By Natalie Simms
It was nearly four months ago when Seth Holley found himself at rock bottom. His alcohol addiction had taken over his life, made a mess of his marriage and left him with little hope. But with the encouragement of friends, Holley stepped foot inside LivingProof Recovery, a local recovery community organization, on March 25, and made the decision to change his life.
“I was really bad off. My wife had left me. I was at the bottom and I didn’t know if could quit,” says Holley. “Through friends, they told me to go meet with Claudia (Hamilton) at LivingProof. So, I went to an AA meeting. I didn’t know what to expect but Claudia met me at the front door and showed me around. The immediate acceptance and support was great. I realized I wasn’t the only one struggling.”
And now, Holley has been sober for 104 days. His marriage and relationships to wife Maggie and 2-year-old son Christopher have been restored. He’s completed the 12-step program with Alcoholics Anonymous and turned his life around for Christ.
“I’ve been going to Bible studies at LivingProof … that has been the turnaround for me. It has shown me the importance of that walk with Christ and gotten me where I am today,” he says. “I go to AA meetings regularly … they are like family to me. And my wife goes with me to Bible study. It is a new way of life for us.”
It’s these stories of hope and restoration that keep Hamilton, Executive Director of LivingProof, and her volunteers focused on their mission of providing support services to anyone in or seeking recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Hamilton, a former heroin addict herself who’s been sober 10 years, says her work not only helps others but also herself.
“Our purpose is to help maintain the long-term efforts of substance abuse recovery. We are not a treatment center, we don’t house patients. We are the place to come after a treatment program,” she says. “There is not just one way to continue sobriety. We have found you can get better through music, Bible study, church, fitness programs and gardening and more than just a 12-step program.”
In August 2016, Hamilton saw a need for Christian recovery group and started meeting two days a week at West Rome Baptist Church. The group grew to meeting three times a week with up to 90 people coming for support; they outgrew their space at the church.
“Everything we do is free,” she says. “We had our first fundraiser in December 2016 and raised $10,000. Its was there at the fundraiser that I met Cassandra Price with Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities. She had me write a two-year proposal for funding and we were approved for funding but we didn’t get money right away.”
LivingProof needed space, so Hamilton and her husband bought the building at 408 Shorter Ave. in April 2017. The state grant was approved in October and funds were then available to pay staff.
“In January 2018, we hired someone to help me with operations, Gina Floyd. Today, we have 34 volunteers We’ve not lost one since we started … all the same ones plus more. We also have a part-time employment specialist,” says Hamilton.
“We are the state’s model for a recovery community organization. Folks come from all over the state and Florida to see how we operate. We tell them that we just listen to the people we serve and do what they say.
“The thing about a recovery program is it’s yours … you own the process. But an actual treatment program tells you what to do,” she says. “Here we give you a menu and let you pick. If we don’t have something you think would help, we will try to make it happen.”
LivingProof Recovery offers multiple pathways to recovery including 12-step, faith-based, agnostic, medication-assisted or whatever else works. They offer CrossFit, nutrition classes, Bible studies, music activities and family peer support as well as childcare and tutoring during the school year for children whose parents are in recovery services.
“We count by peer interactions, by headcount. One person may come three times a week. We average 1,000 peer interactions a month and provide childcare for 200 children under age of 9,” she says. “We offer GED tutoring, free haircuts to help them in getting back into the workforce. We have an employment specialist available to assist peers with job searches, résumé and job preparation.”
Since the employment specialist joined the staff in February, more than 20 people have been placed in quality jobs with benefits and opportunities for promotion. An additional four or five people have been accepted into college.
“We now have organizations calling us and asking for more employees,” says Hamilton.
Many of their peers are returning citizens who may have just gotten out of jail or prison. Some are are on probation or have limitations on their schedules, all while trying to find work and take part in recovery services. To help meet a need, LivingProof started a Greenhouse Program where a peer in recovery can work 20 hours a week, earning $150, for six months. All the while, they are working with the employment specialist to find permanent employment.
“We have a 16-foot by 24-foot greenhouse that we grow vegetables and plants year-round. We sell the veggies at markets and partner with The Seasons Events in Rome for fresh produce,” she says. “It is funded through our Garden Party fundraisers twice a year. We currently have three people in the program. Two others have moved out of the program after getting permanent employment.”
Volunteer Gussie Bradfield got involved with LivingProof as a way to help her brother who has been dealing with substance abuse for nearly 30 years.
“I myself am in long-term recovery for 14 years from a short-lived drug problem … I now facilitate family support groups on Thursdays and the All Recovery group on Saturdays,” she says.
“My husband is also in recovery, so LivingProof helps us all around. It’s been great to grow in our experiences and it’s been pivotal to helping my brother who’s been in recovery now for 16 months.”
No matter who you talk to about LivingProof, its clear to see their services are life changing.
“There are so many great things I could say about LivingProof … it’s life changing … restoring spiritually, physically and emotionally through the services they offer,” says Holley.
Hamilton agrees: “It’s been slow to get the community to come around to recovery. Many never get to see the other side of it … what comes out of it … the beauty from mistakes.”
To find out more about LivingProof Recovery and its services and meeting schedules, visit www.livingproofrecovery.org. You can also donate online to help cover the program’s services. Phone: 706-204-8710.