A lifeline to those struggling: Addiction recovery center in Urbana expands

Uncategorized: A lifeline to those struggling: Addiction recovery center in Urbana expands

A lifeline to those struggling: Addiction recovery center in Urbana expands

Drew Cooke was introduced to pain medication after being injured at work.

Story: Christine Walsh

Photos: Christine Walsh

Drew Cooke was introduced to pain medication after being injured at work. His ensuing addiction led to his family losing its home and him facing jail time. With his family’s support and encouragement, he traveled from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Lifeline-connect, a faith-based residential drug and alcohol addiction recovery program in Urbana.

“The program was everything to me,” the 2015 graduate said. “It’s a heart transformation.”

Cooke was one of those on hand as Lifeline-connect, founded in 2006, recently celebrated the expansion of its operations with the completion of a new 24-resident dormitory.

Founders Brenda Rogers, her husband, D.L. and Randy Brown started Lifeline-connect with the idea that men struggling from addiction need to be separated from the peers and communities that have been surrounding them and that could serve as triggers. “Sometimes they need an environment change,” Brenda Rogers said. “We wanted to help people that were struggling.”

The original Lifeline-connect dormitory could house only six to eight men. “We were turning away men all the time,” Brenda said.

The 12-month program has taken about 90 men and has a 70-percent success rate. “What makes Lifeline-connect so successful is they get to the core issue of what’s driving the behavior,” Brenda said.

The men have come from 17 states. “It’s easier when they’re not from here; they’re not going to run into somebody they know,” Brenda said.

One-on-one counseling is used to address problems like childhood abuse or emotional trauma that leads to substance abuse in attempt to escape from the pain. “They’re deep, secret wounds that have been sealed for years,” Brenda said. “It’s all over the place as far as what it is that caused the addiction. It (substance abuse) becomes a coping behavior. What we offer is a safe place with safe people.”

The initial screening process also ensures that the men are ready for the program. Director Randy Brown first interviews them by phone and then asks them to call him at a specific time for a series of days. “If they won’t submit to rules, it isn’t going to work,” Brenda explained. “They’re not ready yet.”

In fact, it may take some men a year or two before they are ready to enter the program.

While in the program, the men receive a lot of work training in areas like landscaping, construction and auto detailing, which Brenda said is an area that may be expanded. To help raise funds to support the program’s operation, the men perform fundraisers like leaf raking and gutter cleaning throughout the community.

The new facility includes a staff resident apartment that will allow a graduate to live in the dormitory. There’s also room for the third phase of the program, which had previously consisted of off-campus rentals for the men who have more privileges like vehicles and phones as they transition back with their families and into the workplace.

“Another thing that is interesting is it does take men that have been detrimental to their community and puts them back as productive citizens paying taxes,” Brenda said.

The program has a slogan, “Lifeline for a lifetime,” and the graduates meet quarterly. “They pretty much stay connected to one another,” Brenda said. “That’s kind of cool. Accountability is a huge part of their success.”

It took a little over a year of fundraising, material donations and the contribution of hundreds of hours of labor to make the expansion a reality. Wells and Wells Construction served as the project manager. Andrew Fell Architecture, Lanz Inc. and Kraft Development Group led the way on the project. Edelman Electric provided all labors and materials free of charge, the Roof Doctors provided materials, Flooring Surfaces donated labor, Mayfield Construction, Dillman Brothers, The Blind Man contributed as well. “It just went on and on,” Brenda said. “It was a God thing. People wanted to be there and making a difference.” (a complete listing of contractors and suppliers who contributed can be viewed @ lifelineconnect.org)

A committee met every month for a year and a half to plan the details of the construction process.

Lifeline-connect conducted fundraisers that generated $315,000 toward the expenses. In the Valley to the Mountain Top fundraiser, graduates Michael Savage and Les Cotton, along with Ken Pride, Roy Lane, and Shawn Shoemaker climbed the highest mountain in the continental United States, Mt. Whitney. The theme of their climb was “our lives had come from the lowest valley to the highest mountain,” Brenda said.

In March 2018, Lanz Heating & Cooling owner Troy Lanz hosted the Recovery Blueprint 24 banquet at which New York Times bestselling author Weldon Long spoke to a crowd of 315 people in a fundraiser intended to be the starting point for planting more programs like Lifeline-connect throughout the country. “It’s working, it’s successful – why not?” Brenda said. A similar banquet is planned for Oct. 4 at the Hilton Garden Inn.

In the final fundraiser, Executive Director D L Rogers, Director Randy Brown, Board of Directors member Les Cotton along with five others rode motorcycles in the five-day Connecting Coast to Coast motorcycle ride from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Eric Kraft, president of Kraft Development Group, and other participated in portions of the ride.

Cotton came to Lifeline Connect 10 years ago from Louisiana after a couple of DUIs and a failed marriage. He had just been in the ICU after overdosing. “I knew if I didn’t get help I was going to die,” he said. “I had destroyed all of the meaningful relationships in my life. I was hopeless and broken. It’s totally changed my life.”

Now pastor of the Apostolic Life Church that Lifeline Connect is on the campus of, Cotton teaches a weekly class at Lifeline Connect, has been married for eight years and has two children. “I’ve got hope, joy, peace,” he said.

Cotton had tried some other recover programs with no success. “The (Lifeline) program really addressed the underlying issues that were driving my behavior,” he said. “It’s a whole-life recovery program.”

Cotton believes Lifeline Connect is more successful than many 30- and 90-day secular programs because of the months needed for physiological changes like changes in dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain to take place after years of addiction. He added that the program teaches those suffering from addiction how to set boundaries with people who have been enabling them. “We also give them healing for a lot of things that have happened in their life,” Cotton said.

Although it costs Lifeline-connect $1,850 per month for each man in the program, the cost to enter it is only $500. The remainder of funding comes from individuals, churches and businesses – “anyone that would like to help make a difference in drug addiction,” Brenda said. “We have promoted it at church conferences in Indiana, Texas, Florida, Missouri, and Kentucky.”

Longtime supporter Margaret Goldsmith, came up with the idea to create a brick “pathway to recovery” at the dorm’s front entrance that can be engraved with messages of hope, encouragement, love and supporters’ names.

Future plans including building a gym and a large activity center for the men and to incorporate some type of prevention program. “It’s a dream of ours,” Brenda said. “Another dream would be to have a training center for carpentry or some type of skill.”

What advice would Cooke give to someone who’s loved one is suffering from addiction? “Learn how to love somebody without enabling,” he said.

For more information about Lifeline-connect, contact Brenda at 217-621-9649.