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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.

 

Photo Courtesy: Sen. Ayotte's Office Caption: Left to Right: John Jensen, Northeast Outreach Coordinator, Amethyst Recovery Center; Ryan Gagne, Director, Live Free Structured Sober Living; Senator Kelly Ayotte; and John Brogan, Outreach Coordinator, Amethyst Recovery Center.

Photo Courtesy: Sen. Ayotte’s Office Caption: Left to Right: John Jensen, Northeast Outreach Coordinator, Amethyst Recovery Center; Ryan Gagne, Director, Live Free Structured Sober Living; Senator Kelly Ayotte; and John Brogan, Outreach Coordinator, Amethyst Recovery Center.

Merrimack resident, and Live Free Structured Sober Living Director, Ryan Gagne and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte met to go over the Comprehensive Addiction And Recovery Act, the federal government’s efforts to deal with the heroin and opioid crisis.

“Live Free Structured Sober Living is a critically important recovery program, and I appreciated the discussion we had during Thursday’s visit about the framework that CARA provides to help strengthen our response to this epidemic.” – Sen. Kelly Ayotte

For the full article, click HERE.

Learning to Give in order to Receive

The men of Live Free have begun to learn and adapt a major spiritual principle in their personal recoveries, service to others. As part of the transfer from the Orientation phase into the Working/Transition phase the men participate in community service. Many of the men in the house have yet to experience the internal benefits of being of service to others. Live Free staff have organized a community service schedule in collaboration with the NH Food bank and the Manchester Animal Shelter. These opportunities have greatly helped the men experience the benefits of being selfless and identifying the ways in which being of service will enhanced their recovery. The men are also gearing up to participate in a project that we have titled “Restore Hope”. This project is a fundraiser where the men will collect various toiletry items, socks, and non perishable food items and make care packages which they will distribute to the homeless population within the City. Staff are working on other creative service projects throughout the coming months. Live Free Staff are striving to not only teach the men spiritual principle of being of service to others, but to also give back to the City of Manchester, in which they live.

Sometimes the best way to comprehend spiritual principles is to see them in action. Ob spends most of his day walking around the Live Free Structured Sober Living facility teaching the men how to live in the present moment. Ob is a 4 year old Pointer Boarder Collie mix. On more than one occasion participants have had the opportunity to be cheered up by Ob. When not at Live Free Structured Sober Living spreading his Zen like love, he enjoys swimming and chasing squirrels and hikes in the White Mountains.