The Life Center’s programming was originally modeled completely on the substance of 12-step philosophy; today, 12-step is still a central part of a client’s education and experience, but the program has been expanded in recent years in order to grow its population, providing comprehensive alcohol and drug abuse and dual diagnosis treatment.
Accommodations and Food
Two hours north of Greensboro, North Carolina, Galax is mountainous and secluded. The Life Center grounds have a natural beauty; there is even a stream to enjoy when the season is right. The facility itself resembles a long schoolhouse: picture a nice suburban high school. Men and women are kept in separate wings of the building; 110 clients live in dorms, with two to three beds per room. All clients eat three nutritious meals a day at designated mealtimes in the dining hall: breakfast at 7 am, lunch at noon, dinner at 5 pm. Smoking is allowed on campus in designated outside areas.
Treatment and Staff
Duration of detox and corresponding treatment depends completely on the client: on drug of choice, using intensity, and the presence of any co-occurring disorders. In order to determine detox needs, a Medical Director certified in addiction medicine completes a physical exam and a thorough evaluation of medical history. Medications are provided if necessary to ensure a safe and comfortable experience.
Residential clients are segregated by sex into a variety of specialized treatment tracks: chemical dependency, cocaine, opiates, dual diagnosis and a young adult male program. Treatment is delivered through a variety of groups geared to address the complex physical, behavioral, psychological, social, and spiritual components that impair normal functioning. These include: orientation and group building, medical aspects of addiction, reality therapy, CBT, experiential therapy, gender specific therapy, family therapy and leisure activities.
All programming is provided by a multi-disciplinary treatment team of experienced professionals that includes a psychologist, a Medical Director certified in addiction medicine, a Licensed Family Therapist, 24 hour nursing staff, and certified addiction counselors.
Clients at the Life Center wake up at 7 am for breakfast. After breakfast, medication is distributed and clients have half an hour to tidy their rooms. A short meeting, “Community,” follows cleanup, during which clients have opportunity to share any grievances or general experiences they may be having as part of the Life Center community; if a client is graduating that day, he or she will have the chance to say goodbye here, and the group sings a goodbye rendition of “Hit the Road Jack.” All clients meet with their small home (or core group) before lunch. After lunch, residents go right to lecture and then have time for assignments or meet with their counselors. Three times a week, they have gender-specific group sessions before dinner. Lectures are on universal subjects: irrational fears, addictive thinking, self-sabotage, grief, stress management. Gender-specific groups tend to have more charged topics. A women’s group might discuss sexual abuse. A men’s group might discuss anger management and how to express emotion. Dinner is early-bird special at 5 pm, followed by time for recreational exercise. The end of the day feels suspiciously like a high school student’s. Clients can choose to play volleyball or basketball—then comes homework, either 12-step or therapy-related. Clients attend AA or NA meetings nightly. After 9 pm, clients have two hours to get their evening medication and wind down before lights out.
Saturdays and Sundays are still structured, but not unbearably so. Family groups are offered on both days. Life Center at Galax emphasizes the importance of family involvement in an addict’s recovery based on the belief that chemical dependency is a family illness. Family group is six hours—a mix of educational lectures, group and individual therapy.
Clients go on recreational trips on the weekends: bowling, hiking in Blue Ridge Parkway, to a recreation center where they can work out. Lucky clients with some time at Life Center can request to go off campus with their families on the weekends to eat, go shopping, or catch a movie.
A subtle bonus of attending Life Center is the daily chance to bond with Galax’s intimate recovery community. In a small town, people remember the faces in a meeting. Life Center clients are encouraged to get a sponsor, even a temporary sponsor, while still in treatment. The recovery community of Life Center itself is also close; alumni come back to speak on Saturdays to share their experience, strength, and hope with residents.
Overall, the Life Center of Galax is bigger and more diverse (in their accommodation of dual diagnoses, and all variety of addictions) than the average rural residential facility, though the fractioning of the general population into “home” groups allows for a slightly more intimate experience. Life Center also has a long shelf life as residential treatment facilities go, having been around for over four decades. The prodigal first graduate, still sober, comes back to speak from time to time. Clients who make the choice to attend the Life Center of Galax should shake his hand for good luck!
Life Center of Galax
112 Painter St
Galax, VA 24333
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Photo courtesy of Cyoung9 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)