Science has shown that anxiety is linked to high blood pressure,” Ward says. “So, if you practice mindful meditation, and learn to quiet your monkey mind, that lessens your anxiety and can alleviate the physical manifestation of that anxiety. That thinking also wears out your physical body in general. There are lots of new psychotherapies that work with raising mental awareness to promote physical healing. When you combine that with tools like massage and reiki, there can be a huge impact on someone’s well being.”
Debi Lynn Juhl began practicing reiki at the center in 2015 after meeting Ward through a mutual friend during an Orange Beach vacation. During a reiki session, the practitioner directs energy at different areas of the body to promote healing and well being, sort of like a massage without touching. “Every living thing has a life force, a life energy,” Juhl says. “So with reiki that energy is directed at a physical person as they relax to release toxins and promote healing. Once a person feels better, that makes other types of recovery, like addiction recovery, easier.”
In addition to meditation, massage, and reiki, A Point of Splendor also offers yoga, gardening, cooking and nutrition classes, essential oil healing sessions, and retreats. TAME’s services include outpatient addiction and substance abuse treatment, as well as treatment for anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, and eating disorders. Christi Webb Vanderpoorten is a licensed marriage and family counseler, a personal trainer, and a nutrition and life coach who works with TAME. Like Adele, it was overcoming her past struggles that inspired her to become a counselor and help others.
“I’m in recovery from an eating disorder, so that being part of my personal story definitely led to where I am now,” Vanderpoorten says. “I do a lot of dialectical behavioral therapy … working on changing negative thoughts and dealing with anxiety and moving beyond just the 12-step program. We want to put people back in control of their own thoughts and their own mind.”
Vanderpoorten emphasizes that at TAME it’s about patients learning ways to feel in control, through healing their mind, body, and spirit. “We don’t just take a clinical view, because that ignores emotional and spiritual health. Sometimes it can be as simple as asking someone what they’re eating, and also offering a cooking class,” she says.
Ultimately, Graham also sees TAME as an effort to improve the community overall by reducing recidivism and raising awareness of substance abuse and addiction. “My goal is to help others and through that to also help the community,” she says. “I’m a mother of three, a grandmother, and Meridian is my hometown, so I work hard to make this community to be the best that it can be.”
Want to know more?
For more information, or to make an appointment, visit TAME and A Point of Splendor at tamellc.net.