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New innovative treatment program arrives in Muskegon

The peer-led, substance-use recovery group meets daily.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — A brand-new, Muskegon-based, non-profit is making a difference for those recovering from substance use.

To a small, yet growing group of individuals, Life Align Inc. has proven that the unconventional solution many had been searching a lifetime for exists.

“Drugs are just the way life where I grew up.”

Raised in a rough neighborhood with parents who had issues all their own, drugs became an early outlet for Marlin Campbell.

"You either did them or sold them, so I got involved pretty young,” Campbell related. The resulting abuse garnered him a prison sentence. “It was just a life opening experience. You know what I mean? I just realized it was time to change my life.”

He would soon have the tools necessary to make the change.

Campbell’s recovery coach referred him to an all-new program called Life Align.

A peer-led support network built upon the lived experience of its founders, all of whom encountered one another through their own struggles and all of whom were intimately familiar with the ins and outs of treatment.  

“I realized that there was another community of people that needed something else,” Director Nick Scharlow related. “We have all these agencies, and we're all our own little silos in the community and there's nowhere to go in between those.”

“Those that are the closest to the problem are also closest to the solution,” Stephen Thiele, one of the organization’s directors and a state certified recovery coach, noted. “We understand it because we lived it.”

It's an unconventional, homegrown solution to what they saw as gaps in the support system and available locally to those with similar backgrounds, and are attempting to navigate the often tortuous road to recovery.  

“A lot of times in this business, people get judged, and stigmatized before they even walk in the door somewhere,” Thiele explained. “They're expected to stay abstinent. We wanted to really kind of change the dynamic on that.”

Life Align touted its status as a ‘judgement-free zone.’

Meetings are largely informal and held daily inside the converted office space on Merriam Street that the organization utilizes as its headquarters.

Various subgroups have also been established since the time of its inception and cater to individual needs.

There are family dinners, cook-outs and coloring sessions.  

“We definitely want everybody to know that there is a way out of that darkness,” Joe Hekkema, Life Align’s on-site recovery coach noted. “Just come on down. Talk to us anytime. We'll always walk beside you on your journey. We're caring people. We don't care what you’ve got going on. We're there to help you.”

“Both of my parents were, you know, addicts of some sort,” Janet Tice, who began attending meetings earlier this year explained. “I was introduced to crack cocaine at a very young age.”

In fact, Tice was scarcely 12-years-old when she said early experimentation with alcohol had opened the door to drug use.

“Before I knew it, 18 years had gone by,” she related. “Two children, prison beds, a lot of jail incarcerations, and rehabs. One day, I just woke up, and I was, like, I'm really tired of this.”

Tice’s journey to recovery began in March.

Now a board member at Life Align, Tice recently regained custody of her 20-month-old child.

“No matter where you're at, if you're in recovery, or if you're still in active addiction, this is a place where you can come that's safe,” she said.

“The guys call me and text me daily, make sure I'm good, if I'm ever having any trouble.”

After he struggled to find success with other programs, Marlin has become a fixture here, attending three to four meetings on a weekly basis.

He marked four-months sober this November.

“Wherever you're at, they're happy to meet you there. They're happy to get you the resources you need. It's just a real close-knit family,” Campbell noted. “My entire lifetime, I have not liked who I am. Here, they really taught me how to love myself.”

For more information, visit Life Align's website

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