Men no longer bound by addiction
By Carole Townsend
The organization No Longer Bound was founded, not surprisingly, by a U.S. Marine who fought in the Viet Nam War. When he returned home from the war, he found that he had a new battle to fight, and this time the enemy was more formidable, more devious, than any he had ever battled.
Michael Harden had escaped Viet Nam with his life; not every man could say that. But he had returned home with a powerful addiction to cocaine; sadly, many men could say that.
Right: No Longer Bound offers a 12-month regeneration program for men with severe addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Harden claimed that he overcame his addiction through a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ; with his sobriety and conviction to sustain and encourage him, No Longer Bound was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit institution in 1991. Over time, the program grew from being a halfway house, to a 10-month residential program, to the 12-month residential program it is today.
Each year, over 120 men come to No Longer Bound in hopes of finding freedom from their addiction to drugs or alcohol. Four men have agreed to talk with the Gwinnett Citizen, to share their personal stories of desperation, hopelessness and loss, then strength, belief and regeneration. Three of these gentlemen were substance addicted when they reached No Longer Bound, and one of these men is the father of a former addict.
In order to understand the crippling effect of addiction – and it cripples the entire family and everyone who loves the addict – one must understand the desolate big picture. The addict is at the center of a screaming, swirling tornado. He thinks he’s just fine, convinced that he would be if everyone would just get off his back. An addict lives for one thing and one thing only, and that’s his drug of choice. He will lie, cheat, steal and even kill to get it, and then he is fine…until he needs another fix. Without help, the cycle continues until the addict is either dead, incarcerated, or saved from his illness.
The fight isn’t easy from any angle, but for these purposes, we will begin with Rick, the father of a former addict whose son was saved by No Longer Bound. “The best way I know to describe addiction is to say it is like a raging storm every day.” The pain and dread are raw in his voice even now. “Every day I’d ask myself, ‘will our family be capsized by the ultimate loss?’ Every day, I knew that we may survive it and we may not.”
“We found No Longer Bound quite by accident, really, when we heard (pastor) Andy Stanley promoting it. My son came to me and said, ‘Dad, I need help.’” Together, Rick and his son contacted No Longer Bound. “I will say that No Longer Bound calmed that storm and brought us back together,” Rick said.
This father’s love and pain illustrate what addiction does to families. Some parents have described it as the most helpless, terrifying, feeling they’ve ever endured.
Ben is 34 years old. He grew up in Gwinnett County, the middle child between two sisters. His story will give some pause, as it will sound familiar to many. “My dad was verbally abusive to my mom a lot. Neither of my parents was around very much. Mom was always working and dad, well, who knows. They finally got a divorce when I was twelve years old, and it was downhill from there.
“I started getting in trouble in school. Mom didn’t know what to do about it, so I started bouncing back and forth from her house to my dad’s. Pretty soon, I found acceptance from the kids who liked to get high.” Ben’s choice of friends and his addiction landed him first in jail, then in prison (addiction and prison are good friends, by the way – where there’s one, there’s usually the other). He kept trying to do things his way, and his way kept failing, again and again.
Through a pastor, Ben found No Longer Bound and there, he learned some profound truths. First, he was deeply wounded., “a wreck,” in his words. “I had to face some really hard truths,” he said. There were days that he believed he literally couldn’t push through, but with the love and support he had at No Longer Bound, he did.
Ben’s poignant story goes much deeper, with the loss of his father and learning to grieve through that, but what matters is where he is now. He graduated the 12-month program, and is now on staff. “I am so grateful for No Longer Bound, and for freedom,” Ben said.
Left: NLB graduates now staff members, from left, Chip Couch, Sawyer Green and Ben Feltman.
Chip is 44 years old and lives in Gwinnett County. His drug of choice was alcohol. “I had a 20+ year and growing addiction to alcohol. I knew about No Longer Bound through Johns Creek Baptist Church.” Knowing that he had to get help, Chip made the decision to go. “When I arrived, I felt ashamed, embarrassed, angry and almost to the point of completely giving up. I was at the point of caring about no one, including myself.”
Although desperate and ashamed, Chip immersed himself in everything No Longer Bound had to offer. Days were structured, a complete and necessary change from the chaos he was used to.
“No Longer Bound is not a rehabilitation center. It is a regeneration center,” Chip said. “The goal is to deconstruct the old self and completely rebuild a new one.” He adds, “I vaguely knew what it was about when I volunteered here, but I had no idea the depth to which it goes.”
“Life for me now is better than it has ever been. I was offered the position of Culinary Director here, and that affords me the opportunity to teach in the classroom, as well. This is God-given, plain and simple.”
Chip added that if someone out there is desperate for help but has no idea where to turn, there is a place for you if you’ll just look for it. Maybe it’s No Longer Bound. “There is a place for you and there can be healing if you seek it. I am living proof of that.”
Sam is a 28-year-old man who found himself, quite literally, at death’s door. “I knew I had to get better or die, at that moment,” he said. Having heard of No Longer Bound through a church, that’s where he headed because in reality, his life did depend on it.
“It changed my life. I left all my problems in the program and got the healing I needed. The structure and brotherhood in No Longer Bound helped me release control of what I was used to doing.,” Sam said, adding that he had to trust that they knew what was best for him when he could not control his life.
“It was a big shot to my pride, that I had completely ruined my life. I had to admit that as a man, I was wrong and that I needed help, a dramatic change.” What does Sam believe is the most important thing that an addict must realize? “You are not alone. You have screwed up, but you’re not a screw-up. You were made for so much more!” Today, Sam is an intern at No Longer Bound, getting stronger every day in what he calls a real relationship with God.
Right: Chip Couch, on left, now serves as the Culinary Director for No Longer Bound. Chip is shown touring the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, a strategic non-profit partner of No Longer Bound.
Addiction in the United States is an epidemic. It is an insidious monster that deceives people from all socio-economic standings, men and women, children and adults, and people from all races. Addiction is no respecter of people, and programs like No Longer Bound are reaching people, one at a time. Sometimes, people come to them with nothing left, no family, no belongings. Other times, they come to the program with at least one family member, whose love was stronger than the disease.
Rick and Sam, both featured in this story, are two such men. In fact, Rick is Sam’s father, and No Longer Bound calmed the storm that had become not just Sam’s life, but the lives of all who loved him. It took bravery for all of these men to shed light on their life-and-death struggle, but that is exactly what has to happen to anything that devours and festers in the dark. The light of day reveals that sickness for exactly what it is.
For more in formation about No Longer Bound, visit nolongerbound.com. The website has information about the industries associated with No Longer Bound, and visitors to the site can sign up for a newsletter. Visitors can also reach someone through the website by clicking CONTACT US.