The Courage Center, located behind Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington, began here in January.
The Courage Center’s staff of five posts a plan that outlines the coaching methods and techniques to be used in the upcoming meetings.
Julie Cole, left, Cassie Gee, second from left, and Abby Foster, middle, leads a coaching session for mothers of children struggling with addiction.
The Courage Center purchased land about a mile away from the church down Old Cherokee Road for its new community center.
Julie Cole, the executive director of the Courage Center and former drug user, knows how addicts can be treated can by medical professionals and those around them. She has dedicated her career on helping those that struggled like she once did.
In society, those who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction can be painted with a wide brush of judgment.
Facing pressure from those close to them, young adults who are addicts can find it hard to cope with recovery which can lead to further use. Behind Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington, a new organization called the Courage Center is trying provide another path on the road to recovery.
“We give space for them to figure it out and come alongside and empower them,” said Cassie Gee, a social work graduate student at the University of South Carolina. “We want to help them find their voice and their own path because what worked for me may not work for you but I get that.”
The Courage Center, currently housed in an old single-story brick house, provides counseling for addicts and their families. Julie Cole, the executive director, and her staff have all had addiction touch their lives by either personally using or having a family member or friend use alcohol or illegal substances.
“Our mission is to provide a safe, supportive recovery program for young people and their families on a recovery journey,” said Cole. “We are what is called a recovery community organization. We offer recovery support services for young people ages 15-26 and their families.”
The personal experience the staff possesses has allowed them to have a different outlook on ways of treatment.
“It’s really about coming alongside them,” said Abby Foster, a graduate student intern working towards her master’s degree in social work at the University of South Carolina. “Nobody really likes to be told what to do. We’re not meeting in a place of shame or guilt but really just saying to them ‘you know what, I get it, I’ve experienced things you have experienced.’”
Foster has written a compelling letter to her parents, posted on the Courage Center’s website, that detailed struggles that began in middle school.
This approach is different from a lot of drug and alcohol addiction treatment/recovery centers. While the Courage Center does not offer treatment, they offer a different way of counseling.
“What we are seeing nationwide is that when you tell someone what the answer is, they’ll do want you want them to do for the time they are there,” said Cole. “But we hear time and time again that young people that go to treatment have a recurrence of use within 6-8 months and most within weeks.”
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a study done in 2014, showed that over 21 million Americans over the age of 12 have substance abuse disorder in the previous year. That translates to one person in every 12. Research shows that after visiting a treatment center, 85 percent relapse within a year of leaving. Two-thirds of that 85 percent use within the first few months.
“Our purpose is to fill the gaps in recovery,” Cole said. “We had a family who had a young person in their life who would go to treatment and come back and get back into the same environment he came from and use again. In society, we blame the kid when really the way we treat is not in line with science.”
The Courage Center is based on the concept that the best way to help a young person through addiction is by helping those around them better understand how they can help.
“A lot of what we do is help parents find out what their next step is,” Cole said. “We are changing the way the family looks at it and treats it. We want them to say to their loved one ‘how can we help you do good and support you in the process’ as opposed to saying ‘I can’t believe you are doing this again, you’re such a failure, you’re destroying our family,’ which separates them from the family. So, we change the language to keep it from becoming everyone against them. Trying to change the stigma and educate.”
The organization is planning on moving into a new facility this year, about a mile away from the church. At the new center, they will be able to offer larger meeting groups and be able to create an actual community center to help better educate.
Currently, meetings are held at Mt. Horeb every Monday evening at 7 p.m. with separate meeting rooms for the participant and their family. For more information you can visit www.couragecentersc.org