WINTHROP, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Decades before the opioid epidemic reached crisis levels in Maine and across the country, Teen Challenge has helped drug and alcohol addicts transform their lives.
The nationwide 15 month, faith-based residential program started as a way for teens to get clean is open to people of all ages. Some of the people in the program say they are grateful for because they are sober for the first time in their lives.
"I was intravenously using heroin, cocaine and pills and between 25 to 39 I was arrested for aggravated trafficking, aggravated assaults, felonies, terrorizing and thefts,' said Robert Varner.
Varner came to this historic farmhouse almost a year ag. When he walked through the door he knew it was where he needed to be.
'The house had love, something I was missing, I started to love myself.' That 'love' he says came from Teen Challenge. For more than 50 years, the program has helped people overcome drug and alcohol abuse. he program which started in New York City in the early 60's is deeply rooted in biblical teaching.
After starting their day with prayer and scripture, the men prepare meals, perform chores, hold bible studies and do work jobs on the more than 400 acre property.
John Wilsey and Keith O'Brien run Teen Challenge Maine which started ten years ago.
They say people who don't have to have money or insurance are never turned away.
Over the course of 15 months the staff works with the men to help change habits and behaviors developed over a lifetime.
They take specific classes to deal with their emotions and how to get along with other people.
The program currently houses 16 men. To meet the growing demand for treatment -- fundraising efforts are underway to transform this farmhouse on the property. The 800-thousand dollar project would add 30 more residential beds.
Varner regularly visits high schools sharing how his faith transformed his life. He also reconnected with his 17-year old son, family members and hopes his story will help others struggling with addiction.
'All the years I have done in jail and I am sober today -- he can be fixed there must be hope for me,' he said.
The program in Maine is not open to woman, but there are other Teen Challenge locations in New England that do accept woman, including Maine and Massachusetts. If you would like more information, click here.