When most people think of Providence Ministries, they probably think of its homeless shelters. Or maybe they think of its feeding program, which provides meals to some 500 people a day.
But Providence provides a number of services to those in need, and one of its newest is a women’s alcohol and drug recovery program nestled in a secluded area near Tunnel Hill.
“It’s a residential program with a minimum of 90 days,” said Providence founder and President Roy Johnson. “But they can stay longer. We are a Christian ministry. We approach it two ways. We approach it from a spiritual standpoint, and we approach it from a clinical standpoint.”
Mary Jo, who came to the program from Nebraska, says that combination of clinical and spiritual help drew her to Providence.
“I have been to three other rehabs, and I was looking for something Christian based,” she said. “I’ve been here two months. The Christian part is very important to me. The help that I have received in learning to forgive myself and learning how to bring Christ into my life has been the most important part of this.”
The Daily Citizen agreed to identify the women who spoke to the newspaper only by their first names.
Providence has long provided drug and alcohol recovery for men at facilities in Dalton and in Tennessee, serving about 60 men currently.
Johnson says Providence began its women’s recovery program a little over a year ago and it currently serves 21 women. Providence is in the process of acquiring another property near the women’s recovery program that will allow it to expand and serve an additional nine women.
While most of the women come from the Northwest Georgia area, the program has served women from across the country and currently has women from as far away as Alaska and the Bahamas.
“It’s tough for women to find a place. There are a lot more places for men than for women,” Johnson said.
Amber’s mother found out about Providence online.
“I was in the hospital after an overdose. And at first, I didn’t want to hear about it,” Amber said. “But I had a lot of time to think while I was in the hospital, and I finally decided ‘It’s now or never.’”
Amber, who is from South Carolina, said the experience has been life changing.
“You are isolated when you are an addict, and you think there’s no one who knows what you are going through. When you get into a group like this, you realize you aren’t alone. Other people have been through the same stuff,” she said. “I think I’ve got the tools and skills I need, and I know that if something does come up I can contact the people at Providence for help.”
The facility provides classes and training in anger management, relapse prevention, parenting skills and other life skills.
“We can give you the skills, but if you don’t have the desire to get better it won’t work,” Johnson said.
Lora, from Alaska, completed the program but decided to stay on as a resident adviser.
“If I had not found Providence I would not be here today. Every day I found something within myself I didn’t know was there,” she said.
Lora says she isn’t sure when she will leave.
“I’m waiting for a sign from God. That is the most important thing that has happened here. I’d kind of gone astray, and they helped me reestablish my relationship with God,” she said.
Johnson said the need for such programs is growing.
“It affects all levels of society. We get the daughters of millionaires and the daughters of paupers,” he said. “For the most part, these are not bad people, but people who have made bad choices. Most of us have probably made some bad choices somewhere along the way. It doesn’t mean we can’t change.”