Meet the team

Sheila L. North M.A. M.F.T
Executive Director, Oregon Prevention Education and Recovery Association

I was born and grew up in San Francisco. I graduated from UC Berkeley. I have two Master’s degrees – one from a joint program between the UC School of Public Health and the Pacific School of Religion (Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley) in Pastoral Counseling and the second M.A. in Psychology from Rosebridge Graduate School of Integrative Psychology. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.
I “fell” into my profession and I celebrate 46 years in addiction work in November. In retrospect, however, there is a thread I followed that weaves through everything I have done: the “protesting against injustice” thread. It led to demonstrating in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee while in high school, sitting in for Freedom of Speech at UC Berkeley, anti-war marches during Vietnam War, Civil Rights and Women’s rights have also claimed my attention and for the entire 46 years, advocating for access to addiction treatment and developing effective programs. In short, I am a bit of a rabble rouser.
My first FT job after graduation from Berkeley was at IBM – my mother’s idea of success: become a secretary and marry the boss and live happily ever after. After six months, I hated my boss, didn’t find anyone I wanted to marry and left for a job in the Social Services Department in Alameda County, CA. My first position in addiction treatment was at the county detox center in Highland Hosptial. The patients there were my teachers. I saw how addiction robbed them of their voices, their power to become who they were meant to be – and from there, I just followed the thread that wove into the tapestry called my career. That thread reinforced the passion for advocacy and also added as causes access to healthcare and the life-changing effect of a good education. Work in my field indulged my curiosity about the biology of addiction and the economics and politics that support the alcohol and drug industries. As I traversed my professional life, I followed the thread into working with children traumatized by addiction and its consequences of poverty and neglect; then with adolescents whose opportunities had been limited by those childhood histories; and with women whose lifetimes of abuse and trauma would affect their babies – beginning the cycle all over again.
The unforeseen bonus was my understanding of the profound affect that alcoholism had on my parents and on me and the personal journey of recovery and healing that I experienced in Alanon. I would be an entirely different person, I think, had I not taken that job at the Detox Center.
My greatest professional satisfaction is to witness recovery, to watch someone grow into the person they were meant to be, to find their own voice and discover their power.
I have received awards and been honored and I have loved that, but nothing compares to the moment I heard a boy in De Paul’s School declare that he understood algebra for the first time and his life was changed! He had discovered his innate capacity to learn and to enjoy learning. Thrilling! This is the thread.
The details of my professional life include being part of a startup called Phoenix Recovery Centers. We created and implemented 23 inpatient addiction treatment programs around the country. The company was sold to Parkside Medical Services and that windfall put my son through Dartmouth. Of course, there were also 17 years as CEO of De Paul and the last several years as Executive Director of OPERA, an organization that advocates for better services, better care and more opportunities for preventing addiction and helping people affected by addiction.
The Way It Is ~ William Stafford
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.