EWE Spirit Grant Recipient Story:
This May, EWE Spirit’s president, Mary Ewenson, heard an interview on a local radio station promoting a Burritos for Beds fundraising event. Its purpose was to furnish the latest
housing addition to the Samaritan House’s campus. Mary was so moved by the interview that she convinced the EWE Spirit board to approve a $10,000 grant to the Annapolis-based nonprofit with less than 24 hours’ notice! When you read the following story, we think you’ll understand why.
When Russell began detoxing for the “umpteenth” time, his care providers at Anne Arundel
Medical Center’s Pathways treatment facility begged him to make a new long-term plan. At the
age of 33, he’d battled addiction for nearly half his life. He’d been in and out of rehab facilities, hospitals and psychiatric institutions for years. Alcohol was the “king” of his demons, but he’d also dabbled with every drug under the sun, including methamphetamine, which hooked him for three years.
“I hated my life,” Russell remembers. “It wasn’t worth living. Getting out of bed was a struggle.
In a moment of clarity, though, I called the crisis response hotline. It wasn’t the first time;
they’ve saved my life on at least two or three occasions.”
When Russell transferred from the hospital to Pathways after surviving this most recent
emergency, he finally faced the challenge of committing to long-term treatment. Like many
addicts, he’d slipped into his old patterns every time he’d returned home after past detoxes. “My home was a playground of bad influences, enablers and temptation,” he explains. “It was the perfect recipe for self-destruction. But there was still a level of comfort involved in going home. Trying something new was overwhelmingly terrifying.”
Russell’s initial reaction to the suggestion that he enter a residential recovery program was
“‘F–no!’ I was vehemently against it.” Days before he was discharged from Pathways’ intensive
detox program, though, he convinced himself to try something new, even though, he says, “I was scared shitless.”
A Safe, Supportive Environment for Long-Term Sobriety
The “something new” was Samaritan House, a refuge for men recovering from addiction. The
13-acre facility offers both a residential program and transitional housing, allowing clients to
progress through their recovery programs at their own pace in a safe, supportive environment.
Seven professionally trained counselors and house managers provide around-the-clock care that is welcoming and kind. Even so, says Russell, “I was a puddle of fear. The moment I was alone in my room, I broke down crying.” Another client gave Russell a tour of the facility. He
remembers with a laugh, “He was so nice I thought he was part of the staff!”
Russell took the advice of “you get out of it what you put into it” seriously. Although he was
only required to attend four group sessions per week, he chose to go to all eleven. Over the next year, his confidence grew steadily, and he eventually started a job in a local restaurant. He graduated from Sam House’s clinical program and transferred to the more independent-living facility. He intends to stay there until “I’m 100% sure I can stand on my own two feet.”
This unique continuum of care provided by the Samaritan House fosters long-term sobriety. By
combining both of these phases of recovery on the same campus, it eliminates the risks often
caused by changes of environment. Sam House clients are encouraged to stay on for a total of
two or more years. As Executive Director Mike Goldfaden says, “Research shows that the longer a person stays in a supportive environment like ours the higher the chances of recovery.”
Growing to Meet the Need
Mike also notes that every dollar spent on accredited substance abuse treatment programs saves communities $7 on health care, criminal justice and other costs. Sam House’s recently expanded facility now houses 48 clients. Between 75 and 100 men, age 18 and older (the oldest client to date was 72), benefit from its programs annually—and there is always a waiting list for new admissions. The sense of security Samaritan House engenders is especially important for those clients facing financial, legal and multiple social barriers to obtaining housing. “The majority of our clients are homeless and/or come from at-risk environments,” says Mike. “Honestly, many of them don’t have anywhere to go.”
Sam House gives these clients tools to reenter the community successfully, teaching them
everything from coping mechanisms and breathing exercises to techniques for identifying
triggers and responding to them in healthy ways. “It’s like the Home Depot for the mind,” says
Russell, who suffered from, among other things, a toxic relationship with his ex-boyfriend.
“They equip me with the tools I need and teach me how to use them.”
Noting his remarkable transformation from a newcomer who was “pretty beaten up, uncertain
and struggling to adjust” to a “healthy, responsible guy who has worked through his relationship issues,” Mike says Russell has become very committed to his sobriety and is now a role model for new clients, “even without him realizing it. These connections to others, the shared struggleand shared recovery are critical to long-term sobriety.”
“Sam House saved my life, ” Russell says. “They’re my compass. I have the map and get to
decide where to go next. I’ve made some really bad decisions in my 34 years. The decision to go to Sam House was unquestionably the single-best decision in my entire life.”