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SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2007
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Tina Gibson serves hot dogs in the Dream Center on Eighth Street Southwest. Volunteers also cooked pinto beans and ham for lunch.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Tina Gibson serves hot dogs in the Dream Center on Eighth Street Southwest. Volunteers also cooked pinto beans and ham for lunch.

Addicted women find a local place for recovery

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com 340-2468

Kim Upton can tell you stories. She knows what addiction can do to a woman — and what hope can mean.

Hope can take the form of a fresh start in a spiritual setting.

In addition to other programs, the Decatur Dream Center currently serves 19 women in a recovery ministry, said Upton, the women's director.

"Some come from court, some from jail. For some, their lives went into a downward spin, and they got to the point there was nothing left and they were ready for a change in their lives," Upton said.

The women live in a dorm in Somerville and attend classes and Bible studies at the Dream Center during the day, she said.

Upton said she benefited from a Christian recovery program. Change is not easy after years of addiction, she said. That's why the program lasts 12 to 18 months, she said.

"I'm a been there, done that person. I went through a similar program eight years ago, The Foundry in Bessemer," she said. "If you are an alcoholic or a drug addict for 20 years, it takes more than 28 days to turn your life around. You learn a new way of living."

The Dream Center's participants, who currently range in age from 18 to 60, must attend classes on recovery, money management, marriage, family, parenting and other topics. They attend recovery sessions. They learn responsibility by organizing food and clothing for the Dream Center and doing ironing jobs, Upton said.

Women successfully involved for four months may do limited "work therapy" at two local restaurants or a department store, the director said. Eventually, if a woman has a safe environment, she may move home. She must attend two classes a week, go to church and submit to random drug tests. She must work full time, too.

"It's all part of the program. By the time they reach us, they are used to depending on everyone else, and some have not worked at all," Upton said.

The first graduate, a 43-year-old formerly addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol, now works full time at a coffee shop and has an apartment, a car and a dream to become a counselor, Upton said. She's doing well and is already taking counseling classes, according to Upton.

"I don't think anybody realizes (addiction) is right here. It's everywhere," she said.

Upton said the recovery program involves Parents and Children Together, the Alabama Career Center and volunteers from churches who serve as mentors.

The program began in January 2006 and has a waiting list of 25. Some have signed up for a second chance after leaving the program, Upton said. The ministry has few restrictions on who can be admitted, but sex offenders are not allowed, she said. Upton said Calvary wanted to start such a program years ago and bought a former church on Moulton Street Northwest.

The church sold the building after neighbors expressed fears.

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