Part One: Addicts Seek Sanctuary in Georgia's Healing HousePosted: Updated:
Women dealing with alcohol or substance abuse didn't always have a place to turn to in Charlottesville.
But the lack of one inspired one woman to create a nonprofit that’s now changing lives.
Over the course of Tuesday, June 19, to Thursday, June 21, NBC29 will take you inside the battle some women faced as they worked to stay clean.
Andrea Carter is one woman who’s still living at Georgia's Healing House and continues to work through the recovery process.
Carter is a mother, grandmother, and friend to many, and now she lives and works in Charlottesville. However, it was a long and difficult journey to get to this point - including uprooting her life in Texas to move to Virginia.
"I lived to use and used to live every day,” says Carter.
Carter is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
“Every day - just drinking, getting up, drinking, smoking, shooting heroin," says Carter.
Carter came from an abusive household in Texas, and at 15 years old she started to use marijuana and alcohol.
“I started using drugs at an early age to try to take away the pain," says Carter.
She then dropped out of high school, and turned to harder drugs when she saw a friend shooting heroin at a party.
"I asked them about it and they just said that it felt like they were Superwoman, and I wanted to feel like Superwoman,” says Carter. "It made me feel on top of the world. It made me feel invincible.”
Carter would go on to face trouble with the law, but that didn't deter her from using.
"I would go to jail and I would get out and start the cycle all over again, because I didn't - I just didn't really know how to stop," says Carter.
It wasn't until she became a grandmother that Carter took a hard look at her life.
“When my daughter had my grandbabies it just kind of, like, hit me more,” says Carter. “Being a grandmother and then not being there for them."
She wanted to be a part of their life, and decided to move to Virginia to be closer to them in Louisa County.
But, her daughter told her, she'd have to get clean first. And that’s where Georgia’s Healing House came in to her life.
“People wouldn't be coming here unless they really didn't have a safe, supportive place to live,” says Dorothy Tompkins, who founded Georgia’s Healing House.
Tompkins founded the home back in 2006 after a woman named Georgia, who was addicted to alcohol, committed suicide in prison. Tompkins previously worked as an addictionologist, which is how she was introduced to her.
Some of Georgia's friends believe that if she had had a safe space to go and try to curb her addiction, then perhaps her death could've been prevented. Spurred on by this tragedy, Tompkins began her efforts in providing such a space for recovering addicts.
Georgia's Healing House received nonprofit status in 2010 and it officially opened in Charlottesville in 2016. Now, 12 women call this house on East Jefferson Street home.
Tompkins found a distinct need in central Virginia.
“There were three in the area for men, and none for women,” says Tompkins.
Tompkins believed that more women needed access to a place with resources, support, and rules.
“We had to spend some time figuring out what our real goals were,” says Tompkins. “We decided that we wanted a structured type of recovery house, in contrast to the Oxford houses which are self-run."
Each healing house member signs a two-page contract outlining the program and rules: No drugs, no alcohol, and no smoking.
The women must join a 12-step program, get a sponsor, and attend meetings daily to start.
The house also offers a support system for those who live in it since it’s filled with people who understand what others are going through.
“People use mood-altering substances to change how they feel, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to change how they feel,” says Tompkins. “But for some of us, our solution became a problem."
Tompkins wants to help people like Carter recognize that problem and fix it so that they can live the life they've always wanted.
“When I wake up in the morning, that's what I think about - my grandbabies and being clean and sober and just learning how to live and be a better person," says Carter.
On Wednesday, NBC29 will show you how Georgia's Healing House isn't just helping addicts - it's helping rebuild families.
The house is also home to a mother and daughter who are both getting clean and rekindling their broken relationship.