Teen Challenge: Live sober

Published 1:23 am Saturday, September 5, 2009

Although it opened its doors little more than three months ago, the Selma Teen Challenge branch has made an impact and opened an avenue for Dallas County adults battling addiction problems.

Teen Challenge is a 12-month, residential Christian discipleship program. Selma Program Director Jason Easter said the Teen Challenge takes a biblical approach to teach its students to deal with temptation and recognize healthy and unhealthy relationships.

“We see a lot of people detoxing while they’re here. They’re coming right off the street, right off addiction to us,” he said.

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“Our guys are with us for four months then go to training center in Lincoln. This program has kicked off very well.”

The new facility, formerly God’s Miracle Ranch Home for Girls, is for men and women 18 and older. They follow a rigid schedule that begins at 6 a.m. and includes devotionals, classes, church services, recreational time and work with local businesses.

“We used to have them go through class week and after week and they were getting kind of stir-crazy,” said Easter.

The work gives residents something to do, but it also raises funds for Teen Challenge.

The residents are not paid for their work, but local businesses like Fuller’s Building Supply, which regularly works two residents at a time, support Teen Challenge by giving the organization $8 per hour of work.

Because it is a non-profit organization, Teen Challenge depends on donations to keep its doors open.

Future fundraisers include a Boston butt sale that is nearing conclusion, a Hayden-Gulf Shores bike-a-thon Oct. 19-26, the Teen Challenge banquet at the Morgan Convention Center Nov. 3. and a skeet shoot in late January.

Selma’s facility began its conversion process in 2008 at the at the behest of District Judge Bob Armstrong and Susan Hunter of UAB Family Medical Center.

Armstrong referred several defendants to the program and expressed interest in creating a Selma facility.

Hunter’s son went through the program.

“[Armstrong] was continuing to see so many people that needed a rehab for their lives,” said Harriet Jones, whose husband, Allen, is on the Selma Teen Challenge board. “He was having to send so many people to other facilities and saw there was a such a waiting list.”

The referrals to other facilities will continue, as part of the treatment process involves placing patients in a different environment to deter old habits. However, the Selma facility will make room for local people at other facilities around the state by accepting patients from different areas.

Like Hunter’s son, Easter is a program graduate. Shortly after graduating high school in 1999, he was pulled over with drugs and a gun in his car. He served a 13-month sentence and decided to give up his addiction.

He earned an associate’s degree at Wallace State Community College-Hanceville, but his addiction to crystal meth, cocaine and heroin returned. He was arrested again, and referred to Teen Challenge in lieu of prison time.

“God really got ahold of my life,” said Easter. “There’s a verse in the Bible that say God uses all things together for the good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

“I have crying mothers who call five-six times a day and they say, ‘I don’t know what to do, my son’s doing this.’ I have that experience. I can say, ‘Look, I was where your son is.’ I am grateful for the experience.”

Jeremy Washburn, 32, was addicted to crystal meth for 15 years. He has fought his addiction since 2005. Twice, be thought he had his problem beat, but a March 13 arrest for unlawful distribution of a controlled substance led him to Teen Challenge.

“I didn’t depend on God. I tried to do it by myself and fell short,” Washburn said. “I feel like God led me to this program. I have rededicated my life to the Lord.”