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Vancouver facility helps people dealing with addictions

November 10, 2018

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — There are cobwebs lining the walls and windows. There are pumpkin figurines scattered about. There’s a spooky lighting machine projecting pumpkins and ghosts on the ceiling.

On Halloween, the Recovery Resource Center in Vancouver was decorated with much more spooky cheer than one might expect at a space dedicated to helping people recover from all forms of addiction.

The center, which opened in May, also has a Nintendo Wii, a flat-screen TV, free coffee and popcorn. On Halloween, a group of members from Alcoholics Anonymous gathered on the couches and ate popcorn, as laughter rang from a conference room where a Smart Recovery class was in session before it was AA’s turn for the room.

The relaxed environment is a main component in the Lifeline Connections-funded center’s mission to help people recover. William San Nicolas, a volunteer who works the front desk, said volunteering has taught him how recovery can be stressful. San Nicolas said he’s there mostly just to talk, and that everyone shares their life stories with him.

“This is one way of getting together and letting it all hang out,” San Nicolas said.

Keith Wells, an AmeriCorps VISTA member who manages the center, understands its benefits in a personal way. Wells said he’s been “addicted to one thing or another” since he was about 14. Wells said it’s important that people have support and community when they’re trying to recover.

If there’s not a good system in place, people are prone to relapsing, Wells said. He mentioned that, in the first six months of recovery, everything is completely new. It’s like starting from scratch.

“When I got out of inpatient treatment, I spent about six months that was total chaos and totally overwhelming,” Wells said. “And I had a really good, stable environment to be able to explore all that, which most people don’t. I saw people left and right, either going back to the circumstances they came from or not being able to get resources that they needed or not having a social place to go to just hang out and have that peer-to-peer support.”

Lifeline CEO Jared Sanford said the center offers support meetings, books, a computer lab, other resources and peer support. It doesn’t push any specific form of recovery and will help people find the best programs for them. The idea is to help people find and sustain recovery.

“The resource center is going to be almost a bridge from formal treatment to community, where folks can come and receive support for whatever path they choose,” Sanford said.

‘Come hang out place’

People can come in off the street for help. There’s no registration.

“It really is very much a just come hang out place,” Wells said.

The center started with about 32 people who visited weekly, and that number has risen to somewhere between 170 and 200 people.

Wells, who has been sober for 28 months, said that making connections with other people in a similar situation has given his life great purpose. It’s also helped him personally. Wells has anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. His 17-year-old daughter also is bipolar, and they’ve been through family counseling, which has strengthened their relationship.

“I used to be sitting at the bottom of a bottle dreaming of who I wanted to be and, now I’m living who I want to be,” Wells said.

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