--as published in the Asheville Citizen Times
It was a Thursday afternoon in late October, 2017. Lounging in his automobile—his full-time home of cluttered Burger King wrappers, dirty clothes and syringes—William mindlessly scrolled through his Facebook app, stopping at an unusual post.
The photo presented a tall, graying man, clothed in full pilot regalia, surrounded by smiling family and friends. Regarding the attached description, William discovered Russell Boardman—the gentleman in the photo—was celebrating his 39-year career with Delta Airlines.
Looking away, William’s eyes dropped to the floorboard. A stained, blue-green car mat offered no consolation. He hadn’t been invited to the party. In fact, he didn’t even know his Dad was retiring. For William Boardman, a thirty-four year old with an unusual passion for family and friends, this was the ultimate wake-up call.
Although one would think a sixteen year opioid/meth addiction—highlighted by multiple detoxes, first-name recognition at treatment centers, a Jekyll-Hyde addiction to maintenance therapy drugs and a diverse assortment of near-death experiences—would have brought William to the reckoning table, you’d be wrong. For William, the crux was a deep feeling of loss. His family, brought to the realization that they could no longer help or enable him, hadn’t bothered to offer an invitation to the retirement bash honoring his Dad.
“Once he realized the pain he was causing, understood that he’d ostracized himself, he seemed more open to overcoming his addictions.” Louise Boardman had been shocked at William’s reaction to the Facebook post. She’d been trying to motivate William for over a decade.
Five years earlier, Russell and Louise had been desperate to find the right recovery program. His drug counselor, Nikki Moussette, had told them, “The place I want for William doesn’t exist.” Not one to back away from a challenge—or ditch their adopted son—they vowed to “make it exist.”
For most addictive souls, trapped in a venomous cycle of fierce pain and short-lived relief, the road forward is all vertical. For William, it was no different. During his years of active addiction, William—and his exhausted parents—had struggled to find viable solutions. There were relapses, more detoxes. half-way houses, a two year exile to his birth-mother’s home… and endless recovery centers. Desperate for a long-term solution—by now, on his fourth relapse and weary of the misery—William called out to God.
“After the Facebook incident, I drove straight home and my parents admitted me to a local detox center. After six solid days of sleeping off the drugs, I begged God, ‘Make this end!’” He fully expected to die.
Instead, he got William’s Place.
After detox, William enrolled in October Road (a drug rehab program), completed the curriculum, then committed himself to First Step Farm (a residential recovery program that emphasizes productive labor and accountability). Although Russell and Louise were wary, William was staying sober, content and hopeful.
William began to grow in his faith. “Giving my life to God was the missing piece. I’d been high and happy, but never sober and happy. When I realized God loved me unconditionally—and forgave me—I had this powerful, never-experienced joy.”
William will be the first to tell you the, all-you-need-is-Jesus mentality, doesn’t work. “After asking God for help, I still had a lot of work to do. God gave me the motivation and the peace I’d never had; but the addiction was still there.”
For families of drug addicts, hope quickly succumbs to cynicism. Broken promises, drug-fueled accomplices, criminal records, bold lies, desperadoes willing to slice-off a toe if it will get them the drugs they need. Having seen their compassionate, precocious child transformed into a fear-driven, unscrupulous sycophant—a sixteen year nightmare—the Boardmans were more determined than ever to find, or create, “just the right place” for William.
As William remained steadfast, a string of 15-consecutive months without drugs, the Boardmans became burdened for his fellow-addicts. “He may be in the clear… but there are hundreds more just like him.”
Although it seemed happily too late for William, Louise and Russell were dead-set on making William’s Place—the name envisioned for their residential recovery program—exist. “He’d been through all these rehab programs, and it took a train-load of different approaches to finally reach him,” Louise explained. “What William really needed, if it had existed, was a whole-person approach. He needed spiritual guidance, meds to address the crippling depression, training in life-skills—how to cook, clean, make his bed—accountability, counseling; he needed to learn how to have North Carolina fun—hiking, camping, rafting—mentors to offer wise counsel, social skills, a solid work ethic and follow-up—a community of people committed to his success after recovery.”
In March of 2018, after five years of heartache, research, property development, tracking down volunteers, fund raising and prayer, the Boardman’s opened William’s Place to it’s first five residents. Seventy-four trained volunteers, mostly from Black Mountain—and mostly clueless about working with drug addicts—descended on the hapless abusers. “The common thread for these volunteers”, Louise explained, “was their faith… these folks understood the redeeming power of the gospel, and they had a deep compassion for addicts.”
In late June, three of the five residents graduated from the program (a clear reminder that success is not inevitable). Each exited with a clean-slate, a job, a place to live, and an army of new friends applauding their efforts and bolstering their sobriety.
For William, who now serves as the resident manager, William’s Place brings meaning and hope out of his painful past. “I’m thankful to be alive. Thankful to help men get their lives back. I can totally relate to what their going through.”
For Louise and Russell… “We are redeeming the years the locusts have eaten and want to bring hope to other parents dealing with addicted sons".
By latest count, there were over 350 overdose emergencies in Buncombe County last year. Ninety two of them—26%—died. Pain prescriptions in Buncombe County are damning—an average of 52 pills for every man, woman and child per year. Statistics suggest that 7-in-10 who show up in Buncombe County courts are wrestling with addiction. Of the cars you pass on the way to work each morning, it’s likely four of them contain addicts. Williams Place, one of the few WNC recovery centers, requires daily volunteers. A 3-month session, donated by the community, costs $50,000. Your time and gifts can make a lasting impact on our drug-impacted community. Learn more at williamsplace.org.
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