Continuing care after addiction

Published 5:41 pm Friday, November 25, 2016

By Melanie Ruberti


Continuing care after addiction

LaGRANGE — Recovering addicts making a clean break from bad habits will soon have a new, temporary place to call home.

Starting in January, 2017, the Next Cross Road, a new, nonprofit, faith-based program, will provide residential home “after care” for women recently released from treatment centers or jail.

The participants must be women aged 18 and older and meet the program’s criteria, said Charles Wardlaw, Chief Financial Officer of Next Cross Road.

“This isn’t about ‘hopping cots,’ this program is about change,” Wardlaw said firmly. “These women must have gone to an addiction treatment center. We are not a treatment center. We want to make that very clear.”

Instead, Next Cross Road will offer women a place to stay so they can remain sober and concentrate on building a drug-free future. The women will be allowed to stay at the home anywhere from six to 18 months.

People who suffer from addictions tend to have a high recidivism rate, Wardlaw said.

“People go back into the same bad environment and hang out with the same people once they get out of treatment,” he explained. “We need an after care facility to look out for these girls that can’t, or do not want to go back to the same environment … Addiction, relapse, recidivism. What are you going to do about it? The problem is needs to be addressed. If you don’t you’ll have addicts raising addicts. We need to stop that or else the problem will continue to get bigger.””

The power of addiction is something both Wardlaw and Next Cross Road residence manager, Kelly Camp, are familiar with. Wardlaw admitted he is a recovering alcoholic. Camp was just 13 years old the first time she tried drugs.

Methamphetamine, Adderall and alcohol were her illegal narcotics of choice, Camp told the Daily News in September 2015.

“Drugs and alcohol wrecked my life. More than once,” she said on Friday.

Camp was 19 years old, had two children and 11 felonies on her criminal record when she entered rehab for the first time.

Her sobriety did not last long.

Camp continued her affair with drugs: she lost custody of her children, checked in and out of five more rehabilitation centers, was involved and charged in a fatal head on collision and served time in jail.

During her last incarceration, Camp met Wardlaw, his wife Nancy and Wanda Walker through a prison ministry. She started reading her Bible and was encouraged to turn away from drugs.

She was released from the Troup County Jail in September 2015 with few possessions on her, but a very clear mission from God.

“I walked out of that jail barefoot,” she stated. “I had no home, no ride, no nothing. But God told me to go volunteer, so I did … and He restored everything to me. I have a house, a car and I have my kids back.

“I discovered who I am,” Camp continued. “All that stuff (drugs, alcohol) doesn’t make sense now. It doesn’t fit into my life now. There was a time when I just knew I was going to die shooting up opiates or grow old and still be taking opiates. But then I learned, that’s not me. That’s not what I want to be. Now I have house, my children back and I am going back to school.”

Both Camp and Wardlaw admit addiction is hard to overcome.

“It’s like a huge fish hook that’s been rammed into you that you can never get out,” Wardlaw explained. “In reality, you have to learn to live with that barb still inside you.”

The Next Cross Road program will help women come to terms with their decision to stay sober and assist them in moving forward with their lives.

“We will help these girls get back on the right course, apply for jobs, get out of poverty … manage money, help them find an apartment. There will be a five step procedure,” Wardlaw said. “Through the training we will provide, it will slowly introduce the women back into society. We will also have counseling for women, their children and families.”

A total of eight women will live in the house, which is located in an undisclosed part of town.

Children will not be allowed to stay in the Next Cross Road home, but will be allowed on the property for weekend visitations, Wardlaw stated.

No counseling sessions or services will take place inside the house, per zoning restrictions, he added.

According to Wanda Walker, a member of the Next Cross Road board of directors, the after care home was approved by Alton West, the director of community development for LaGrange.

Mayor Jim Thornton told the Daily News on Friday he is aware of the program, but did not know if any plans were finalized.

” … I am very supportive of it (the program),” Thornton wrote via email. “I did not realize that they (Next Cross Road) had finalized a location. I know that Wanda Walker has talked to Alton West about possible locations and any zoning or permitting issues, but I was not a part of those conversations … I am confident they (Next Cross Road) can find a location that will work … I believe this will be a great program and ministry that will serve an important need in our community.”

The Next Cross Road organization will work closely with the Twin Cedars Safe Families program and the Troup County drug courts, stated Wardlaw.

There will also be an outpatient program once the women move into homes of their own.

Next Cross Road is one of the few after care programs in this area, Wardlaw added.

“There’s a real need for it here in LaGrange. We’ve seen it. I think we’ll be looking for a second house in a year,” he stated. “If you want something, you have to do something you’ve never done. You also have to change your beliefs … and that’s the problem with most of these girls; they don’t believe in themselves. That’s what we’ll (Next Cross Road) have to do is to change their thoughts … this program will work and we will make this a better community. We’ll have tax paying, productive citizens. It will help heal families.”

“We want to set these women up for success,” Camp said. “I’m excited to see how things will change for these women and to watch them go through the process. They’ll have a lot of encouragement and support from the Next Cross Road team. They won’t feel alone. When you get out of treatment, you feel overwhelmed … but we’ll be their support team and guide through it all.”

The Next Cross Road program plans to be up and running by January 2017.

Anyone wanting more information on the program or an application can contact Charles Wardlaw at 706-837-4523.