Recovery house offers hope to addicts

Jenny Lancour | Daily Press Jason Robarge, director of Alpha Omega House II, a recovery house that recently opened in Escanaba, sits in the center’s living room Monday as he talks about the faith-based program ,which has helped individuals overcome their drug and alcohol addictions and become contributing members of society.

ESCANABA — A new recovery house in Escanaba is offering a safe place for men to stay to overcome their alcohol and drug addictions by participating in a faith-based program proven to be 76 percent successful.

“Our mission is to provide a safe housing environment based on mutual dignity and respect, promote well-being, and encourage positive social contribution through faith,” explained Jason Robarge, director of Alpha Omega House II, located at 226 S. Lincoln Road.

The Alpha Omega House II opened earlier this year and is modeled after the Alpha Omega House in Iron Mountain, which Deacon Don Christy opened in 2013 as a sober recovery house for alcoholics, said Robarge, who overcame an alcohol dependency and a drug addiction himself.

Robarge said he’s been drug-free since 1994 when he came to know Jesus through the Mission Bible Training Center, a long-term treatment program in Gaastra; since then, he has answered a calling from Christ to help others through ministry.

Robarge volunteered at the recovery house in Iron Mountain where he was the assistant house manager for more than a year. He helped addicts turn their lives around through instruction in an international recovery program called “Reformers Unanimous.”

“Reformers Unanimous is a weekly outpatient program with over 600 chapters in the United States. It is experiencing unparalleled success in changing the lives of the addicted. More than 76 percent of students who complete the RU curriculum never return to their addiction,” explained Robarge.

“You can have long-lasting recovery without relapse through the Christian faith and being in prayer,” Robarge said, noting this is the main focus of the Alpha Omega House in Escanaba, which is overseen by Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Upper Peninsula. The goal is to reintegrate residents into the community where they will have lifelong support with the family of God, he added.

“Our recovery is biblically based and Christ centered. Our program is in place to transform a ‘non-functioning’ person into a stable, successful member of society,” he stated.

By providing addicts a safe place to stay once they’ve been released from prison or jail — away from their former friends and habits involving alcohol and drugs — individuals can focus on their own recovery through a spiritual life connected to a local church and new friends who are there to support them, said Robarge, who lives at the house with the residents. The home can accommodate up to five participants full-time.

The recovery center is located within walking distance from several area churches, many whose leaders stated they would volunteer their services and welcome those in need to participate in their church activities.

“Residents are to take every opportunity to participate in all services offered by the church of their own choosing. We are trying to change old selfish behavior into new Godly habits,” Robarge said.

“We provide our residents structure and accountability through having and maintaining a daily schedule. They are required to spend time in prayer and Bible studies,” he explained.

Participants are required to attend church each Sunday and Bible studies at church and/or meetings with a minister twice a week in addition to morning house meetings, daily devotions, weekly meetings and Bible study at the recovery house.

Professional counseling is also mandatory twice a month through CSS, Great Lakes Recovery Cen-ter or another area provider. Journaling is encouraged for residents to record their experiences and thoughts during their recovery. Regular drug and alcohol testing are also conducted.

Deacon Terry Saunders, a retired Michigan State Police detective who has been working with CSS to develop a drug rehabilitation center in Escanaba, provides weekly group studies at the recovery house.

When the Escanaba Planning Commission approved a special land permit allowing for the special care facility to be housed at the South Lincoln Road location last November, Saunders called the favorable vote and community support, “a blessing from God.”

Kyle Rambo, CSS executive director, is also pleased with the community support, noting the project addresses a critical need in society.

“There was a definite need to have a men’s facility in Escanaba,” Rambo said in a telephone interview Monday, noting addicts who come out of jail tend to relapse within 30 days. “A safe environment was very much needed here… really due to the opioid epidemic.”

In addition to accepting individuals right out of jail or prison, participants in the local recovery house may also be referred there by ministers, drug court officials, law enforcement or family members. Addicts with connections to Delta County are encouraged to enroll in the recovery program by calling the center at (906) 399-1858 or CSS at (906) 786-7212.

“The recovery house initially establishes a safe environment where… people can recover from their addictive behaviors and become productive members of society,” explained Rambo, noting this may not happen the first time around due to relapse.

“The goal is they feel the love and the respect of God’s grace and they feel safe in that environment,” he said, hoping when relapse occurs and they’re finally ready to go into recovery, “whether they’ve hit rock bottom, are homeless, or at death’s door,” they’ll remember their experience at the recovery house and want to be there.

Robarge said there are no set time frames for the recovering addicts who can stay at the recovery center as long as they need as long as they follow the rules.

“We allow each resident to decide on how long they need to be here. It’s not just about finding work. It’s about their spiritual well-being and learning to live life without relapse,” he said.

Alcohol and drug use of any kind is unacceptable behavior and results in removal from the home, said Robarge, also noting any violations are reported immediately to probation or parole officers for those residents who are under court supervision.

Rambo said he is hopeful the Escanaba program will be successful for many because “statistics show faith-based programming works.”

The state of Michigan recognizes this and helps fund faith-based recovery programs, added Rambo, explaining funding sources include Department of Health and Human Services’ North Care, the Superior Health Foundation, and private donations.

Rambo also noted he is hopeful funding will become available in the future to develop similar recovery centers for females suffering from drug and alcohol addictions.

When asked why the local rehab centers are named Alpha Omega, Rambo replied, “It has to do with the beginning and the end. The recovery process is never-ending, but you have to start somewhere.”

He sited the following Bible passage from Revelation 12:6: “And He said to me, it is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely, to him who thirsts.”

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,