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I remember choosing the best pediatrician for my children when they were young.  

Later, when it was time for high school Justin wanted to explore the opportunity to attend private school.  We toured the schools, went on interviews and he was accepted to several, making his final choice at an amazing school in northwest CT.  I told him then that there would always be a place at his home school but he should go and give it all he could – it was such an opportunity.  We were just regular, middle-class people – well, maybe not so regular. We were a family living with active addiction in our home – very much affected by SUD – yet Justin already had the seeds planted – that somehow he knew he wanted a life of freedom from the disease and as his mom, I wanted the world for him.  

In those high school years, I would see the signs of SUD or also known as Substance Use Disorder.  I reached out for help. I stood in the truth and hit many a brick wall of resistance.  I kept reaching. Kept hitting walls. The college began and it was evident that we were dealing with the disease and I found myself once again seeking the best for my child.  

Lynn and Justin | Live Free Structured Sober Living in NH

A grateful mother that has her son back. Lynn Kelley.

Treatment, sober living, the pleading phone calls back to treatment. The cycle had begun.  What was wrong? Why wasn’t this working? He isn’t ready – He has to want it – Let him hit bottom.  Oh my, the things people were telling me. But as his mother, I just knew that something had to be different.  Ultimately it was me that was different for a long time. I met him where he was at. I worked on my recovery in Family Recovery for a few more years.  The disease was progressing in Justin hundreds of miles away from where he had returned to college in Washington DC until the day came that the pleading call came from Justin’s roommates to come now.  He knew that the words – I love you –

Will you come home and get well? – meant hope, that he could once again have the chance to live free. Little did we know at that moment just how true it would be.

The last words Justin said to me before walking into detox were “ I am NOT going back to NH”.  He had been there 3 ½ years prior – his first time in sober living, lasting 9 days.

Two weeks later I got a call,

“Mom, you are not going to believe this – I am going back to NH! To a place called LIVE FREE STRUCTURED SOBER LIVING  – it is a structured sober living program and it is a minimum of 3 months.”

Ryan had taken Justin’s call and accepted him.  Their paths had crossed when Justin was in NH before and Ryan heard something different in Justin now- Justin was no longer that boy that had been in NH before – both Ryan and Justin were willing to take the chance on each other.  The journey from getting well to Living Free had begun.

Everything about our experience was different from that first phone call on.  There was no paid transport to NH to prevent Justin from “manipulating me into not going” because the program only took men who wanted to be there.  So we piled into the car an off to NH we went. It was a true family road trip – with Justin’s younger brother in tow. This would be the first of many.  As our family became part of the Live Free community I would go back to NH often bringing a friend with me and the men who became like brothers to Justin would join us for whatever our outings were, catching up like family.  

When I look back at the time Justin was at Live Free, I think about where I was in my own recovery and a conversation that Ryan had with me that first day.  He pointedly asked me – “Lynn, How are you taking care of you and what are you doing for your own recovery?” I knew that there was an understanding on some level that for my son to heal, to really get well we all had to continue to do the work.  I had been in recovery from the effects of AUD/SUD for many years at this point – Ryan was the first person in a non-clinical setting to ask me about it. We were a family in recovery and Live Free not only supported that, but it was also a critical element to the work being done.  There is continued evidence that when families participate in the recovery of the entire family, the person with Substance Use Disorder and those affected have the best outcomes.

The non-negotiable that had been established when Justin entered into treatment was transparency.  The disease of addiction isolates, lies, robs families of trust and connection.

Freedom for these chains and the opportunity to rebuild that was a critical part of the work our family did while Justin was at Live Free.  It was no different than when his roommate called me. We were building new relationships, with a new foundation, with new tools and a lot of support.  

As we navigated life in early recovery – the fears of living life on life’s terms – going back to DC for trips to see what it would be like, the old relationships, coming home for holidays, music festivals, tough family situations, good times and not so good times and ultimately Justin’s decision to leave NH and go back to Washington DC – to LIVE his Life Freely – which is what he was promised he could do “if he did the work”  – we never did any of this alone. Our family did this with the LIve Free community – with Ryan, Mark, the men of Live Free, the families of those men who we met along the way.

In the 3 years since Justin has left Live Free Structured Sober Living in NH, I have continued to be a part of the network that this community has created.  I have invited Ryan to speak for me at Family Recovery events in CT. I have never once reached out and not gotten a reply for a family in need or just to say hello.  My son, Justin, is in long-term recovery. He graduated from American University and lives in Washington DC. Our family is a Family in Recovery Today. Each member knowing that there is so much more to this journey of recovery than to simply put down the drink or the drug – but to really have a life worth living you need to do so much more.  I am forever grateful to the men of Live Free for showing Justin what was possible, for giving more than the tools he needed for recovery but the belief that he could Live life in recovery. It is my privilege to be the mother of a young man in recovery from SUD – he shows me every day what it means to live a life of honesty, integrity, hard work, love and dignity.  

On March 23rd, Live Free Structured Sober Living has its grand opening celebration.

Many people came out for the opening of Live Free’s 2nd Sober Living location in New Hampshire. Addiction treatment providers, recovery supports, and supportive recovery ally’s were all in attendance. Guests enjoyed a delicious menu provided by Pit Stop Smoke House while they networked with one another and learned what resources were available for people from all over the state. People were able to understand the different services in drug and alcohol treatment that are available outside the immediate area.

Mayor of Keene, NH at Live Free Structured Sober Living Grand Opening

Mayor of Keene, NH at Live Free Structured Sober Living Grand Opening

We were also joined by Mayor of Keene Kendall W. Lane. Mayor Kendall came and shared his views on the work that Live Free Structured Sober Living is doing “Recovery supports like Live Free Structured Sober Living are vitally important to the community of Keene and surrounding communities. I personally know how difficult it can be to help people navigate the lacking services for people with SUD”.

Keith Thibault from Southwestern Community Services stopped in and shared about the partnership between Southwestern and Live Free Structured Sober Living came to be. He also mentioned that one of the deciding factors for choosing to lease the building to Live Free was the need for sober living in Keene, NH. That one of the biggest gaps in the treatment continuum was sober living.

Ryan Gagne was thrilled by the outpouring of support and contribution that everyone brought. Ryan said “I am truly grateful for everyone that showed up and have been supporting from afar. The goal was to bring awareness of resources from all over New England to the people of this community. I have been lucky enough to work with amazing people over the years and having providers come and contribute made my day. To provide highly structured sober living at a very affordable cost was the goal and we have done just that.”

Ryan Gagne and the Men of Live Free Structured Sober Living in Keene, NH

Ryan Gagne and the Men of Live Free Structured Sober Living in Keene, NH

The sober living program boasts a very low cost at $187.00 per week, especially when looking at the services. 1 paid live-in staff person whose job is to provide recovery guidance to the guests of the program, assistance with gaining employment, drug testing, on-site meetings, 6 2 bedroom fully furnished apartments that 4 people share, on-site laundry services, 2 live in house managers. The program that Live Free Structured Sober Living in New Hampshire has developed is extremely well thought out and designed to help new guest gain momentum in their personal recoveries quickly.

What’s next for Live Free Structured Sober Living in New Hampshire?

Well, In just 3 short months the program has reached maximum occupancy. A new men’s program will be established in Manchester by June. There are also talks of creating a women’s Sober Living program in both Keene, NH, and Manchester, NH. We look to have a men’s step down house in Keene and the other programs opened and receiving guests within the year. All of your continued support is deeply appreciated and we look forward to continuing our relationships and forging new ones.

 

Live Free Structured Sober Living Staff have worked to create peer ran community founded off of the spiritual principle of Unity. The philosophy of Live Free is that of the men of the house holding each other accountable with love and compassion. Men provide each other feedback on a daily basis on areas that they believe are, or could be troublesome. Men are encouraged by staff and each other to respect one another at all times, even when there are disagreements in the house. When disagreements arise that the men themselves cannot work through staff trained in Crisis Intervention will step in and facilitate a mediation. Being proactive in preventing negativity from spreading within the community is a top priority for staff. It does not take long for a small resentment amongst men to spread throughout the entire house.

Each week in the Community Meeting on Thursday nights the group facilitator encourages men to hold each other accountable, and discuss conflicts amongst one another. The facilitators goal of each week is to reestablish a foundation of unity. When the men have a sense of being united they are easily able to push aside conflicts, and work together to establish long-lasting recovery. This unity is achieved by not only the men holding each other accountable for their actions, but offering their fellows assistance in any manner necessary for them to overcome their difficulties.

Through Positive Community, the challenges of early Recovery begin to look like small tasks instead of large barriers. Where life’s problems use to pile up on individuals, now the Unity that men find in one another can become a vital tool in their recoveries here at Live Free. The power of Unity and togetherness can brighten up anyone’s life.

The Live Free staff have worked diligently to create service projects for the Men to begin to learn the spiritual benefits of altruism. The New Hampshire Foodbank has graciously opened their doors for the men of Live Free to be off service. Many of the men have had very little exposer to being of service to the community in which they live, if any at all. It has not been uncommon for men to be resistant to going to participate in these community projects, after participating in these projects all of the men gain a new perspective. This new perspective is demonstrated by their eagerness to seek other opportunities to serve the community of Manchester.

The most recent project stemmed from the Founder of Live Free watching a video of a little girl facilitating a fund raiser for the less fortunate. This girl collected hygiene items and food and made what she referred to as “Blessing Bags” and handed these out to the homeless population in Manchester. Ryan the Founder of Live Free decided to replicate this project. Once all of the items were collected the Men of Live Free worked together to fill these bags and went out with Staff and volunteers from the community and handed these bags out. They walked through the parks of Manchester and past New Horizons handing these bags out. Many of the men went above and beyond by offering kind words and some even providing individuals with their phone numbers if they found themselves needing help later on. The participants of Live Free have decided that as the weather warms up they would like to make this activity a regular occurrence. After handing out the Blessing Bags one of the men stated “It felt amazing to have a purpose”.

Through years of active drug addiction it is common to lose sight of all things that are tied to the responsibilities of functioning as a productive member of society. At Live Free Structured Sober Living men are provided the opportunity, and outlet to evaluate their current skills for truly participating in life. In the orientation phase of the Program an experienced staff member individually evaluates each man. In this evaluation process men are motivated towards raising their standards and diligently working to become the man that they have always wanted to be. Staff work one-on-one, and in a group setting towards enabling men to identify areas of their lives in which they want to recreate, and establish measurable goals and time frames for their achievement. As this process is underway men are introduced to opportunities and new experiences to open their minds and push them to go further. These opportunities and experiences include community service projects, financial workshops, culinary courses, and college campus tours, or may be as simple as taking the bus to a dentist appointment. At Live Free Structured Sober Living we believe that each man is limited by self-judgment and doubt and it is the main focus of staff to identify these barriers and help men over come them.

The men of Live Free after only a week of being in the house have began to set up medical appointments, take care of bills that have been avoided due to drug addiction, looked into going back to school and a long list of other actions that had been neglected as a result of their substance use. After a month and a half at Live Free two of the men are back to work, and working towards the ultimate goal of the Life Skills programming, which is to not only recover from their Substance Abuse Disorder but become fully self sufficient while entering a recovered state of mind and body. Live Free defines being self sufficient as no longer looking for hand outs financially or emotionally from loved ones and/or friends, but for each man to step up and fulfill their financial commitments and the responsibilities it takes to be a productive member of society.

The Live Free Structured Sober Living Open House was a big success for us and for the city of Manchester, NH. A huge thanks goes out to all that came out and supported us! Check out the local media coverage here:

Click To Enlarge.

Live Free Structured Sober Living has already opened their doors to welcome men to Recover from Substance Use Disorders, and now they would like to open their doors to you. Live Free will be hosting an Open House on January 19th from 4-6 PM. This will provide the opportunity to take a tour of Live Free’s lavish estate and to learn about the programming structure that the Live Free staff have put forth to help their participants work towards overcoming their struggles with addiction and become the men that they have always wanted to be. This event will allow the opportunity for local providers to meet and hear from treatment providers from across New England, and provide a relaxing environment to discuss how we can all help the community at large. Please join us for refreshments and conversation. We look forward to uniting with you for this great cause.

To RSVP contact rgagne@livefreessl.com or call 1-877-932-6757.

Today begins a new chapter in the book of addiction recovery in New Hampshire. Actually, Live Free Structured Sober Living is one of several new recovery supports being introduced locally at a crucial time during this horrifying addiction epidemic. So, in a time when unfocused anger and reactive politics shroud public understanding of addiction and of recovery, Live Free has been quietly building a nest from the strongest elements available. We have been improving upon our years of experience in the field of residential aftercare for men. We have been reimagining the client experience in a way that involves his whole being, his family, and his community. And we have been tightly binding a committed team of peers in recovery and a forward-thinking community around a singular cause: Freedom from the need for relief through mind-altering substances.

Today marks the beginning of a process for a first handful of recovering men that cultivates their inner strengths while filling gaps between each man’s good intentions and his unintended actions.

Today marks Day One of a talented team of staff that gets out of bed thinking of new ways to improve conditions and to help residents over the divide between inpatient treatment and lifelong, sustained recovery.

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