Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Doing well while doing good. You may not know Eloise DeJoria by name but chances are you know her face from movies like Weekend at Bernie’s, Grand Champion, Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Wild Hearts. Angels Sing, her latest film, was released this past and is based on bestselling Turk Pikpin Christmas book When Angels Sing. The film stars Harry Connick, Jr., Connie Britton,  Lyle Lovett, Marcia Ball, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson (with whom she made her movie debut in Songwriter).

Currently living in Austin, Texas (where Angels Sing was filmed) with her billionaire husband John Paul DeJoria, an entrepreneur and philanthropist perhaps best known for co-founding Paul Mitchell line of hair care products.  But, as Eloise told me during a recent conversation promoting the Angels Sing DVD, what gives the couple their greatest joy is philanthropy. John Paul and Eloise operate under the credo that “Success unshared is failure.” Organizations they support include such diverse causes as the Austen Children’s Center, Food 4 AfricaThe Palmer Drug Abuse ProgramHelp Clifford Help Kids, The Long Center for the Performing Arts, The Austin Film Society and Amnesty International. But none of the causes they give to is nearer and dearer to their hearts than The Arbor Recovery Center in Georgetown, Texas. That’s where the DeJorias partner Eloise’s son with her son Justin Harvey and recovery expert Jim Walker to support a new approach to treating men and women struggling to stop the cycle of addiction. The 90-day program integrates spiritually-based but non-denominational 12-Step principles with “evidenced-based medical services and health technologies.” The program is actually operated as a for-profit business — but one with a higher calling.

JWK: Tell me about your work at The Arbor Recovery Center.

ELOISE DEJORIA: Well, my son, Justin Harvey, he does all the hands-on stuff but…I’m owner of a third of it. I’m so proud of Justin because he’s had his trials and tribulations and he learned through different recovery centers himself what works the best. My husband loves Justin so much and he said “Justin I will support you in any business you want to do.” (Justin) said “John Paul, I really want to do a recovery center because I really feel I know what works…So, he started The Arbor Recovery Center in Georgetown, Texas…Justin) is so passionate. He works all the time, day and night…It (feels good) in my heart to (support) that…When he stopped drinking, I stopped (as well) because I was like “I don’t need to have another.” We’re real close, you know?…I just felt it was easy for me to do…and I just never (drank) again. When something’s right, you just know it — and to be involved in recovery you have to be an example.

Note: At this point,  Eloise invited me to set up an appointment with Justin so that he could tell his own inspirational story in his own words.  The conversation follows the video showing some of the innovative work being done at The Arbor.

Justin Harvey CEO/Partner - The Arbor12 Steps to freedom. The story of Justin Harvey is certainly one that would make any mother proud. While Eloise DeJoria’s boy certainly took a stumble en route to adulthood, it’s how — through faith in God — he got again that is truly inspirational even for those of us who don’t happen to be his mother.

JWK: So, tell me about how The Arbor came to be?

JUSTIN HARVEY: Really I started working in this field about four-and-a-half years ago. I sort of came to this through my own recovery.

JWK: What were you recovering from?

JH: Alcohol and cocaine…Prior to that I was in construction management. (I had fought my addiction) and I ended up relapsing and ended up going back to treatment for a long period of time. Basically, I got into the 12 Steps. We do what’s called the 12-Step Completion Process. I was been in treatment for probably five months. I had gone through all 12 Steps and I had a profound spiritual experience as a result of the work. Basically, at that point, I decided to do something completely different with my life. I quit my job working construction management and went to work as a tech making a fraction of (what I was before) just so I could help people.

JWK: What’s a tech?

JH: It’s like the lowest level (job) of a treatment center.

JWK: What does a tech do?

JH: Basically, handles the day-to-day medications, oversees the clients (and) transports them. At this particular facility, the techs were (given) a little bit more responsibility than, I guess, at other ones. A tech is…like an attendee.

JWK: And can you describe the job you left?

JH: I was a superintendent for a commercial construction company.

JWK: So, in terms of pay, this was quite a step down.

JH: I probably went down from $70,000 a year to $10 dollars an hour.

JWK: So, you did this because you decided you wanted to devote yourself to helping other people.

JH: Yeah. You know, I had really been kind of been disillusioned, I guess, about the whole AA process. I was in AA for (about) four years prior to that and I was really kind of at a loss. I had been doing for four years and, basically,  I had been through the Steps — I had been through the process — but I couldn’t figure out why I was miserable when everybody else in the program (was) not . In (those) four years, I had a house, I had a car, you know, I had success monetarily. I was in a relationship. It was completely different from the years prior. I had used since I was about 13 years old.

JWK: Both drugs and alcohol?

JH: Yeah.

JWK: Drugs, as well — at age 13?

JH: Oh, yeah. The first time I smoked crack cocaine I was 15 years old. You know, it had just been this kind of plague. I had this cycle in my life. Every three or four years, I’d rebound back. I’d build my life up and tear it back down, build it up and tear it down and drugs was always at the center of it. But, then I thought “Well, if I just got sober then that would be the cure.” I’d go to meetings…all the time. I was tremendously committed to this process after my first treatment experience but, by the end of the four-year period (of sobriety), I’d go back into treatment for five months. I actually ended up relapsing. Basically, from there — in a period of a month and a half that I was relapsed — I got arrested. I (then) locked myself in my house for three months. I was smoking crack. I didn’t quit my job — but I postponed it. I told them I had “an issue.” I was going to go get help. Finally, I got intervened on.

JWK: Who did the intervention?

JH: Tommy Schmidt — he’s a local interventionist here in Austen — intervened on me. Amazingly enough, he came in on a Friday (or) Saturday and, basically, “Justin, you need treatment.” I had known him prior and I looked at him and I thought in my mind…”This is amazing. I’m actually so happy to see you but I have no desire to go with you.” I was like so happy that someone would actually “rescue me” but, on the other end of the spectrum, I said to him “Can we do this on Monday?” because I still had drugs and alcohol that were available to me. Amazingly enough, he convinced me (to go with him) — but that’s how strong the disease in my mind was. I knew I needed help but there was no way I could actually do it myself…But, anyway, I ended up going.

JWK: What caused the relapse?

JH: Ultimately, what I found out later on in treatment and in the process was what his man named Mark Houston taught me. (He) was the founder of the facility I went to prior. He taught me about Steps 10 and 11 — how to have this current, conscious relationship with God and, basically, how to continue to maintain that throughout your life. That is truly what the whole purpose of the Steps are — is to have this relationship with God. And, basically, though a no-bones-about-it broken-down process, it’s very simple to follow to get results. You know, that’s one thing about the program of AA. It’s a process. It’s a broken-down, simplified version of the most basic form of religion. It’s seek and have this relationship with God…I didn’t really get that part. Prior to that I — during that four years — I was kind of this guy who went to the meetings. I did the Steps. I was angry, I felt a little bit better and I got some relief but I didn’t maintain that relationship with The Higher Power in the meantime. I didn’t do the prayer and the meditation…I didn’t do the evening reviews…I didn’t pray throughout the day — and pause and continually work this relationship. The basis of a relationship is that you communicate. So, I was not communicating on that level with this Higher Power. Basically, from there, I was just miserable in that first four years. And that was, ultimately, the reason why.

After I went to treatment for five months, I was taught the basics about how to have this relationship with The Higher Power and what it means to actually maintain (it)…As an addict and an alcoholic, the importance of it for us is of a deadly nature. If we don’t have this Power that can come in and change us inside, that can come in and transform and take away all these character defects — all these pieces in your life — then you’re missing the whole point. This whole point of…being sober. (Abstinence) is not a replacement. The replacement for drugs and alcohol, ultimately, in my mind, had to be something more powerful than drugs and alcohol, (something) that could give me more happiness and more hope in my life than anything else. Ultimately, through these simple directions that somehow I missed — or I did hear it or it wasn’t explained the same way it was when this other teacher taught it to me or — I don’t know. They say the teacher is revealed when the student is ready…

…Ultimately, I had this experience with the work and that came in and transformed my whole life. I was building these 20-story buildings and it just didn’t have any gravity, it didn’t have any meaning…Ultimately, (it’s) helping somebody rebuild their life, helping somebody find this Power than can come in and save them to live in faith, free of the burden of addiction and some of the issues of life that seem so much more important than anything else.

JWK: Now, you’re actually running The Arbor.

JH: That’s correct.

JWK: Can you tell me that story? How did that come about?

JH: Yeah, absolutely. I turned in my notice, I told them I’m doing something else at work and, within a month, I was hired at the extended care sober program  that I went through…They hired my pretty quickly after (I completed the program). Most facilities won’t hire you for two years after you get out of their program. So, they hired me on and I went to work as a tech…I never worked in the field of health and healthcare before — and hospital systems and wellness and all that. So, I didn’t really know much about the psychology of how alcoholics and addicts behave. For the first year there that I worked as a tech I had a pretty rough go of it but, ultimately, learned how to lean deeply into this relationship with my Higher Power through the step process (that) removed a lot of the character defects that held me back from being of service to these men while I was there as a tech. It made the basis really of my understanding of how powerful God is — how he can work in my life…through this process, working with (people) who had been most resistant people to come into this system of care. Ultimately, where I was at was designed for that. I was a chronic relapser — the guy that can’t get it through normal programs. So, we had some pretty resistant people coming into it from all walks of life.

Ultimately, I worked there for a year and a half. I worked (may way) up to a tech manager and then went from tech manager to operations…Ultimately, an investor — which happened to be my family — (and a) partnership with a fellow named Jim Walker (who) had 35 years of experience in the business (moved me forward). I met (Jim) through another local foundation here in Austin, Texas called TDAP (The Palmer Drug Abuse Program). It’s a non-profit and he was on the board for it. I met him through some friends. He had had this business plan and I had the passion and we both had an idea of how to treat the chronic disease of alcoholism.

JWK: What was the idea?

JH: The idea was long-term treatment — 90 days — with a 12-Step completion portion and a halfway house system of care plus monitoring — which was really kind of pioneered by the fighter pilot program here in the United States which had a 100% success rate. Granted, their motivation to stay sober was a lot higher than most people’s but their success rates were undeniable.

JWK: This was a program for actual fighter pilots?

JH: Oh, yeah. They (had some) alcoholics, sometimes drug (abusers)…They had this kind of stringent monitoring program and accountability program accompanied by a 90-day inpatient treatment stay. And now we’re learning — five years into this — it’s now the standard, more so than the exception. 90 days treatment is more the norm. Even the doctors we now treat, their boards actually require 90 days plus five years of probation.

But, going back to why we started it, the 12-Step completion portion was really my portion of it operationally. I’m very good with operations and kind of taking those pieces and thinking about them. As far as the structure of the program, I contribute heavily to that. And then Jim has assembled a clinical team and kind of came up with the rest of the program which includes equine therapy (see video above), individual therapy, group therapy…counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy and, in some cases, dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT).

JWK: How many locations do you have in Texas?

JH: We have two locations in Austin…One of them is The Arbor which has all the services — everything that we have or possibly can bring to the table to battle the addiction, the disease. And then we decided — because that program is $59,500 — that that program was only going to be able to treat a small percentage of the United States. And so we opened up a facility that is considerably less money called Anchor West with the same ideal. It just has the primary elements of the main program — 12-Step completion (and other) modalities.

JWK: How is the cost covered?

JH: The $59,500 for The Arbor program (covers) 90 days of inpatient treatment and a year’s worth of aftercare.

JWK: That’s what’s charged to people who go there?

JH: That’s correct.

JWK: Is that covered by insurance?

JH: Yes, we take insurance. So, typically a pretty big portion of (the cost) is paid by insurance — not all of it but a good portion of it.

JWK: How much does Anchor West cost?

JH: $24,500. All things considered, treatment these days is usually about a thousand dollars a day — so it’s usually $30,ooo for 30 days of treatment. (That) considered, we feel like we’re a pretty good value. The Anchor West program is $24,500 and that’s for the same 90 days inpatient treatment (and) a year’s worth of aftercare. We also have (extended-care) living homes in the Austin area which we highly encourage. I would say our percentage rate of success jumps considerably (i.e. permanent sobriety) when people go from inpatient care to (extended care) living homes — whether ours or somebody else’s. That transition for anybody (moving) from an institution into society is always the toughest.

JWK: Aside from the cost paid by your clients, do you take donations?

JH: No…I mean we would take donations but we’re not a nonprofit so we wouldn’t be able to give you a tax break. We are currently looking at a nonprofit organization but it wouldn’t be just for us. It would be fall all Texas-based facilities to help people in the Texas area and be able to give them fine treatment more readily.

JWK: So, what else does the future hold?

JH: We just want to continue to help people.

JWK: I think it’s great how you’ve taken what you’d learned from your personal trials to turn things around and do God’s work by helping other people.

JH: Thanks, John. I appreciate it.

Note: For more information, go to websites for The Arbor and Anchor West. Justin’s company also operates two outpatient programs in the Austin area and a recovery mentoring program called Beacon Navigation Group.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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