Traverse City Faith-based recovery efforts help teen addicts Residential program has a working farm and boarding school

By Jodee Taylor

Traverse City Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- Jeff Johnson went through rehab six times before turning to Teen Challenge.

The former Benzie County and Traverse City resident had six drunken driving arrests and had spent close to two years behind bars. He's now been clean and sober for four years.

Teen Challenge is a free residential rehab program with five locations in Michigan that uses Christianity to help addicts and other troubled teens and adults.

"I had to get away from everything, build a foundation," said Johnson, who now lives in Toledo.

Johnson, who used alcohol and crack cocaine, doesn't attend Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous as part of his recovery, although he knows those programs work for other people.

"When you accept the Lord as your savior you are a new creation," he said. "You don't have to call yourself an alcoholic anymore. My faith is in God, not in a 'higher power.'" Mike Fekete, of Honor, thinks Teen Challenge can be an answer to escalating drug use in northern Michigan.

At least three Benzie County deaths this year have been linked to drugs.

"Our big concern right now in our community -- our church, our police, other churches -- we want to reach out to these people."

And, for Fekete, the answer is Jesus Christ.

"His miracles can't be denied," said Fekete. "I believe that power, which can transform lives -- which transformed my life -- can help others."

"There's no games, no pretense," Fekete said of Teen Challenge. "It's not (a program) where they medicate you or use psychological means. Their main intent is spiritual.

Dr. Richard Entz, medical director of Munson's Alcohol and Drug Treatment program, said faith-based programs can work just as well as anything else, which isn't to say a lot. Entz said the overall success rate for addiction recovery is just 20 percent, no matter what type of rehab program is used. Faith-based recovery programs contacted by the Record-Eagle were oblique about success rates, citing numbers as high as 85 percent while admitting the definition of "success" is fluid.

"We had one mother who said, 'It's a success if my son doesn't die,'" said Chris Bolinski, co-founder of Abba's House, formerly Northwest Michigan House of Hope.

The residential treatment program in Hoosier Valley, south of Traverse City, has a working farm, a licensed boarding school and 40 acres for teenagers to get their lives back together.

"They all know who the Lord is when they leave," said Harry Round, president of Abba's House. He said 70 percent to 80 percent are "an asset to the community, not a detriment" when they leave the program, which can last anywhere from eight to 18 months.

"There's hope in their lives again," Round said.

"Somewhere in the equation there has to be hope," Entz said. He also says the definition of success is hard to pin down.

"Is success that they never drink again or they're six months clean and sober?

"There's not a lot of science," Entz said. "Everyone is going to find their path."

Published: Tue, Sep 13, 2011


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