GAAHMA Inc. is a service organization that provides an avenue to opportunity for those in Massachusetts and New Hampshire with disabilities and substance abuse disorders. The Pathway House in Gardner, Massachusetts, one of GAAHMA’s first projects, opened in 1972 as a residential home for men struggling with substance abuse. To be admitted into the program, clients are typically referred by a primary treatment center: a detox, rehab, shelter, hospital or by the criminal justice system. As they say in recovery, the only other requirement for admission is a sincere desire to stop drinking or using. Pathway House offers individual counseling and ascribes to the A Way of Life (AWOL) brand of 12-step in order to prepare clients for living sober in the Northeast.
Accommodations and Food
Pathway House has a residential home on Graham Street and two sober living homes in Gardner. The Graham Street house is for clients early in recovery from drugs and alcohol who need 24 hour a day support.
Graham Street could be any quiet corner of suburban Massachusetts. The Pathway House—a three-story New England colonial—is distinguished by welcoming green doors and a gable on the third floor. There are typically about 20 clients living here at any given time–sharing rooms, meals and responsibilities like a family.
The Graham Street residence admits men 21 and older on a six-month basis. This is a “working house”: clients are expected to find employment with the help of their counselors and then to contribute to the cost of their care. Clients meet with their assigned, licensed counselors one-on-one every week. Pathway counselors have an intimate understanding of their clients’ struggles, being alums of the program themselves. It is their job at Pathway House to help clients to create individualized objectives for their recovery: what kind of work do they want to do? What are other esteemable activities to be involved in? How can relationships with friends and family be repaired? How can they become part of a sober community?
The most accessible spots for sober communion are the rooms of 12-step programs, and Pathway brings clients to local AA and NA meetings. The AWOL adaptation of the 12-steps that Pathway teaches is not traditional AA, but a more specific method of working the steps with attendant readings and homework that can tend to be controversial.
In addition to the 12-steps and individual counseling, clients at Pathway House have exposure to didactic lectures where they are educated about the disease of addiction. In other groups, clients discuss how to navigate the minefield of early sobriety and come up with coping strategies to combat real world triggers. There are also groups that focus on the healing of interpersonal relationships. Clients learn how their loved ones may react to the changes that will come along with their getting sober, and how to talk to their families about their past behaviors. Pathway runs a Family Day program to facilitate these conversations.
As part of the local sober community, Pathway clients participate in the annual National Night Out held in Gardner, an event to heighten the awareness of substance abuse. Clients are also invited to attend other events like dinners and comedy nights at the local Elks club to fundraise for recovery organizations. Being “a part of” doesn’t end when clients leave. Alumni meetings are held six times a year for graduates to return and collect special medallions for various lengths of sobriety. There is also an annual summer cookout where current residents, staff and alums get together, class reunion style.
The counselors at Pathway are personally acquainted with the challenges of recovery and it is their passion and faith that appears to make the process that much more bearable for their clients. This might be bare bones recovery, but it appears to be working.
171 Graham St
Gardner, MA 01440
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