NAPLES, Fla. — NAPLES, Fla. — As St. Matthew’s House-affiliated Justin’s Place graduated 30 more people from its 12-month inpatient addiction recovery program, each person had their own battle to reach that point of triumph.
A battle that, in the first months, might have seemed impossible.
“It was really hard to surrender,” said Susan Cheatwood, who struggled to stay sober for decades. She said that in May 2017, she finally came for treatment, graduated from Justin’s Place the following year, and has been sober for five years. “I needed to take control. It was a way for me, it was a coping mechanism and I tried to “play God” with my life. When I walked into Justin’s Place and gained this relationship with God.
St. Matthew’s House launched the Justin’s Place recovery program in 2010, named after Justin Holecek, who died in 2009 at age 30 after years of battling alcoholism. Program officials say the promotion now brings the total number of people who have completed their recovery to more than 700.
Justin Cheatwood had no choice but to come to Naples. A judge in southern Ohio ordered him to seek treatment and directed his future to Justin’s Place. Justin said he started abusing substances when he was 11 years old. At the age of 36, Justin was in danger of losing everything in his life.
“The first few months (at Justin’s Place), I wanted to be negative,” he said. “I blamed everyone but myself because what I was doing was deviating. I didn’t want to look inward, but I knew it was easier for me to blame others.
Still, Justin and Susan each fought for the first few weeks and months they wanted to get away from it all. They connected on a deeper level during their recovery. After graduating in 2018, they married in the early days of the pandemic, in March 2020. Now the Cheatwoods keep their circle close to St. Matthew’s, as Justin works as a case manager at the Campbell Lodge Shelter, a establishment with more than 100 beds that works with people struggling with homelessness. Susan is the thrift store manager at St. Matthew’s House.
Susan Cheatwood pointed to a support system and also the discipline to stay sober, every hour, every day.
“Starting here as a cashier, I knew that after my work stoppage, I was going to be exhausted,” she said. “I’m not going to want to be outside of myself and be selfless or go to meetings or go to church. But I made a commitment at 7:30 in the morning (that day) to say “after I leave, I will either go to church or drive someone somewhere” and I kept that commitment. It was because I was serving someone else to help me stay sober for another day.
Justin Cheatwood has his own method.
“Three P’s. I call it ‘pause, play, play the tape,'” he said. “When I look at any circumstance, it’s serious for me. It’s life or death. It’s also losing my children again and losing my family. So I look at any of these circumstances and I stop and pray. I say, ‘is it worth it?’.
St. Matthew’s House executives say a recent client survey shows an 80% success rate among graduates who stay sober for at least two more years and that the cost of the program is “about $40,000.” $” compared to recent years.
Fatal drug overdoses are also increasingly becoming a problem in the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, in 2021, that more than 107,000 people died from drug overdoses, with the majority on fentanyl and other synthetic drugs. This represents a 15% increase from 2020, when the CDC reported more than 93,000 fatal overdoses.
“They teach us a lot of things,” said Chris Hager, one of 30 graduates Tuesday at Justin’s Place. “The principles of defense mechanisms, character flaws, how I tick and how I react to the environment because the world is going to keep happening. So they teach us a lot of principles and put us on comfortable to sit with ourselves, in our own head and not lose control. You learn patience. Coming out of this, my strong point is patience and waiting on the Lord.