Addiction is not only something that can ruin an individual’s life, but it can also ruin the lives of the individual’s children, spouse, co-worker or neighborhood.
For 10 years, Lifeline Connect in Urbana has worked with six or seven men a year who suffer from substance abuse problems to break the cycle of addiction by giving them a safe and challenging home where they spend 12-months in training and therapy.
Now, Lifeline Connect is working to raise the $630,000 needed to build a 24-man rehabilitation facility that includes a gymnasium where they can serve more men who are ready to change their lives and the lives of their loved ones.
Les Cotton, who graduated from the Lifeline Connect program eight years ago, began his journey alongside Michael Savage, who has also completed the Lifeline Connect program, and local businessmen Roy Lane, Shawn Shoemaker, and Ken Pride to climb Mt. Whitney this morning in order to raise money for the new facility.
“All of us have a background and purpose to see this built,” Cotton said.
“Addiction is something that runs in the family,” he continued. “If your father was an alcoholic, it’s not the alcohol that is really the driving factor, it’s those underlying behaviors that were instilled in you by that alcoholic father that causes you to cope with life by using substances. So when you break that cycle, when you think about the kids and the grandkids, you break that cycle to where you see a total generation that will be changed.”
Cotton came from a family where his identity was wrapped up in the success of a profession.
“Everyone in my family is doctors, lawyers, professors; it’s kind of like that in the Korean culture, they focus a lot of attention toward education and academics,” he said. “That’s where you get your self-value. My identity was tied up in that, and that is who I was. My value was not just because I loved Les, but because I wanted you to like me. And when those things fell apart, then I felt like I was worthless, and there was no point in living.”
Cotton, who was in the medical field working as a nurse, said he got caught up in drugs, much like many of his colleagues at the time. After he incurred two DUI charges, it was discovered that Cotton was abusing drugs, and so he was ordered to participate in a 30-day recovering nurse program. Cotton said that at he went through that program, he was not ready to change his life. And because he was still using drugs at the end of that program, he lost his nursing license.
“I permanently ruined a nursing career and my finances,” he said. I lost my car, my house, and my job.”
Living at home with his parents, Cotton continued to use drugs. When he overdosed, he ended up in the ICU where he said he “should not have made it out alive.”
“From that point on, I knew I needed help, but a 30-day program wouldn’t work for me,” he said. I had tried that program before. I had been in addictions for years, so I knew I needed something that was long-term, and I knew I needed something that was faith-based.”
Lifeline Connect’s program gave Cotton the tools and support he needed to fully recover. Upon graduation from the program, Cotton enrolled in college, worked for a Psychology degree and has worked his way from a student pastor to the pastor of the Apostolic Life Church in Urbana. He also teaches a class once a week at Lifeline Connect and mentors the individuals in the program.
“Giving back is a vital part of recovery,” he said. “You cannot recover unless you give back from where you came from. And to me, that is living.”
Cotton said that now he lives his life for others instead of always trying to be self-serving.
“For me, living is knowing that I’ve got a purpose that is greater than myself,” he said. “ I want to see people who are struggling with addictions get their life again; not to exist, but to actually live.”
“Because I have been there myself, and I know what it is like to be bound by addiction: there is no hope,” he said. “It seems like as much as you want to break that cycle, it seems impossible, and that’s why you see a lot of people they accept that’s who they’re always going to be. They’ve been through so many failures that they just live up to those mistakes. It gets to the point of why should I even try?”
“The purpose of this (hike) is to show the community, to show people who are struggling with addictions and their families, that there is hope,” he continued. “My family walked beside me through this. When they saw the condition I was in and that I got healing and recovery for my life, now they can see they got their son back.”
Not only is the environment and timeline at Lifeline Connect unlike other rehab facilities, but the organization also seeks out donations from the community to provide each individual with the financial support they need throughout the 12-month program. Each participant pays an initial $500 fee for books, but through donations, Lifeline Connect is able to provide them with food, shelter, and supplies for a year while they recover.
Because of this model, Lifeline Connect has a success rate of over 70-percent, whereas nationwide 3-month drug rehab programs have a completion rate of 30-50-percent and a five-year success rate between 15-20-percent.
“I feel like people need that around the world,” Cotton said. “Addiction has touched everybody’s life. Whether you’ve got a co-worker, friend or family member. The difference between us and other rehab programs is that we do this out of a burden and a passion. We want to see people beat addictions, we want to see them live life victoriously.”
And because Les and Michael have decided to live their lives victoriously, the hike to the summit of Mt. Whitney will be two-fold. Cotton said the two-day hike will include conditions running from 106-degree temperatures at the base of the mountain to ice conditions for the remaining 2,000 feet of the climb.
Cotton, who has climbed Half-Dome and Angel’s Landing, said the climb “isn’t just to say I’ve accomplished this, but to also say look at the people in the community who have rallied behind us to support us for this great cause.”
“(This facility) is much needed,” he said. “When you see someone who is struggling and then they get the freedom of their life back; and you know that this works because you’re a living witness: you’re a living, walking miracle as a result of this program, you’ve got to tell people about it. The community needs to know.”
Please join Tatman’s Towing and nine other business sponsors as the Champaign-Urbana raises money to help Lifeline Connect build their new facility. Donations in any amount can be made online and are tax deductible.