GRAND JUNCTION — The sun won't be up for another hour. But the arduous work of staying sober doesn't wait for daylight.
Seven women and 13 men in two adjoining old houses are out of their sagging bunk beds and checking off the list of chores inside pantry doors. Vacuum cleaners whine. Pine Sol is mopped on linoleum. Silverware and prayer books are laid out on breakfast tables. Quick cigarettes are puffed in the frigid darkness of the backyards.
Everything must be done and the residents showered and dressed by 6:45. That's when they'll gather around their respective tables, bow their heads and share readings and prayers. Then, most will hurry off to the Salvation Army warehouse to sort through mountains of second-hand clothing."I am grateful for a safe place to heal, God. I am grateful for another sober day," prays Sharon, 61, a motherly-looking former nurse's aide who walked into this house five months ago, terrified and sick.
The Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Program is a far cry from the spa-style rehabs where celebrities flit in and out or the pricey Hazelden and Betty Ford centers.
Its many sober success stories stand as proof that a bare-bones program that costs $3,100 for six months — as opposed to as much as $68,000 a month for high-end rehabs — can work. Rehab with bologna lunches and transportation via beat-up bicycles can bring better results than programs boasting grilled lobster and shuttles to high-end gyms.
If one doesn't count the basket of candy bars sitting on top of a microwave in the women's house or the day-old bakery items spread on a table in the men's, there are really no frills of any kind.
This is nitty-gritty, hard-work rehab.
With its 60 percent success rate, measured by clients who are sober a year out, the 14-year-old program also is one of the more successful in the country.
"Those are very good results," said Janet Wood, director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment
A much longer stay
Following rules as seemingly inconsequential as pushing chairs back into the dining table helps give structure to lives that had been out of control. Earning the privilege of riding a bike, using the house phone or, after four months, going to a Sunday afternoon movie helps them learn there are rewards for doing the right thing.
Mandatory church on Sunday mornings and daily prayer or some sort of spiritual reflection tunes them in to a higher power.
Most important, they say, the program is six months long.
The average length of treatment in the country is 20 days. Studies have shown that anything under 90 days has as little as a 10 percent to 30 percent chance of success.
The longer the treatment, the better, said Thomas McLellan, director of the Philadelphia-based Treatment Research Institute. He said the three-week programs that are usually the maximum insurance covers don't work for serious substance abusers.
"We've had this idea about addiction for decades that you could go away to Shady Acres for a few weeks and have an epiphany and learn a lesson," he said. "It doesn't work that way."