- Associated Press - Sunday, July 24, 2016

MANTACHIE, Miss. (AP) - The Extra Mile has earned its 10-year chip.

The sober living center outside Mantachie has helped more than 400 men move away from addiction since it opened its doors in 2006.

“We support them in building a new life,” said founder Dody Vail, who oversees the program in addition to her role as the executive director of the Tupelo Chapter of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency.

The Extra Mile is a voluntary program designed to last between six months and two years following intensive inpatient rehabilitation.

The residents are required to work, go to school or actively search for a job. They have to participate in 12-step recovery groups, meditation, weekly Bible study and group therapy sessions. Sobriety is required; they are subject to drug and alcohol testing.



“It gives them the tools to get out in the world and stay sober,” Vail said. “The strength of the group is that they are accountable to each other. “

There’s space for 20 men on the 10 acre campus. They share cabins with a roommate. The men have chores and participate in weekly work day on Saturday.

The majority of the men who have passed through the Extra Mile have come from within a 200 mile radius, but they’ve had residents come from across the country, Vail said.

Most stay longer than six months. The longest stay stretched to three-and-a-half years.

“Treatment works,” Vail said. “With the longer, sustained after care, the odds go up exponentially.”

Sober living centers occupy an important place on the continuum of care for recovery addicts, said counselor David Carpenter, who leads a weekly intensive group session on campus.

The 30-day intensive rehab is extremely important, especially for clearing the brain and body, but it isn’t nearly enough time for addicts to rebuild a life and relationships that have been destroyed by substance abuse.

“The brain is still swimming in chemicals,” Carpenter said. “If we can get someone into a structured program for six to 12 months. We do see some dramatic changes.”

The men who live at the Extra Mile describe a supportive brotherhood, where people are accepted, but held accountable. They celebrate successes and share the load of failures.

The Extra Mile has been a bridge for Ronnie S. who asked that he only be identified by his first name and last initial, in the tradition of 12-step programs. When he tried to stop drinking on his own after seven years of alcohol abuse, he had a grand mal seizure. He went from the hospital straight to 30-day intensive rehab. The sober living center has given him the space to rebuild his life, find a new career and reconnect with his faith.

“I had no job, no home,” said Ronnie S., who has been at the Extra Mile nearly a year. “I needed more time to get the tools I needed.”

For Terry Cole, the Extra Mile has given him more than a dozen brothers to walk with him on his journey. He has been fighting his addiction to alcohol for 12 years, and he says he falters when he lives alone and has no accountability.

“I felt like I needed a more structured environment, more centered around the spiritual side of recovery,” said Cole, who been at Extra Mile for five months.

Allen P., who asked to be identified by his first name and last initial, tried to take his life before going through his most recent round of treatment.

“I had a problem and I didn’t know how to fix it,” said Allen P., who moved to the Extra Mile five weeks ago. “It’s truly a blessing to be here. I’m exactly where I need to be.”

Although the center doesn’t have tax exempt status, Vail views the Extra Mile as a ministry. The men pay an entry fee and a monthly assessment based on their income.

“The money goes to keep up 10 acres and nine buildings,” Vail said. “It costs $7,000 a month to run this place.”

Not everyone has avoided relapse, but Vail is proud of the men who have rebuilt their lives. It’s especially gratifying, she said, that nine Extra

Mile graduates have gone on to become addiction professionals.

“We’ve been seed planters, Vail said. “Truly it’s been a privilege watching the complete change of heart, watching them find a spark of hope They want to have a different, better life.”

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com

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