Recovery Talks: Fairbanks Supportive Living

September 17th, 2019

Discussing supportive living programs, your host Kathleen Gill, and Director of Supportive Living Programs John Adams, talk about how a structured living environment is vital to sustaining life-long recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Read the full transcript from the podcast below or listen to it here or on iTunes or Google.

Kathleen Gill:   
Welcome to Recovery Talks: A Fairbanks Podcast, where experts from Fairbanks Treatment and Recovery Center, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, take time to discuss unique aspects of addiction, substance use disorder and recovery, as well as other relevant issues with our guests. I’m your host, Kathleen Gill. I’ve worked at Fairbanks since 2007, and, more importantly, I am a woman proudly living in recovery, which means I have not picked up a drink or a drug since 2000.

Kathleen Gill:   Today on Recovery Talks, we’re talking about recovery transition programs. We’re joined by John Adams, the Director of Supportive Living Programs at Fairbanks Treatment and Recovery Center, otherwise known as SLP. John, thank you so much for being here with us today.

John Adams:   Hi, Kathleen, happy to be here.

Kathleen Gill:   So, John, you and I have known each other for a long time. Tell us a little bit about how you became acquainted with Fairbanks and when you began working there.

John Adams:   Well, it’s a pretty good story, and it could be a long story. But I am also a person in long-term recovery. I have not had a drink since January 21st, 2011.

Kathleen Gill:   Congratulations.

John Adams:   Thank you. Part of that journey started at Fairbanks. The long and the short of it is Fairbanks saved my life. I did go to the IOP treatment program, but one of the things that I wanted to do and had to do was give back some of my time to volunteer work, which is where I met you.

Kathleen Gill:   Yes, indeed.

John Adams:   I spent lots and lots of hours for a year or two volunteering in the coffee shop. I worked in the gym. I cleaned the entire place with Ricky. To be completely honest with you, at that time in my life, things were not going great. That was the one time and place where I felt safe, and I know I’ve told you that. I call it my safe place.

John Adams:   When I cut back on my volunteering, I still came to the recovery center, because, again, it was a safe place, where, I mean, sometimes I could sit and work. I’d grab coffee and just catch up with everybody. But fast-forwarding a little bit, one thing … I own my own business in the recruiting world, and I did that and was relatively successful for a number of years, but I had a nagging feeling that I wasn’t doing what I probably should be doing. Again, to fast-forward, I finally made a commitment to get involved in the recovery world, and an opportunity presented itself at Fairbanks for this manager position for SLP, again, Supportive Living Program. Long story short, I was offered the job. I took the job, and here we are a year later.

Kathleen Gill:   Fantastic. You also served on the board of Fairbanks for a period of time, didn’t you?

John Adams:   That’s right. I actually started … After volunteering, I got involved in the board committees, the development committee and a couple of others. I was the chairperson of Circle of Hope for three years. Then, after that, I was on the board for about a year, and then I had to resign from the board because I accepted a position at Fairbanks, gratefully.

Kathleen Gill:   I love how you have stayed connected and plugged in. We would see you sitting there, bringing your laptop into the Fresh Start Café, which-

John Adams:   It was pretty wild.

Kathleen Gill:   You’ve seen a lot of different aspects of Fairbanks. So tell our audience about Fairbanks’ Supportive Living Program.

John Adams:   So Fairbanks SLP is a hidden gem within the Fairbanks spectrum of care. A Supportive Living Program is a program for men and women in early recovery, and ultimately it provides a middle ground for those men and women before they go back to what we call real life. It’s almost real life, but there’s a little cushion there, in that we provide them unquestionable love and department throughout whatever it is that they’re going through. They may have setbacks while they’re with us, and that’s okay. We will continue to support them, but we will not enable them. That happens a lot when they go right back to where they come from. Something that we say in the program is, if nothing changes, nothing changes. A lot of these people, if not all of them, need to make changes immediately, and we provide that to them.

Kathleen Gill:   So multiple levels of care within Fairbanks. When they come through the access department, they work with a counselor and determine what level of care that they can come in. Many people are admitted into the detox level of care, which is about a five to eight-day program, depending on their insurance and what they are detoxing from. Then, after that, how do you determine if a client is appropriate for Supportive Living Program with Fairbanks?

John Adams:   That’s a good question. I’ll add that there’s a couple of different ways that people can come into SLP. One is as you mentioned, through our inpatient program. The simple way there is that we have a face-to-face interview with the potential resident, as to whether or not they’re appropriate. Part of that is there are certain physical or medical requirements that we may not be able to meet, but that’s very, very rare. Ultimately, we want to find out whether or not they are ready to work on this issue. Assuming that they are, we generally accept them into our program.

John Adams:   The other way that they can come in is not through … They could come from someone else’s inpatient program, or no inpatient program at all. The steps after inpatient are intensive outpatient, which is actually preceded by a partial hospitalization program. Anybody in those programs is eligible to be an SLP resident.

Kathleen Gill:   What about somebody who’s not in one of those programs?

John Adams:   If they’re not in one of those programs, we would encourage those people to get into those programs. If they don’t require inpatient detox on any level, if they’re not in one of our programs, again, PHP or IOP, I sure hope they get into someone’s program. Now when they are in those programs, especially if they are from … or if they’re not from Indianapolis. They could be from South Bend, Bloomington, Evansville, Ohio, Wisconsin or whatever the case may be. We provide a place for them to live that’s nearby so that they can go to those programs day in and day out and complete the program, if you will.

Kathleen Gill:   What are some other areas where you see people utilizing this particular service? Maybe at their home it’s an unsafe place. Maybe there’s somebody that’s using or somebody like that.

John Adams:   A lot of times, it’s a great opportunity for these clients to live somewhere else. It gives them an opportunity to not go back to what they came from. You’ve got to change people, places and things. We give them that opportunity. Also, if they do go home and there is someone at their home who is using drugs or alcohol, it’s obviously a really bad situation for that person. It promotes relapse quite a bit. When they come to SLP, not only are they getting away from a potential toxic environment, but they’re entering into a supportive environment of people going through exactly what they’re going through. As you know, as a recovering addict … Or you don’t even have to be in recovery to know that, when you are with people that are trying to do the same thing you are doing, it usually tends to be more successful. That’s the whole idea, is the community.

Kathleen Gill:   So how many residents can you house there?

John Adams:   We can house up to 68 people total. We have a men’s community that’s about two-thirds of that, women’s community that’s about a third of that, which reflects the addiction percentages worldwide.

Kathleen Gill:   What are some of the requirements for being at SLP?

John Adams:   Good question. This is not a lockdown facility. It is what people think of as a halfway house. So to be part of our community, you do have to do a number of things to stay there. One of the big things, and it’s hugely important, is that you have to get a sponsor, and you have to get a sponsor quick. That’s within the first 10 days. We like to keep our residents very busy the first couple of weeks. So they have to go to nine 12-step meetings a week for their first two weeks. Then after that, they have to go to five meetings a week every week they live with us. Those are verified also. They take sheets with them. They are signed by the meeting organizers, and they’re brought back for approval. Everybody has a curfew. We have a curfew, 10:00 every night during the week, and midnight during the weekends.

John Adams:   Back to the meetings, we have two vans. We provide transportation to our residents to those meetings every single day, twice on Saturday, twice on Sunday. Further, we utilize those vans to take our residents to their programming every day. So we will run them from our apartment complex over to Fairbanks to make sure we have no barriers to them getting to the treatment they need.

Kathleen Gill:   That, I’m sure, is very useful.

John Adams:   Yeah, and, especially, you’ve got to think that a lot of people that come to live with us have lost their license or they’ve lost the ability to afford a car. There’s a lot of different reasons why people don’t have cars. Listen, people don’t show up to Fairbanks or to SLP in great condition. That’s just a fact. They generally have gotten pretty low. They’ve gotten low enough to the point to realize that they need to go to a rehab facility. So we’re trying to build them up, and we try to give them what they need to get to where they need to be, or what I say is get to be the person you were supposed to be.

Kathleen Gill:   What about a requirement to have a job?

John Adams:   So, technically, you don’t have to have a job. But I want to make it clear that we absolutely feel that it’s essential that you do have a job. Now the reason I say you don’t have to have a job, some people are on disability. Some people don’t have the ability to work a normal job for, a lot of times, physical reasons. But anybody that is able bodied, they are working. However, most people come in, and they are in our PHP program, which is a three-week, 9:00 to 4:00, everyday program. Also, remember, we keep them really busy for the first two weeks. So the focus is absolutely on recovery. Frankly, it’s very difficult to get a job in those first three weeks. However, we work with them during those three weeks to make sure that we’re getting applications out. We’re setting up interviews, et cetera, et cetera, so that when week four rolls around, you’re ready to go. I can probably say that almost everyone that lives with us is working, right now and consistently.

Kathleen Gill:   Fabulous. So you mentioned that you work with them on getting the jobs and getting applications out. The disease of addiction often stunts one’s developmental growth as to when they started using. What other kind of life skills do you work with your clients on?

John Adams:    Well, I’ll tell you, all of SLP is a lesson in life skills, so it’s not a … We don’t have a specific life skills class. The whole of SLP, from start to finish, is a lesson in life skills. They have to make their beds. They can’t sleep on the couch, because that’s what we did when we were in addiction. They sleep regular hours. You go to bed at 10:00. You get up at 6:00 or 8:00 or whatever, and you go to work, and you go to your program. We throw our trash away. We have a food pantry that we provide to our residents. So we teach them. We have this whole room full of food for you all. We say take what you need. Leave what you don’t. We work with them on relationships, what appropriate relationships look like.

Kathleen Gill:   Relationships in general are one of the biggest triggers and one of the hardest things to do as we adult. One of the, certainly, things … Relationships, absolutely, cause triggers and can throw you back into wanting to throw it all away and not have to deal with that. So any kind of work on relationship, I think that’s what this journey is about, is how do we deal with life on life’s terms?

John Adams:   Well, our relationships in addiction are littered with unhealthy relationships. Sometimes what happens is, when two people are newly clean or sober and they’ve come through a really traumatic period, it just feels really good to know that someone else is going through the same thing you are going through, which is not always the most appropriate or healthy way to start a relationship. That’s something that we try to teach our men and women to, again, build healthy relationships, trusting relationships, not based on what can you do for me, those types of relationships. I’ll tell you, it’s really difficult, because it’s a really hard time of life.

Kathleen Gill:   So what is typical duration of your residents’ stay?

John Adams:   That’s a good question. So the answer is we don’t have a minimum stay or a maximum stay. What I’ll say though is that, in my research, what I’ve looked at in my time here is that three to six months is the time period that works best or is most successful for our residents. Everybody has a different story. It doesn’t have to be that for everyone. We have a couple of people that have been with us for more than a year. I don’t necessarily suggest that. I think, at some point, you need to move on. But for him, where he is, that’s the right thing. Some people just need to get through their programming, PHP then IOP. So maybe it’s three weeks or six weeks or nine weeks. Ultimately, all we care about is that people leave with tools, and they leave clean, and they leave sober, and they stay that way.

Kathleen Gill:   What about insurance? Does insurance cover residential stays?

John Adams:   That’s a great question too. So, no, insurance does not cover our residents that live at SLP. SLP is paid for out of pocket. It would be considered a peer run service. One thing that I am so grateful for are donors that have contributed to Fairbanks to help offset that cost for our residents, where we can offer them a percentage discount on what it really costs.

Kathleen Gill:   So at SLP, you have case managers that work with the clients. Tell me a little bit about what their job is.

John Adams:   Yeah. That’s one of the best things that we offer. It’s key to our services. Let’s say we have 60 people that live with us. 40 are men. 20 are women. Those 40 men each have a coordinator. Now there aren’t 40 coordinators. There’s two coordinators that split up the bulk of the men’s community. Then we have one female coordinator that runs our female community. This is what I tell not only our coordinators, but our incoming residents, is that this coordinator is your go-to guy or your go-to woman. They are there to support you. They are there to help you get to where you need to go. I want you to talk to them about everything. If you’re having issues with your roommates, I want you to talk to your coordinator. If you’re having recovery questions, issues, those coordinators are responsible for support, but they’re also their number-one accountability partner. So if they’re not doing things right, they’re going to hold them accountable. If they’re doing things right, we’re going to praise that as well. A lot of people that come to SLP are used to authority figures looking down upon them, judging them. What I’ve tried to do is flip that to where we’re their partner. We’re there for them. They’re not there for us. I think that’s helped a lot with the relationships and their openness to come speak with us.

John Adams:   We also have resident managers, and they live on site so that, when the coordinators and myself … when we leave for the day, they’re the contact off hours, so to speak. They also do checks at night and in the morning, every night and every morning, to make sure everybody’s okay, everybody is where they’re supposed to be.

Kathleen Gill:   Are drug screens a requirement at your facility?

John Adams:   Drug screens are random. They know that before they come in. Actually, most people want that, to hold them accountable. So, yes, we do it randomly and targeted.

Kathleen Gill:   That’s interesting, because that kind of separates those who maybe have to be there in that environment. I can imagine a lot of your residents really don’t want to have drug screens. But for somebody who really desires success with their recovery, that is something that helps to hold them accountable. All of those aspects, by having a curfew and by having a requirement to keep your space tidy and a requirement to live with somebody and work on those relationships in the process of establishing what recovery looks like, those are all of life’s challenges that we’re asked to consider how we’re going to show up for.

John Adams:   It’s something that we haven’t dealt with, because we’ve been running away from it for so long.

Kathleen Gill:   Tell me what your ideal candidate for SLP would look like.

John Adams:   Addiction can affect anyone. I guess, the profile would be someone that is really, really yearning to get their life back, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes. I’ll say this too. If you’re not willing to do whatever it takes, it’s likely not going to work. We see that, unfortunately.

Kathleen Gill:   Sure, and you were talking about the aspect of relapse, and working in that environment, the percentages of success, it’s hard to put a number on what that-

John Adams:   It’s really hard to.

Kathleen Gill:    … percentage of success is. But more often than not, you see somebody come back through treatment where they have slipped up, rather than the people who are succeeding. Unless they stay connected to Fairbanks through volunteering or through alumni services or just to drop in and say hi, a lot of times we don’t know the success stories. It is wonderful when we get to hear those success stories and see those success stories and be witness to that. Tell me a little bit about the different activities that you are doing to try to create a community and a bond and the fellowship. Those people that all live together, they are sharing in a journey, and they’re getting to know each other, whether it’s riding on the van back and forth to programming or going to a 12-step meeting together, whether they’re roommates with each other. What are the things that you’re doing over at SLP to really create a family environment?

John Adams:   This is my favorite thing. This is what it’s all about, is community, like-minded community. I use the word love a lot, because it really is love and support. It’s unconditional. What are we doing to grow our community? Again, thank you to a gracious donor. Because of this donor, we’ve had the opportunity to expand our, what I would call, recovery enrichment. I don’t think there’s any other program, certainly not around here, that can offer their residents what we offer. We got to hire a person specifically in charge of recovery enrichment activities. On top of the meetings that we go to and riding the vans back and forth to programming, we have the ability to offer so many things. We do yoga. We built a community room that’s a safe place for our SLP residents, just like the recovery center is for all of Fairbanks. In fact, this is really cool. I mean, I could talk about this for hours.

Kathleen Gill:   Go for it.

John Adams:   We have a young lady who obviously has gone through some issues, and her children are in foster care, which is obviously not ideal, but she is working on herself and her addiction to get her children back into her life full-time. Because we have this community room, we can provide her a space, two hours, three times a week, where she’s allowed to spend time with her children and their DCS monitor. We just leave that door open, and when she’s done, she leaves. That didn’t used to happen around the Supportive Living Program.

John Adams:   Back to what I was saying is we provide 12-step, recovery-based yoga every week. This weekend, they’re going paintballing. We’ve been to Indians games. We went to a Pacers game. We’ve gone canoeing, kayaking. We’ve done a lot of great things, and the beauty of it is that we’re doing it clean and sober. They’re getting a chance to remember what it was like to have fun, just to have fun.

Kathleen Gill:   Yes.

John Adams:   But here’s the coolest part, part of what we do is, with these activities, we also offer opportunities to give back. One of the things that we do is we serve meals at Wheeler Mission.

Kathleen Gill:   Fantastic.

John Adams:   By far, the most popular thing we do is serve meals at Wheeler Mission. It’s 100% giving back. These are people that are just trying to get their life back together, and they’re going down, and they’re serving food.

Kathleen Gill:   It comes full circle.

John Adams:   A lot of humility.

Kathleen Gill:   It comes full circle, doesn’t it?

John Adams:   Yep.

Kathleen Gill:   That’s wonderful, and I know you guys have done a lot of work on creating more activities and ways. I know I see the van come over, and people from SLP are cleaning up our parking lot on Friday afternoons.

John Adams:   Yeah, that’s right.

Kathleen Gill:   So whether it’s doing something out in nature or just giving back to the community at large, those are wonderful life skills.

John Adams:   I agree.

Kathleen Gill:   I think, for many people that know, personally, the disease of addiction, is one of the things that is the most frightening, when you think of discontinuing use of alcohol or drugs, is how in the world will I ever have fun? So it is just critically important that they are getting to experience that, and it sounds like you guys are doing a great job at Supportive Living Program.

John Adams:   Good clean fun.

Kathleen Gill:   What do you think people should know about addiction in general?

John Adams:   Well, addiction’s a disease that’s not going away. Addiction can happen to anybody, and it does happen to anybody. The good news is that it can be treated. As far as I know, the bad news is it can’t be cured. What we do is we stay close to it every day. You were making reference to this earlier, is that the further away that we as addicts get from those things that helped us stay clean, the closer we get to going back into addiction. It’s like treating … Diabetes is a good example. You have to treat it every day. All you have to do is treat it every day. That’s what works. As long as we keep treating it every day, we’re going to live the lives that we were supposed to live. I’m happy to say I am. It took a long time.

John Adams:   I’ve had conversations with people this year, just talking about life and how things are, and this is the first time I’ve ever been satisfied. I’m not chasing it anymore, which is amazing, just to be okay.

Kathleen Gill:   And how wonderful that Fairbanks offers a safe place in the Supportive Living Program where people can go to to continue to build a stronger foundation to stand on, to be with like-minded folks, to focus on that recovery, and to learn that tool of looking at it every single day, because there is a solution.

John Adams:   I mean, Supportive Living is an invaluable tool. You asked what else do I want people to know. The thing that I just thought of is I wish more people would take advantage of it. There are so many people that are struggling and trying to keep doing the same old thing, expecting different results. Well, we’re proving every day that, if you change what you’re doing, you’re going to see results.

John Adams:   I had a mother call me. Her son has an addiction issue, and she was researching on where to send him, what programs offer, so on and so forth. Fairbanks was one of them. She ended up calling me about our Supportive Living Program, but the way that she got there was she went onto our website and listened to all of our podcasts. She said that it gave her the opportunity to hear from people, and I think she may have even said friendly voices. Seriously, this is not … So it was essential in her, I guess, choosing Fairbanks. If it’s just one person comes because of what you did or one person at SLP graduates and goes on to serve, I mean, that’s worth it.

Kathleen Gill:   That is worth it, helping lives. That’s such a misnomer working in addiction, is that we’re going to save the world. Sometimes it can be a really depressing environment, but when we see the lives that are changed from the work that we do, oh, my gosh, that makes it all worth it.

John Adams:   So what we do is we’re on the front lines. We see addicts in recovery every day. Usually, it’s in early recovery. We get caught up in the frustrations of relapse, going the wrong direction. What we tend to do and what I try to tell my team is don’t focus on the people that are not making it. We’ve got … A huge percentage of our people are making it.

Kathleen Gill:   And want to make it.

John Adams:   And they’re doing the right things.

Kathleen Gill:   What do you see as the biggest roadblock?

John Adams:   Mostly financial and pride. So financial is obvious. Some people don’t have enough money. They may already be paying for an apartment, and now they’ve got to pay for another apartment, essentially. Now it’s heavily discounted, but it still costs money, so that’s one thing. But the other thing is that people are too proud. It’s a bias. They don’t want to be seen as somebody that had to live in a halfway house, and that still goes around. We should be past that, but we’re not. It’s a healthy living environment. That’s all it is, that they can’t find elsewhere.

Kathleen Gill:   Yes, it is the asking for help that is often so very difficult, to accept you can’t necessarily do it on your own. So it’s a good … It’s called a transitional living community.

John Adams:   It is. It’s transitional.

Kathleen Gill:   That’s exactly what it is used for, is to transition from treatment into the recovery community and back into your living arrangements in the most healthy way possible.

John Adams:   I mean, there’s story after story after story of men and women that have gone through our program for however long. They come back and say hi, and they are just killing it. It’s like, that’s why we do it.

Kathleen Gill:   That’s why we do it. That’s how we started this out. If we can only touch one life along the way-

John Adams:   That’s fine.

Kathleen Gill:    … then we have touched-

John Adams:    That’s a win.

Kathleen Gill:    … one life. John, thank you so very much for being with us today. One of our taglines at Fairbanks is, “Together we can,” so I’m going to let you finish that sentence. Together we can what?

John Adams:   Together we can do just about anything. Together we can get you back to what you were supposed to be.

Kathleen Gill:   Thank you very much.

John Adams:   This is fun.

Kathleen Gill:   This has been Recovery Talks: A Fairbanks Podcast. If you or a loved one needs support in the journey of recovery, the experts at Fairbanks Treatment and Recovery Center can help. Visit our website at FairbanksRecovery.org for recovery resources, or call 800-225-HOPE for immediate help. Thank you for listening.