By Heather Bennett
As you might know, currently there is an opioid epidemic in America. Opioids are becoming more and more prevalent in rural areas and small towns, including the Emerald Coast and even in Walton County. Addiction does not care about economic status, social status, race, profession, etc. It does not discriminate. “You go into a restaurant, a retail store, the bank, doctor’s offices and you’ll run into someone who’s an addict, and you’ll never know,” stated Justin Williams, the program director at Haven House Mission, an addiction recovery program in Santa Rosa Beach. “Everybody is either directly or indirectly affected by addiction.”
Chances are, you have driven past one or both of the Haven House thrift stores, either in Santa Rosa Beach or Miramar Beach. But there is more to the organization than just resale goods. Haven House thrift stores are managed by Haven House Mission members, who participate in a year-long program that helps men ages 18 to 45 overcome alcoholism and drug addiction.
A local non profit organization, Haven House Mission has been helping people overcome addiction for 20 years. All funds generated through the thrift stores stay within the organization, and are used to support men from this area seeking recovery. “We are trying to fight addiction right here in the Panhandle,” stated Williams, a recovering addict, who knows first hand the success of the program. “We can help get men’s lives back on track.”
During their time in the program, men live on a campus located at Haven House Mission Church and follow a highly structured schedule. Addicts can be used to doing what they want and when they want based around their addiction, and the program’s structure can be a shock. Williams said some people try to fight against it at first. Participants are expected to wake up at a certain time, shave, attend a morning meeting, work in the thrift stores, and attend therapy and nightly meetings. “The structure, the rules, and the guidelines we have here – it’s just what successful people do,” stated Williams.
The program is faith based and includes church services on Sundays and Bible study on Wednesdays on campus. “The number one element is the higher power – God,” said Williams. “That’s what’s going to keep you sober. As long as you can rely on God, your problems can seem small.”
Although it is a year-long program, it is a lifelong choice to remain sober, to have that willpower to overcome, to keep the faith, and to practice discipline in everyday life. “We hope that they can carry just 70% of that structure out into the real world. If they can do that, they’ll do good,” said Williams.
Talking about addiction can sometimes be considered taboo. However, the more we talk about it, the more aware we become of the issue surrounding us, and work to find solutions. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office and the South Walton Fire District have been answering calls recently on drug-related incidents that involve heroin and fentanyl. “It’s shocking to me that you’re starting to find those kinds of drugs in this community,” said Williams. “The truth is, those drugs are here. But so is Haven House. It’s important to let people know we’re out here, we’re a resource and we can help,” he said.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and want help, you can contact Haven House Mission at 850-622-3774, or visit the Website at havenhouse.net to learn more, listen to testimonies or make a donation. Haven House is a nonprofit organization and donations are always welcome.