New life has been breathed into the former Whitworth Inn in Flowery Branch.
What was once a bed and breakfast is now a home where women struggling with addiction can seek long-term recovery.
Lightway Recovery opened officially in August and serves as a sister nonprofit to the Gwinnett-based resource center, Navigate Recovery.
Brianne Yost, the new organization’s program coordinator and recovery coach, said she can’t help but feel emotional when she thinks about the work being done at the old inn.
“I love being able to pore into women and watching them truly realize recovery is possible,” Yost said.
Susan Barge, who co-founded the organization with her husband, Farley, said all the staff, including herself, are in recovery. Each one of them has faced addiction, whether with drugs or alcohol.
“We strongly believe in peer support,” Barge said. “There is something amazing that happens when one person who has recovered gives hope to another who needs recovery. It’s just a special thing.”
FINDING THE INN
Barge said the inspiration to start Navigate Recovery sparked from noticing the lack of resources. She said her daughter went through a 10-year stint of addiction involving stimulant drugs. While Barge and her husband were looking for ways to help their daughter, they had a difficult time finding help.
“You’d get a list and start calling places, but they were either closed or never answered the phone,” she said.
Barge said they truly took a leap of faith by launching Navigate Recovery in 2014 and Lightway Recovery this year, which both run off donations.
Before signing a lease on the old inn, Barge said she had driven by the building with her husband, envisioning its potential. In February 2019, Barge received a call from her friend about the property, explaining that it would make a perfect recovery center.
“It was crazy because Farley and I had prayed over that very same property,” Barge said. “Through the whole process of her negotiating with the owners, I kept thinking, ‘It’s not going to happen.’ Then all of a sudden, she was handing me the keys and we signed a 10-year lease.”
When renovating the old bed and breakfast, the bedrooms were offered “for adoption” to members in the community. Churches sponsored the spaces, taking away the ’80s interior design and adding an updated look.
A ROAD TO LIFELONG RECOVERY
Five women now live in the center, and Barge said it has enough space for 10 more.
At Lightway Recovery, women are encouraged to stay in the program for a year. The first six months involves intensive care where a person doesn’t work outside the home, and the center provides all their food, transportation and other needs. Barge said the women attend classes three hours a day and go to meetings at local churches.
“It’s a highly structured program,” she said. “We teach life skills that maybe someone missed out on. When you’re caught up in addiction, you don’t even learn how to balance a checkbook, budget, or write a resume. So, we help with all of that.”
The last six months entail the transitional phase where the women begin to work outside of the home and try out their new recovery skills, but have a supportive environment to come back to at night. Barge said this step is highly encouraged to avoid a relapse in addiction.
“A lot of times the failure point in people’s recovery is they go to a program, and when they get out and try to transition on their own, they’ve lost the support they’ve had,” she said.
Lightway Recovery also incorporates a spiritual element into the program. Barge said the women are taken to various churches in the community and are exposed to different denominations and worship styles.
Barge and her husband are living out their own lifelong recovery, both having struggled with substance abuse in the past.
When women leave Lightway Recovery, Barge said she hopes they’ll have the tools they need to live out “lifelong recovery” like she is today.
“I was 26 years old when I got into recovery,” she said. “Gratefully I have 35 years now, I feel like I have lifelong recovery. I’ve been able to impact my children’s lives, their friend’s lives, and have a positive impact on families that need recovery. That’s my goal for these women.”