Three months ago, I shared about a dear friend who was dealing with a serious addiction issue (Traumatized, June 30, 2015). He was hooked on crystal meth and GBH, faced drug charges in two counties, had lost his job, and no longer cared if he lived or died. For three long weeks, I worried an overdose or car accident would kill him.
On June 30th, he checked into Bridges of Hope, a rehab facially in the middle of nowhere in South Georgia. The staff and board of directors are all graduates of the facility. The program revolves around the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The residents (all male with a capacity of 50) rotate through various teams. Each team is responsible for some aspect of running the place, such as cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, yard work, etc. They work for four to six hours a day, with a very structured schedule for the remaining hours. Residents lose privileges if they violate the dress code, fail to make their bed, or break any of the many rules.
The first letter from him, dated July1, freaked me out:
I hate this place! Please pick me up as soon as possible. It kills me to be here! The food is shit, and last night I was beaten with phone books and my suitcase was peed in. This is hell.
Kidding! We couldn’t have found a better facility for me.
As you can imagine, I was hugely relieved. Rather than an institutional setting, Bridges of Hope is more like a summer camp. There’s no television, radio, cell phones, Internet access, or computers. During free time, residents are free to roam the property which includes a pond for swimming (full of freshwater jellyfish), exercise equipment, and assorted camp pets (dogs, cats, ducks, and geese).
During the first 30 days, he wasn’t allowed visitors. I got a letter from him every few days. When he was allowed visors, I drove down to see him, and have been back once more since then. On my last visit, I was struck by how much he’d changed. Instead of the nervous, anxious man he’s always been, he was calm — downright serene. He’s also put on a good 15 or 20 pounds.
A month ago, they moved him to the kitchen team — permanently. He has more than a decade of restaurant experience and a minor in consumer foods. He loves working in the kitchen where his knowledge of food safety has likely saved lives. He’s in charge of the menu, and has significantly improved the quality of the food and increased the availability of fruits and vegetables.
More importantly, after some initial resistance, he’s fully embraced the 12 Steps. The time between his letters has gradually increased. I haven’t head from him in almost three weeks. Last I heard, the kitchen crew leader was about to leave, and he was being considered for the position. I’m guessing he got it, and the responsibilities have left little time for writing letters.
He gets to come home for four days later this month and has decided to stay with me. While he’s here, he’ll hit a couple of AA meetings, see the dentist, and watch all the TV shows I’ve record for him (Hannibal, Masters of Sex, How to Get Away with Murder, American Horror Story, and Penny Dreadful). My anxiety about having him here lessens with each new, upbeat letter I get from him.
He’ll stay at Bridges of Hope through the end of December with four day passes in November and December. His legal issues are still pending, but I’m hopeful by then his attorney will have worked things out. Then he’ll be able to search for a job and begin to put his life back together again.
I’m very encouraged by his letters. There’s still a very long road ahead, but with each passing day, I feel better about his prospects for success. We’ll get through this, one day at a time. Thanks to everyone for your prayers, love, and support.