Steps to Recovery is one of the only live-in rehabilitation facilities in Cottonwood, with the next-closest located in Rimrock and Prescott. Anne Vickers and Damien Browning opened Steps to Recovery Homes to use their combined decades of sobriety to help others overcome their addictions.
“We decided we had to do something because there’s nowhere for these people to go who want serious recovery,” Vickers said.
Vickers moved to Arizona from Kansas City, Mo., in 1983. She met Browning at a narcotics anonymous meeting when she was 20 years sober.
“When Damien and I got together a little over two years ago, opening a facility is something we talked about from the very beginning,” Vickers said.
She said while in the recovery process, it can be hard for people who have not been addicted to drugs or alcohol to understand the continued need to attend meetings.
“They start getting to the point, well why do you still need to go to those meetings,” Vickers said. “While I may seem better, if I don’t continue to work on myself, I can revert back to the person I was 20 years ago.”
Without any certifications or training, patients can relate to Vickers’ 22 years of experience with the process. She and Browning provide “recovery coaching.”
Vickers was 14 when she started smoking weed, using pills and doing speed. After her children were born, she started using crystal meth, a more deadly kind of speed.
“At that time, my children’s father and I were together and we were both on that path of destruction,” Vickers said. “We were arrested.”
Time in jail and community service didn’t immediately steer her toward recovery. She was in a court-ordered recovery program, something many patients at Steps to Recovery have in common.
“You can come in on a court card and still learn a new way to live,” she said. “It took me a few years to actually get serious. My clean date is August 28, 1991.”
The recovery home provides patients with group and individual sessions as well as career and education advice.
The couple used credit cards to pay for beds and other essentials. Open since August, the house is now bringing in enough to pay its own bills.
“We’re hoping to recoup what we put into this in six months so we can buy another home,” Vickers said. “There’s a really big need for it here.”
Vickers said her experiences with addiction, watching people succumb to drugs while in recovery, and Browning losing his children and going to prison have all contributed to their level of understanding with the home’s residents.
The intake interview gives residents the opportunity to talk about what they’ve experienced, finding out what they’re willing to do to recover.
Steps to Recovery requires residents to perform two hours of community service and attend several hour-long sessions each week. They are not monitored overnight, but residents can be kicked out for using and not turning in a fellow addict who relapses.
“We don’t want to treat them like 12-year-olds,” Vickers said. “We want to present to them that we’re trusting of them and we want them to be responsible for their own recovery.”
Vickers said it was important for the couple to open the business together.
“We each have attributes that the other doesn’t have,” Vickers said. “One of us may not approach a client in a way that might hinder them, so we’re able to bounce our different opinions off of each other our.”
The facility is not insured to the level needed by the courts for patients to be referred there for probation. Still, four out of nine residents are on probation.
“If a program doesn’t work or they relapse at home, probation officers will let them know we’re here,” she said. “If they come to us and we approve them, then all their probation officer has to do is approve them to stay here.”
The facility has been cleared by the fire department to hold 16 people, but Vickers said they are trying to keep residents to a manageable number.
“We didn’t want to pack them in so tight that we didn’t have time for them or they were tripping over each other,” she said. “We already have personality issues and people who don’t get along, and we work together on those issues as well.”
Residents pay $125.45 each week and are provided with paper products, a laundry facility, detergent, soaps and shampoos as needed.
“We want them to become self supporting, but if they don’t have something, we try to provide that for them,” she said.
If a client is a good fit for the facility but can’t afford the weekly rent, nonprofit organizations like St. Vincent de Paul will sometimes step in to help. This happened with one female resident who has been at the house a little over two months.
“They helped her stay so she could have a better shot,” Vickers said.
Browning said he was not completely receptive to his own treatment after he was arrested and spent time away from his family.
“It was really hard listening to people who I thought couldn’t relate to me,” he said. “For a lot of people with substance abuse issues or other issues, they kind of are really defiant and stubborn and can’t take on any suggestions. It helps to get those suggestions from people who have been where they’ve been.”
He now goes to the jail once a month to talk to inmates about addiction, and sponsors six people who are working their way through the 12 steps. He’s been clean for almost seven years.
“It really does feel good to help people and be part of the solution,” he said.
One major component of the Steps to Recovery program is helping people become productive members of their families as well as their communities.
“I learned how to be a father, a son and a grandson and a good friend,” he said of his own recovery.
A full-time student online at NAU, Browning’s first priority is sobriety. He meets with his own sponsor once a week to work on behavior, perceptions and helping others.
“One of the things we’re trying to do here is give people hope,” he said.